Lisa Hamblen Hood: Through the Fence 2-25-13
Relief comes in many ways and is best when it’s immediate. There used to be a television commercial for an antacid product that had a catchy jingle, “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz; oh what a relief it is.” It showed a man overeating rich foods that was feeling bloated and sick. But he smiled as he dropped the white tablets into a glass of water. He waited for the effervescent bubbles to subside before drinking the concoction, anticipating a quick end to his indigestion.
When my grandfather was a little boy growing up in the piney woods of East Texas, he employed a radical solution to some severe and unanticipated pain. He and his older brother Ben decided that they should catch a bird and keep it for a pet. Ben was about eight and my granddad, Henry, was four. Ben had seen some older boys fashion a small snare out of wire called a figure four because of the shape. The boys scavenged some wire they found in a shed and discussed the perfect bait and placement of the trap.
They shaped it and baited it with some suet. They set it out in the woods between their house and the school. When Ben left for school that morning, he admonished his younger brother not to tamper with the trap or even check it until he got home that afternoon.
But as the day waxed long, Henry’s curiosity overcame him. He thought he’d just go out and check to see if they had been successful. Sure enough, as Henry approached the spot, he spied a brilliant flash of red plumage. He was thrilled to see a male cardinal trapped in the wire contraption. He remembered his brother’s warning, but it was not sufficient to restrain him. He knelt down in the grass to get a closer look at their prey. The temptation was just too great.
He worked his small hand into the trap slowly. He gingerly wrapped his fingers around the bird and started easing it back out. When he did, something unexpected happened. The bird used his only defense, his sharp, seed-splitting beak. It began pecking furiously at the tender flesh that grasped it. Henry was shocked by the sudden pain and the regret of having fiddled with the snare. Of course, the obvious solution was simply to open his hand and let the bird go. But that kind of rational solution didn’t occur to him in that desperate moment. As the pain intensified, the boy panicked. Not seeing any relief in sight, he did the only thing he could think of. He leaned over and bit the bird’s head off.
Even though he was thankful that the incessant pecking had ended, young Henry was appalled at his actions. He spat out tiny red feathers and blood as he dropped the lifeless bird into the grass. He knew his brother would be furious. He might even exact a worse punishment when he found out that the trap had been sprung. But he would have to worry about that later. At that moment, all he could think about was fleeing the scene and running into his mother’s arms.
When he got home, the blood on his hand had dried but it already was red and swollen. His mama hugged him to her ample bosom, cleaned his wounds and washed his tear stained face. “Mama, Ben’s gonna kill me,” he whined. He proceeded to tell her the whole sad saga of the bird in the trap and of his brother’s stern warnings. His mother reassured the boy that she would let his older brother hurt him.
When Ben got home, he was indeed very upset. All he wanted was for his little brother not to mess up his plans for getting a pet. Their mother explained that birds are wild creatures and needed the freedom to soar through the air as they were intended to do. But Ben continued sulking until the next afternoon, when his dad brought home a new puppy. ❖
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