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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tokyo Rose - the goose

Tokyo Rose Gets Her Comeuppance

Numbered among the animals on my grandfather’s farm north of Lubbock, Texas during World War II, were half dozen or so geese. Now, I didn’t know much about geese then, and I don’t know much more about them now. I guess you could say I’m geese challenged.

However I’ve managed to live all these years with that glaring gap in my education, and I suppose I can live the rest of them without my hair falling out or other such harm coming my way. To be honest, it stands to reason that only another goose would be interested in an intimate knowledge of geese.

At first, I never paid the gaggle of geese much attention. Any time I started toward them, I noticed the gander always took up his spot between his ladies and me. For some reason, that behavior always fascinated me. Here’s the male protecting the females. Almost human.

According to my cousin, Ed, for the most part the geese kept to themselves, except for one. She decided she was too good for the gaggle. That was the one Papa finally named Tokyo Rose.

Tokyo Rose was not content to stay with her own. She was independent, and I suppose that independence is what made her sneaky. You see, being a goose, about the only creature she could best was another goose or a chicken. The other farm animals were too large for her, so she developed two means of taking care of herself.

Her main prong of assault was the sneaky backside attack. She lay in wait beneath a bush, or behind a tree, or around a corner, and as soon as her victim, be it man or animal, passed, she’d burst from her hiding place, wings flapping like bed sheets on the line, and grab the meaty part of her victim’s backside with that bill of hers.

To her delight, her sneak attack so startled her victim, he ran, and she pursued with frenzied determination, that croaking goose cry of hers echoing across the farm, warning everyone she had her prey on the run. She chased him as far as she could, savoring every second of the torture.

Her second means of taking care of herself was the protection offered by Papa’s hog, Mussolini. Now, if you remember from an earlier column, Hitler the hog was Papa Holley’s boar Hampshire, the leader of the pack as the old rock and roll song goes. And Mussolini was number three. He was of the Duroc breed, a breed that Papa claimed didn’t have much of a brain, but he knew his place in the hierarchy of hogs. He always deferred to Hitler.

How she and Mussolini got together, I don’t know, but more than once, I saw Tokyo Rose perched on Mussolini’s back while the fat pig gobbled up his slop. The first time I witnessed the strange occurrence was one Thanksgiving when Ed and I saw Tokyo Rose carry out a sneak attack on one of Papa’s old hounds.

Instead of running, the dog turned on Tokyo Rose. So startled that any creature would dare dispute her authority around the farm, she turned tail and wings flapping, raced for the hog pen.

Now domestic geese can’t fly more than a few feet, but when she hit the top rail of the hog pen, she flew over twenty or thirty feet and landed on Mussolini’s back. Naturally, the dog did not pursue into the hog pen. He was angry, but he wasn’t stupid.

The next summer, I noticed Tokyo Rose, still up to her old tricks, was no longer a part of the gaggle. Whenever she headed to her gaggle, they ran. And the gander invariably took up his place between her and the others. During the next two months, the only farm animal I saw her with was Mussolini.

According to Ed, “That old goose got what she deserved. All the animals got tired of her sneaking up on them. None of them want to be around her, not even the old gander who used to protect her.”

I studied Tokyo Rose out there, strutting around, all alone except for fat Mussolini. I guess I should have felt sorry for her, but when I remembered her sneak attacks on me, sorrow just wasn’t there.

She live another two or three years. If animals can be lonely, she probably was. She deserved it.

Note: my cousin, Ed, lives in Amarillo. If he reads this, he might not remember it the same as I. That was a long time bad, and memory has a way of poking fun at us; but still, give or take a lie or two, that's how I remember it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

oct 27

well, this is a first for me, blogging. i don't know how it'll work out for all of my time on the computer in the past has been writing my books and columns--blogging, well, it seems as if it's simply something to do when you got nothing else to do.

on the other hand, it might be a change to capture much of my youth when the world was innocent and blessed with naivete.

One such memory was a Halloween, long years ago.

A Halloween to Remember

I’ve been lucky over the years for I suppose I’ve had some of the most frightening and exciting Halloweens ever.

In our little town in the Texas Panhandle, Halloween saw all the dusty streets filled with little ghosts and goblins. Not too many back then had costumes. If you were one of the lucky ones, you probably had a black mask like the Lone Ranger. Some of girls even had masks of pink or red.

One of the most common tricks back then was soaping windows. It was amazing how much writing you could get from a bar of Ivory soap. Some of the more daring boys toppled outhouses, what few there were; some went as far as putting cows on the schoolhouse roof and in the principal’s office.

Our little town was small enough that within two hours, a youngster could cover all the streets and stagger home with a load of treats.

And it just wasn’t kids who were out.

Oh, no, there were always a few adults who planned on putting extra fright in some of the trick or treaters.

I had a couple of those experiences

Once, to my dismay, I had to spend Halloween on my grandmother’s farm. There was only one neighbor, so I figured Halloween was shot.

Then one of my uncles told my cousin, Ed, and me that if we really wanted to see a scary ghost that night, all we had to do was put our clothes on backwards and then walk backwards around the old hanging tree three times. Now, the hanging tree was an ancient cottonwood by the cow tank that according to my uncles had once had a rustler strung from it.

Well, we didn’t really believe his trick to conjure up a ghost, but that afternoon, when no one was looking, Ed and I put on our clothes backward and walked backward around the hanging tree three times.

That night, Ed and I trudged down the lane with handkerchiefs over our faces like bank robbers in the Saturday movies, and trick or treated the neighbors. Of course, they let on like they didn’t know who we were and pretended they were frightened.

Then their two boys accompanied us back to my grandparents so we could trick or treat them. Before we left, we told our friends about conjuring up the ghost. They snickered at us.

Now, you got to get the picture here. The full moon was straight overhead. On either side of the lane were pastures dotted with mesquite, and I promise you, in the dark, the twisted mesquite limbs took on mighty grotesque shapes in the eyes of spooky ten and eleven year old boys.

And the fact we were talking about ghosts and werewolves and such didn’t help. Our frightened eyes made every shadow into Dracula or the Frankenstein monster.

And then we saw it. Far to the north in the pasture, a floating white object. The wind seemed to be carrying it toward us, and then a mournful, whining moan came through the mesquite.

I remember leaning forward and squinting at the apparition, and when I looked around, I was all alone. My cousin and his pals were a hundred yards down the lane. And I can tell you, I did my best to catch up with them.

The apparition grew closer, and I ran harder. I caught them as they reached the house, and we burst inside, four breathless, frightened boys.

It must have taken us ten minutes to stammer out what happened. The grownups shook their head, and one uncle growled at us. “Did you boys put on your clothes backward?”

Reluctantly, we nodded.

He groaned. “That did it. That brought back old Burl.”

Another one nodded. “How long’s it been now, fifty years since he got cut all to pieces. He’s still looking for his missing hand.”

“Just about. Never did find who did it.”

Well, you can imagine when we heard that, our eyes bugged out like a stepped-on toad frogs.

And I don’t have to tell you how big they got when my grandfather said, “Well, Kent, it’s getting late. You and Ed walk your young friends back home, and then hurry back.”

Wild horses couldn’t have pulled us from that house.

One of my uncles had to take our friends back home.

And they couldn’t get us outside the next day.

Years later, we learned the whole family had played a big joke on Ed and me. It was my Uncle Bud, Ed’s daddy, who played Burl in a sheet.

As I stare into the flames in our fireplace now, I tell you this, folks, those are memories I’ll never forget.