Wingzofsteel Adventures and Reviews

Epic Motorcycle Camping Adventures

The Lord of the Clover Field

with 7 comments

Picture 44

People often make remarks on my calm demeanor. They say things like, “You look like a real easy going fellow”, or, “You never let things bother you”, or “I wish I had more control over my emotions like you do”.  They use words like sensible, restrained, low-keyed and unemotional in the face of business discourse and in casual settings. Why, once in a while, my young bride Twyla Jo will ask if I am breathing, but that is another story.

Well, I have given it a great deal of thought and In fact, you might say I have dwelled on this for most of my life. I have often wondered why one fellow would be ranting and raving about something as insignificant, for example, as someone parking in his parking space, or, why another would be yelling and screaming at some poor waiter for having a hair in his soup! I have often felt alone in my calmness and do not appreciate fully the rush that being all up in arms is about.

When folks yell at me, my natural response is to start laughing. That’s right, I start looking at the contortions going over my adversary’s face and, as hard as I try to remain deadpan, a smirk passes over my lips. If the situation continues and I cannot find an escape route, then a full bore uncontrollable belly laugh will ensue. This, by the way, does absolutely nothing to calm an already volatile situation especially if the one you are laughing uncontrollably in the presence of is a blond haired, 5’3” lady with her hands placed firmly on her hips and is standing two inches away from your nose. Yes, you might say that I am a victim of my own conclusions.

I believe when a person is born he or she has a predisposed amount of anxiety built in to their psyche to be used sparingly over the course of a life time. This is a survival mechanism designed to keep you sharp during crisis and other misgivings that life doles out. The success of the human race was build upon this principle.  Anxiety is always the predecessor and successor of calm.

The reason for my cri du Coeur is, well, my life’s allotment of anxiety was used up by the time I was 12. That’s right; I do not have an ounce of anxiousness left in me; nor have I for most of my life. Some of the reasons I fear is in the outright story-telling that went on during my boyhood in the Riggins family domicile for the sole purpose of keeping rambunctious boys in line.  

Theses egregious acts were apparently a common thing while growing up in the 60’s in our little town of Blackshear, Georgia.  While some say these tales were passed down from generation to generation since the days the Spaniards were wandering through the Okeefenoke swamp back in the 1530’s, my own personal theory however, attests to my parent’s excellent creativity in storytelling.  The stories worked so well on us boys that the word soon spread far and wide. Sunday school and PTA meetings became the secret pathways for this underground railroad of information, and soon, family by family would have a slight variation of the same tall tale.

As a result, my brothers Mike, Mitch, Jeffrey and I would overhear some our school friends and cousins who would talk of the very same outlandish tales as were told to us. The same story coming from a boy living in town, as far as we were concerned, would be a testament for its veracity.

I remember once my mother sitting in the cafeteria of our school being surrounded by an assembly of like-minded mothers. I do not remember the reason for them being there, only that they were all nodding their head as they listened intently to what my mother was saying. She would raise her eyes every now and then and look at me, smile then continue on with her great dissertation. I didn’t know what she was saying, but I knew I had a part in it somehow.

As I now think about it, I surmise that when you piled all these stories up and placed them in the confines of your mental cigar box filled with other treasures, the collection of exaggerations played with a boys mind and caused them to stick  to his cerebral cortex like a piece of wet toilet paper. Someday when it is necessary for me to have a brain scan, I will refer the Doctor to this story to save him some time figuring out the mystery behind all those white specks on the x-ray.

The stories themselves were not major befuddled twist of reality; alone they were innocuous little anecdotes that, although sick and twisted, did bring humor to the adults reigning over us; not excluding an older sister, several uncles, a couple of dozen cousins and one neighbor. Why I can remember being just out of ear shot and hearing the giggling and snickering that went on in the kitchen as they planned their evil doings under the auspices that it will keep us boys safe. It would go something like this:

Mama: “Virgil, I don’t like them boys playing in that old Barn, its libel to fall down on their heads!”

Daddy“Well Betty, what chew expect me to tell’em that will keep the little burr-heads out? That’d be like telling a duck not to quack!”

Older sister Linda Gail: “Tell them the Devil lives in there! That should keep them out for sure,” she would say emphatically.

Then there was laughter.

Why during those magic years of growing up, in every direction a little bit of curiosity could turn an adventurous boy’s head, would be in the direction headed straight for an out and out jolly-whopper!

One of these prevarications was “DON’T WEAR ANYTHING RED When you walk through Uncle Alvin’s pasture or OL Blackie, the Angus bull, will chase you down and most likely stampede you or horn you to death”. (This message was eventually translated to “don’t be walking through Uncle Alvin’s clover”; but only after many years of reflection).  We were acutely aware of what stampeding was as we watched Rawhide every Friday night, but we could not discern which of the two, being gored or trampled, was the worse. Eventually, OL Blackie got de-horned which eased some of our anxiousness.

It was in our quest for a new shortcut that we stumbled on OL Blackie.

Finding suitable shortcuts to and from our farm was a very scientific endeavor for us adventurers. A proper shortcut had to satisfy all the necessary elements of a true escapade for it to be considered. First it had to have the proper amount of vines being stout enough to carry a pint sized Tarzan, Jungle Jim, Ned, and Russell; enabling us to swing from a tree limb to tree limb. If the vines were adjacent to or somewhat near a body of water, that was even better. Who were Ned and Russell you ask? They were Mitch and Jeffrey’s more intelligent alias names. Mike and I had to stay with the more conventional names like Tarzan and Jungle Jim. Ned and Russell were also the protagonist of many adventures shared in a game they invented called “Little Boy”. I will elaborate more on this in stories to come.

It also had to have the necessary provisions to sustain us as we plundered and pillaged our way through adventure after adventure. Depending on the season, the shortcut usually provided us with indigenous Huckleberries, Blackberries, and wild plums of either yellow or red plum variety, Hog-haws and wild Muscadine or Bullace grapes. Clearly it was Mother Nature’s way of looking after her wild children since we never had the foresight to bring food or water with us during these epic journeys.

A proper shortcut had to also provide enough sturdy pine saplings for us to climb up and ride down. There was an art to finding the correct size tree that would support your weight all the way to the top, and then as you hold on tightly, allow the tree to gently bend down a carry you safely to the ground. Once there, and still firmly grasping a hold on to the tree, you would then, with a straight face, ask your little brother, and sometimes cousins, who was half your weight to hold on to the tree as a favor to you while you answered natures call. Once they had their arms and legs wrapped securely around the pine tree, you would then let the giant sling-shot go. It would proceed to make this swishing sound as it fired your little brother to points unknown. This would often bring chuckles to us all including the human projectile, albeit after the bleeding stopped.

A good shortcut worth a lick of salt would take us three or four miles out of our way. Even today when gathered during holidays and special occasions, someone would ask “Where is _____”? “Isn’t he supposed to be here by now”?  The rest would almost say in unison, “He must be taking a short cut”!

I can still recall the explaining we had to do as a result of shortcuts. All of us standing in a line being interrogated:

Daddy: “I thought I told you boys to be here at 3 o’clock!” he would say tapping loudly on his pocket watch.

Mitch: “Is it three already, my where has the time gone?” he would ask very convincingly.

Daddy: “Boys, it is nearly 4:00 so where have you been?

Mike: “We came straight here just like you told us, well maybe not straight, but….besides we don’t have a clock!” thinking quickly trying to interject a perfectly good excuse into our circumstance.

Jeffrey: Laden with scratches on his face and arms, “Hey Daddy, you know what? We found a new shortcut home. Know what else? I rode me a pine tree and it didn’t hurt that much when it shot me into the Palmetto bush. Wait till Mama hears about this”!

Perry: “Dag-gum it, Jeffrey, couldn’t you hold on to that information just a little longer?” I would ask with a hint of resignation.

Daddy: “Hmmm, oh I see, a new short cut, huh. Well maybe I can find something to convince you boys to take the long way home next time.”

As I was saying, a proper shortcut had to meet a certain criteria of excitement and danger. And what could be more exciting than crossing a clover field with a mad bull in it.

On this day, as usual, bad luck would raise its ugly head on the very time we decided to trespass; I mean take a shortcut through Uncle Alvin’s clover field. All four of us boys would be wearing overall britches covered with red patchwork that our sweet mother would sew on when we wore a hole in them.  The color chosen for the patchwork, my friend, was no coincidence. It was a premeditated act just as sure as I am telling you this story.

And, to make it worse, our dog, good old Buster Brown, a reddish brown Bull dog, would be stuck to our side like our shadow. During times like this I wished he was any other color other than the one he was born with. I think if we had the means to do so, we would have bleached him to where he was more of a platinum blond, like the color of our Aunt Gerri’s beehive hair-do. Just like he was, a red dog mixed among the red patchwork on the seats of our britches spelled out t-r-o-u-b-l-e, or better yet, t-a-r-g-e-t! Take your pick it all meant the same.

As you might imagine, there was some serious planning that went on before we crossed the field. It all depended on where the bull was, which way he was facing, and which way the wind blew would decide our point of entry. We figured it from all angles.  We would grab a hand full of dirt and throw it in the air to watch how it drifted. Each sun-browned hand would join in with the other to double check our calculations. And, if we couldn’t get a handful of dirt, we would wet out index finger and hold it up in the air to see which way the wind was coming from. (We, of course, would wipe our finger off first). In some of the more important decisions we would make, we would do both just to make sure. The point here was to make sure we were downwind from OL Blackie. We didn’t want him to prematurely smell the fear and anxiety that was coming off of us as that would give him an unfair advantage. At least that is what I had hoped was the smell. Although with Buster Brown around, it was difficult to say for sure.

We would also plan to stagger our running across the field so the Bull wouldn’t get all of us at the same time. Five seconds apart, one at a time we would streak across the field. Mitch usually volunteered to go first, as he enjoyed living on the ragged edge more than the rest of us. Jeffrey followed next as he was the smallest. Also, if he got into trouble, Mike and I could run on each side of him and each grab an arm while Jeffrey would just lift up his legs like landing gears on an airplane. We would run with Jeffrey between us swinging in the wind. For this reason, Mike would go third and I would follow last.

Somewhere we learned that in the science of retreating for the purposes of avoiding being hit, trampled or gored, a zigzagging pattern was a great advantage over running in a straight direction. I believe it was Sylvester Altman, our closest non-related neighbor who taught us this art. Sylvester was a few years older than us, and from the advantage of age and countless dirt-bomb wars we encountered with him, he showed us that a zigzagging target was a harder target to hit. Sylvester would zigzag all the way up the road to his house being followed by a sortie of airborne dirt projectiles thrown by us; not one of which would find their target. Sylvester then would circle back around with a sack full of dirt-bombs he collected for such an event, and proceeded to whip up on us. While we waited for the impending sandy explosion of dirt up beside out heads, we would simply make an attempt to bob and weave while trying to protect our eyes and mouth. Sometimes we would make a dive for the ditch, but only after being covered by a hail of flying dirt-bombs. 

Buster Brown didn’t understand the science behind zigzagging but he followed suit if for no other reason than the rest of us was doing it. Of course some bystander could have mistaken his intent and accuse Buster Brown of chasing us, but that was not like Buster Brown. Except for cars, he only chased chickens and only the chickens Mama told him to chase. He was very discriminating to whom and to what he chased, and it wasn’t us boys. As far as Buster Brown was concerned his place among us was firmly and decidedly equal; even if it was his decision. It did not seem to matter to him at all that his brothers had to manage to get by on just two legs and had to wear cloths and take baths nearly all the time.

Once Buster Brown looked through the screen door on the back porch and witnessed Aunt Doris giving us boys a scrubbing in the wash tub. He was curious from all the screaming that was going on and from the sound of it; he thought an escaped Convict or a Zombie had caught us. “No, it’s just Aunt Doris peeling their hides off”, he would observe and walk hurriedly away thinking he could be next. He would disappear under a bush in the front yard until the coast was clear. In his sixteen years of life he never had a bath, but when Aunt Doris came to town, strange things always happened and he did not want to take any chances.

OL Blackie, a two thousand pound majestic figure of bovine strength and dominance, stood across the clover field grazing in silence; unaware of the planning that was taking place on the other side of the field. A classic Bull specimen if there ever was one down to the metal tags he wore in his ear and a silver ring he wore in his nose. Once in a while his tail would swish at the swarm of flies that would fly around him. Other times you would see a white Egret standing on his back dining on the insects; no doubt as an invited guest by the grazing giant.

OL Blackie was not a prize bull, but he did have a special purpose from which his over bearing pride and mean disposition were deeply rooted. You see, Uncle Alvin had another pasture filled with girl cows, or heifers as we called them.  OL Blackie did not have to be told where they were either; all Uncle Alvin had to do was open the gate and OL Blackie would sashay down to greet them acting all goofy and un-bully like. If there were such a thing as a trampoline for cows, OL Blackie would have attempted to do a forward double flip with a half camel twist just to show off to the girls. This collusion with the fairer sex made us think that there was something wrong with him. However, he would stay there among the girls for awhile in complete bliss until it was time to go back to a life where he was left alone and mean, except for the occasional bird he would invite over.

When that time came, OL Blackie didn’t want to go back to the clover field and he wouldn’t go back peacefully! This attitude of defiance was the very reason for the nose ring. (And you were thinking the reason for Bull jewelry was to make them look good!) Among all great domesticated beasts, the nose ring was proven to be the great motivator. All Uncle Alvin had to do was hook a chain to his nose ring and lead him peacefully, although teary-eyed, back to his life of bachelorhood. It was in that shattered state of mind of being ripped from the shell of who OL Blackie thought he was, in his case Lord Casanova le Taureau Diable, to face the reality of who he really was; OL Blackie, a bull without dignity, left alone and angry under Uncle Alvin’s tyrannical rule.

There were two horrors surrounding clover fields that struck fear in the hearts of us boys. One is being caught in a clover field during a lightning storm.  Why do you ask? Because we were told lighting always strikes the tallest thing around, and in a field of that substantial size, that usually was us boys running across it!  The other horror was being run down by OL Blackie.

After the last check for wind directions were finished and our calculations complete, we quietly climbed the Hog-wire fence. We were ready. I would then start the count and in a whispered voice I would say, “On your mark, get set, GO”! Then Mitch would take off first like a roman candle, his red patchwork almost giving the appearance of contrails as he started his zigzagging pattern. After his second set of zigs and zags, it appeared like Mitch’s stage-two rockets had engaged, but a closer look revealed Buster Brown, who didn’t wait for his count, was closing in on him.

I would then begin to count, “One Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three-Mississippi, four Mississippi, Five Mississippi, Go Jeffrey”! And Jeffrey would take off as fast as his little legs would carry him. Jeffrey also had to make sound effects as he ran. He particularly liked the sound of tractor-trailer trucks which he reproduced faithfully in great detail down to changing gears and applying airbrakes.

 “Run Jeffrey, go ahead and put it in high gear”, Mike would yell out encouragingly trying to get Jeffrey to skip the formalities of going through the slower gears. As Jeffrey got up to speed, all you could hear was “U-U-U-U-U-D, Udden, U-D-D-D-D-D-D-D-D-D, Udden” and then once in a while a “Sh-shhhh” would be heard as Jeffrey tapped his air brakes just before going into another Zigzag pattern.

I would continue on, “One-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three Mississippi, four-Mississippi, five-Mississippi, and Mike would be off like an Olympic runner. Squatting low in a three point stance he would take off and gradually lift his body into sprinters formation as his speed increased. Once at full speed, he ran with his head slightly tilted back, like he was running looking up over the horizon. The reason for this was because he was running so fast while at the same time his head being so large the wind resistance would naturally push his head back. This is not to say he wasn’t a fast runner. No, contraire! He was very fast. He, by no fault of his own, was also a living study of matter over energy. I suppose if we could have fitted him back then with a streamlined, alien-headed looking bicycle helmets like they use in the “Tour de France bicycle race”, he would have been the fasted boy alive to have ever walked the planet.

As soon as Mike left the running block, it was a countdown for me to run for my life also. In a flash I was off in pursuit of the other side of the field. Twenty seconds has gone by since Mitch and Buster Brown left and I could see all sorts of zigging and zagging going on ahead of me. Jeffrey now had his arms stretched out like an airplane, running and making airplane noises. From the corner of my eye, I saw OL Blackie with his head up facing in our direction. The knowledge that he knew we were in his territory gave me a sickening feeling.  “Run faster”, I would yell out to my brothers ahead of me. “Run on, faster, brothers, faster”!

 After we were all exposed to the pending calamity, it was each boy and dog for himself. Jeffrey, being the youngest and most impressionable of the four would start yelling loudly, “Run, brothers! I hear hoof beats a coming”, then he would start laughing. In spite of the peril we were in, this would start all sorts of chortling sounds of chuckling and giggling from the rest of us throughout our ominous flight across the field. Buster Brown would chime in with a bark just to have his say in the matter.

Part of the reason behind the funny business was due to the fact we were following one another. For some strange and unknown reason we found great humor, especially in the face of adversity, in looking at the backs of each other’s head. Part of the humor we found was that our head shapes were all different.  I had an oblong head, Mitch had a round head, Mike had a huge watermelon head and Jeffrey had a narrow head.

My earliest account of this mystery was in 1960 when Daddy took Jeffrey to town one day. This was five years before my youngest sister, Lisa Ellen, was born. Jeffrey was standing on the seat next to Daddy in the 55 dodge truck when Mitch and Mike came to me and Mitch said, “Look at the back of Jeffrey’s head!”, then they proceeded to laugh while pointing at Jeffrey’s outline through the back window of the truck. When the 55 dodge pulled away and started down the rutted dirt road to town, you saw the back of Jeffrey’s head and also you could see that Jeffrey’s cheeks extended well beyond the width of his head and would bounce up and down as the truck went over the ruts in the road. Mitch would say in between giggles, “Look, brothers at those roley-boats”!

Now you might ask what in the world a roley-boat is? Well I can tell you it is a word Mitch invented describing Jeffrey’s fat cheeks. What I can’t tell you is how he came up with the word. I suspect it was like the fellow who invented the banjo.

The first man stretched a hog hide over a hollow log, put strings over it and went “plunk plunk plunk”. The man said “I think I’ll call this a Banjo”!

The second man said “Why call it a Banjo”?

The first man said, “Because it sounds like one”!

After that, when each of us went to town with Daddy, as he seldom took us all together, you could bet that the ones left behind would be watching and laughing at the back of the head of the one that was driving away.

Once our plan to outsmart OL Blackie was in play and we were committed to it, it was always a state of emotional strain for us as history has made perfectly clear our feet would sometimes fail us. Sometimes in our running, depending on the fear that was motivating us at the time, we would run so fast that our feet would run out ahead of us to a point we couldn’t catch up with them which caused us to wipe out.  Well, this wouldn’t do in such a dangerous undertaking. Whether you are running from escaped Convicts, Ghosts, Zombies, Coach-whips or mad Bulls, you had to consistently monitor your speed to keep your feet underneath you; a truism as relevant today as was back then.  

A trail of dust would be stirred up behind us thick as fog as we raced the bull across the field. When we finally got to the other side, we would grab a fence post and swing ourselves over the top and fall on the other side rolling off into the weeds.  Jeffrey, due to his height would hit the fence about mid way up and then pop over to the other side and land among the rest of us.  Buster Brown would find a place under the fence to squeeze under while escaping the wrath of OL Blackie.

We would all be there lying in the comfort of a hot summer afternoon on a cushion of Nut grass; behind the safety of the hog-wire fence. The smell of Queen Anne’s Lace, which grew profusely in the surrounding woods, would fill our nostrils. Each celebratory slap on the back we would give produced a well deserved cloud of dust. We would roll on the ground cheering the fact that we somehow cheated a painful and certain death by OL Blackie. As far as short-cuts were concerned, this one was one of the best.

Buster Brown somehow understood the lightheartedness of our situation and was laughing along with us, almost saying, “That sure was fun brothers, did you see how fast I could zig?” He would sit with us panting from all the hard running he endured. He would squint his eyes as each of us would give him a pat on the head.  His mind would occasionally drift; and with a far off look in his eyes, wonder if our Granny, who lived just up the road, was finished making biscuits. He was a good old dog.

 While all the celebrating was going on, OL Blackie somehow managed to return to almost the very same spot he was in before we crossed the field, grazing quietly and all alone on the other side, never once taking his eyes off of us.

 

The Great Speckled Woodpecker ,Coachwhip Snakes and The Devil is in the Barn will be discussed next time as more evidence for my lack of anxiety.

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Written by wingzofsteel

October 2, 2009 at 2:50 pm

7 Responses

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  1. EXCELLENT!
    Don’t forget about the “bull ants” we played with and thought were harmless. By the way, did you know that a “bull ant” is actually a wingless wasp!!

    Mike Riggins

    October 2, 2009 at 4:39 pm

  2. Brother …. excellent write-up. I could actually feel the hot sandy field under my bare feet and smell the stagnant water of the nearby swamp. You captured it all with great precision. I laughed, I cried and I never missed Buster Brown so much. What more can I say? I say let’s meet up at the fence during the holidays and do it again.

    MItchell Whaley

    October 2, 2009 at 9:58 pm

  3. I vote for the reenactment and this time with video. I’ll bet Daisy will play the part of Buster Brown, and Mike or David can drive the tractor and play the part of Ol Blackie.
    I loved this, Perry. Mark Twain has finally met his match. Maybe you should write a series in the spirit of Tom Saywer and let little boys of this generation know what if feels like to have a “great escape”.
    Love you.

    Linda Gail

    October 3, 2009 at 10:53 am

  4. I feel as if I can somehow relate to Ol Blackie. Something about wanting to do a double flip on the trampoline… =)

    Adam

    October 6, 2009 at 1:02 pm

  5. Bravo!!!!!

    Jeffrey

    December 4, 2009 at 4:19 pm

  6. Well. I started reading one of the writings, way back from a facebook page and now here it is an hour or so later, coffee is cold in the cup & I’ve had a wonderful time reading! Thanks Perry, Thanks Riggins Clan, you provide much entertainment! I am grateful.

    Mary Lee B.

    December 13, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    • For a few moments I was there running through the field with the Riggins boys. You boys was quick.

      Mac

      April 23, 2010 at 10:48 pm


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