I was an adventurous lad at 10 years of age. I’m not sure where my older brother was all this time or what he was doing. I think his interest was more studious than my own and he read a lot. My summers were spent in the pasture either riding ol’ paint or just hiking through the pasture to discover “whatever.” Most times I could catch a lizard or shoot my homemade bow and arrow at a cotton tail. There was this one time when I did hit that rabbit much to my surprise, and it carried my arrow under a yucca plant. Most folks called the yucca plant Spanish Daggers because of the sharp unbending spines that protruded up and out. My first thought was just reach in there and grab that rabbit and retrieve my arrow and I almost did.
I got that little tap on the shoulder that said, “Jack, there could be a rattler in there with him.” It was a hot summer day and I decided to unstring my bow and poke it in the hole just as a precaution. I did. And when I did, I heard that familiar unnerving buzzing sound. I backed up a little and kept pokin’ and pokin’ until the rabbit ran out and my arrow also fell from his hip. Following the rabbit, the rattler also got tired of being poked and emerged only to receive a sever thrashing with my bow until I was sure he was disabled enough for me to make my escape and head home although a little shaken by the whole ordeal.
My confidence was uplifted as I knew I would make a good mountain man if I lived in such a place. I loved the smell of pines and the fresh mountain air each time we made a trip to Ruidoso or Red River, New Mex., and those trips were not often enough to satisfy my lust to live in that country. Of course, never having been there in the winter, I didn’t have a clue.
I had a dog named Duffy who was a midsized Cocker Spaniel and a great companion. I didn’t have him too long because my neighbor who lived in one of the three houses in this oil field camp, ran over him and he did it intentionally right in front of me as Duffy was after his cat. I was upset and watched my faithful dog squirm and die in the matter of a few minutes. My dad came out of the house and put his arm around me as I cried. “Go get a shovel son and we’ll get him buried,” my dad said in a soft, caring way. I did and we did get him buried close by. I hated that neighbor for the eight more years I had to watch him come and go.
My best memory of Duffy and I having an adventure was when we were walking the perimeter of the camp. It was about 12 or so acres and years ago they had planted Chinese Elm trees as a windbreak around the whole place. There seemed to be an adventure each time we made that trip. It was in March or there about when we were out walking and I had gotten a hunting knife for Christmas. The kind you wear on your belt in a scabbard. I was a “real” mountain man for sure now. Duffy ran ahead of me and looked up in one of those trees and barked constantly. There was an ol’ yellow tom cat, a stray, all puffed up and seemed to have an attitude. All of a sudden, he sprang from the tree and landed right square on Duffy’s back biting and clawin’ for all he was worth. I didn’t think twice as I grabbed my new knife and plunged it into that cat as many times as I could and as fast as I could. He released his grip on my little buddy and headed out across the Mesquite pasture wabbling at times. Duffy was as scared and upset as I was, but he was most grateful for my unwavering courage which may have saved him from a terrible ordeal. I wondered later as to if that ol’ cat was rabid or not and decided not to tell my folks. That’s what one would expect from a proven mountain man. My oh my, what some kids did for entertainment back in the 50s. Not so much today with all of the distractions they have that will never produce a mountain man, but maybe a space man (woman).
Stay tuned, check yer cinch on occasion and remember that stray cat may show up on the internet so have your kids be made aware. I’ll c. y’all, all y’all.
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