Mad Jack Hanks: Tales from the O-NO Ranch 1-17-11
“If I ever hear of you killing a mockingbird, you won’t be able to sit down for a week!” exclaimed my mother as I was practicing with my new Red Ryder BB gun in the back yard. I can almost hear her voice now as I write and that was almost 60 years ago.
Our house was surrounded by trees in that oil field camp on the historic Mallett Ranch at Sundown, Texas. The mockingbird is the state bird of Texas and it’s against the law to kill one. It always has been. The mockingbird gets it’s name because it can mimic the sounds of almost any bird that enjoys and inhabits the same area. Ol’ “mockie” is a pretty bird with gray and blue hues with lots of white colors mixed in. It’s a fairly small bird and to listen to one in the early morning hours or late evening is pure pleasure. It’s almost comforting and when I make my trips to West Texas I always listen for that special music that ol’ “mockie” makes.
My mother was president of our little local Garden Club and in the summer she would be up at daylight and usually outside watering her flower beds which were many. The mockingbirds would help her through her morning with their settling and pleasing sounds. I would get irritated as I could hear that water hose spattering water against the house just under my bedroom window. I wasn’t quite ready to “rise and shine.”
One summer afternoon I was wandering around the back yard looking for something to get a bead on with my BB gun. I was as famous as Daniel Boone. I searched the tree tops with my eagle eye looking for a wayward sparrow when I spotted that little ol’ mockingbird. I took aim knowing there was no way in the world my gun would reach that distance.
“Don’t do it, Jackie. Don’t you dare pull that trigger!” my little guardian angle spoke to me.
“Heck, go ahead, there ain’t no way yer gonna’ hit that bird if you shot a hundred times,” my little devil challenged.
I pulled the trigger and low and behold that “mockie” fell outta’ that tree like a tin soldier. I quickly ran over to inspect him and knew when I looked he was dead on arrival. As a little 9-year-old boy, I was proud of my good aim and then the reality of what I had done made me terribly ashamed. I had killed the state of Texas bird. I had killed a mockingbird and I was a bad, bad boy and would suffer some really bad punishment if anyone ever found out. I looked around and there were no witnesses. I took the little bird and buried him out in the pasture and never told a soul. I didn’t dare tell my brother as I knew he would use it as a bargaining chip against me when he needed it.
I love birds, I have many trees in my yard and a book that gives me descriptions of all the birds that come and go here at the O-NO Ranch. As I write I still get that same little sick feeling knowing that I killed a mockingbird.
By the way, pilgrims, I am not responsible for all those blackbirds falling out of the sky recently in Arkansas.
Stay tuned, check yer cinch on occasion and I’ll c ya’ll, all ya’ll.
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Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is expected to sign SB 21-87, known as the Farm Workers Bill of Rights, though much of the content will be decided through the rulemaking process.