Monday, January 15, 2018
Peacocks, owls, and ants
Several years ago our son and his wife lived next door to a family who owned peacocks. They were lovely and colorful and fun. Until nightfall. That's when they would make these loud, scary calls. It didn't help that the house was a rental with poor lighting outside. Or that the peacocks had full run of the entire area. They were allowed to stop traffic, visit neighbors, ride on the backs of four-legged animals if they wished.
Oh, and the yard. Not a "yard" so much as a former field that had been converted into a pecan orchard, that had been converted to a place. There were holes from crumbling railroad ties, dips that held ATVs hostage, and mounds of....well, wait for it. Walking to or from the house was an obstacle course that often caused your body to suddenly twist into a convoluted pretzel.
At precisely the right time, an owl would hoot in those creepy sounds that big owls make. You know that sound: low and deep and breathy. The ones that echo off the pecan trees. Those ones.
Sometimes you stepped on a soft mound of freshly ground dirt. To which your response had better be high stepping at a fast clip before something below smelled your flesh.
Red fire ants in Louisiana tromp up your foot at the same time, like a troop of Roman soldiers, they search out their field of attack under socks and pants, so when the officers yell "charge," they take one synchronized chomp. There is no pain like the burning pain of Southern fire ants, but Louisianans are bound to secrecy so as not to discourage tourism. I can say no more.
Inevitably there would be a hole waiting for the step immediately following the drop into the ant hill. It worked in the order of sinking ant hill, high step, high step, hole, drop. "Hoo hoo hoot." And an onslaught of slapping at your ankles until the realization that you're the one flaying around.
Of course, during this attempt to remove the monsters eating you alive, your legs were still working. Once in motion, they just went. Nothing in your brain signaled them to stop because everything in your brain is working at the ants. Once a body is in motion, the body stays in motion, remember? The problem is that your body forgot the laws of motion while traveling at 3.1415 miles per hour. Something had to give.
The knees are the first to go, remember? One knee caught your body weight in a thud, while the other foot pawed the grass in an attempt to get ahead of the rest of you. That happens instinctively. But it never works. The only time instinct really did any good was much later. After you'd clawed your ankles, broken your knee (the good one) and had a slight heart attack. The good news is that a slight attack kept your heart pounding. Ah, you could race to the door on one bad knee and no ankles. Any door would do.
More likely than not the door would be locked, but still, it was a door. It's possible to jerk a locked door open if your heart is pounding hard enough to get adrenaline to your hands. You'd had that attack...there was adrenaline.
Of course, getting to the door required running on air. As in not touching the ground. You see, at night pecan tree roots rise out of the dirt in an interlaced course with the sole purpose of grabbing a toe. The roots were easy to evade: one need only raise the toe of each shoe just ever so much higher than normal. Everyone knows that tree roots are harmless under the foot. Feet are too big for roots. However, tree roots can grab toes; thus, the toes are in danger. But if you run fast enough, you can hover above the roots and get to the safety of any door.
Or you could be a big brave person, puff out your chest, and let your husband go to the car to turn on the lights.