The story continues from Part 1

After cleaning up dog barf, I was a little restless. “Son, go gather some firewood”, Dad said, less out of necessity and more out of indulgence. “There’s an ax over by the tent.” Sweet Jesus- an axe! What was before me was not an innocent camp implement from Home Depot- no it was a Steel Thrasher of Barbarian Hordes! “Take the pistol too, there are snakes around”, he yelled as I walked off. Pleasure….Overload… A 13 year old boy with an axe and a gun is hell on wheels, which is why you don’t ever see them in the city. Well not without a cop yelling “Put your hands on your head…”
Terry’s Chopshop knows what I’m talking about!


To be clear here, Dad had taught me about how to safely handle a firearm since I was old enough to walk (he was a rifle coach in the Marines), and to him it was tool, like shovel, a hammer- or an ax. Didn’t mean it wasn’t damn fun though. I set off on my quest for fire, holstered the .22 target pistol, feeling like Attila the Hun getting ready to pay a visit to the Romans. (Historians dispute the theory the Huns carried camp axes and .22s, but the Historical Society of Thirteen Year Old Boys begs to differ, and can offer hand drawn flip book evidence to support its claims.) That’s when I made a discovery about the Southwest I hadn’t noticed to date. There are not a whole lot trees- just almost bare Mesquite bushes, some Yucca, grass and cacti. Looking around I notice some barb wire fences- containing some scraggly roaming cattle. I squeeze through the fence, careful not to catch anything important, which I sincerely hoped I’ll need in my later years, and continue the quest for kindling.

The cows were docile, idly chewing grass and contemplating me with the rapt attention they’d give a fly that needed to be swatted. I knew deep in my heart they were rooted to the spot, frozen with fear from the awesome spectacle of Attila entering their sovereign territory wielding not only a deadly battle axe, but the awesome firepower of a .22. Tossing them a sidewise glance, I trotted off toward mesquite that looked like it had some branches around the base- perhaps even dry enough to light. That’s when I became aware of HIS presence. Apparently my incursion into the border had been noticed. A very large bull, made his displeasure known by snorting decisively from 25 feet away. He then pawed the earth, dropped his head, and snorted again. It was high noon, and Attila, now an old west gunfighter, stared down the bull decisively. My hand twitched toward my side, aching to go for the pistol and vanquish the long horned bastard who killed my family (family who was probably hooking up a Coleman stove back at camp right now). The ax hit the ground (gunfighters didn’t use such crude tools), and startled both of us, breaking the stalemate. That’s when one ton of pissed off muscle in a cheap leather bag decided to knock the smug off the intruder’s face. Ever have a car wreck where things go into slow motion? Well time STOPPED. At least for me it stopped, it seemed to speed up for El Diablo, the Mesquite Eating Ass Kicking Bullâ„¢. One minute it was the stare down, the next minute the beast was running full speed toward me, ready to crush me like a soda can hit by a freight train… or a moron kid taunting a bull.

Eyes to Brain- “Large Angered Bovine, approaching, on attack vector”
Brain- “F**k!”
Balls to Brain- “We can take him!”
Hand to Brain- “Go for the gun!”
Brain to Balls-“Balls, you’re idiots” (advice they sadly learned later in life to ignore)
Brain to Hands-“.22 round will piss off bull, who will still knock us into next week, abort quick draw!”
Brain to Feet- “Move, move, move!”

Anyway, the message to my feet finally made it down- I’m sure all the bull could see was ass on feet as I dove over the fence. No braking involved- just cleared the top line of barb wire like it was six inches off the ground. Adrenaline is an amazing thing. For his part, El Diablo pulled up short of the wire, looked at me hatred in his eyes, and trotted back his cows. Dominance had been reestablished in the not so high plains. Back at an altitude of 5 feet above the desert the law of gravity was about to assert itself. I knew a thing or two about falling from some mandatory karate classes, so I tucked into a ball and mangled to land on my shoulder blades and roll. At least that’s what I told myself. What happened was I caught my shirt on the wire and flipped ass over teakettle over the fence. As I came loose, I gracefully landed on my back- rather than my fool head. Check and mate El Diablo…you’re lucky I let you off so easy.

My sore ankle was throbbing, but otherwise I was unscathed. Lesson Three, No matter how bad you are, there’s always someone meaner and uglier just over the hill.I hobbled back to camp. Dad had the stove set up, and was digging in the cooler for some steaks. (Like I said, conditions were primitive, but we made do.) “Where’s the wood?” he asked. “Uh…there’s not any, all scrub brush, no good branches”. He looked at me speculatively (maybe it was the grass in my hair), and then continued, “Well, we need something for a fire- take another pass. Hey, where’s the ax?” Ut oh. “Ugh, I must have left it…over there”, I weakly gestured. At that moment I’m sure El Diablo had the axe in his personal trophy room… “Well go get it and come back with something for a fire.” Oh horseshit…hey… wait a minute… That’s it!

I went back to the fence. Some college kids were driving along the fence line to get to the far side of the lake, and I was pleased to see El Diablo had wandered over the hill to show them who was boss. I hastily retrieved the ax. I also picked up a readily available and renewable natural resource. I remembered reading that the Indians used to pick up buffalo chips and burn them for fuel. (This was back in the days before Indians worked in call centers- when they lived on the plains of the West). So with the ax in my belt, and an armload of cow patties, I hobbled back to camp.

As I came into the camp I stacked the cow patties by the rocks we had used to make a firepit. Dad looked puzzled, until I illuminated him on the many uses of cow manure, and how methane in cow farts may one day power our cars. (As of this writing flatus collection does not in fact power motor vehicles. There have been several incidents of gonad fires caused by collegiate researchers, but as yet the labwork has yet to bear anything more than endless hours of amusement on YouTube.) How he didn’t burst out laughing is a mystery to me, but he managed to keep a straight face and solemnly nod. I’m sure what he meant was, “Why don’t you take your dog barf and cow crap covered ass over the lake and wash off some of the funk?” But what he asked was “Why don’t you take a swim while I finish up the steaks and potatoes?” I was knee deep by the time he mentioned potatoes, and I was looking forward to trying out my new scuba mask and snorkel. Jacques Cousteau was exploring the ocean’s depths, on television, and I was sure that my important research in West Texas lakes would be invaluable. After all, I had the latest and greatest equipment from K-Mart, a $10 mask and snorkel set. I wonder if sea monsters lived in lakes?
More tomorrow…

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"Lawn Chairs Round the Fire, Part 2" by was published on December 16th, 2007 and is listed in Assorted Twits, Cool, Funny, Parents, Stupid Should hurt.

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