CHAPTER 5: THE WALKPap went for a daily walk in the woods even after working all day at the factory. Like Larry, I knew Pap worked hard too. But Pap did not own a car. Instead, Pap depended on a carpool for his commute to work in the big city.
I even told Pap once, “It is a good thing you don’t have a car. You don’t have to spend all day fixing it. So, you have time for me and Granny and the woods.” His eyes twinkled when he smiled.
Pap knew the name of every tree and flower in the woods. I am certain he was acquainted with every raccoon and fox. Back when he used to hunt, a squirrel could become dinner. He described flowers as a rainbow of color and fragrance. Bird calls were music to his ears. But he and Granny and I really liked the music of Flatt and Scruggs on Granny’s records.
Known in town as an avid ginseng hunter, Pap earned the nickname “Gin” from his friends. It was a frequent occurrence to see him pull roots topped by green leaves out of his overall pockets. He would sometimes hitch a ride on the local coal train to hunt ginseng with friends on the other side of the county. I would later find a song written by Norman Blake that reminded me of my grandfather. (F13)
Pap stopped hunting squirrels after I choked on a bone splinter last year. I finally spat the fragment out with no harm done but it gave us all a scare. Since then his two rifles remained undisturbed in their rack on the wall. The dust caught my eye as the morning sun shined in with my opening of the door.
My favorite food in Granny’s kitchen was fried mushrooms. Pap knew where to find the right ones. Granny knew how to fry them. I was always welcome at their dinner table.
I thought it strange that Pap did not take his walking stick and even stranger when we turned right at the gate towards town instead of left towards the woods. As we passed my house, I hoped Larry did not see me leave. I'd had enough garage duty for one day.
In the sixties a small town, such as Mushroom Hollar, had local businesses that served the needs of the community all within walking distance or a short drive of home for those who lived in the “city” limits. On a Saturday, the streets were alive with shoppers seeking supplies and vitals for daily needs. We even had a small theatre that showed Saturday matinees. It was a rarity for me to go to the movies. I had learned not to bug Mom and Larry about such things.
We walked past the theatre to a large elm. While Pap examined the tree I found a bench in the shade. Knowing his love of nature I expected to be in that spot for a while. It was a hot day in July, years before we heard of air conditioning.
A car buzzed by down Main Street, honking its horn and nearly hitting some pedestrians. “Sleepy Sam”, the town sheriff, took out after him.
I heard Pap mumble as he looked up. “I think it’s that Harlan boy.”
Pap, with irritation at the racket that interrupted his tree exam, observed. “Folks always in a hurry. Wonder what that’s all about. Tarzan had it right.” He lifted his hat to scratch his head then returned to the examination of the tree.
Now my interest was piqued with mention of my new-found hero. “What do you mean?”
Pap flicked a bug who was climbing up the tree bark. “That’s what I was trying to think of when we was talking. I remember now, it is another movie called ‘Tarzan’s Secret Treasure’ where some safari people are showing home movies of civilization. They try to explain why civilization moves so fast and people have the need to save time. Tarzan keeps asking ‘why’ but they don’t have an answer for him.” (F05)
I turned my head to the side like a dog does when he is mystified. “What do you mean Pap?”
Some bag worms caught Pap’s attention. They were quickly removed from the tree. “Tarzan says ‘what do with time’ and no one can answer. I see people in the big city not knowing where they’re going or where they’ve been. They miss nature’s beauty all the time.” Then he held out his arm and finger to point straight at the ground. A butterfly landed on the end of his finger. “See what I mean. Ain’t it pretty?”
“Sure is Pap. How’d you do that?” The butterfly had the richest colors I’d ever seen.
He just laughed so hard the butterfly flew away. It reflected the sunlight as it took flight.
Pap put his foot up on the bench to stretch his leg. “In that movie, the secret treasure is not the gold nuggets that are laying loose about on the ground. The real treasure is Tarzan’s way of life in the beauty and the natural existence of the jungle.”
“Why?” I didn’t quite understand then.
“Tarzan, Jane and Boy live in harmony with nature. Appreciating what was given to them and respecting those gifts.”
I looked perplexed. “What about cars and TV?”
Pap thought for a moment. “We didn’t have cars and TV when I was your age. I turned out okay don’t you think? I remember what Jane said in that movie, ‘Our world is far more lovely and far more exciting than the outside world I promise you.’” (F05) After a pause to gauge my reaction he continued, “You may not understand now but you’re smart, I think you will figure it out with time.”
Pap put his foot back down then stretched and twisted to make sure all his joints and bones were still working as he had once told me.
I recognized one common element. “Your movie, ‘Secret Treasure’ is like the ‘Tarzan and the Amazons’ that I saw. Tarzan doesn’t like white hunters coming to the jungle.”
We began walking as Pap rested his hand on my shoulder. “Yeah you’re right. Tarzan has his principles. He values the jungle and Jane and Boy above all things. He will protect them. He learned the hard way that so-called civilized people kill animals for pleasure. And sometimes kill innocent people. That’s why Tarzan doesn’t like guns and doesn’t want safaris in his jungle. He is protecting his home and the people he loves. The native people are a part of his home too. So long as everyone tends to their own business then Tarzan is happy.”
I was thinking while were walking slowly. “What are principles?”
"Principles are what is right and what is wrong. I mean, about how to deal with life and with people.”
A gentle breeze brought the fragrance of movie popcorn to distract me.
Then he looked right at me like he was speaking to an adult. “We are molded by the choices we make,” he said.
I wrinkled my forehead. “What do you mean?”
“It is always best to treat people like you would like to be treated. That’s one of my principles. For example, when I take a walk normally I run left into the woods?”
My eyes lit up. “I wondered about that. Why?”
Pap shuffled his feet in the dirt. “I followed my gut. It felt like a good idea to go this way. You may find that good instincts, based on principles, tell you what to do before yer noggin has figured it out.” He rubbed my head just like Tarzan rubbed Boy’s head.
I was growing impatient. “So why did we come this way?”
“Cause it felt like a good idea to take you to the movies.”
We walked another block where we could see the movie marquee. It read “Tarzan and the Valley of Gold”. We arrived just in time for the Saturday matinee to see a brand new Tarzan movie just released.
Pap bought me some popcorn and I was amazed seeing Tarzan in color on the big screen. (F10)
Afterward, I told Pap what I thought about the movie. “Golly that was great! Tarzan was in the Bull fighting stadium with that really big Coke bottle. I liked his lion and his leopard. But the chimp was Dinky, not Cheeta. Tarzan smelled blood when he got in the car at the airport. But the part I liked best was the helicopter. Did you like it?”
“Yeah it was good. It was like a Tarzan and a James Bond movie.”
“I never saw a James Bond movie.” But, I knew I would like Tarzan better.
Then Pap put a question to me. “I was wondering. What do you think about Tarzan calling his son ‘Boy’?”
“Tarzan says it with love. That makes it okay,” I answered. “Not like Larry when he calls me ‘Junior’. I don’t think Larry likes me at all.” I spat on the ground. “Larry is worse than any bully at school.”
Pap patted me on the shoulder as we walked home. “I don’t think Larry likes anybody. I wonder if he has principles.”
CHAPTER 6: THE FIELD OUT BACK
After we got home I discovered that Larry had gone to the gas station to “set Harlan straight”. I didn’t pay much attention to such things, like Pap said, Larry was always arguing with someone.
Larry’s absence gave me the opportunity to speak with Pap about an idea.
At my request Pap found some old rope for me from his tool shed. Before handing the rope over he first made me promise not to put it around my neck or anyone else’s neck and to not try to swing from it as it could break.
Then Pap asked me point-blank, “What will you do with this rope?”
“I want to make a bolo like Tarzan did to take down the helicopter.”
Pap rubbed the stubble on his chin. “Yer mother will have a fit if she sees this.”
I responded, “I’m used to it, Larry always has fits. Sometimes I get blamed for Larry’s fits.”
Pap stared at the ground to ponder for a moment.
“Okay, we will try it but with rules. Five rules! 1.) You can only do this when I’m here. 2.) You must wear something over your eyes. 3.) You can only swing the bolo in the field out behind our property, so you don’t break a window. 4.) Never use this to hurt a living creature. 5.) And if there is a problem I’ll have to take it back.”
I agreed. Then we commenced to cut a length of rope about twenty feet long. From his tool shed Pap brought a couple of iron rings that he said might be too heavy. We tied the rings to either end of the rope and I started towards the field.
“Hold on there, little fellar!”
I turned to see Pap emerge from his tool shed with a wielder’s mask.
I held still while he adjusted the strap.
“Good thing you’re big for your age?” he asked. “Can you see me?”
“Good then you’ll need me around when you’re doing this. Take that thing off so you can see where you’re going and let’s give it a try.” Off to the field we went.
Pap wagged his finger to get my attention.
“Now if any people are around you kaint do this. You know this field belongs to old man Jones. If he is out here mowing or plowing or something then stay out of his way. It’s his property, it aint ours. And I don’t want anyone hurt.”
I nodded. “Yes sir.”
We then worked out the proper spot for me to hold the rope as I swung it over my head.
“Let me get this helmet back on you. Then I’ll tell you when I’m out of the way.”
“Okay.” My voice from inside the helmet gave a otherworldly echo.
Pap backed off then gave me the go ahead.
I held the rope high as we had discussed. I began to twirl my arm and could feel the pull of the iron rings as they went around. I swung it with all the might I had. It went around seven or eight times. It was such a neat feeling. I heard Pap yell “let her go” and I did.
By the time he’d reached me I’d pulled the mask taking some hair with it but I didn’t care. “How far did it go?
“Oh that’s a good thirty feet. Worked better than I thought. With practice you might reach forty feet.”
“Can I try it again?” I was getting the helmet back on by myself.
“I reckon. Just one more time. I bet yer arm is sore tomorrow.”
My second throw went a few feet farther.
While admiring my toss I said, “I need a target and measuring stick.”
Pap shook his head. “The more stuff you tote out here the more stuff you’ll have to carry back.”
“But Larry leaves his stuff laying around all the time.”
Pap shook his head. “I’m not Larry and neither are you. Remember this ain’t our property. Always best to clean up after yourself. You’ve seen Tarzan clean up by wiping his knife after a kill. That’s a good principle!”
Walking back, Pap asked me where Larry was.
“He’s gone to the gas station. He likes to talk with the guys there.”
Pap paused. “I heard he got into a fight with someone there.”
I thought for a spell. “He did have a black eye. He told mom he got hit in the eye at work with a 2x4.”
Pap took his cap off to scratch his head. “Just don’t know, could be he got in two fights. Could be nothing. I don’t know the facts and none of my business.” We continued on our way. I thanked Pap for his help with the bolo.
“I reckon it’s okay. But I think you’re safer learning to shoot a rifle.”
“Tarzan says ‘guns are no good’. Besides Mom says I’m too young.”
“That’s your Mom’s decision but when I was your age I could shoot and I knew to respect a weapon. But, I’m not sure you’re old enough for the bolo. Remember my rules. And don’t lose my wielder’s mask.”
I agreed as we made our way home.
CHAPTER 7: BIRTHDAY
A few days later for my birthday Mom surprised me with a copy of “Tarzan and the City of Gold”. (F08)
I think that Granny saw it on a shopping trip and talked Mom into getting it for me. Larry already thought I was too obsessed with Tarzan so Mom naturally agreed with Larry. I knew that only Granny had the ability to persuade Mom otherwise. Pap usually kept to himself since he didn’t think much of Larry. “Some things are better left unsaid.” I once heard him remark.
I was enchanted by the cover of the Whitman edition featuring Tarzan with bow and arrow. I knew from reading Pap’s Tarzan book (with the Acorn on the spine) that Tarzan used a bow and arrow but I’d never seen it in any of the movies. But My movie viewing was limited, at that time, to “Tarzan and the Amazons” and “Tarzan and the Valley of Gold”.
Since Larry only watched westerns on TV I was well acquainted with the bow and arrow or so I thought. If Tarzan used a bow and arrow, then I wanted one too. I now had a bolo and I already had a pocket knife from before I discovered Tarzan.
Thinking about the spending money received for my Birthday I spoke to Pap about a bow and arrow.
“Do you know what you’re Mom is going to say?” He took his hat off and spat at the ground nailing a wasp. He rubbed his head. “You got money?”
“Yes sir,” I replied. I was grateful for anything other than a flat rejection.
“You do know we’re push’in our luck with the bolo. I ain’t said nothing to your Mom. Granny don’t even know about the bolo. Larry will be the one to raise Hell. Keep it away from his car.”
The next day Pap was unloading his pockets after having just finished a walk. Pap always found things when he went out. I recall once he brought home a silver dollar that was just laying in the gravel. This time he held before me a shinny arrowhead. Clearly it had once topped a genuine arrow used by a real American Indian. Some of the kids at school had found arrowheads but I’d had no such luck.
“You know what that is Little Fellar?”
“Yes sir! Arrowhead!”.
“Yep, But I reckon it might also be a sign.” Pap grinned showing fresh signs of chaw. “We need to be upfront with your Mom on this one. I can’t be teaching you to sneak around. That ain’t right. I’ll talk to Granny. She’ll talk to your Mom. Your Mom will talk to Larry. Larry don’t like nothing. Then I’ll have to promise to look after you while you’re shooting the bow and arrow. We’ll need the same rules like with the bolo. I mean do it only while wearing the helmet and when I’m there. So, we’ll just have to see what everyone says.”
A week later I had my bow and arrow from Sears Roebuck. It came with a target but most of the time the arrows did not stick in the target. Pap got four real hunting arrows from his brother who used a bow for deer hunting. The arrows he got for me worked just fine. I even had a quiver for my arrows. A few days later Pap found plastic goggles at Grunden’s, the local hardware store, that I could wear over my eyes. Seeing better enabled me to improve my aim for both the bolo and the archery.
My new hobbies of bolo and archery meant I spent even more time with Pap.
Then one day he surprised me with a gift.
Pap explained, “You’ve been doing real good and all. I saw this and thought of you. Same rules will apply as with the bolo and the archery set. I figured if you ever saw ‘Tarzan’s Secret Treasure’ then you’ll want one of these.”
He handed me a box, that I opened to discover a sling shot. I put the box down, then held the sling shot up and pulled at the elastic band.
I held it before me. “Can I try?”
“I reckon, get you a small rock off the ground and aim it out into the open.”
I did as he instructed, and that rock flew. Pap tried to find it but we weren’t sure where it landed. Pap thought it went about 50 feet. I tried a second time that seemed to go farther. But we still couldn’t find the rock.
I hugged Pap and thanked him. I had added another weapon to my arsenal.
CHAPTER 8: MOLLY, TENBROOKS, AND GITARZAN
Later that night I stopped in at Granny’s to discover she was having trouble with her radio. “Can you help me? I can’t find the Grand Ole Opry,” she proclaimed.
One of my favorite pastimes was listening to the radio for music, news or ballgames. I was well acquainted with the powerful WSM from Nashville but I couldn’t find it at 650 AM where it was supposed to be. I ran up the dial to try other stations having no trouble getting Louisville’s WAKY where I heard a peculiar jungle sound with these lyrics:
He’s free as a breeze
He’s always at ease
He lives in the jungle
And hangs by his knees
As he swings through the trees
Without a trapeze
I had discovered Gitarzan, (F09) a Tarzan spoof with a weak Ape-man yell and a funky monkey. Granny’s jaw dropped. The song continued as Jane came on the radio with a chorus of “Baby, Baby, shut up Baby I’m trying to sing.”
Granny said, “Put that poor woman out of her misery.” I turned the volume down just as Pap came in to see what all the ruckus was about.
I then tried the Grand Ole Opry again, this time finding it where it was supposed to be. We were just in time to hear Bill Monroe do his Kentucky Race Horse song, Molly and Tenbrooks. Granny and Pap commenced to clogging and I clapped my hands to keep time with the music. It was great fun as they pranced while the floorboards creaked and Bill Monroe related the true story of two champion horses that met halfway across country to have a race.
I could see my cat out the window wishing that he was with us. The next song was a mournful blues where Bill Monroe sang “My heart is sad and I’m so lonely”. It made me realize I too was In Despair.
CHAPTER 9: THE VISITOR
The next Saturday morning Mom and Larry went to the big city but I asked to stay home to watch “Tarzan finds a Son” on TV. Granny would be at her house next door so she could check on me once in a while. Pap went for a walk in the woods since rain was expected later in the day. This gave me the perfect opportunity to fetch my new cat and bring him into the house to watch the movie with me.
I had named the cat “Bianco” after the leopard in the movie, Tarzan and the Valley of Gold. With his tan fur and spots my cat looked a lot like a leopard. I did not yet know about Sheeta in the Tarzan books.
We had played together all summer and were really good friends. But no one else in the family knew about him. I was sure Bianco was bigger than a normal house cat. I knew his ears were extra hairy and the tail was stubby. He was good with me. I remembered how much Larry fussed when I asked about getting a cat.
I was certain Bianco was the same cat who’d crawled into my bed that cold morning in the spring. Every time I brought him into the house he was intimidated and stayed with me. He sat in my lap purring while on TV Tarzan found a wrecked airplane and carried a baby home.
Tarzan and Jane had this big discussion about the child’s name. Tarzan made “elephant” seem like a practical name for the child. It sounded much better than “Junior” to me. They settled on “Boy” and they said it with love.
I thought about things that Larry might learn if he had watched this movie with me.
As Boy grew up he and Tarzan swam and played together. Tarzan taught him how to survive in the jungle. Tarzan was a teacher, somewhat like Pap.
Seeing Tarzan, Jane, and Boy become a happy family brought tears to my eyes. I told Bianco, “I’d be a lost boy without Granny and Pap. I’d be a lost boy without Tarzan. I’d be a lost boy without you.” I held the cat up even with my eyes and it responded with a purr. “I know you’re lost too, but you’re mine now.” Then I hugged him. And he licked my face.
After the movie went off I decided to show Bianco to Granny. I knew she’d be the one family member least likely to fuss at me.
[Artwork by Mike DeCarlo.]
While I was in my room getting a book I heard a hard knock on the front door that made me jump out of my shoes. Only company used the front door. I peeked out the window but couldn’t see anyone. I returned to my room with Bianco at my heels. I pulled on my freshly washed “Land that God Forgot” T-shirt.
An even harder knock on the back door just did not sound right to me. My room was situated so I could look through the kitchen to barely see the back door. Whoever had knocked was opening the door. I hid inside my room as best I could to watch someone come into the house and begin rummaging through the kitchen. I could not see his face but I watched him pull Mom’s biggest knife from a kitchen drawer. When he turned around I recognized Harlan who Larry had argued with at the gas station. I watched Harlan enter Mom and Larry’s bedroom where I could hear him pulling the drawers out and rummaging around.
I sank against the wall in my room clutching Bianco to my chest. I whispered to my cat, “We are being robbed.”
My room was next to Mom and Larry’s such that if I exited my room by door or through the window I could be seen. I did not feel I could safely get to the (rotary) phone in the living room. I knew Harlan had a knife and that he could have a gun. He might find Larry’s pistol in the bedroom.
I had to do something.
My first thought was to run to Granny’s but if Harlan followed me he could hurt Granny. My bolo was in Pap’s shed. But my bow and arrow was in my closet! I had been warned not to shoot in the house, but Harlan did not know that.
I looked in all my drawers for my sling-shot. I was quiet as a church mouse. Bianco sat patiently at my door as though watching for Harlan. My sling-shot was not where it was supposed to be. Where had I put it?
My bow and arrow were in the closet as they should be. I selected an arrow and strung the quiver over my back. I even wore my protective goggles. But I had a dilemma as I couldn’t both carry Bianco and operate the bow. So I put Bianco out my window counting on his ability to be catlike and quiet. I then crept to the door way of the master bedroom where I could soon see that Harlan had dumped every drawer into the floor and pulled all the clothes out of the closet. Still oblivious to me, Harlan was sitting on the bed going through some papers.
I had three choices.
1.) I could get to the back door but I risked being seen when I passed the master bedroom.
2.) I had a clear path to the front door but it creaked when being opened.
3.) I could crawl out the window of my room. Once outside I could get to the neighbor’s house to call the sheriff.
At the window in my room I removed my quiver to gently lower it to the ground. But as the quiver went out the window one of the arrows clattered to the floor. With heart in my throat I picked the arrow
up instinctively stringing it in my bow. As I feared Harlan appeared at the door to my room. I remembered Pap’s instructions never to shoot at a living creature. I prayed for forgiveness as I loosed the arrow right at Harlan. I heard him howl as I bolted through the window. I landed on the ground, grabbed my quiver and ran towards the neighbor’s house.
I banged on the neighbor’s door but received no answer. It seemed that no one was home. But the door was unlocked so I went in. I looked up the phone number for the jail house but no one answered the phone. I then called the Sheriff’s home. His wife answered to say that she’d let him know and that I should get someplace safe.
I left the neighbor’s house as I had found it.
These things were running through my mind:From the neighbor’s I took a long detour to Granny’s house that permitted me to keep mostly out of sight. I did not want the thief to see me but likewise I couldn’t see in my house. Stashing my bow and arrow outside I went in to find Granny working on a quilt while listening to a Doc Watson record like everything was normal. I explained that I was just checking that she was okay. I was about to watch a second movie on TV. I exited saying the commercial was probably over and I needed to get back to my show.
I was afraid Granny would walk in on the robbery. I didn’t see Bianco anyplace. I didn’t know if I’d injured the thief. I knew if I told Granny of the thief it would scare her. I had to find Bianco. And that she wouldn’t let me look for Bianco.
After recovering my bow and arrow I cautiously approached my house. But Instead of going inside I sneaked around the outside where I could first peek in the bedroom windows. I was able to see in Mom’s window pretty good. But at my window I was dismayed to discover my arrow had embedded in the wall across the room. Somehow at close range I totally missed Harlan. I looked in the remaining windows as I continued around the house seeing no signs of the intruder. I entered through the garage door then through the utility room into the house.
With arrow notched and eyes wide open I hung near the wall examining every nook and cranny. I’d see this done on TV plenty of times.
When I entered the living room I passed by a hallway closet whose door flew open as I reached for the knob. Harlan’s free hand lunged for me. I ducked and ran into the kitchen. I reached for the back door but a plate flew through the air over my shoulder. It was a near miss that caused me to draw back in horror only to come face to face as he pinned me against the wall. My bow fell to the floor and my arrows were trapped between me and the wall. He had me by the throat.
That moment I saw my death in his eyes. His breath stank like the beer joint in the Big City. His face was covered with new scars I’d never seen before and a missing ear lobe. His hold on my throat felt like a steel vise closing fast.
I gasped for air.
Harlan laughed. “I’ll get Larry next. I didn’t find what I was looking for. But he is what I really want.” His black teeth reflected my impending death.
From above there was something in the air that landed on Harlan’s head.
With his free hand Harlan reached up to dislodge this attacker only to find Bianco’s teeth sinking into his hand. He let go of me as front claws plowed near to his eyes. Mom’s rolling pin was in my reach. Like swinging a baseball bat I struck a line drive in the pit of Harlan’s back. A second swing in the back of the leg dropped him to his knees. Meanwhile Bianco’s attack on Harlan’s head was relentless.
Then my worst fears were realized when I saw the glint of steel. Harlan pointed a pistol right at Bianco. I clutched my cat with all my strength to get him out of harm’s way. We dropped then rolled on the floor as Harlan’s gun discharged into the wall. Hugging Bianco I crawled into a bedroom while Harlan limped out of the house.
For only a moment I caught my breath, rubbed my throat, hugged Bianco and muttered, “I still live”. (F06)
I put Bianco down then scrambled to my feet. We both took off through the back yard in hot pursuit. I saw Granny had emerged after hearing the commotion. I yelled to her to stay in the house and call the Sheriff.
Harlan was heading for the field out back while I made a stop at Pap’s tool shed. There I found my bolo and my sling-shot. In addition there was a box of rocks I’d collected as ammunition for the sling-shot. I knew I was about to disobey the rules but I had to do something.
I chased after Harlan a little but he was pulling away from me fast. So I yelled at him, “Hey Harlan you’re a yellow coward.”
That got him to turn around but then I realized he still had his gun.
I wasn’t sure I could reach him with either of my weapons. I had one bolo but several rocks. I elected to try the sling-shot.
Harlan’s gun was in his right hand dangling at his side. Before he could raise it to shoot, a rock from my sling-shot hit his right hand. He then fired but I ducked behind the tool shed to hug the ground. I heard his bullet hit the tool shed but I was not certain the shed was an effective shield. Again he fired then I raised up just enough to respond with a sling-shot rock to his head. He grabbed his eye. Then I launched another rock aimed at the other eye that only bounced off his head.
This misfire cost me because I had moved in front of the shed for a closer shot. With no cover Harlan leveled his gun at me causing me to drop my next rock on the ground. I was sure I dead.
Then I heard him yell “Skunk” as he turned to run full tilt away from me. I could barely make out a black tail amid the tall grasses of the field.
Now that he was in retreat I thought the bolo was my best chance if it could reach him.
As I had done many times this summer. I hoisted the bolo and swung it over my head. The sensation was always thrilling to me when I had this power at my fingertips. I felt if I swung long enough it would lift me off the ground. I released the bolo in Harlan’s direction hoping to catch him just below the neck. The bolo wrapped around his feet bringing him down.
I grabbed a shovel from Pap’s shed and headed towards Harlan. My victim was tugging at the rope wrapped about his feet. Bianco was already there ready to pounce on Harlan. His gun was just out of reach.
Then I heard a voice of authority that made me freeze.
“That’s enough don’t move!”
I turned to see Pap had his double barrel shotgun aimed right at Harlan.
Harlan reached for his pistol but Bianco sank his fangs into Harlan’s hand.
As Pap got closer with his gun at the ready he warned Harlan not to try anything else.
I retrieved the dropped pistol being mindful of the business end then got Bianco away from his victim. Harlan moaned and rubbed at his wounds. His face and arms were nothing but scratches and blood. His other ear lobe was dangling. He was missing entire patches of hair. One eye was swollen shut.
Within a couple minutes Sheriff Sam arrived and soon after so did Mom and Larry.
My entire family stood in a semi-circle around the fallen thief as the Sheriff asked Harlan what he was trying to do.
“He’s got something there that belongs to me and I want it back.” Harlan gestured towards Larry.
Sheriff Sam pushed his hat back to scratch his head as he considered the situation then spoke. “Let’s all go down to the jailhouse to sort this out. Larry I reckon you’ll want to press charges.”
After Mom and Larry left with the Sheriff I was standing with Granny and Pap.
“Little Fellar you did good!” Pap patted me on the back and looked at me real proud. “Were you scared?”
“I was mostly afraid that Granny would get hurt.”
Granny beamed, “I didn’t even know all this was going on!”
“Good Thing!” both Pap and I said together.
Bianco rubbed against my leg so that I would pick him up. Then came the conversation I dreaded.
Pap looked at Bianco. “I reckon you know that’s a bobcat you’ve got?” (F11)
I pulled Bianco close to my chest. “Yes sir. We’ve become good friends this summer.”
Pap took his glasses off to rub his eyes. “I guess you’re going to want me to talk to your Mom then she’ll talk to Larry then I’ll have to say I’ll help you with it.”
I looked up with hope. “Gee Pap would you?” Bianco purred his approval.
Pap shook his head but smiled. “I reckon I can. Just so you know that’s a wild animal. He wants to be free and he could get violent.”.
“But Pap, Bianco is nice to me and he is house broke and he likes rhubarb pie.”
That caught Granny’s attention. “Well if he likes my pie then he must be okay.”
“Pap, I want to keep him.” I stroked Bianco’s fur and he licked my hand.
Then Granny spoke up. “So long as Bianco behaves he is welcome in our house.” Then she posed a question to Pap. “Don’t you have something to tell the boy?”
Pap offered a sheepish grin. “I know a little something about raising wild animals. I had a pet bobcat when I was about your age. Might not work but we can try. Of course, I still need to talk with your Mom.”
A group hug caught Bianco in the middle. Bianco licked faces all around.
CHAPTER 10: GROWTH
A couple days later I was called again to garage duty with Larry.
I found a screwdriver for him, but it wasn’t the right kind. He threw it down. “You dumb kid I need a Phillips screwdriver. Junior!”
I stood straight and spoke up to be sure he heard me. “My name is Simon!”
He bumped his head while trying to get out from the under the hood. “What did you say?”
I handed him another screwdriver but stood my ground with voice and posture. “I said my name is Simon! Please call me that from now on.”
He jerked the screwdriver from my hand and started toward me. But from behind me growled Bianco with tail straight up and hair on end.
“Keep that bobcat under control. I saw what it did to Harlan. So you want to be called Simon?” He looked at the screwdriver in his hand. “Well at least Simon knows what a Phillips screwdriver looks like.” He returned to his engine work. “That’s all I need Simon. You can go. And take that cat with you.”
With that Bianco and I went to visit Granny and Pap just in time to watch “Tarzan’s Secret Treasure.”
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Simon - Ten-year-old protagonist a.k.a. Junior or Little Fellar
Harlan – Hunter and antagonist of Larry
Larry – Step-Dad to Simon
Mom - Mother to Simon
Granny – Simon’s grandmother
Pap – Simon’s grandfather. Nickname is “Gin” for ginseng.
Bianco – Bobcat. Seen in artwork provided by Mike Decarlo
Billy – Larry’s brother
First Bobcat – Unnamed mother of Bianco. Had gray coloring.
F01 - Tarzan and the Leopard Woman (movie) Issued 1946 by RKO.
F02 - Moon Maid (book) by Edgar Rice Burroughs
F03 - Tarzan and the Amazons (movie) Issued 1945 by RKO
F04 - Tarzan of the Apes, Chapter XV "The Forest God" McClurg edition.
F05 – Tarzan’s Secret Treasure (movie)
F06 – "I still live" is the motto of John Carter as related in Princess of Mars (book) by Edgar Rice Burroughs
F07 – Acorn edition for Tarzan of the Apes. See www.erbfirsts.com
F08 - Whitman edition for Tarzan and the City of Gold published 1966 with cover art by Don McLaughlin.
F09 - The song "Gitarzan" by Ray Stevens was issued in 1969 whereas this story takes place in 1966. The author was overcome by temptation to include this popular Tarzan spoof. Lyrics by Ray Stevens and Bill Everette. Release by Monument Records.
F10 - Tarzan and the Valley of Gold (movie) Issued 1966 by Banner Productions
F11 - Background on the Bobcat from WIKI at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobcat
F12 – The shoulder patch “Land that God Forgot” is an actual relic from the Vietnam era whose title was inspired by the Burroughs book. For story purposes it is identified as a T-shirt that later appears in artwork for use in this story.
F13 – The character Pap, is based on a character from a Norman Blake song entitled “Ginseng Sullivan”.
In memory of my grandparents, Bernice and Ivan Spencer, and also my German Shepherd, Steppenwolf.
Readers have asked why the protagonist’s real name is not revealed until the last page. This is to illustrate the personal growth and confidence that builds in the child during this summer. The youngster was being bullied in his own home. He learned to speak up for himself.
Story first appeared in ERB-APA #138 issued for Summer 2018, however, this version includes a couple of changes, including
1.) The name of the child / protagonist is changed from “Joseph” to “Simon”. In the story the child absorbs everything around him therefore, the name “Simon”, meaning “listener”, seemed appropriate. When first written, “Joseph” was a working name that I never got around to changing.
2.) The Grandfather, who is the mentor, is given a nickname of “Gin” as he was well known for hunting ginseng.
3.) The original story only referenced a shoulder patch entitled “War that God Forgot”. Here a T-shirt is included with that logo
4.) This story version includes two pictures drawn by artist Mike DeCarlo.
[Artwork by Mike DeCarlo.]
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