Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: PHOTOS and/or SOUVENIR(S) (vacation) (07/16/15)
TITLE: The Bird
By Jack Taylor
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It stares at me every minute I sit at my desk. It’s staring at me now.
Once upon a time it sat as part of a pair on the proud crown of an Ankoli bull in Uganda. The bull used to trot daily back and forth along dusty red village streets leading a hundred or more of his kind.
Cyclists and motorcyclists would move out of the way, cars and trucks would be stopped in their tracks, pedestrians would run for the embankments.
The brown and black river of bovine flesh pounded back and forth from pasture to pasture and the bull shook his horns at anything that dared stand too long in his path. Once a scrawny village mutt stood barking too long and he was pierced and left lifeless under the skull cracking power of iron hard hoofs.
The eight year old boy who loved that mutt watched the haughty bull pass by his school yard day after day. He took ten strokes of a cane from his teacher because he was caught dreaming when he was supposed to be copying his mathematics figures. While showing the welts to his classmates he shared his dream of taking down the bull. The dream began to grow and so did his followers.
On a moonlit December night, while hard working parents and drunkards of all forms were fast asleep, a river of small humanity emerged from the huts carrying small shovels and machetes. Eleven boys successfully escaped their guardians to conspire and perspire. The plan had been made clear. A trench was carefully dug across the road, four feet deep.
The moon rose to its zenith and was half way down its slide to the horizon when the eight year old master planner stepped out of the trench and waved his approval. Eleven exhausted boys stood at the lip looking into the dark void below.
The leader waved his arms and the group dispersed into the shadows of a banana field. Minutes later they were back wrestling their load of large leaves. Again and again they waded into the fields stripping off their treasures, returning to straddle the gap in the road with the leaves. As they finished their endeavor a few of the boys carefully sprinkled red dirt over the leaves as a camouflage.
As the sunrise fought the moonlight for control of the skies two boys stayed behind while the others vanished into the shadowy doorways of their homes. The two boys acted as sentries for early pedestrians and cyclists and waved off motorists with a crude sign saying “R-O-D-E W-E-R-K”.
The bull appeared right on time with his herd right behind him. The eight year old and his companion stood in the middle of the road, refusing to move. The bull approached the disturbed patch of ground with caution eyeing the boys screaming at him from the other side. He thrashed his great horns back and forth in warning but the boys failed to give him heed.
The bull bawled in anger at the mocking little humans who challenged him. Finally, he lowered his great head and charged. The banana leaves gave way under his weight just like the boys planned. Ten other cows fell into the trap before the front runners turned aside and saved themselves. The great bull thrashed in pain at the bottom of the pit. His great horns rose above the top of the grave designed for him. Two broken legs forced him to sink back to the bottom and to call out as other wounded cows fought to clear his swinging horns.
The villagers soon emerged and saw the problem. The butcher was called and eleven villagers were paid for the cows they didn’t plan to give up. One of the boys yielded to pressure and gave up the ring leader. The scars of the discipline still last and so do the horns of that bull.
A curio maker took the horns, carved them and twisted them into the shape of a bird. The very tip of the horn was twisted into the head of a bird looking over its shoulder. Along the base of the bird are slots where cow-horn coasters are inserted.
Thirty years later that cow horn bird still sits on my desk looking at me in accusation. On moonlit nights I sometimes still pull up my shirt and look at the scars on my back. And I smile. I was that eight year old boy.
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