Tag Archives: accident

Bird Conservation: Now with Betrayal, Wrath and Forgiveness.

If your going to know me at all one thing you must be made aware of is my love for animals.  My whole life I’ve had pets, and without a doubt some of my best friends have been of the K9 variety.  I was lucky enough to have parents that allowed my sister and I to embrace our passion for animals.  At various times we had dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, a real pig, horses, fish, tadpoles, a newt, and we rescued orphaned lambs multiple times.  I learned so much from my experiences with those creatures.  I remember each and every one and my heart aches to think of those that have passed, including the ones I will tell you about here.

The idea started due to a very interesting neighbor we had.  I remember him as a rugged, hippy, outdoorsman but I can’t be sure that’s accurate.  I was very young.  I can tell you for sure that he had a possum in a live trap at one point and that creepy looking thing made me pretty nervous when it started hissing.  I can also tell you that he had a dog  and I remember it playing with me in the snow a few times.  And I can tell you that he hatched and raised pheasants which he released into the wild in an effort to  increase the population of the birds.  There was a chicken wire pen built behind his home and I would often wander over to stare.  Over the months the pheasants would grow and begin trying to fly within their enclosure.  Eventually he would open the gate and shoo them into the field, thereby making the pen available to the next batch of birds.  It was all pretty fascinating to a kid.

A few years and a move later my mother came in to the living room with an unusual carton of eggs.  We were thrilled to hear that we were going to be raising our own batch of pheasants.  The eggs were placed in a white styrofoam incubator.  The incubator had a clear plastic window on top which allowed us to peer down inside.  The whole setup was wonderfully exciting.  We made sure that everything was just right for our unborn chicks.  Unfortunately after setting up there’s not much to do for almost a month.  Which in kid time is equivalent to forever.  But we kept at it, turning the eggs, keeping the temperature and humidity right.  In the basement we built a small pen with a feeder in the middle and straw on the floor.  We were as ready as we could be. 

This is one of my favorite memories of being a kid.  I was looking down at the eggs one day, through the little window, when something shot across my field of vision.  I yelped and hopped back, and then, pulling myself together, leaned forward once again for a better look.  There was a small yellow and black chick in there, running around on top of the eggs.  After a moments thought I decided to take it to its new home.  I slowly opened the top, reaching down and gently wrapping my fingers around the tiny ball of bones and fluff.  The incubator was in my parents room on the second floor and the pen was in the basement.  I went down the flights of stairs as carefully as I could, carrying the chick out in front of me.  As soon as I had it safely in its new home I turned on the heat lamp and tore back upstairs.  Sure enough two more chicks were running around in the incubator and I saw beaks poking through the shells of many other eggs.  I didn’t feel confident taking two at a time so I grabbed one and ran for it.  By the time it was deposited and I was back upstairs I was breathing hard, but there was no time to rest.  One after another the newly hatched pheasants were transported.  Eventually there was just a couple of chicks left stuck halfway out of their eggs.  I wasn’t supposed to help them, but I did.  I couldn’t bear to watch them struggle.  After those guys made it to the pen I stared at the remaining eggs for a while.  They didn’t seem to be doing anything and eventually I left.  At first I would check back frequently, and then not so frequently.  They never did hatch.  I guess they were duds.  I wasn’t too choked up about it, I had a whole pen full of chicks to stare at. 

Over the next few weeks the chicks grew rapidly.  It wasnt long before signs of feathers popped up on their little bodies.  We got to work on their flight pen, where they would grow to adulthood.  This was just a tall chicken wire pen out near the barn, big enough for them to spread out and move around as they grew.  The day of the transfer came quickly and the whole family was excited to get our pheasants into their final residence.  We’d worked hard on building it and it was perfect for their needs. 

We carted the birds out and sat watching them for a bit.  Things weren’t going as smoothly as we would have liked.  Instead of exploring their new situation they were just freaking out and throwing themselves at the fence.  They didn’t seem to understand that there was a barrier there.  It wasn’t hurting them and we weren’t too worried.  We figured it would take them a while to settle in.  What we didn’t figure on was our dogs. 

We were the owners of two wonderful dogs.  An older Cocker Spaniel (Mr. Snugs), and a young Golden Retriever (Alexander Casapalus Gold: Alex).  Unfortunately these are bird dogs.  I don’t know how to put it except to say that when they were let outside they went nuts.  I watched my two sweet dogs turn into blood-thirsty monsters in an instant.  They came charging up to the pen, jaws slavering.  I saw a pheasant stick its head through the fence only to have my beloved, gentle Alex bite it and pull it off.  We were all screaming.  The dogs had no interest in listening to us.  We tried to get in their way but they just ran around us.  When we’d go after one the other would race in.  Instead of staying in the center of the pen, out of the reach of the dogs, the frightened birds threw themselves against the fence in an effort to escape.  My mother realized it was hopeless and screamed at my sister and I to get inside, where our fragile little minds wouldn’t be maimed by the sight of our chicks being ripped to pieces. 

Some time later my parents stumbled in.  They had managed to get the dogs in the kennel finally.  My mother explained to me that it was in the dogs nature to do what they did, and that they weren’t bad.  She told me the birds that died had died so quickly that there was no pain.  Moms are great for that kind of stuff; making the most horrible experiences tolerable.  I had not forgiven my dogs though and I planned to teach them a lesson.

 I went out to the barn in a rage.  I came out with a horse crop and stomped towards the kennel.  I didn’t care if they were bird dogs, they would learn to listen when I said “stop”.  They had the nerve to leap about and wag their tails as I approached.  I slapped the crop against the gate as hard as I could and they jumped back, realizing that I wasn’t here for games.  I opened the gate and entered, closing it behind me.  I slapped the crop on the wooden floor. “You killed them!”, I screamed. “Why would you do that! Your bad dogs! I hate you both!”  I raised my weapon.  They wagged their tails timidly.  I looked at Alex and he grinned his gorgeous Golden grin.  There was no evil there.  I dropped to my knees and hugged him tight against me, crying into his soft coat, shamed by what I had almost done. 

We managed to release nine pheasants into the wild.  They didn’t want to leave and I spent the day chasing them off the property.  It was good to see them go.  They turned out to be nasty, dirty things.  We decided we weren’t bird people.  It was a great learning experience though.  Besides witnessing the life cycle of the pheasant I now knew that dogs were not people, and in fact what separated us from animals was our ability to deny our basic urges and control our behavior.  I was able to come to terms with the idea that an animal can not be evil.  Only humans, with our ability to decifer right from wrong, can achieve that.


I struggle…

I have another pizza delivery story.  Evidently pizza delivery is fertile ground when it comes to memorable moments in my life.  Who would have thought?  I guess when you get a bunch hungover twenty-somethings together and pay them minimum wage to create and deliver food hilarity ensues.  Well it’s funny to me, so whatever.  Prepare for a brief glimpse into the mind of an idiot.

I had to deliver an order to a trailer park.  The same trailer park I had delivered to hundreds of times before.  People in trailer parks really seem to like pizza.  Is it ok to call them trailer parks?  Trailer community maybe?  I pulled into the trailer community and began trying to figure out which lot was which.  If you’ve ever done this, you know.  It sucks.  You pull in and the first trailer you see is 249 and your like, “Ok, so 248, 247, wait… 109.  What the hell? Ok, so here’s 109 and I need 17… so if I go this way its going down.  Wait, the other side of the street is going up.  Um, that’s the 300’s  soooo.  What the hell is going on!?  Are you serious!?  Who organized this place?  How dare you!?”  I apologize.  Evidently I’m still a little angry.  I’ve lost hours of my life in places like that. 

So after passing the trailer three times I finally located it and rather than go around the block again I stopped, and figured I’d walk back to it, maybe four trailers behind me.  Ugh.  This is embarrassing.  I jumped out of my car, grabbed the warmer-bag, and slammed the door behind me.  I started walking but glanced at the ticket and saw that they had ordered a 2-liter.  A quick glance into my window showed no sign of a Coke, so I put the warmer-bag, containing two large pizzas and a cheese bread, onto the top of my car so I could dig around under my seat.  It took a moment of pawing through months worth of trash to come to the conclusion that I had not brought the drink.  Not to worry however, there was a gas station right at the entrance to the trailer park, excuse me, trailer community.  In an effort to salvage my tip I hopped into the car, which was still running, and took off.  At that moment I glanced in my rear view mirror just in time to see the door to the trailer open and a guy step onto the porch, cash in hand.  Evidently he had noticed me as I passed his home repeatedly with my delivery sign shining in the darkness. 

So I’d been spotted.  I bet you think I went back and apologized, explained my error, and returned in a few minutes with his drink.  Nope, I floored it.  I panicked I guess.  It was a gut response.  I don’t know.  But I did, and as I navigated the twists and turns of the neighborhood I tried to think of how I was going to explain my actions to the customer.  If you’ve read previous posts you’ll know that it was time for a conversation with myself, and yes I do say these out loud.  Well I kind of mumble. 

 “Ok man, nice.  You just take off, you’re so stupid.  The guys probably calling the store right now.”

“It’ll be fine.  I’ll just say I didn’t see him.  I’ll have to explain about forgetting his Coke, but he’ll be ok.”

“If he called the guys at the store are going to be giving you shit for weeks.”

“Yep. Oh well.  What am I gonna do about that now?  It’s done.”

“You’re a moron.”

At about this time I was pulling out of the neighborhood and onto the highway.  As I accelerated up to fifty-five I heard a strange noise from my roof.  I glanced in my mirror just in time to see my warmer bag, stuffed with pizza boxes, go flipping down the road.  Cars swerved to avoid being struck. Yep.  That’s right.  I had left the pizza on the roof.

So a rational human would stop and get the bag, go back to the store, explain the series of events that lead to this unfortunate happening and get his night back on track, but I’m just not that guy.  I kept driving.  My mind was racing as I tried to figure out an excuse, or better yet a believable lie, to explain what had happened.  But there was no way to fix this.  The voices in my head went silent.  It was pretty much just white noise.  And I just kept driving. 

Eventually I pulled into the parking lot of my restaurant and parked.  It was time to make a decision.  I was pretty well screwed.  I kept thinking about that guy seeing me drive past his window over and over, and then seeing me get out and put the pizza on the car only to jump in and take off with his dinner still up there.  Finally I narrowed my options down to going back for my pizza-bag, or committing suicide.  It was a toss-up for a minute but I decided to go back. 

A few minutes later I rounded a bend in the road, holding my breath. I expected to see the bag shredded on the shoulder, cheese and sauce smeared obscenely on the concrete like some kind of delicious breed of animal hit by a semi.  But there was nothing.  No sign that anything had happened.  I wondered if I was going crazy.  Had I completely lost it?  I wonder things like this sometimes.  I fully believe that my mind has the potential to completely come unraveled some day.  Hopefully not.  But what had happened to my warmer bag?  There was nothing to do but head back to the store. 

I walked in the back door with no excuses.  I’d decided to just tell the truth and try to laugh about it.  Sometimes that is all you can do.  I figured I’d have to pay for the bag at least, and I might be fired.  I was greeted by my missing bag sitting on a prep table.  It still contained the pizza boxes and had held up pretty well.  Just some scrapes.  Evidently one of the cars behind me had stopped and brought it back to us.  How lucky for me that so many people had been witness to my bumbling that evening.  I had some explaining to do.

I told everyone what had happened.  It wasn’t easy.  “Well I’ve been gone so long because I forgot a drink, ran from a customer, drove around with pizzas on my car before dropping them in the road… and then I kind of just drove around for awhile.”  There was a variety of reactions.  My least favorite of which was a look of disdain.  A look that says, “Is there something wrong with you?” But mostly people laughed.  My only real punishment was having to re-deliver the food.  So the customer that witnessed me embarrassing myself earlier got a chance to meet me in person.  He didn’t ask me any questions.  His friends just gathered around the door to get a look at me.  I stared at my shoes and prayed for our interaction to end.  Believe it or not he gave me a small tip.  I think he pitied me.  I obviously wasn’t a smart man.


Why won’t you believe me!?

I’m willing to admit it.  Some of the reputation I carried as a young man was undeserved, either good or bad.  One learns while traversing the treacherous corridors of public schooling, and if one is wise it will become apparent that a reputation can be used to pave a way for yourself with minimal effort.  Being wise (arguably) I would fan any little flames I came across pertaining to myself.  For instance,  if someone said, “Hey I heard you beat some guy up outside the mall”, I would say “Yes, that was me,”  or even better, a mysterious, “Which time?”.  And so I became a tough guy without the bloodshed.  Unfortunately, like most things this seemed to work both ways, and while I reaped the rewards of lies and exaggerations the universe seemed to find ways to tarnish my character.

My sophomore year a friend of mine moved to my school.  We had met at catechism.  He loved mischief, I was thrilled to have him.  From this point on, for both the sake of awesomeness and anonymity I will refer to him as Snake-Eyes or SE. 

Around Christmas of that year I went to his house for our first ever sleep over.  That’s just good innocent fun.  Around 11pm another friend of ours called and asked us to swing by for some ice basketball.  Yep, that’s just basketball on a very icy court.  Its fun as long as you avoid a concussion or a shattered elbow.  Which we usually did.  Due to the fact that we doubted we would get permission to go it was decided not to tell anyone until we got back.  At that point we would fall back on the old, “Oh, we didn’t think you guys would care.” excuse.  Kids are devious.  Never forget that parents. 

We were only gone an hour.  We were walking back to SE’s house, which was only around the corner, when I heard a car coming up behind us.  I glanced back over my shoulder, noting that with the way the headlights were positioned it could be a police car.  I was hoping that we wouldn’t be stopped and questioned, which had happened before.  Evidently after midnight its common practice to stop teenagers who are wandering, even in the country. I heard the car begin to slow.  I figured this was going to happen so I stopped and began to turn.  Suddenly, I was struck by something on the side of my face.  The car sped off, the sounds of laughter trailing behind.  SE spun towards me.

“What the hell was that?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I think it was a water balloon,” I said.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m good. Just wet and freezing.”

“Those guys were dicks.”

“Screw those guys.”

“What’s that smell?” SE asked.

And it hit me.  There was a smell. 

“Did those guys piss in the balloon dude?” SE asked me nervously, brushing at his lightly wetted sleeve.

I sure hoped not. And I didn’t think so.  It seemed familiar.  But that wasn’t quite right.  Not piss…

“That was a beer,” I said.  I scuffed my feet around in a circle and sure enough kicked a dented can we hadn’t been able to see in the dark. “Ugh, I’m covered in beer.”  I took off my hat and shook droplets of beer out of hair.  They’d got me good.  My left side was drenched, my over-stuffed winter jacket quickly soaking up the liquid.  We ran the rest of the way back to his house.

We burst into the living room having completely forgotten we hadn’t been given permission to leave in the first place.  We were greeted by his parents on the couch, looking grim.  We quickly started to explain how we had “just walked around the corner”, and looked to garner some sympathy by describing how I had been assaulted.  If anything this seemed to make them more angry.  We didn’t get it.  It wasn’t that late.  We had only been two-hundred yards away.  Why did they seem so upset? I was kind of expecting to be coddled a bit.  I had been attacked and I’d gotten wet, and it was very cold.  That can’t be good for a kid!  Didn’t they know I could catch my death? Not to mention the fact that  I had taken a blow to the head, and those are pretty dangerous.  They ordered me downstairs to change while they talked to Snake-Eyes.

When I came back upstairs things were getting pretty heated in the living room.  Evidently, in their opinion, teenaged boys sneaking out and coming home soaked in beer does not match up to our version of the nights events. But that’s what happened!  I was there!  I promise you!  Not only did they not want to hear it but the more we defended ourselves the angrier they got.  This was not the impression I wanted to leave on my friends parents.  As I tried to sleep that night I thought about how to redeem myself.

The next morning I was extra friendly.  Smiling till my face hurt, complimenting everything. It didn’t seem to be defrosting the parents whatsoever.  By the time I left I was glad to get out of such an inhospitable place and I was feeling badly for SE who was stuck living with those grumpy people.  Never before had I had any trouble with parents.  I was a favorite guest of several other families.  What could the problem be? Later I found out.

You see, his mother had the exact same first and last name as my mother.  That summer I had made a very stupid decision which had led to me getting busted stealing from the mall.  My court paperwork had arrived at SE’s house, not mine.  His mother opened and read about my court date.  This was after she had agreed to me spending the night, and it took a lot of work on his part to get me into the house.  I guess they decided to give me a second chance.  So, from their perspective, I was a thief who befriended their son and then after being allowed in the house got him to sneak out to some sort of drinking party that was so wild it left us completely covered in alcohol.  Then we burst in with some weak story about a drive by beer dowsing.  I was no longer welcome in their home.

As I’ve grown up I’ve become more than a little embarrassed by the way I conducted myself as a teenager.  I know we all make mistakes and it’s all ancient history but still, it makes me shudder to remember. I think it’s better to look at the humor and disregard the truly dark moments. And for those who thought I was evil, I never was. I understand why you thought so. But sometimes a fifteen year old covered in beer is innocent, and sometimes a bad kid is just a good kid covered in circumstance.

p.s. For those who are wondering.  Of course we asked them to smell our breath!  They weren’t having it.  Their minds were made up.  Not fair you say?  Tell me about it!


Nature Calling

 

Even as I pulled out of the parking lot I knew I was in trouble.  With three deliveries I would be on the road for about a half hour.  I doubted I had that much time.  The cramping in my gut told me I didn’t.  But I had a job to do, and these people needed hot pizza.  The bathroom would just have to wait.

I shot out onto the main street through town, weaving through the slower traffic.  Winter had long ago settled in and remnants of a recent snow still littered the streets.  My heater was cranked to full blast, my radio was pumping sports talk.  I passed my house and briefly considered running in, but with three deliveries in the car there was no way. I tightened my grip on the wheel, grit my teeth and tried to focus on the radio.

The first delivery took less than five minutes.  I pulled into the driveway under a steel grey sky and handed a nice looking family their dinner.  I was glad for a decent tip, but more glad to be standing upright.  My stomach was really hurting now and being bent in half with a seat-belt digging into my gut was not suiting me. 

As I headed out to my second house things were looking bad.  I started thinking about my options in an emergency type situation.  What businesses could I stop in?  Nothing was on the way.  I didn’t see asking a customer if I could use their bathroom as a possibility.  I couldn’t even imagine.  But when your faced with the alternative… I started considering the remote areas nearby.  Perhaps I could find a nice patch of woods?  It’s good enough for bears. 

The second delivery made it on time.  In my mind the people who received it said to each other, “Did that guy seem sick to you? Or was he just a jerk?”, “No there was something wrong with him, and he walked like he had a stick up his ass.”

I started towards the third stop.  I was almost done and had decided to tough it out.  I shot down country roads at over sixty miles per hour.  My body had progressed past the stage of discomfort and I had started to sweat and get emotional.  Every second seemed like an hour.  I started a conversation with myself which is a habit I have when things are getting bad.

“Oooh I’m not gonna make it.”

“Yes you will, you can do it, stop thinking about it!”

I tried all the tricks, bouncing, deep breathing, strategic flexing, and of course begging my body like it was some sort of third-party who was cruelly torturing me. “Why are you doing this! Please stop! If you just wait ten minutes I’ll give you anything you want!”  But my guts kept twisting, and the pressure in my abdomen was getting unbearable. 

I entered the upscale neighborhood like the cops were after me.  I kept one eye on the addresses and one eye on the road.  The last thing I needed was an accident.  “Yes officer, I saw everything, he was bouncing up and down and panting like a dog.  He was sweating horribly and having a conversation with himself.  I don’t know what he was on but something was wrong, that’s for sure.”

Finally I saw it.  A large beautiful home up on a hill.  I whipped into the driveway, slammed on the breaks and threw it in park.  In one motion I opened the door and leapt out, pizza bag in hand.  Believe it or not things took a turn for the worse.  I had parked on a steep incline which also happened to be covered in ice.  My feet shot backwards and I had to grab onto my driver’s side door to keep from falling and sliding all the way to the bottom of the driveway.  Now I found myself hanging from my door, feet scrambling ineffectively on the ice.  My efforts didn’t help me get myself upright but instead served to dislodge my car from its precarious position and start it sliding backwards and turning sideways.  Now I was actually in danger of my car sliding over top of me if I fell.  Lucky my buttocks were squeezed so tight. I think it gave me the power I needed to launch myself back into the car, where it only took a minute to get my myself upright and into the seat.  Somehow I had managed to hold onto my keys. 

I pulled out of the driveway, and then back in.  This time I made sure to pull all the way up to where the driveway became horizontal.  I approached the front door trembling with embarrassment and pain.  My face was shiny with sweat.  I prayed that they hadn’t seen my little show out front.  I got lucky.  I had to ring the bell to get someone.  At least something went right, but I don’t want to think about the state of that pizza by the time they got the box open.

My little adventure on the ice is actually what saved me.  For a brief second I gave my body a flash of danger and it’s adrenaline fueled response seemed to shut down my less important waste disposal system.  At least I made it back to the store.  Plus it really seemed to make my coworkers day when I blew through the back door and sprinted to the bathroom.  Their laughing was only further fueled by my impromptu biological symphony.  Luckily we were all close friends.  But let’s be honest, I could have done without it.


man smote during playoff/carwash mishap

In 1990 the Pistons played the Bulls in my driveway most days of the week.  Weather permitting of course.  Countless battles were waged between those titans.  Every game was close.  Every game was decided by a last second shot.  Every position was played by a small, red-headed white boy.

These games might seem silly to an adult reading this today but to me they were pretty serious.  Putting on the perfect game day after day was no easy task.  Each was carefully constructed, with thought put into highlighting my favorite players.  Heroics had to be displayed by each, while players who had recently displeased me had horrible nights and were jeered by the fans.  I also did the announcing and filled the ears of millions of imaginary listeners with such memorable phrases as, “This might be… the most bravest performance… by any team… ever.”  I was a dramatic kid.

One spring day I went out to the driveway with my basketball and found my dad washing and waxing his truck.  This left me maybe six feet to work with between the hoop and the truck. The show must go on.  Unfortunately there was going to be a lot less three-pointers.

Things started steadily.  Both teams were going inside more than usual leading to Laimbeer and Cartwright having better games than normal.  Because dunking was out of the question things were kind of boring, and it wasn’t long before I started mixing in some jumpers to spice things up.  I had to get Jordan and Isiah involved somehow, they were my favorites after all.  It didn’t take long before a poor bounce sent the ball off the door of the truck.  I snatched it up as fast as I could and tried to ignore the murderous glare tossed my way by my dad.  Maybe he should have kept his truck off the Palace’s free-throw line.  The game continued, once again compromised of lay ups and hook shots.

It wasn’t long before the day cooled and I tired of this confined version of my usual game.  I was going to have to tie my storyline up.  The way things had come together I needed Dumars to hit a three while getting fouled and then make the free-throw.  A four point play for the win.  Suitably dramatic I think.  I ran to the far edge of the driveway, jumped into the air, and chucked up my desperation three.  The ball bricked badly off the back of the rim and pounded into the side of the truck, disturbingly close to where my dad was waxing.  I’d gone too far.

He grabbed the ball. I froze guiltily.  I tried to say something about being sorry and it being an accident.  The words came out in a whispered jumble… meaningless. He lifted the ball in one hand and then pounded it off the pavement as hard as he could. The ball shot into the air as if from a cannon. He turned towards me, preparing to unleash his fury.  Fate intervened.  Whether it was chance, a stray gust of wind, or the hand of our lord we’ll never know.  The ball came to a halt for a split second before gravity took over and dropped it onto the slant of the garage roof.  The garage roof bounced it up and out, back towards the driveway.  I saw it all in slow motion.  My eyes locked on the ball.  My fathers eyes locked on me, an arm extended, pointing.  His mouth was opening in preparation to chew my ass.  The ball dropped towards the truck.  My hands rose to my face as if to cover my eyes or mouth.  I cringed like a beaten dog.  The ball struck the windshield of the truck and then shot like a bullet straight at my fathers face.  The sound of rubber striking flesh filled the air.

I saw confusion on his face.  I saw rage.  I saw embarrassment.  And that’s all I saw because I ran for it.  I’d decided I wanted to be in the barn on the other side of the property.  He didn’t stop me.  We didn’t speak of it later.  No one on the planet witnessed it but him and I.  But I know it was a miracle.  And I like to think, that this one time, God reached out and said, “It was an accident.  Leave the boy alone.”  Sorry dad.