Regular readers will remember an earlier discussion regarding a field in the southwest corner of Amarillo, Texas where yours truly grew up. It was in this field at the end of Hall Street that a dozen or so pre-puberty little boys re-fought World War II. You will want to read the earlier article on this site titled, “The Field” to know that story. This story involves the field as well but in a different role than that of an imaginary battlefield.
The one thing that could guarantee all activity on the field come to a screeching halt was an encounter with one of its full-time residents. The most common one was the jack rabbit. It is a genetic trait of all little boys to chase jack rabbits regardless of the universally known fact that no human could ever catch one, much less a little boy. To my eternal shame, I never caught one. I can also state unequivocally that I still can’t.
We boys had much more fun with one of the smaller and slower residents of the field. The horned toad was in great abundance there and they were much easier to catch. One had to be careful though! We had it in good faith from the older boys (the ones in the neighborhood who were past twelve or so) that if a horned toad could spit into your eyes, you would be blind forever. None of us had the nerve to test the validity of that statement. So, the safe and right place for a captured horned toad would be in one’s pocket. We just had to remember to get them out of said pocket before going home. A loose horned toad in the kitchen was never a good thing, particularly for Mom. I can also state with all the confidence of a Christian holding four aces, that they do not handle washing machines well either. I can finally pronounce that wandering horned toads in the kitchen are very bad for little boys. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
Well, now there were a fair number of snakes in the field as well. To us, all snakes in the field were gigantic Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes (they grew to be monsters by the time we got home, and were fully capable of eating any of us at will). The reality is they were plain old Garter Snakes and an occasional Bull Snake. When we had a spring rain, we would get a number ten plastic jug (like what restaurants get mustard in), put it down in the drain at the edge of the field, and we’d fill that jug up with snakes and whatever else went by. Why we did I didn’t know then and I don’t know now. I imagine it was because we could. So there.
Sometimes after a rain, we would get really lucky and find a salamander. We called them mud puppies. They were nasty and I never did get the gumption up to pick one up. They were about 6-8” long, black with yellow stripes, and real slimy. You know, they would have been real good to chase girls with had I had the backbone to grab one.
I sure do miss that field.