With Fixed Bayonet
Through Venomous Scowl
Drifting Aloft Like a Feathery Dreg
I Need you Like I Need a Hole in My Leg
B.C. July 23, 1964
It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.
The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"
The Second, feeling of the tusk
Cried, "Ho! what have we here,
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me `tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up he spake:
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"
The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee:
"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he;
"'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope.
"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!
My little girl presented me with a hand drawn portrait of a woodpecker the other day. Her hobby here lately is drawing and bird watching. We have a picnic table out in our backyard in clear view of my desk and she puts birdseed on the table, sits at the desk watching the birds that show up and draws their picture. What that means is that when I have some work to do I have to wait until she's through watching her birds. If not, I reduce my workspace to one of those pull out writing boards while she spreads out eight dozen sheets of paper and 23 million crayons to draw one chickadee. But I guess that it's a small price to pay to see her face as all matter of colorful fowl flutter, peck and fight in among that seed. We've even got names for some of them. There's a male cardinal who seems to be in perpetual molt and has no feathers from the neck up. His name is Xavier for the bald headed mutant leader of the X-Men from comic books. There's one blue bird whose feathers almost glow they're so bright. His or her name is Skye, and then there's Bill. Bill's a woodpecker, so named because he has a bright red head like Bill Elliot, the NASCAR driver. Bill usually shows up first thing in the morning when the table is full of birds. The other birds are about one quarter of Bill's size, so when he lands it's like a helicopter sitting down in an elementary school playground. Birds go flying; I've seen squirrels run for cover as well and Bill is left all by himself to eat at his leisure before he lifts off again and spends the rest of the day pecking on our neighbor's gutters and crapping down the side of his house. We all have our favorite birds and Bill has to be mine. That's why my daughter drew me the picture. Okay it looks more like a cross between the Roadrunner and Phyllis Diller but I stuck it up on my bulletin board like I do all my daughter's drawings and then I even took it and got it framed to sit on my desk. It tickled that little girl to death, and it serves as a reminder of something that happened when I was about twelve. A woodpecker just like Bill, who knows maybe a distant descendant, terrorized Welbourne County and even did its part to make sure that the Harvest Festival that started that year would be something that the town of Ashewood Falls would never forget.
People being as suspicious as they are these days, you're probably asking me just how I know this. Well I'll just say that a little bird told me and leave it at that. If this explanation isn't good enough for you then you can do one of two things: you can continue reading this as a work or fiction, or you can put it down and read the newspaper, if you so obsessed with facts. If not read on. The story is not a bad one, I promise.
I do have to verify one thing: This woodpecker did not do the damage that I have previously mentioned by itself— that would be silly, wouldn't it? No, the woodpecker had a five and a half ton sidekick named Blossom. Blossom escaped from the J & S circus which was in town that September as it always is. It was 1984, I believe, and I had taken my nephew to the circus.
The night that we were there, in fact it was probably an hour, two at the most after we left, Blossom walked away from the circus. She was a regular performer there both in the show and then afterwards they would parade her through the crowd to the midway and chain her in this little corral where they would pack people onto her back and charge a dollar a ride. We were watching her just before we, her included, left and I asked my nephew if he wanted to ride her but he said that she smelled like doo-doo and that he'd rather not. Just as well, because I had some friends that I wanted to talk to who were going to meet me outside the front gate and I could already see my mother waiting in the parking lot, so we had to move it. I've told myself that if we could have waited just a little longer— If my friends would have had just a couple of more jokes to tell, or if my mother had been late for a change, that we could have seen Blossom make a break for it. From what I heard they had taken the corral down since they were moving out in the morning and had left Blossom chained to the stob where she always was. The chain broke, or it wasn't latched properly, or someone had taken off for some reason. I don't know, but fact of the matter is that a few hundred people must have turned their backs or fell asleep all at once because she just walked out. No sneaking to it, it's not like something that big could tip toe. I can see her now, stomping out past the ticket booth where the fat lady sat looking down at her cash and didn't see a thing, swinging her trunk at the sheer happiness of being foot loose and fancy free.
For those of you on the slow side Blossom was an elephant. A nine foot tall, just under 11,000 pound Loxodenta Africana, which is what the World Book calls elephants of the African variety. I am just as stumped as you are on how a critter that big can just stroll off of the Ashewood Falls Driving Range, which is where the circus was always held, and disappear in the dark Carolina night. She did though and it was a good hour before anyone noticed that she was even missing.
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