Licking our wounds

It took quite a spell to get all ten of us into the safety of Stewie’s backyard and the protection of his fence. That fence didn’t help much as our enemies continued throwing clods over the fence and into the yard. We retreated even further into the safety of the garage. That attracted the attention of Stewie’s dad who, upon realizing his back yard was being littered by clods, went out and ran those skunks off. We were, for a time, safe.

It was late Saturday morning by now and we were confined to the interior of the garage with a whole bunch of Saturday to get through yet. Larry went out to scout the area and was met with a merciless shelling of “Panhandle death clods,” as we called them. He was lucky he survived. We were unsure whether we would ever see daylight again until Max had the idea to walk down to Mr. Walker’s store and get an RC Cola™ and a Moon Pie™. We would be safe as Mr. Walker’s store was the opposite direction and further away from the field. Those skunks would leave us alone there. We would be safe out back and could talk over our plans for counterattack.

We forgot about the neighborhood girls.

Here it might be the time to explain the neighborhood girls. They were the bane of our existence. If memory serves, there were about a million of them. Unless we got to our field real early in the morning (btw: my Dad told me it was against Texas state law for girls of any age to be on the field at any time), we had to put up with them and their girly goofiness. Their entire agenda was to entice, invite, or otherwise rope us into playing with them. I’m sorry, but our “Man Code” forbade us from playing house, handling any kind of dolls (G.I. Joe™ was the sole exception), playing some goofy game called foursquare, and anything other than what met our man code. It was just that simple. We were ten years old, for crying out loud! Well, Stewi and Rusty were eight. You get my meaning.

So, on this sunny Saturday morning we went to Mr. Walker’s store, got our RC Colas and Moon Pies, and settled out back of the store to soak our sorrows. (for some of us, It took more than one Moon Pie to drown the sorrow). Mr. Walker even came out to see if we were ok. He went back inside his store and no sooner than the screen door slammed shut than we spotted the four orneriest girls in the neighborhood. Alice, Margaret, Brindley, and Gail came around the corner, stopped dead in their tracks, and stared at us. After what seemed to be an eternity, all four broke down laughing themselves silly. Girls do that you know. Our man code did not allow us to throw clods at girls so we just stood there and stared as meanest of a stare that anyone can muster.

Next week: An unlikely alliance.


Setting the trap?

Now that we had a plan, we needed to get things going to take “our land” back. The barbed wire fence that bordered the southern edge of our field ran nigh on to a mile or more. Least wise it seemed that way. The memory of its length is a little fuzzy forty years later. Anyway…We had to figure out how to get on the field, to the fence, and gather up the tumbleweeds we would need while avoiding detection from the “enemy” and (more important) the sorghum bull ( see my entry of March 29, 2016 for an explanation of the sorghum bull). We weren’t too worried about the enemy (they weren’t that smart anyway) but, knowing the sorghum bull was behind us was downright scary. Larry reminded us that the sorghum bull was always gone at dinner time and most weekends. Knowing this, we could plan our time to get started.

Luck was with us that Saturday morning. All ten of us made it to the field and to the fence super early. We were fortunate too that none of the “girls” of the neighborhood were up at that hour. (I’ll explain the neighborhood girls later). All that was great but, what made it greater still is there had been a windstorm over the night and the entire field of tumbleweeds had been caught and snared by the barb-wire fence. Instant fort! Yup, we were lucky!

At this hour of the morning, the sorghum bull would be out and about though we did not see him. Maybe we got even more lucky if he was gone to one of his “shows.” The fellow what owned him showed him off a lot. Maybe we were gonna be lucky again and he would be gone. We assumed he was and went about our business, especially after Larry reminded that he was always gone on the weekends. Life is good!

We entered the field from Stewi’s house which was about a quarter mile or so to the barbed wire fence. As I said earlier, it was now covered with tumbleweeds. You would not find a happier bunch of fellows anywhere on the Texas Panhandle than the ten of us. The day was clear, no ornery ole girls anywhere, and The Almighty Himself had built us a fort.

We got to about ten or twenty feet from the fence and stopped to admire our indestructible fortress. All of a sudden, a sky darkening sea of clods (and a few rocks) flew through the air in our direction. Those same ornery snakes from the other day had snuck into and taken over OUR fort!! How dare they!! We took a terrible “whuppin.”

Oh, we tried our best to fight back but, not only did they attack us from OUR fort, they somehow or other got behind so that we were getting bombarded from the front and rear. There was nothing for it but get back to Stew’s house.

Next week: Licking our wounds.


Going to war

We had always known about the dirt in the Panhandle and its use as a clod weapon. Up until this here day, though, we had never known just how painful they could be. We threw them at rabbits that we chased (though we never hit any) but never at people and this day was the first time we had been the target of a “Panhandle death clod.”  I’m here to tell you they hurt like the dickens.

Now that we knew and felt this awful truth, Stewie was quick to suggest its use, “We are going to have to re-take our ground one way or the other which means we have to be willing to use the clods and maybe even rocks.” That was a given, but, now the ground was occupied by, what, a thousand ornery kids?  The reality was there was two different groups of fifteen of them compared to the ten or so of us (depending on who was grounded on any one day). We had no clue how to retake our slice of the Panhandle. Among the many ideas, Larry had the best. “We need to go out to the far south end of the field (that’s where the sorghum bull lived) and gather up a bunch of clods and hide them along the fence line”, Larry said with supreme confidence. “We know the sorghum bull is in his barn at that hour having supper so he won’t be a problem.” We all figured it was a perfect plan.

“I ain’t going nowhere near that bull,” Max said while on the verge of tears. His little brother disappeared one day and Max had always figured that the sorghum bull had got him. The truth was he got too near to the haunted house behind Larry’s house and a ghost got him. That’s another story for another time. Larry stood up, puffed his chest out, looked Max right smack in the eyeballs, and said, “You need to avenge your brother’s death and now is that time.” None of us knew what avenge meant but we thought it sounded tough so we agreed with Larry. Max didn’t say a word but nodded his head. We figured that meant he would.

All this took place in early spring and we were still in school. We had to wait until Friday to make our move when we could stay out later. We had decided early on that our headquarters was to be at Stewie’s house as it was right across the street from the eastern border of our field. We knew the farm where the sorghum bull lived was bordered by a barbed wire fence. That fence caught a lot of tumble weeds and made a natural fort. So, long as the sorghum bull didn’t see us we would be ok.

Next week: setting the trap.

The first clod

As I told ya’ll before, nobody knows for sure when the clod war started. The best guess puts it about 1962 or thereabouts. It took place on the western edge of “our” field near our neighborhood. We had a fort next to the road that bordered the neighborhood. The fort was made out of tumbleweeds which was taken apart by the wind on a regular basis. Tumbleweeds are called tumbleweeds for a very good reason: they tumble.  Anyway…I digress.

The particular day I refer to was an early summer morning. We had just finished reconstructing our fort and were fixin’ to go chasing rabbits (which we never caught) when Tommy saw a group of boys entering the field some two or three blocks away.

Tommy pointed them out and we decided these “invaders” did not have permission to be on our territory. This was an act of war on their part and we had to run them off one or the other.  At this point, though, we hadn’t yet figured out that clods were good for throwing and stuff like that.

Walking side by side, our group of eight approached the outlaws (there was near on eight of nine of them to twelve us). When they spotted us, they stood still in a rag tag bunch and stared at us. It was pretty clear to us that they was squared stiff of us.

Our confidence was shattered in an instant when something hit Stewie in the back and dropped him to the ground with a terrifying howl. I looked behind me, and, just as I looked to see what had happened to Stewie, I was hit not once, but twice on the back of my head. That hurt something awful until I got hit again on my shoulder! I turned in the direction where I thought whatever hit me came from and, right there in front of God and everybody (and behind us) was another bunch of boys we had not seen! We was surrounded! We had seen just a few of the boys as the rest (I’d guess near on to ten or so more) had snuck around behind us. There was no choice but to beat feet for the fort which, to our dismay, had been swept away (again) by the wind. Larry’s house was the nearest house to our field and that’s where we ran to.

When we all managed to get to Larry’s garage, we counted the wounded. Every one of us had been hit at least once and some as many as three times (me), which explains why I am bald today. All of us looked around in sadness and embarrassment until Larry quoted a famous cartoon character, “Of course you realize, this means war.”

Next week: Discovering the clod.


The Clod Wars

I grew up on the south side of Amarillo, Texas. It lies right  in the center of the Texas Panhandle. It was there on a small patch of prairie on the west side of our neighborhood that the clod wars took place.

The dozen or so boys that grew up together (I being one of them) had taken the idea that this particular patch of  the Panhandle was our sovereign territory and would remain so in perpetuity. There were other neighborhoods nearby and some of the boys in those areas (none of which a shared a border with the field in question) had the mistaken idea that this was their territory. Thus was the genesis of the clod wars.

No one knows when the clod wars started. It was around the time that the boys in our area found out that a clod could be used in an effective defense against all comers, with exemptions being parents, the Texas Rangers, the little girls in our neighborhood, and the Vice Principal at school.

A word about clods. The dirt in the panhandle has a degree of clay in it which allowed one to grab it and, quick as can be, form a ball just the right size to fit in the palm of one’s hand. It could be thrown with devastating effect and there was an endless supply. The clod was the universal weapon of choice for all combatants. There were a few times that rocks were used but that happened on rare occasions  and never by us………..

Now, the territory was, if memory serves, somewhere around five acres. Our neighborhood was on the east side, James Butler Bonham Junior High School on the north, a farm on the south side (readers will remember the Legend of the sorghum bull – this farm was where it started), and Soncy Road on the west. The plains of the Panhandle are prairie so it consists of grass, tumbleweeds, and no hills. There were, I must add, a large resident population of snakes, toads (land and horned), rabbits, and other assorted creatures who made their home on the Great Plains. Looking at it, one sees just the grass and sheer empty space but, it is, in reality, a teeming metropolis.

Who were the neighborhood boys? So glad you asked. Let me see. There was me of course. Then there was Gary, Randy, Carl, Mark, Larry, Bobby, Ricky, and four or five more whose names I can no longer recall.

Next week: the first clod.

A Pterodactyl?! Really?!

An interesting discourse took place on Facebook™ just the other day. It seems a friend of many years has a daughter who is in a family way. The day the post of which I refer was the day in which she would learn just what manner of grandchild she would be welcoming into her family. Her excitement was easy to sense and her friends were just as exuberant. That is as it should be. The responses were a tad unusual, though.

The first response was a prediction that there would be triplets. A prediction of twins was put forth by more than one correspondent as well. That could be a possibility. If memory serves, there are, at least, one set of twins in the family. That could be one possible answer and it would be a joyous one indeed.

I was, however, surprised that one individual whose identity is to be shared on Facebook and not here, put forth the idea that the joyful mother-to-be would produce a Pterodactyl. Of a certainty, I can see the value of a pterodactyl about the house. Home security would no longer be a consideration. I am at a loss how a burglar, or any other unwelcome party for that matter, would be brave (or stupid) enough to invade a house with a pterodactyl in residence. Traffic jams would not be an issue either as, if I can remember the teaching of my youth, pterodactyls have the ability of flight and therefore could simply pick one’s means of conveyance up and relocate it to a more advantageous location. Yes, I can see the many advantageous to a pterodactyl. There are, as it turns, out many inconveniences to having a pterodactyl about which would take more time to explain in the space that I have here.

There was another prediction that the mother-to-be would bear a Raptor. How anybody could imagine a raptor in one’s house is beyond me. They are always hungry and thereby impossible to keep fed. They wander off at the slightest provocation and can be counted on to never be around when a burglar is nearby.  A raptor is, and always will be, impossible to keep and to suggest otherwise is sheer folly.

I have just this minute checked the Facebook entry regarding the expected arrival. It has thus been reported that the mother is expecting a baby boy. I am sure that my friend’s joy is without limit and I wish her and her family the greatest joy at this news.

Thank the heavens it was not a pterodactyl.

Joy at a burger joint?

One would never expect to find unbridled joy at a burger joint. Oh,  I suppose it is possible to witness the occasional jubilant  patron gushing over a good burger. I myself have been known to express plain old fashioned giddiness whilst consuming an onion and cheese festooned hamburger (and NO tomatoes!).

No, the unbridled elation that I refer to was witnessed by yours truly just the other day at a South side White Castle™. I had an early morning meeting to attend so decided that I would stop by the local White Castle for coffee and a sausage biscuit. White Castle, by the way, is known to have one of the better cups of coffee in town and their sausage and egg biscuits are among the best you’d find anywhere. That’s a given at any White Castle upon whom you would care to render your custom.

What made this visit exceptional, though, was Tanya. I think that’s her name. I had to go back later that morning to ask. I think I have it right. Anyway….She will tell me if I don’t.

I deduced that Tanya was the manager in charge at that hour of the morning when most folk are still waking up and coherency is often challenging. The first thing I noticed about her was that she had a contagious grin and everybody, from customer to employee, was addressed as either baby or honey. There may have been the occasional sweetie tossed in as well. Further, she went about her task of tending to her patrons and encouraging fellow employees with more joy than I have seen as of late anywhere. It is not common to see that kind of effervescence at that hour of the day. In a burger joint no less! I must confess, I was taken aback by it.

I had to hang around the front counter whilst Tanya constructed my breakfast. She went about her task with the smile and joy that I bet made everybody’s day. I had never, before this moment, seen anybody cook up a sausage and egg biscuit with the joy I saw in Tanya.

I wanted to ask her the source of her joy. She was far too busy engaging her world and putting truth to the old adage, “In all labor there is profit.” Tanya is rich beyond words.