Sunday, September 4, 2011

MEMORY: THROWING THINGS.. september 19, 2003

My brothers were athletically inclined and interested, initially in football and later in tennis , bowling and golf. But all of them would admit that none is a good thrower, whether it be a ball or a rock. I had three throwing mishaps that I recall with clarity. Once at Smokemont Camping Ground in Cherokee, N. Carolina I was walking down the thick rhododendron shaded path with my friend W.L. B. We were probably 12 years old and enjoying one of those sweet family mountain camp out weeks in July. Lester’s family, Daddy, W.L. and I were on this particular vacation week. As we walked a brown thrasher bird hopped out onto the cool ground of the path. Spontaneously I stopped and picked up a smooth creek rock and hurled it in the vicinity of the trusting bird. To my astonishment and disbelief the rock hit square center the bird’s trim brown body. I ran to the scene of the crime. It did not even wiggle. It was stone dead instantly. How could I possibly have hit this bird 25 feet away when I couldn’t throw a strike ball in twenty  attempts? With shame and sadness I quickly pulled the bird to the side and covered it with dead leaves and got W.L.’s assurance that it was our secret. The only good dark feeling I had to admit to myself was that sense of such accurate precision that had come from my own arm and hand.
Throwing Things

The second involved a very intentional hurling of a coconut. Where the coconut came from I do not know but it had been on our back porch for years. It already was missing its outer husk and was brown and fuzzy. It was mid-size between a baseball and softball. I got the idea to break it open and perhaps to enjoy the fruit of my labor with a snack. I don’t think I had ever seen the inside of a freshly broken coconut. The back of our house had a big inside corner on the northwest side. One side of the corner was bounded by the back porch and the other by a wall of the dining room. The wall had an unscreened full pane window in it. Barely to the left of the window about ten feet from the dining room side of the house was a rather large wild cherry tree. These are softwood trees that drop purple berries in the summer that stain anything they touch. Birds eat them and cause even worse messes. This tree’s trunk was a good three feet wide. Globs of dark sap resin form on the sides of the trunk which we kids would convince ourselves was a good substitute for chewing gum. A couple of chomps on it would always convince otherwise. My not well thought out plan was to hurl the hard coconut at the tree and crack it open. My first attempt was on target and hit the tree but bounced off without any sign of breaking open. 

This meant a stronger hurl was required. I provided the extra push but with less precision and the missile crashed through the dining room window. Once again I had a full range of negative feelings, mostly fear, not just because of a broken window but I knew Daddy, Barry and Gene were in the dining room area refinishing the hardwood floors. I ran in to inspect the damage. There was glass strewn on the newly half-finished floors of the empty dining room and to a far corner the undamaged coconut. Daddy unfortunately had been on his hands and knees in front of the victim window. He was still in that position and was rubbing his head and his glasses were on the floor. There was no blood and not even a serious knot but the coconut had hit him in the head. I was thankful that he was not hurt worse and I offered to pay for the damage. Daddy’s reaction? I think he hardly had one. For sure he did not relinquish anger or even discipline on me. I don’t think he even accepted my offer to pay. Daddy was that mellow with his youngest son. He just took it for what it was. A kid’s curiosity gone astray. I guess he could sense that I did feel really bad about my accident.

The third mishap displays a very strange way for a kid to think. I had made a tomahawk with all natural materials gathered in the Smokey Mountains, maybe on the same camp out where the bird was killed. The handle was an 18 inch long thick piece of rhododendron branch. The head was a smooth gray narrow creek rock which had that oval shape needed for a tomahawk. The wood stick had been carefully split and some wood carved out to allow the two sides of the split to enfold over the rock. I had used wet rawhide leather strips to tie the rock securely into position. When the leather dried it shrank and pulled everything tightly together. I was so proud of my craft work, especially how tightly the rock was secured. This had always been the problem with my tomahawks, the rock was loose and flimsily secured. This time was different. I had finally mastered the Indians’ secret of making the handle and rock become one secure unit. My weird thought was that I needed to show true trust in my implement. The test? Stand in front of the full mirror in the living room . While looking into the mirror give the tomahawk a full force forward swing as if I were attacking some wild animal. The result would be that the rock would retain its position and I would have indisputable evidence that I had truly crafted an excellent weapon. One that could stand the test of actual combat. The rock came flying out on the down-stroke. It hit the wall to the left of the mirror and bounced across the room and yes, broke a window with as much force as the coconut had done in the dining room disaster. Again, I do not recall any discipline or tongue lashing from Daddy. I have a hard time understanding still why he did not react with expected anger or at least a nonverbal ‘ that was really a stupid thing to do’. It may mean that I was being terribly spoiled and not being taught responsibility. However, I know that again there was no intent to destroy and also that I experienced genuine remorse for the harm my action had brought. Did he somehow know that or had he just become accustomed to what he judged as behavior to be expected of a reasonably secure preteen kid? Whatever, I lean toward thinking his reaction was very mature and appropriate for my upbringing. I certainly respected him and wanted to please him but had no fear if I failed to do so.

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