And now, Chicken Hawk Down, Part III: Just to make sure we’re all still on the same page, we’re all following what’s happened so far:
Mom’s driving at warp speed (or twenty, it’s kind of hard to tell with it being bumpy as hell), and Grandpa just hollered up some new directions to her i a language I don’t know. So, we’re rolling along at a mighty good clip, and I’ve finally spotted what Grandpa’s so all-fired excited about. It’s barely a speck in the sky, and despite us now it trailing it at bone-rattling speeds in an old truck across cattle, that speck in the sky seems to be leaving us behind. Last but not least, Grandpa had me move from near the tailgate, where moments ago I was pitching hay to cows, to right beside him near the cab, which I hope will rather quickly be explained.
And, hindsight being all sharp lines and such, I must say this: What’s about to take place is illegal as hell. Chasing some critter down from a moving vehicle is at very least discouraged by any game warden I ever met, and I know there are laws against randomly killing birds of prey, no matter how of your chickens they might claim. But considering I’m not yet seven and any adult mentioned here is long gone already, I hope you’ll forgive any misdeed described herein.
Chalk it up to me coming by my outlaw honest and early on, and executed with a certain degree of finesse that you just have to admire. I did, anyway. In addition to helping me man up my vocabulary, Grandpa also exceled at breaking a few rules with flair.
Most everything he owned had a story tied to it, so I’ve got to tell you about the firearm he’s holding—the old Ferncamp gun, I always heard it called—it lived in the back of his truck on that gun rack in the window. The stock and fore looked as though they’d been dipped it in seawater and left to dry in August sun, its metal nicked and dinged, like a hammer left to rust behind the house that got built. Ferncamp was the name of one of Grandpa’s employers, before I was even born. He ran a feedmill, I think it was, right on the edge of Niggertown. Hardly the name any proper burg that I knew of, but even my six-year-old eyes could tell where that particular label started and ended in my town. It had nothing to do with who lived there and everything to do how it was kept. Grandpa lost part of finger working that mill. I hear he finished out his career with ol’ Ferncamp driving this old flatbed truck, delivering feedstuffs from Hallettsville down one winding steep hill to La Grange, way back when. For some reason, Old Man Ferncamp (I never knew him by another name other than Mister, when Mom talked about him) took a shine to my Grandpa. Not hard to imagine, to me at least. I was certain he was responsible for lighting the heavens each night, just so he could tell me about constellations.
Old Man Ferncamp gave that gun to my Grandpa one day, I had heard. It may not have looked like much, but in Grandpa’s hand it was lethal weapon. He’d never been a soldier or anything. Army said he had flat feet or some such, so he never joined his brothers to fight the Germans or the Japanese. A couple made it back, but forever after were the type of dudes most folks would call assholes, not those fun-loving boys Grandpa grew up with and would tell me about late at night as he pointed out stars.
So why Old Man Ferncamp would do something like give a gun to employee who chopped off part of his hand because of his crappy safety procedures, I’ve never figured out. But he did, and despite its outward appearances, that gun was one of Grandpa’s most prized possessions. Watching him cradle it in his arms now, you’d swear it’s encrusted in diamonds.
I’m catching serious air in the back of that truck at this point. It would probably be much easier to see whatever he was aiming at if I could just stay still long enough.
Only Grandpa knows this, for now, but that new route he sent Mom to? Do the words blind ravine mean anything to you? Yeah, he knew. The new route Grandpa sent Mom on is going to bisect a blind ravine. Where the hell’s our Dixie Horn when we need one?
All I can say is this: You know when sometimes things get truly bizarre, how time will seem to slow-motion on you? A bit like Neo in the Matrix. Well, that’s exactly what happened! Well, maybe not exactly, exactly… Nobody stopped any bullets. We didn’t save the world as we knew it. Maybe a chicken or two. But everything else was pretty much the same.
Grandpa kinda hunkered down when Mom topped that ravine, I remember looking back at him over my shoulder. About that time, however, he launches straight up—like super-power up because he didn’t hardly move—I’m looking back at him, and all at once, the bed of that truck shot me straight up, too. Unlike him, who’s moving around and stuff, I just kinda hang there. I’m still looking at Grandpa, mind you, he almost looks like he’s in sniper pose, prone, flat on his belly, but as best I can tell, he’s straight up and down. He takes a breath, blows it out, and pulls the trigger – I don’t hear it, of course, just see the white puff of smoke; there’s way too much else already going on right then for every sense of mine to be working perfectly—and I’ll be damn if he doesn’t start to float back down. He lands where I’d been standing a few seconds before, there by the tailgate. I feel gravity return to me too, so I start coming down. Grandpa kicks apart the hay bale and reaches up and grabs me out of the air like nothing, sets me down in the bed.
Mom slows it down fast, pushes me and grandpa toward the cab. Her eyelids were so open its amazing the ball part didn’t roll right out. Before she can say a word, there’s all sorts of noise, limbs cracking and popping, followed by a solid sounding thud. Something heavy hit hard. Grandpa is back to Duke Boy, leaping over the side. Mom’s spun all the way around. I’m sure from her perspective that thud probably sounded right on top of her. I climb out of the back and run to catch up to Grandpa.
He pokes it a couple times, then bends down and scoops it up. It’s much bigger, close up. Not just some little speck, that’s for sure.
But I’d just seen Grandpa do something no one would ever think possible, much less believable. He had just flown way in the sky and fired one shell, right in the breast with one shot, just like Cupid if he ever ditched his bow and arrow and started using the ratty looking twenty-two. Grandpa knocked it out of the sky while floating above the earth like that’s where he was meant to be. He soared in places where angels and demons live, way up in the great beyond, and returned to our patch of earth, completely unfazed.
No wonder I shadowed the man like I did, back when. I’ve never know anyone like him, before or hence…
“Chicken Hawk Down,” is one of 21 stories you’ll find in my newest work
Long Gone & Lost
© 2018 by Bobby Horecka, An Outlaw Authorz Publication
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