Swashbuckling Isn’t Just For Heroes

Once, when I was about seven or eight, Kyle – the neighborhood bully who was probably in fourth grade for the third time – challenged me to a fight later that day, to have time to gather our arsenal (just like the Wild West, only it was about 2 p.m. rather than high noon).  I showed up dragging a tree limb behind me as my weapon, and Kyle, who showed up empty-handed, probably because he was fighting a girl, hightailed it out of there as soon as he saw my epic cudgel.  I was full of bravado back then, even if I wouldn’t have gotten very far in a fight.  It’s funny to remember that incident now because I could barely pull that branch behind me, let alone fight Kyle with it.

Most of the kids I found myself in trouble with were great adventurers.  We’d roam the neighborhood, cutting through backyards, being yelled at as we went to “go home and mess up your own yard!”.  I found that the worst discovery in a new backyard was a dog.

We had a German Sheppard when I was growing up, who wouldn’t have hurt me or my siblings even if my father had commanded her to, but she would have torn the throat out of anyone else.  Consequently, I was not afraid of dogs in the least, which was remedied one summer day around my eighth or ninth year.

Kyle was often the ringleader in most adventures I had, and we had an uneasy tolerance for one another.  It was that or be bored.  My older siblings didn’t want me hanging around them, and my younger brother would often devolve into tears too easily, or was too little to keep up.

That morning was one of those sweltering-at-10am mid-summer days, the sweat making you uncomfortably sticky and ornery.  Kyle had the idea to bring several of us to a good swimming spot in the Ten-Mile River, but we’d have to take a new way to get there (translation: he had no idea where he was going).

The last yard we cut through had a thick stand of trees and brambles that we had to scramble through, branches whipping those of us unlucky enough to be right behind Kyle, while brambles tore at our legs.  After several complaints Kyle declared that we were ‘pirates’, and what was a few scratches?  If were we sissy-babies about it, we could go home.  No one left.

It was a sweet feeling to be out of the woods, but now we were in territory I’d never been in, and even had I wanted to go home, I would have been lost.  We started to walk through a yard where a dog was lying in the shade of the house, and I thought nothing of it.  Kyle said going through the yard would bring us to the river, and that was fine with me until I heard a low, bone-chilling, growling.  Two of the kids ran back the way we came, but Kyle and I were already half-way through the property, and the dog was between us and the woods.  Kyle told me to stand still, but I had never heard a dog growl like that toward me, and I ran.  Kyle ran too, not wanting to face the dog alone, and just as I hit what I thought would be a sloping hill, I realized too late was a cliff.  I may even have run through the air for a few seconds à la Wile E Coyote.

We were lucky that it was an angled cliff side, so that when we hit we were rushing down the rest of the drop with rocks and gravel – right toward train tracks.  I’d like to make this story much more interesting and say we just missed an oncoming train by inches, but it looked like the tracks weren’t even used anymore.  There were weeds growing all along and in them.

Neither Kyle nor I suffered more damage than scrapes and humiliation, but I would have jumped off that cliff again because that dog was still standing at the edge of the drop-off barking for us to ‘stay the hell off his lawn’!

We never did make it to the Ten-Mile River that day, but I certainly was glad to make it home.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Turkeys and Geese and Me, (oh my!)

There was a news story about a month ago around a turkey in a Cape Cod town that attacks the mail truck every day as it makes its rounds on a street abutting a wooded area.  One guy interviewed about it thinks that the turkey is probably attacking because of the eagle symbol on the mail truck.  The carrier who was interviewed said he doesn’t know what the turkey’s issue is, but it’s terrifying.

I’m a believer in fowl terrorists.  When I was eleven, I moved to a small farm-house in Western MA, where we had a cow, some chickens, and some geese.

Whenever I’d go out in the barn yard to go climb my favorite tree, or on my way to do chores, I’d be hissed at by the gander, and the other geese would join in.  As long as I didn’t turn my back on them, they’d maintain relative neutrality, and eventually start honking and waddling away – to plot – more likely than not.

The geese became more brazen as time went on and would run for my feet, but would be repelled as long as I ran hollering at them (maybe I didn’t need to yell, but it seemed necessary to me at the time).

That gander most likely resented me crossing his territory all the time, and it was on a sweltering September afternoon that he attempted his plan of attack. There is a railroad crossing next to the farm-house and during the school year, if the bus was late, it would have to wait for the freight train to pass to continue on.  Well, the bus had to wait for the  freight train to pass that day and I stepped off as I normally did, and turned to for a quick goodbye wave to my best friend, when I heard the hiss.

It had a low, menacing, ‘turn around, punk’ sound to it, but instead of facing the goose, I decided to try walking away because the kids on the bus, waiting for the train to pass, had nothing better than to watch the scene unfold from the safety of their seats.

Well, Gander (Genghoose) Khan made his move, running at me, wings flapping, head down low for the charge, and just before he bit my ankle, something in me snapped.  I turned toward him with a yell that caused silence to descend upon the occupants of the bus, and fortified with my humiliation and rage I grabbed that gander by his skinny little neck, lifting him off the ground and shook him back and forth telling him to leave me the hell alone – yes I said Hell – and I’d say it again!  Then I threw him away from me, the fury still gleaming out of what I imagined were my now red, glowing eyes, and that bird ran back to his stunned posse – er – gaggle in defeat.

Cheers broke the silence and I became aware of the victory I scored not just personally, but in full view of twenty grade-schoolers.  I waved to my audience and walked triumphantly into the house.

That gander never bothered me again.

How sweet it would be if that were the end of my dealings with rogue geese.  I moved to San Diego, CA, when my son was a preschooler, and we lived there for a few years until poor finances and missing my family brought me back east, to Massachusetts.

The day before we left California, I spent the morning with a friend at a popular picnic site with a large pond.  It was a warm morning in May, and I took off my shoes and socks to refresh my feet at the water’s edge.

I had noticed the geese some lengths away from me, and had chuckled remembering my last encounter with geese all those years before when I hear a familiar hissing behind me.  Was this a relative of Gander Khan seeking revenge?  I was so shocked that I couldn’t gather my wits before that damn bird was nipping at my heels.

Laughter, from the half-dozen or so adults with their children, pealed through the morning air around me, and rather than come to my aid, they chose to be entertained.  I felt too embarrassed to effect my “Xena” persona, so the best I could muster was a “leave me alone” in what I hoped was a stern enough voice.

The goose was not impressed.  As I ran up the little hill from the pond that goose chased me until someone (who had the sense not to take their shoes off) shied it away from me.  While that encounter does not erase the triumph of my youth, it certainly dampened the victory.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Some Tree Climbing Is Not For the Faint Of Heart – Mine In Particular

Trees were my best friends when I was a kid.  I liked nothing better than climbing up into my favorite maple that had branches nearly as close together as stairs, and some large enough to brace yourself against to sit and read.  I would climb that tree as high as I could go and look out on the world, or be invisible to anything happening on the ground.  Sometimes I’d imagine I was a black panther, slinking among the branches, waiting for prey.  The few friends I allowed into that world with me grew tired of it pretty quickly, so I stopped being anything but me.

Once, when I was eleven or twelve, I climbed up into a really tall pine with my best friend’s brothers.  There were some gaps in the branches that made it difficult to ascend, but I was determined that if her twerp younger brothers could do it, I certainly could.  It was a fantastic view when I made it to where they were.  They started to descend, but I wanted to be up there enjoying the vista for a little longer.

Then I looked straight down.

I don’t think I’ve ever clung to a branch after that as hard as I did that one.  I yelled to my friend that I couldn’t get down, and her brothers were telling me I could, and even went so far as to climb back up to encourage me, but that made it worse – they were now rocking the tree!  I was verging on hysteria and they were trying to be rational.  “Just put your foot down to the next branch”, they coaxed.  I tried.  They kept intoning “Almost there”, but I swear the branches got further apart in the time I was up there, feeling all free and wonderful and completely forgetting that trees grow!

I was shaking now so there was no way I was getting down without help.  They all went to leave to go get their dad, and I screamed for one of them to “STAY WITH ME!”

When the boys returned with their father, he was all business. “You got yourself up there – now get yourself down!”  I started to cry again because not only was I completely humiliated, but I was still terrified and thought that I’d have to live in the tree now because didn’t he realize that I could NOT get down?!

So, he started to leave.  “Come on kids, dinner’s almost ready, and she’s made up her mind to stay up there.”

That was the motivation I needed, apparently.  I screamed “NO, PLEASE DON’T GO!”, and let myself stretch further than safety and sanity dictated, and found a foothold!  The relief that flooded over me was better than any high I’ve experienced since.  Unfortunately, I still had several tricky branches to negotiate.

Down to the next branch I tremulously advanced, and ‘CRACK’!  The reverberation alone was enough to cause warring nations to declare a cease-fire.  I slipped ominously down toward the end of the split branch.  My friend’s dad was under the spot where I was faster than humans can normally move, but I was faster and pretty much dropped to the next branch down, and the one after that.

The closer I got to the ground, the easier it was, and why was everyone standing around looking at me like my death was imminent?  I’d climbed trees before.  Jeez.

I think my friend’s dad would have spanked me if I had been his kid, but his bellowing voice detailing my stupidity sufficed to put the fear of needing his assistance ever again into me.  Then he looked me over for damage, and gave a curt: “You’re ok.  Let’s go”, but I swear I saw color come back into his face.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.