I was looking through some files on an old computer and found this. This was one of the first short stories I ever wrote from back when I was submitting to magazines. This one never got picked up but shortly after writing this one I had my first published work with a nostalgia piece about my grandfather. May post it later. I have not even proofed this and I wrote it a good ten years ago so don’t judge too harshly.
I was watching my 9 year old pretend with his friends the other day. They were using some type of trading cards to do what they called “battling”. The card I looked at had a picture of something that looked like a cross between a platypus and an aardvark on it. The battle as it were consisted of throwing your card on top of the other guys card and making up some arbitrary reason why your platyvark, or whatever they called them, was tougher. Sheesh! Whatever happened to good old fashioned pretending. Whatever happened to cowboys and indians. If my son could only have grown up when I did. I could have shown him what real fun was. Return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear…
The year was 1967 and I was four years old.
We lived on a small farm at the time. It was approximately 60 acres and included a large barn with attached horse stables. My father, a banker by profession, is a frustrated cowboy. So we rented the farm and, for a fee, allowed people that owned horses, but no land, to board their animals there.
Actually, it was a delightful place to spend one’s childhood days. There were no other children nearby but that suited me fine, as I was a bit of a loner anyway. My primary companion was the lady that came every day to baby sit while Mama was at work in Atlanta. The faithful family German shepherd Rowdy also guarded me almost constantly. And there was my trusty horse, Commanchee.
Commanchee stood about 14 hands high. He was solid black with a long flowing mane and tail. A simple whistle was all it took for him to be standing by my side, ready to take me anywhere I wanted to go at blazing speed. His saddle, which I never saw him without, was gleaming black tooled leather except for the seat, which was red. He was loyal to a fault and as fast as lightning. He was a spirited beast however, and tended to prance around or side step whenever I was climbing into the saddle. Lesser cowboys likely could never have gotten aboard. He would also rear on his hind legs whenever I put the spurs to him. Because of that he was not safe to be ridden by younger children or yucky ol’ girls with cooties. In reality Commanchee was a tomato stake with a hay string tied about 4 inches from the end to serve as a bridle. He was sort of a workingmans stick horse. But I describe him here as only I could see him.
Most of my days on the farm revolved around keeping the pesky tribe of Indian warriors that lived in the woods behind the house at bay. My family to this day has no idea of the number of times I saved their scalps. For Christmas Santa had brought me the finest looking six shooter and Winchester set you ever saw. I’ll never forget the big picture of Hoss Cartwright and his brothers that was on the box as it sat under the tree. Both guns had real wood butts and stocks. The holster was genuine imitation leather and the gun belt had a steer head on the buckle. Draped over one side of my gun belt, when I didn’t have them on, were my leather-like cowboy gloves. They came way up my forearm like the calvary gloves on John Wayne movies. Only mine had leather-like fringe down the outside edge and an Indian sitting on his pony stamped onto the cuffs.
I was astride Commanchee one day, when it came upon me to strike out farther west. I would journey all the way to the far western end of the spread. I had never been that far from the house before but I felt the need to see new country. I had strong suspicions that an outlaw hide out could be found somewhere on that end. So off we went one sunny morning, just Rowdy, Commanchee and me. After a long tiring 20 minute ride, I dismounted to rest and eat a cookie I had brought along for sustenance. We were in the woods and as I sat on a stump pushing Rowdy away with one hand, I was beginning to understand how Hansel must have felt when he and Gretel looked back and didn’t see any bread crumbs. I couldn’t see the house or barn anymore, or even hear the horses. In fact these woods were a little spooky. Lots of other kids would probably have been a little uneasy right about now. Not me of course. I had a six shooter with real wood grips and it wasn’t nothin for me to take on a whole Indian war party or a bunch of rustlers. So naturally, I wasn’t a bit scared. About the time I had myself convinced of this, I saw the cabin.
Through the woods I could just make out the outline of a dilapidated old cabin. A part of me wanted to get back on Commanchee and ride out of there. But I had come to run off those rustlers and for all I knew this could be their hideout right in front of me. I left Commanchee tied to a tree and eased closer to the door of the cabin
After what seemed an eternity I was standing in the door. My six-shooter was drawn. The light in the old shack was dim. As my eyes adjusted I could see the place was filthy. There was not much inside save a small table, an old rusty lantern, and some shelves. The rock fireplace was blackened from many fires but there were spider webs in it now. There was one thing in the shack that stood out. And when I saw it I knew this was no rustlers hide out.
The whole place was full of milk jugs. Plain old plastic one-gallon milk jugs. There were jugs on the table, jugs on the shelves, even jugs on the dirt floor.I stepped outside to take a look around. Right next to the shack there was something that looked like a giant weed growing up between the chimney and the outer wall. In my four year old mind I pieced the clues toghether. The culprit was obvious to me, a giant had invaded our property! He had climbed down the beanstalk by the chimney, probably cut the top off the stalk on the way down, and moved into this shack..
It was as plain as the nose on your face. I had read a book recently on a giant at the top of a beanstalk so I knew a thing or two about these ruthless characters. First of all, they were notorious gluttons. This one apparently had a thing for milk and the brute had been swilling it by the gallon jug. As if further evidence was needed, EVERYONE knows that in addition to their gluttony, giants as a rule are dreadful slobs. That’s why the jugs were lying around everywhere. Something had to be done. There was not room around here for my family and a milk guzzling giant, that was for sure.
Even with my abilities with a six-shooter and my superior fighting skills I realized I could not handle this on my own. To battle a giant you would have to know his weaknesses. And even I didn’t know that much about giants. No, this would take someone with even more knowledge of the cold cruel world than me. For this kind of counsel I would have to go straight to the top. I needed to talk to my sister, Missy.
My sister was a yucky ol’ girl with cooties but I had to give her credit. She did have wisdom. I would venture to say that there was virtually nothing Missy didn’t know. After all she was 6 years old and a highly decorated member of the Cedar Grove first grade class. But aside from book knowledge, Missy just had an innate sense about how things worked. Proof of that fact was that she never failed to answer any question I had on any subject. In fact, there were questions she answered that I didn’t even know to ask.
For example it was Missy that told me why I had a pointed head. The conversation went something like this:
Missy: “I suppose you know why you have a pointed head and everyone else in the world has a round head.”
Me: “No! Why DO I have a pointed head?” (Understand that until this very moment I didn’t realize I had a pointed head. Therefore I certainly hadn’t taken time to contemplate the why. But I began to feel around the top of my head upon hearing this and it was obviously true. Thank goodness Missy had brought this up when she did lest I stumble through life for several more years not knowing what a horribly disfigured freak I was. Now at least I could make an attempt to hide it with a different haircut or something)
Missy: “Well when a baby is born, it’s head is still soft, so when it climbs out of it’s mothers belly button it’s head gets all pointy. Then the nurse is supposed to rub the baby’s head with vaseline real fast till its head is perfectly round… like mine. When you were born the nurse forgot to do that so that’s why your head is not round like most normal people.”
I have no recollection of being the least bit sad over this news. On the contrary, I simply prepared myself to press on through life the way I was. At least now I knew.
Given this kind of track record there was no doubt in my mind to whom I must turn for help with this whole giant issue. I gathered my stuff, hopped on Commanchee and headed for home. Missy would be walking home from the bus stop soon and I didn’t want to waste any time.
When Missy arrived home that afternoon, I was waiting on the front steps. I blurted out my discovery all in one continuous sentence. When I had finished Missy smiled knowingly. She put her arm around me and walked me into the house.
“You silly goose,” she said affectionately. “There are no such thing as giants.”
“But Missy! “ I implored, “I saw his house, I saw his milk jugs, you gotta come see!”
“Tell you what. After my snack I will go down there with you and prove to you that there is no giant.”
In no time at all, we were standing in the giant’s front yard. Missy was positively unflappable. Her courage in the face of our mutual, inevitable death via stew pot was an absolute inspiration.
“See silly,” she commented as she walked freely around the giant’s cabin. “There is nothing here. Just an old shack.” Missy entered the dark cabin so that she could prove her point further . “See Chris” she continued her lecture “ this is noting more than a dusty old…THERE HE IS CHRIS…RUN…RUN…RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!!” With this she took off for home leaving me in a cloud of dust. I screamed to the top of my lungs and ran after her.
My sister was infinitely faster than I was, a fact which she was perfectly aware of and used at every opportunity to her fullest advantage. She used it now. She was a good 20 yards ahead of me and could have gained further advantage were it not for the fact that she would occasionally turn around and run backwards.
I, on the other hand, was busy churning my chubby little cowboy boot clad legs as hard as they would go. For some reason I felt as though I were running in molasses. I could feel the giant’s hot milk breath on the back of my neck. He was that close. Several times I was overcome by the urge to turn around, to at least see my attackers hideous face before he gobbled me up alive. Missy apparently sensing this urge and not wanting to end my terror prematurely would then scream “NO!! DON’T TURN AROUND HE’S RIGHT BEHIND YOU…JUST RUN!! RUN!!”
Upon hearing this I would scream again. These were not macho cowboy type screams. These were “Lord help me I am pee peeing in my pants” screams. “The Duke” would have been appalled. After Missy’s second warning for me to “run for my life,” I felt the situation was so grave that good ol’ Commanchee would have to be sacrificed. I let go the reins and heard him clank to the hard Georgia clay. Perhaps the giant would stop long enough to eat him first and give me time to make it home. At the very least, perhaps he would trip over Commanchee’s dead carcass. Shortly after that things got even uglier as I began to shed equipment in an attempt to gain speed. I even threw my six shooter with real wood grips backward over my head in an attempt to bonk the brute on the noggin.
Finally, I could see home. Missy was waiting for me with the door open. “Thank God for you,” I must have thought. But suddenly I noticed something. Missy didn’t look very frightened for someone watching a giant chase her brother. In fact she looked pretty amused. At the same moment I was pondering this, I made it to the steps. Missy then slammed the door in my face and I heard the dead bolt turn. Curses! I was doomed I should have known I couldn’t trust her. I did the only thing left to me. I dropped to the porch floor and drew up into a ball to await my fate.
But nothing happened. And then I heard Missy laughing. She was enjoying a good old-fashioned belly laugh. It was all clear to me. There really was no giant. My dear big sister had set me up from the time she got off the school bus. But that didn’t matter. I was never scarred anyway. I was a cowboy after all. And just as soon as my momma got home I was gonna walk right back down that road with her and find Commanchee and my six-shooter.