Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Chin on the Chopping Block (A boys story)

As a kid I always had a propensity for finding wounded animals.  I found them, and they found me.  It was not as if I went out looking for them, they just seemed to end up in my company.  I was not particularly schooled in the healing arts, did not really know much about animals, or even have much of a clue what to do for a critter in distress.  But I did have a tremendous empathy and compassion for the wounded.  I could always offer comfort, and I could always feel their pain.  As I began to grow older, wounded kids began to find their way to my door as well.

But anyway, when I was five or six years old we used to drive out to the dairy on Saturday mornings to get milk.  My mom and my brothers and sister.  As I recall, the dairy must have been about six or eight miles away from our house.  We’d turn off the main country road onto a dirt road that stretched out for about a half mile before reaching the dairy.  A row of enormous eucalyptus trees paralleled the road, and several hundred crows made their homes high up in the trees.  One morning, as we drove slowly along the dusty road, shadowed by the enormity of the eucalyptus, I noticed a bird lying on the ground at the base of one of the trees.  I yelled for my mom to stop, and as she did I jumped out to see what was wrong with the bird.  To my untrained eyes it appeared as if it had a broken wing.  We were just a stones throw from the dairy, so I told my mom to go ahead and I’d walk over and meet her there in a minute.  She did, and I bent over to pick up the crow.  As I brought it up near my face to have a closer look it stretched its neck out suddenly and bit me on the chin, pretty hard, and it held on pretty tight.  I was kind of shocked, but OK, until realizing I couldn’t pull the bird from my chin.  I pulled with increasing force, I tried prying it’s beak apart, I tried relaxing, and coaxing the bird to let go, and when all else failed, I cried, and pleaded with the crow.  I was not just crying from frustration, I was crying from pain.  This bird was locked on to my face like a pit bull on a vulnerable leg.

I ran up to the dairy.  My mom quickly realized how traumatized I was, but she couldn’t remove the bird either.  She asked the dairy man to help, but even he couldn’t get the creature to release it’s grip.  They were both afraid of tearing my chin to shreds.  Mom piled us all back into the car to race home because my dad would certainly know what to do.  She drove the few miles in a mild panic as I became increasingly traumatized.  People in the other cars were looking, pointing, laughing at the crying kid with the crow stuck on his chin.  It was not fun for me.  Not at all. 

We eventually came screaming into the driveway at home, with mom honking the horn, and dad coming out on the porch to see what was going on.  He took one look at me, quickly assessed the situation, and laughed.  It was like a shot to the heart of a wounded puppy.  He couldn’t pull, or pry, the bird from my chin either, so he took me out in the back yard, got an ax, laid my head down on top of a tree stump, told me to stop crying, close my eyes, hold my breath, and hold myself still.  I was terrified.  Beyond description.  Beyond belief.  My father’s ax sliced cleanly through the neck of the crow, I opened my eyes, saw the body of the bird laying helpless on the ground, saw blood oozing red from its neck, and its head still clinging stubbornly to my chin.  I lost it, thinking, as only a child could, that I would have to spend the rest of my life with the head of a crow clamped tightly, and grotesquely, on my quivering chin.