Exclamation Point!

A yellow exclamation mark

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Exclamation Point!

I didn’t ask to be like Job,

Whose life took a backward thrust,

Yet here I am with shredded heart,

Arising from the dust,

I’ve lost at love one more time,

But it will not hold me down,

Like a Phoenix I’ll spring into the world,

With a smile instead of a frown,

I’m alone but not alone,

For I believe in a higher power,

Hope is there to guide my way,

Each and every hour,

My arms are bare and empty,

I have no one to hold,

So I choose to embrace the world,

Before my heart turns cold,

This world sparkles despite my pain,

My senses are acutely aware,

I see the beauty in this world,

And feel God’s presence there,

I smile at the turns I’ve made,

And all the times I’ve slipped,

Love will thrive the rest of my way,

It’s still within my grip,

Every day is a bonus day,

Full of meaningful things to do,

Challenges spring up daily at me,

Head on I’ll tackle them anew,

I don’t want to end my life,

With a period at the end of my game,

As a poet I want much more flair,

An exclamation point should mark my name!

Choppin’ Cotton

Choppin’ Cotton

 

 
A chance for self-respect comes but a few times during a lifetime and I have to seize those moments and choose the way I want to be. Once that decision is stamped indelibly on my heart, there is no turning back, nor would I ever want to change. Long ago as a teenager I made one of those decisions that shaped my life.

Shivering ever so slightly I slid out of bed and pulled on my faded work jeans. At 4:30 in the morning the irrigated desert land’s air was crisp and cold even in my room. I pulled my arms through the blue cotton shirt which earlier had been lying limply across the foot of the bed. After tightly lacing my cracked black shoes I stuffed my work gloves into my hip pocket and placed the straw hat with the torn brim rakishly on my head. I tied a handkerchief loosely around my neck.

Stumbling into the kitchen I reached into the cabinet and pulled out a bowl. I didn’t have time to make breakfast so my choice was made. Cold cereal in a cold bowl. That’s all I usually had while my parents, brother, and sisters slept. I made my sandwich, two slices of bread with a slice of lunch meat, no mayonnaise, no tomato or lettuce. I dropped the dry sandwich into a brown paper bag. There was no way to keep the sandwich cold without spoiling so I only used the basics.

I went into the bathroom and splashed cold water on my face. I was still groggy so I splashed again. I heard a soft knock on the door outside that brought me fully alert. “Dan, are you ready to go? We have to be there before five.” It seemed I had heard those words thousands of times and yet I jumped every time I heard them.

Rushing out I grabbed my lunch bag and my hoe, which I had placed carefully beside the door the night before. The hoe’s blade, which I had honed before going to bed, looked sharp and ready for the weeds. Wordlessly I walked with Bob to his gray dented sedan which was already packed with other workers.

In the morning mists I could see the car, hoes protruding from the windows, and could imagine a Viking ship with oars ready to explore the world. I leaned through a door and looked for a place to squeeze in.

“Well, you took your sweet time, Dan,” a voice called out good naturedly from the back seat. I recognized Jake Smith’s voice and turned to face him.

“You’re just lucky I showed up at all,” I countered. “Otherwise there’d be no one to help you finish your rows.”

We all laughed and continued the banter as I crowded in and we drove away. For a few moments we sat in silence as the car, trailing blue-black clouds of smoke, coughed towards our destination.

Someone finally asked, “Has anyone heard anything about the new boss, Laird?” We all shook our heads except for Bob, Jake’s older brother. “This is only rumor, but I heard that Laird chews nails for breakfast and he bit his dog last Friday.” We all laughed but Jake got serious again. “I’ve heard nothing but bad news from the boys down at the pool hall,” he said. “I’m inclined to take their stories with a grain of salt but I thought you ought to know.”

It was something to think about but as we turned off the pavement onto a dusty road I had already forgotten Laird. The car sputtered to a stop beside a field of cotton and gave two or three last shakes and coughs before dying. “You ought to get that car fixed,” I said to Bob. “It’s about to give up the ghost.”

We grabbed our hoes from the car and stared glumly at the field before us. The cotton was waist high and had been long neglected. There were clumps of Johnson grass, small white morning glories, and patches of Bermuda grass.

 

While we waited, three other cars pulled up behind us. Two black families and a Mexican family got out. We eyed the other groups cautiously and I wondered whether we could all work together peacefully.

A green and white pickup came racing up the dusty road past the four weather-beaten cars and slid to a halt. Covering my face with my bandana I waited a few seconds for the pickup’s trailing dust cloud to dissipate. Both of the pickup’s doors swung open. A young pimple faced boy crawled out of the passenger side. He slapped on a blue baseball cap over his unruly blond hair. His lean gangly body stretched too long for his jeans and his arms dangled a few inches too far beyond the cuffs of his sleeves. Although we were at first wary, his infectious smile made him an instant hit to our often ill-tempered group.

On both sides of the truck we noticed some fancy lettering. W.C. Laird, Labor Contractor, it proclaimed in bold black letters to the agricultural world. The boss man, Laird himself, worked his heavy body away from the wheel and out the door.

His stogie, a cigar tucked in one corner of his mouth, was moving in circles as he muttered. I could not understand him at first and I noticed the others were also beginning to look puzzled.

His already red face grew redder and I could see his small eyes squinting behind the wire spectacles.

He suddenly barked, “What’s the matter with all of you? Can’t you hear? We’re supposed to start this field at five o’clock and by gum, that’s what we’re gonna do. Now git your asses over to that edge of the field and pick your row. I’ll be along shortly to check your work.”

He removed his glasses, spat on them, and cleaned them slowly with the corner of his shirt. He watched us silently trudging to the corner of the field. He continued to stare until we began working our way down the rows.

 

The waist high cotton was wet from the morning dew and before we had gone twenty-five yards I was soaked from the waist down and feeling uncomfortable. Swarms of mosquitoes rose before us and began their relentless attacks, searching for exposed skin. I slapped at them occasionally but tried to ignore them, afraid I would be accused of doing more dodging and fighting mosquitoes than hoeing.

Quickly and efficiently I chopped out the Johnson grass and the morning glories with the corners of the hoe. I was not the fastest in the group, nor the slowest as I paced myself to last the morning. By eight the sun was already bearing down and the boss was there, checking each worker’s row in turn.

“I don’t think you’re worth a dollar and a quarter an hour,” Laird said to Preacher, one of the black men who was working close-by. “I think I’ll pay you a dollar an hour.” But Preacher just glared at him and began to work faster. After that I noticed that two women who were with Preacher would occasionally step over and help him catch up.

 

As the morning progressed all the groups began to work closer together and exchanged stories. Preacher began telling stories from the Bible and about a boss who was evil and went to Hell. Since he was looking at Laird, who was leaning on a hoe talking to a farmer who owned the field, we knew who Preacher meant. The two women would laugh at his stories and I could hear the older woman’s deep laugh boom out and the younger one’s laughter, which was more like the tinkling of bells.

Another man, Sid, was in Preacher’s group. He hung back, trying to be inconspicuous and out of Laird’s sight but he was clearly interested in what was going on. He appeared to be jealous of all the attention Preacher was getting.

“Preacher,” he said. “I’ll tell the boss man just what you’re telling us and he’ll fire you and you won’t find any more jobs.” Sid rolled his eyes and waited for us to laugh but we didn’t. We could see Preacher and the women getting upset.

 

The Mexican family with their young children continued to work quietly but they stayed away from Preacher and his group. The father had talked to us for awhile and decided he could trust us. He had told us he and his wife were working without permits and did not want any trouble. If they were noticed by anyone they could be shipped back to Mexico. They had to earn money for some of their other relatives who were unable to make a living in Mexico.

All morning long Sid tried out new antics. He seemed to want any kind of attention. As we approached a heavy stand of Johnson grass Sid called out, “Hark, I see a lion in yon jungle. Preacher better use some of his religious medicine to rescue us.”

Preacher kept pretending to ignore him as Sid continued his tirade. Finally Sid realized no one was listening so he stopped talking but I could tell he was still itching to get something started.

By ten the heavy clothes were beginning to stick to our sweaty bodies. Some of my friends had taken off their shirts and tied them around their waists. I had blistered badly the previous time so I kept my shirt on. We stopped for a water break expecting to get cool water. In our experience most bosses put ice in the water to keep it cool. It satisfied our thirst and cooled us at the same time. But this time was different.

I gulped a mouthful and spit it out. “This water is hot enough to boil tea in,” I grumbled. The others thought I was kidding. Each in turn took a mouthful and spit it out.

 

Laird ambled over. “What’s the matter?” he sneered. “Don’t you like water?” As I tried to find words to adequately express my feelings, I heard the youth who had earlier climbed out of the pickup say, “Dad, this isn’t right. I told you to stop for ice this morning.”

Laird grinned as he chewed on his cigar. “Mind your own business, Steve. If they don’t like the water they don’t have to drink it.”

The sun broiled us slowly as the next hour passed. We began drinking the water out of necessity but warned each other only to sip enough to keep going. No one stayed by the water cooler. Once I saw Laird nudge his son and say, “Without ice the water gets warm and the workers don’t spend nearly as much time talking and standing around. The less time they waste the more money I make.”

As we finished one field we drove to the next field and started again. As the heat increased my head began throbbing and I could hear others complaining about headaches and nausea.

A Mexican girl of slight build and in her early teens said she was sick. She staggered to her car and lay down. Laird didn’t notice she was gone and the rest of us kept quiet about the incident. We didn’t want the girl’s pay docked. We were certain he was paying her less than minimum wage anyway and pocketing the difference. We also thought he might accuse us of slacking or playing sick to keep from working.

Laird blew a little whistle and we stopped for our thirty minute lunch. We hardly had time to eat and stretch our cramped backs before he was shouting, “Get off your lazy butts! It’s time to work again!”

We were soon back in the same routine with Preacher telling stories while all of us continued hacking away. By now I had learned that Paula and Hattie, the two women, and Sid were members of Preacher’s congregation. Together they had driven from a town five miles away when money had become scarce. By banding together, their chances of finding work increased.

Preacher, his leg gimpy from the war, was the shepherd, doing his best to protect the women and keep Sid out of trouble. In turn, they would finish his rows and help him keep up. Sid was always trying to get the attention from anybody who’d listen. I could tell he feared, admired, and hated Preacher, all at the same time.

In early afternoon the two brothers, Bob and Jake, had replaced their shirts because they were already lobster red. Laird’s son, Steve, was talking quietly with a cute Mexican girl of about his own age.

Laird walked over to them and tried to eavesdrop. Steve and Carmen, the Mexican girl, began speaking Spanish. Laird grew red and told Steve to “stay away from that dirty ‘wetback’”. “I don’t want any brown grandchildren,” he jeered disdainfully.

Steve looked up and said with defiance, “Go away and leave me alone. I’ll choose my own friends.” Laird began shouting that he would kick Steve’s rear-end all over the cotton field.

He saw us watching. He stormed away sputtering about Steve being a “snot-nose, smart-mouth kid“. Laird walked over to the water bucket and stared off into the distance. We had the opportunity to work quietly and to discuss the father-son relationship.

Sid, took this opportunity to start some trouble.

“Old preacher man is too old for any night action. I’ll take on either one of you ladies after work.”

Preacher, stung by Sid’s insinuations and feeling protective of the women, headed angrily toward Sid. The two squared off. But with all the dancing, shuffling, huffing and puffing, not a damaging blow was thrown. The excitement attracted Laird, who came over to check out the commotion.

Sid sheepishly explained in detail what had happened while Laird stood there mulling things over. He turned and looked thoughtfully at Paula. The top buttons of her blouse were unfastened and I could see him leering at the fullness of her breasts as she bent to hoe. His audacity surprised me when he walked over as she straightened, daubed at the perspiration that was at the base of her throat with his handkerchief.

“I’ve slept with a lot of women, both white and black. You interest me. I want to see you after work. We’ll drink a few beers and have a little fun. What do you say?”

Paula gasped and stepped back, trying to avoid Laird. “No, no,” she blurted. A hoe was suddenly thrust between Laird and Paula. Preacher stood there, a mixture of hurt and anger in his eyes.

“Go away, old man,” Laird snarled. “If you give me any trouble or if she doesn’t come with me after work then both of you are fired and I’ll see to it that neither of you gets to work for any of these farmers again.”

Paula began crying and Preacher stood there stunned at this new turn of events. Then both of them, without meeting the eyes of anyone, turned and went quietly back to work as if nothing had happened. Laird glared at us and we started hoeing again, trying to look really busy.

He swaggered off in the direction of the pickup and I just leaned on my hoe for awhile and tried to sort things out. It was a real puzzler at first but gradually I realized that Laird would have his way because Paula and Preacher were giving in to his demands. After all, I guess jobs were hard to find if you were black.

We still had a few minutes before quitting time but I was burning up inside, full of anger, and trying to decide what to do. I saw him sitting inside, listening to the radio. I walked over to him and yanked open the door.

“Laird,” I said evenly, “it’s not fair for you to make demands on Paula like that. And then to threaten their jobs if they don’t cooperate.”

Laird turned and slid out of the pickup. He pulled a wet handkerchief from his forehead. “Mind your own business or you won’t have a job either. What I do is between me and whoever and I don‘t see where it concerns you.”

“Laird,” I began again, “you’re a mean and rotten sonofabitch. I don’t want to work for you anymore. I don’t like the way you treat people, especially people of color. I’m going to report you to whatever authorities that’ll listen.”

His eyes were squinting in that pig-like face. “They won’t even listen to you. You’re just a kid. It’s your word against mine. Those people aren‘t as good as us. They’re animals and we’re supposed to control animals. Can‘t you see that?”

I know sometimes I’m hot-headed and unChristian. When Laird started spewing words of prejudice and hatred I just blew up. I swung and connected with his belly, and then another to his chin. He toppled over into the dust. He started to get up but he hesitated and said, “You’re fired. I don’t want you to show up anymore.”

“Laird, I don’t want to work for you anymore. I want my pay and I want it now. I’ll make sure the authorities listen. You‘re not going to get away this easy.”

“I’ve a mind not to pay you at all.” I took a step closer. “O.k. I’ll give you your money but get out of here.” Nervously he wrote off a check and thrust it at me.

I grabbed the check and walked over to the car waving it high in the air. Jake and Bob started walking towards me. Laird yelled, “Get back to work! It’s not quitting time yet! You’ve still got ten minutes.”

 

They ignored him and listened to my side of the story. They approached Laird and a few seconds later were carrying their checks high in the air. The results were contagious. Our carload, and then the Mexican family, and finally Preacher and everyone but Sid had discussed the situation. As a group we confronted Laird and he reluctantly paid off the rest of the crew. Even Steve demanded his pay.

Laird seized Steve’s shoulders and said, “You’re not getting your money. You’re not going to be with these troublemakers.”

Steve stood there quietly and demanded his money again. “Dad, I’m going to report you because I think you’re a liar and a cheat. I don’t think you should treat people this way any more.”

Laird got nose to nose with Steve and called him every name in the book and a few choice ones I hadn’t heard. Steve turned and walked away. Laird started to follow but I blocked his way. “You’ll leave him alone, too,” I said. “I’m tired of you bullying people. If you take one more step I’ll hit you more than once and I won’t stop until that foul mouth of yours is silent.”

My determination cut Laird short. He rubbed his jaw and stumbled to his feet. We waited while he made out the last check. Before we could go he said, “Look, today I made a few mistakes. Let’s not have hard feelings. I want all of you back here tomorrow, o.k.?”

Paula, Preacher, Carmen, and Steve were standing close together and I’m not sure who spat first and I don’t really care. I remember looking at him, seeing the spittle clinging to his face, then I climbed into our car, Steve somehow in with us.

 

I still see Carmen sometimes with her family, working in the tomatoes or sugar beets. They avoid working in the cotton fields afraid they’ll run into Laird. Preacher and his group still work the cotton with me, Jake and Bob, and the rest of the gang. Steve has gone off to stay with an uncle in Arizona. I’ve heard Laird and Sid have moved on to better things like pruning grapes in Lodi with Laird still in charge of a crew. I don’t know if Laird’s behaving himself but I kind of hope he’s learned a lesson and I don’t expect him to show up around here again.

As for me, I’ve learned something about myself and human dignity. If you see others get cheated or trampled upon, you too, lose respect for yourself if you let things slide.

Wages are up to a dollar and a half now and I know I’m not as rich as some other people I know. In spite of not having wealth, I know that I can look into a mirror and be proud of what I see. And that, riches can’t buy.

 

 

 

 

 

Dan Roberson

 

 

 
 

 

 

Sons of Thunder

The Sons of Thunder

 

There were early warning signs that violence was on the way.  The two boys were untamed, unfettered, and usually unsupervised.  Their mother had disappeared mysteriously, leaving her husband alone with three children. The father refused any help from the community, insisting that the family would work out their own problems.  Alicia, the beautiful eldest child, reportedly kept the house running smoothly.  She and the boys, James and John, were always clean, fed, and well dressed. Their father, known to drink a bit but not to excess, paid the bills and saved money. Although the father was gone frequently and sometimes for long periods of time there wasn’t anything specifically anyone could point a finger at, yet we all knew there was danger lurking behind the façade.

Alicia never went on dates, although at sixteen she caught the eye of every eligible male in the surrounding areas.  Frankly, they were afraid to ask her out.  Her dad made it a point to seek out prospective suitors and let them know their lives were in danger around his house or around his daughter.  Alicia meekly followed orders, kept the house immaculate, and maintained her straight A average in high school.

John, the middle child, had an explosive temper that occurred with increasing frequency. Often I would confront him in school about some infraction and his face would become contorted with rage.  His voice would shake and obscenities would pour out. Sometimes I asked him to walk around the schoolyard in an effort to cool his anger.  I would watch him pick up a stick, point it at me, and pretend to shoot.  Since I knew he hunted the fields around the school and around my house it was reason for concern.  I knew he would seethe for hours until his anger finally abated.  John was also very intelligent.  He did well in his school subjects and also stayed informed about world politics. He had great plans for his future but I worried about his bouts of anger and how that anger controlled him at times.

John and James were unwelcome in neighboring homes because of their destructive hunting forays and their penchant for breaking things just for fun.  One day they followed their dog down the road and into the driveway of a neighbor’s house.  The dog chased chickens while the boys whooped their support.  Finally the neighbor stepped out of his house.  “You boys go home. I don’t want anything killing my chickens.”  The boys didn’t listen.  Instead they entered the barn and began breaking windows while the dog continued his relentless pursuit of squawking chickens.  The neighbor stepped out of his house onto his front porch, holding a shot-gun.  “Please take your dog home.  He doesn’t belong here. You go home, too!”  “I don’t want anyone to get hurt.” 

The boys left, only to return a short time later with their dad.  He had two six shooters strapped to his sides, gunfighter style.  He confronted the neighbor.  “If you want to have a shoot-out, then let’s get to it.”  The neighbor backed down, uneasy about an altercation with a crazy man.  And so it went, from that moment the community shied away from any arguments with the dad.

The family business was another strange thing that was rarely discussed.  The dad made caskets.  The boys often bragged about their personal coffins, made from the finest materials and ready to be used. “You should see the polished wood and the blue silk.”  “When I die, dad will make mine even better,” the other replied.

James was known for his antics, his infectious smile, and his sudden angelic appearance.  He could be deeply in trouble and yet somehow escape unscathed.  Once, as a fifth grader, he had been caught peeping over a stall in the girl’s bathroom.  He received no punishment because he was so sorry it had ever happened.

One day in spring, after the fire at Christmas had burned the school totally, and we were in school at the church, a strange thing happened.  On this rare day James was sitting quietly in class trying to decipher the big words.  The teacher,  however, could not focus on the lesson.  “I’m sorry,” she said, “but there’s something that really stinks around here.”  She walked from chair to chair but to no avail.  She eventually walked to the closet.  “I think something died in there,” she announced to the class. She flung open the door and peered in, holding her nose.  The children’s coats were hung on pegs, waiting to be picked up.  The teacher went from coat to coat, sniffing and coughing.  She stopped at James’s coat.  “This coat stinks,” she said.  “What is the problem?”  James laughed.  “I slept with my dog in the bed last night,” he proclaimed.  “A skunk had sprayed it.  My dog was still scared so I hugged it all night.”

James was the center of the universe at times.  He could not read any words with more than four letters.  The principal proudly proclaimed he taught James to read.  Later, when James was discovered memorizing the lessons ahead, the principal was deflated and gave up.  He turned the task over to a young teacher who decided James was a worthy project.  For several weeks she toiled and James struggled onward. The reading project seemed a success until one day after school the woman turned her back on James.  He quickly closed the distance between them, reached around and cupped her breasts.  She was horrified and fled to the principal.  “What are you going to do about it?” she demanded angrily.  “You shouldn’t have been alone with him,” the principal snapped.  The conversation was over.  James and the reading lessons were over, but James continued on, oblivious to the fact that anything was wrong. 

In the eighth grade and in high school James proved to be outstanding in sports.  Grades were overlooked as long as James tried.  There were occasions when those in the stands were pleasantly surprised by his adroit moves and quickness.  There were also occasions when those same people were shocked by his ability to get confused.  When he got turned around he might run the wrong way in football or make the winning basket for the wrong team in basketball.  Yes, James was something of an enigma.

We didn’t hear much about Alicia after she graduated from high school.  The boys said she went to college but we didn’t know where.  And John?  He graduated from high school and drifted northward, working one job after another.  Later we heard he had been arrested in Seattle for armed robbery and would be locked away for awhile.  And James?  I had forgotten about James until one night at eleven o’clock I was awakened by the persistent ring of my phone.  I picked it up and was greeted by a familiar voice.  “Mr. Roberson, remember me?  This is James and I just called to thank you for all you did for me.  You didn’t give up and eventually you got me to reading.  I’m now a lumberjack in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  I volunteer at a local elementary school when I can.   I just wanted to thank you but I don’t want to keep you up.  Good-bye!”  And with that James was gone, but definitely not forgotten.  He was one of the more difficult students who had learning disabilities and social problems and somehow had managed to rise out of the murky depths. He had taken the next step and was reaching out to others and giving them a chance to succeed.  His persistence also woke me up.

 Sometimes I forgot that school was more than teaching subject matter.  It was about touching human lives.  I slept easier that night and for many nights to follow because I had made a difference in his life. James didn’t give me a chance to tell him, but he also had made a difference in how I perceived things.  I must have done something right, and to this day I still believe I can touch that invisible spirit, and bring it to a higher level.  Thanks, James, wherever you are, for giving me feedback.

 

By Dan Roberson  2/26/09

You Took My Breath Away

Until My Last Breath

Until My Last Breath (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

You Took My Breath Away

 

You were not the most beautiful girl there,

 

But your eyes were expressive and deep.

 

I did not hang on every word you spoke,

 

But inside I made promises to keep.

 

Somehow in those first magic moments

 

My world stopped and you took my breath away.

 

Your eyes, your hair, your sparkling smile,

 

Each silently dared me to dance and stay.

 

In your presence the crowd no longer existed.

 

You had changed my point of view.

 

I turned around and blinked my eyes

 

But all I could see was you.

 

No longer alone even in my dreams

 

You were always by my side.

 

Together we shared our new world

 

Your love filled me with pride.

 

Your mind was on something else,

 

But not on our love each day.

 

I thought we’d love forever,

 

Long after we turned old and gray.

 

You smiled and said you felt great,

 

And you insisted you always will,

 

You looked so serene and so sure,

 

It’s strange your heart stopped still.

 

Each day you took my breath away,

 

But you never shared your pain.

 

And I still love you with all I have,

 

But I may never breathe again.

 

 

 

The Negotiated Settlement

English: Rabbit shape Français : Silhouette d'...

English: Rabbit shape Français : Silhouette d’un lapin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The Negotiated Settlement  (part three)

 

I leaned on my hoe and thought about all that had transpired this summer and last.  I was losing the garden war. My vegetables were disappearing at an increasing rate under the onslaught of the critters, especially by the attacks of the rabbits.  In reality I had already given up.  They were simply too much for me.

 

I toyed with the ideas of putting poison in each rabbit and ground squirrel hole, or sitting outside with my shotgun and trying to shoot just one.  I finally decided both of those plans had flaws.  I could be fined or arrested for shooting a firearm too close to residences, disturbing my neighbors with the noise, or worse, accidently shooting myself in all of the excitement.

 

As for the poison, it could have been long slow deaths for the rabbits and squirrels, and possibly for dogs or cats which happened upon a weakened rodent and decided it was a snack.  I couldn’t take a chance.

 

I sat down and leaned against a tree as I pondered the ultimate demise of the pesky critters.  My eyelids were heavy and I closed them just for a moment.  I was so tired and I needed to rest.  It seemed that I was floating, but the tree hadn’t moved.  I hadn’t moved either but now I could see and hear things I had missed before.

 

Off in the distance a strange cadence broke the silence.  The noise grew louder and I decided that the noisemaker was getting closer.  I finally recognized the sound, just as a line of rabbits came thumping and hopping into view.  It was a parade.

 

Each rabbit carried a musical instrument.  I counted twenty trombones, twenty trumpets, fifteen snare drums, ten clarinets, and ten saxophones.  At first, only the drummers were producing music, but the other musicians soon combined and began playing a Souza march.

 

Behind the musical marchers were three rows of suited rabbits. Each rabbit had two tall ears and a button nose. They wore crisp pin-striped suits and looked like they were fresh out of Entrepreneur or Playboy.  The marching rabbits stopped and marched in place before separating and forming a path to let one of the suited rabbits through.

 

The rabbit was grizzled and old.  He stepped forward and leaned on his polished cane.  “Son,” he muttered, “we’re here to negotiate a truce.  The vegetables are going to be gone soon if nothing is done.  I’m here to help you!”

 

This was a surprise.  Why did the rabbits want to help me?  I was the enemy.

 

Two rabbits handed some papers to the old rabbit.  He glanced at the papers before clearing his throat and saying, “We think all could benefit from our proposal.”

 

I thought t over quickly.  “It’s my garden so I’m willing to give the rabbits and squirrels ten percent.  No, make it twenty percent.”  I was feeling generous and happy my ordeal was over.

 

The rabbit chuckled and then thumped the ground, howling with laughter.  Other rabbits joined in and continued to laugh until he raised his paw and bade them to stop.

 

“There are so many more of us and we need more just because of our sheer numbers.  We think the split should be ninety percent for us and ten percent for you.  In addition, we also expect you to maintain the garden in order to earn your ten percent.  To be fair, for our part we’ll eat the grass and thin the vegetables, leaving you ten percent.”

 

“That’s not fair!” I fumed.  “That’s robbery!”

 

The old rabbit frowned at his assistants.  All were solemn without any changes of expression, except for an occasional nose twitch.  “You have no choice.  Take it or leave it.  We might decide to take it all!”

 

He stomped out of the garden, stopping only for a moment while he whispered to his assistants.  They hopped about nervously, occasionally frowning at me, before proceeding out the gate.

 

While I considered his offer, a young rabbit pushed against the garden fence, looking for a place to enter.  “This is ridiculous,” I said.  “They’ve gotten so fat  they can’t even get in.”

 

What could I do?  I had nothing to bargain with.  It was either lose everything, or get ten percent, if I worked hard to keep the garden up.  Unless I acted quickly I would lose my garden entirely.   I decided to agree with terms even though the settlement was not right.  This year I was beaten.

 

I shook myself.  I must have been dreaming.  An idea began to form and I smiled.  “Next year,” I said quietly.  “Next year I will win.  I will thwart all attacks because I won’t care.  I will plant weeds!”

 

I smiled again at my devilish plan.  I’d win by losing.  I wouldn’t have a garden but the critters and lawyers would get nothing!  It was brilliant!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Garden Wars (part 2)

English: A rabbit (A cottontail, I think) posi...

English: A rabbit (A cottontail, I think) posing on the grounds of Pompeys Pillar National Monument. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The Garden Wars (part 2)

 

The garden war intensified. The rabbits responded to my attempts to drive them away.  No longer did they simply hide behind plants and run.  Despite my border control, the attacks on the garden increased on all fronts.  The cute little bunnies enlisted the help of gophers to assist the ground squirrels.  Instead of holes here and there that the rabbits and squirrels could dive into, I discovered an intricate underground tunnel system that allowed the critters to appear or disappear at will. Under all the stress my mind began creating little rhymes.  I went around muttering, “Hop, hop, hop.  They keep on munching and never stop.”

 

An aerial attack was also underway.  Doves, pigeons, and blue jays swooped down on my strawberries and sampled them, selecting only the ripest and plumpest, disdainfully rejecting the green ones.  I tied colorful streamers to poles, hoping that the motions of the aluminum strips fluttering in the wind would keep the birds away.  However, the multi-colored strips attracted larger flocks of birds, which I think reminded them of parties held in my neighborhood.  Or perhaps the streamers served as wind socks, letting the incoming traffic land without mishap. In any case, the combined forces presented a front that was overwhelming.

 

For awhile I hated all the critters because they had taken charge and eliminated any chance of a successful harvest. I yelled at them frequently.  “You’re greedy and selfish.  You’re destroying everything.  Have you no decency?”

 

I needed to be patient.  Everything had its season and the garden’s season had brought its bounty.  Maybe all of the critters would overeat and pop.  I could see the chubby rabbits hopping between the rows without regard for my needs.  I still couldn’t catch them but if I had patience I might catch one off guard.

 

I waited my chance but my heart softened as I began observing their traits and habits.  I decided all rabbit families were not the same.  Some families turned the little rabbits loose as soon as they entered the garden.  The wee ones scampered about wildly, disregarding all danger and became a distraction to the other rabbits.   Other rabbit families kept their offspring under control, keeping them nearby until their shopping was completed.  But whether the families allowed wild hares or not, I began realizing rabbit families were similar in many ways to humans.  I could not harm them after that.

 

 

 

A Special Man

A Special Man

 

None of his wives

Could live with him

But they couldn’t live without.

After work he would

Sit in his chair

Like a king on his throne

And his current wife would scurry about

Taking care of his needs.

Each claimed he was a special man,

But they weren’t slaves.

At his funeral his four ex-wives

(And his widow)

Showed up broken-hearted.

All loved and spoke highly of him.

But, if their words were true,

Which one poisoned him?

Which one loved him so much

She couldn’t share?

Who felt pain enough to break free?

One of them broke the spell

Because none of them

Could live with him

But they couldn’t live without.

 

The Visit

Remember Me, My Love

Remember Me, My Love (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The Visit

 

Let’s talk about how we feel

 

Because life is very real.

 

One day things will change,

 

And I’ll visit no more.

 

 

 

Remember the early years

 

When you came home and

 

Wanted to talk about your day?

 

I just wanted to sit and be quiet.

 

We compromised and I listened.

 

You cooked and I washed dishes.

 

I worked on the house and built a barn.

 

You took care of our household needs.

 

We were early to bed and early to rise.

 

 

 

Remember the years we shared,

 

The children we raised,

 

As  time flashed by

 

And the home that was blessed?

 

 

 

Remember how  we cherished each day

 

As we fought our diseases alone and together,

 

Sharing our pain and our love?

 

Do you remember all that, love?

 

I really miss you.

 

 

 

I’ve learned to talk while you listen.

 

Time passes slowly

 

And I wait patiently

 

For the moment

 

When we’re together again.

 

 

 

 

 

Garden of Eaten

Illustration of Peter Rabbit escaping and leav...

Illustration of Peter Rabbit escaping and leaving his jacket behind, from The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The Garden of Eaten

 

After last year’s dismal attempts at growing a garden I should have known better and just bought produce at the local store. It was a conspiracy right from the beginning and I didn’t anticipate the craftiness and tenacity of rabbits and ground squirrels.
I labored in the sun, lovingly and carefully placing the seeds in meticulous rows or circular formations. I did not pay close attention to the eyes that watched hungrily. I was in charge and I would maintain order as the tomatoes and cantaloupes, the beans and watermelons, and the other assorted vegetables grew in regulated patterns. In theory everything would be perfect.
At first the plants themselves did not cooperate. They grew rapidly, sprawling over cages and netting. I adjusted my watering and feeding schedules. Yes, there were timelines and soil and fertilizer mixtures prepared for each type of plant. I worked the garden methodically, expecting everything to grow exactly as I wanted. But one morning I noticed that the cantaloupe vines were lying in new directions.
I scratched my head and studied them. As I pondered, one vine stretched taut and then suddenly went limp. I walked over and examined the end of the vine. It had been sliced cleanly. Something had happened and I had missed it. I focused on a small hill and was rewarded when a pair of ears emerged, followed by a pair of dark eyes. A rabbit stared at me, apparently waiting for my next move. I could have sworn it was smiling as it casually munched on cantaloupe vines. The rabbit was either really brave or it realized I had no chance of catching it. Like a soldier preparing to march off to war, I swung my hoe up and against my shoulder. I muttered angrily, “Mister Rabbit, this means war!”
I strode purposefully towards the rabbit, but it waited until I was close. Then with three short hops it disappeared under the fence. I was fuming because the rabbit had violated my Garden of Eden, my model of perfection.
Once safe on the other side, the rabbit turned and winked. It was deliberate and mean spirited. I knew this rabbit was taunting me. He waved, but not at me. I turned around slowly. Behind me, little rabbits were munching on cantaloupe flowers and new growth. I lifted my hoe and the rabbits scattered in all directions. I was like the legendary Mr. McGregor chasing Peter Rabbit. I gave chase but I was too slow and the little rabbit wriggled under the gate and escaped.
The next few days I fixed the fence, set traps, and even put out repellent. I was determined to keep the rabbits away. Throughout the summer I waged war but it became clear I was on the losing side. With the exception of the tomatoes my garden shrank under the attack of the hungry hordes.
Each night I had nightmares about animated rabbits and ground squirrels. In these dreams rabbits and squirrels sat at a huge banquet table eating their fill while I hurried to grow more to satisfy their needs. Each rabbit and squirrel told others and soon cousins and uncles arrived from distant climes to share this feast. Rabbits appeared everywhere and thrived in spite of me. I finally capitulated and left the rabbits and squirrels alone. My dreams convinced me they were the chosen ones.
This year I’m doing things differently but that’s another story.

 

 

 

That’s What Matters

That’s What Matters
When we first met,
You were so beautiful,
Your eyes, your face,
The way you talked,
Your hair, your voice,
The way you walked,
Each day you were more beautiful,
Your smile brightened my way,
We shared more each day,
We were learning to compromise and agree,
And that’s what mattered to me.

Every day with you was a new day,
You were more beautiful than the day before,
Your eyes, your face,
The way you talked,
Your laugh, your voice,
The way you walked,
Each day you were more special,
The happiness you spread,
With the things you said,
You let my heart fly high and free,
And that’s what mattered to me.

We changed over the years,
But you always are beautiful,
Your eyes, your face,
The way you talk,
Your hair, your voice,
The way you walk,
Each day you are more beautiful,
My life is full as I face each day,
I want to love you always,
Your heart is what I see,
And that’s what matters to me.