the true stories
One inky night on a Texas dirt road, my father stopped the car and got out in the glare of the headlights to remove a large turtle from the path. I was in my single digits and remember watching him crouch over the big shell. From the darkness came a pair of outstretched talons beneath massive brown wings and yellow eyes into the pool of light in front of the car.
The big screech-owl had gone for his toupee. He rose to his full height and wrestled the raptor for the expensive rug. He managed to keep his scalp and avoid any lacerations. When he re-joined us in the car, it was the first time I had seen him visibly shaken. At the time I didn't know the symbolism of this event but later I learned. It was not a good omen. It was a close call and he had felt the feathers brush against his face before the silent one flew off into the pines.
We were about thirty miles west of Houston in what used to be Indian country. We lived in a modern house on three acres tucked away between some working farms. One day at the house my elder sister and I were practicing the art of tricycle riding. We each had one and we raced up and down the smooth concrete driveway all day. It had rained the night before and there were several prodigious mud-puddles off the sides of the pavement.
I discovered off-roading and modern art all at once. I would ride through the dark mud and back up onto the white concrete making Celtic woven patterns from the three wheels. The three acres had been plowed and planted in tomatoes by hired gardeners. My father had some men install a giant aquarium stocked with all types of fish he had chosen. All the fish got eaten by one voracious individual over the course of a month and that one leaped out of the water to fall victim to our cat.
The garden-makers had killed many snakes with the tines of their tillers and had disturbed the habitat of the survivors. One big Diamondback decided to cross the apron of cement during our tricycle morning. He made it halfway and we began to circle around him. He paused, checked our scent and made a dash for it. Completely unintentionally, my big sister rolled squarely across his neck just behind his large triangular head. Only this chance of physics kept her from being struck on her chubby leg. The poor fellow was dead instantly and we left it where it lay and continued our play.
Some time later, my father rolled up in his car and parked. He walked over to the snake. He picked it up by the tail and after making sure it was good and dead, he swung it three times over his head and flung it out into the yard. He greeted us and surveyed the mud patterns on the pavement. He asked which of us had made the tracks and which had killed the snake. We both answered with pride to each of our separate deeds. Later that night my deed triggered a series of beatings that stretched over the next several years.
Copyright © 2019 by Michael A. Hawes. All Rights Reserved.
Michael Hawes was born in Texas, raised in Louisiana and lives in British Columbia.