Thursday, September 25, 2008

How the Kracker Cats came to be, part 4: To salt a robin's tail

Robin launches from a Wasilla power line.

Please note: This is a different story than the one I had promised. You will not meet the kitten that I referred to until my next post. The reason is simple. It is past midnight, I am tired and I can prepare this story faster than  the other. Too many days have passed since my last entry. Plus, it is a fact that the events reported in this story happened before I got the kitten, and so were a step along the way.

Spring came to Pendleton, and when it did, many robins moved into the golf course, where Mom and I often walked. “Mom,” I noted one day. “How beautiful the robins are! Listen to their songs, Mom! It would be good to have a robin. I would like to have a robin. A robin would be nice. It would sing to us every morning.” Even as I spoke, I knew Mom was about to deny me.

“Would you really like a robin, Grahmmy?” Mom asked, to my great surprise.

“Yes,” my hopes soared. “I would! I want one!”

“I know how you can catch one.”

“How?” I pleaded, “Please tell me how!”

“Sprinkle a little salt on a robin’s tail,” she answered. “And that robin will be yours.”

“And will it like me, Mom, if I sprinkle salt on its tail? Will it be my friend?”

“Yes,” she promised.

I hurried Mom towards home, where she pulled out a cylindrical blue box adorned with a picture of a girl carrying an umbrella as salt sprinkled down upon it. “Open up your hand,” Mom invited. I did, and she sprinkled a small amount of salt onto my palm.

Happily, I ran out into the golf course, eager to get my robin. I cannot recall how many days I did this and I stalked many robins, but all flew away before I could salt their tails. What had sounded so simple was so difficult, but I could not give up. And so, on a beautiful day, I set out once again, palm open and upward, determined to salt a robin’s tail and thereby win its friendship forever.

I had not been stalking long when I spotted a red breast, sitting very still in the grass. I dropped into a crouch, and, taking care not to spill my salt, tip-toed quietly towards it. To my amazement, it did not fly, but as I drew near, hopped ahead of me, quickly turning its head side-to-side to study me out of alternate eyes.

My excitement grew. “Hold still, little robin,” I soothed. “Let me sprinkle salt upon your tail!” With a great burst of speed, I dashed to the robin faster than it could hop away. I threw my salt at it, reasoning that at least at least a few kernels ought to fall on its tail. Then the robin was right in front of me, within my grasp! I reached out, but before I could clutch its feathers in my hand, another hand, one that was bigger than mine, grabbed me roughly by the shoulder and spun me around.

“What do you think you’re doing, little kid?” an older boy, carrying a BB gun in his free hand, asked. He had two friends with him, one of whom grabbed the robin.

“I sprinkled salt on the robin’s tail!” I squealed. “The robin is mine!”

The three older boys laughed. There was no mirth, but only cruelty, in their chortle. The boy shoved me to the ground. “You stupid kid!" he taunted. "That’s not your robin. That’s my robin! I shot it! I wounded it. Now I’m going to kill it.”

“No!” I pleaded. “Please don’t kill the robin! I will take him home. I will make him well.”

The boy propped his BB gun against a tree and took the robin from his friend. “You want this robin?” he asked, holding the wounded bird in front of me. Terror glimmered in the black beads that were the robin’s eyes.

“Yes,” I assured him. “I want it! Please don’t kill it!”

“If you want it, you can have it,” he laughed. Eagerly, I reached for the robin. “Not yet,” he pushed me away. He pulled a jackknife out of his pocket, whipped out the blade, then sliced open the robin’s red breast. He inserted his fingers into the wound and pried the chest open wide. The heart of the robin continued to beat.

The three laughed to see this beating heart in a robin whose short life was now over. The bully cut the heart out, then handed the bird, and the now stilled heart, to me.

“You can have it,” he laughed. “It’s yours! Enjoy your robin!” He then slugged me square in the teeth. The remains of the robin fell into the grass as I tumbled to the ground.

I stumbled home in tears. I had three older brothers - Ritz, four and a half years my senior, and the twins, Weet and Fire, Jr. - seven years older than myself. Although Fire, Jr., was the eldest of the two by a good 50 minutes, everyone always referred to them as “Weet and Pilot,” probably because Weet was a good head-and-a-half taller than his twin. Weet wanted to know why I wept so. I told the story. He took off into the golf course, found the three bullies and they soon discovered what it meant to be on the receiving end of terror.

In my younger days, Weet and Pilot tormented me ruthlessly. I could write a book based solely upon the terror those two put me through. Yet, in a crisis with outsiders, they always backed me up. They refused to allow anyone outside the family to bully me and get away with it. Bullying me was their responsibility and they took it seriously. Woe be to anyone else who dared to pick on their little brother.

Robin in my back yard.


heidi said...

This is horrible!! I'm sorry that you experienced this event in your childhood.

Zippy, Sadie and Speedy said...

Not just bullies, but truly evil bullies. I no longer hunt, but back in the day I was a bow hunter and never killed anything that wouldn't feed the family. What was the point of shooting the robin? It was just cruel, bet these boys have spent time in prison.

Grahamn Kracker said...

heidi- thank you. It did seem pretty hard at the time, but so many have had it so much worse than I ever did. That doesn't change the fact that for the robin, that day was as bad as it gets.

zippy, sadie and speedy - Appreciate the observation. Sometimes, I have wondered about that, myself.