Posted by: 1of10boyz | April 21, 2015

The Story of a Rock

I wanted to share another story from my youth. This one has almost become mythical because of the sheer improbability of it really happening. I promise it really happened and it was really spectacular. As with any truly spectacular story I have to provide some background. As with my Cowboy and Indian story I told earlier I have used input from the others in attendance, my brothers and the other participants, my parents.

This story takes place in the late summer or early fall of 1979. I am 15 turning 16 in October, 2 was 14 turning 15 in December, 3 just turned 12. This story is about him.

My family has just lived through a challenging few months, my mother died the previous November and life hasn’t really been the same. Dad has just about persuaded a woman to undertake the seemingly impossible task of becoming an instant mother to 6 boys between 15 and 3. This house of 6 boys and a man have stumbled through life for almost a year and managed to survive with the help of grandmothers, aunts, sisters, and church friends. Now, it was no walk in the park for us or for them, but we managed. I would even argue that we got proficient at getting done what had to be done. We were effective but how things got done were definitely lacking in “the woman’s touch” for try as they might those aunts and grandmas were not there enough to keep us from coming up with our own way of doing things.

Back in those days there was an old chicken coop that sits about where my father’s home now sits. It had served a lot of purposes in its life and had once been part of what would have been an impressive equipment shed and the coop was tool room, tack room, and feed storage area. The side of the hill behind that coop overlooks a small spring that creates a shallow stream. About 120-150 feet (40-45 meters) away from the top of the hill sat the running gear of an old truck or car, really nothing more than a pair of axles and tires connected together with some boards crossing it that functioned as a bridge to cross the small stream. Those of you that have been to that spot of my little heaven in Wyoming know that this little hill has rocks now and it had rocks then. The goal of many a youth that stood on that hill was to throw, chuck, whack, or sling a rock to and beyond that old truck/wagon bridge. Anyone that could get a rock out to or beyond the bridge was no longer a little boy.

I remember #3 spending hours and hours on the hill. He could throw a rock like no one I have known before or since. He hit rocks with a wooden baseball bat for probably more hours than he spent throwing them. Let’s just say he moved a lot of rocks from the top of the little hill to somewhere into the general area of that little wagon.

I can honestly say that the only person that was better with a rock than #3 was a guy named David. Most of you know David from his story about killing some big dude with a rock to the forehead. Yeah, that big dead dude was Goliath and David became the king of Israel. Now #3 didn’t get his praises sung by all of the beauties in the villages as our Biblical hero David did but I am going to sing his praise for one amazing throw. Number 3 didn’t sling a rock to kill a giant but he did throw a rock and accurately. His fling of a rock was as spectacular as any in history and that fling likely couldn’t happen in a 100,000 tries, 500,000 tries, may I even guess at a million tries. It really was a one in a million.

The gal that would soon become my step-mother had come to Wyoming to test the waters so to speak. The prospect of marrying a widower with 6 very active and very independent boys was likely overwhelming to this school teacher. Nothing in one’s life can prepare you for what she was contemplating accepting, not even being a 2nd Grade school teacher. This isn’t 6 second grade students this is teenagers and toddlers that have been making do for the better part of a year. Life was never normal again but it was at least getting consistent for this Widower and his kids now some 9 or more months into their new life.

I don’t specifically remember that there was a discussion about behavior for this event but I can’t say that there wasn’t one either. I do think that we were excited to meet this woman that my Dad was inviting over to meet the family in our natural environment. I think we probably were as interested in meeting her as she was in meeting us. Although as I reflect back on it now I am afraid our enthusiasm was likely more like a trip to the fair or to Disneyland. We knew it was momentous but we had no real idea of what the impacts would have been or could have been if things went badly. So warned or not, we likely tried to be on our best behavior.

At some point during the day (I think it was in the afternoon but I am not certain) we ended up taking a “tour” of the little ranch we had spent the last 5 or so years working so very hard to make productive. As we meandered around the willows and streams we became boastful about the strengths of our abilities as little boys are wont to do.

I remember the group of us standing where the last willow reaches to the south along the Salt River, some have thought we might have been fishing. The school teacher liked to fish so it seems like a reasonable reason for us to be standing where I remember us to be at. In our boasting and bragging it came up that #3 was very accurate with his ability related to moving rocks from point A to point B. Of course, all of the brothers are praising his ability and expounding on his accuracy, which is quite something when you consider that we probably rarely ever agreed on too many things otherwise.

This poor school teacher had likely heard little boy boasts for more than 10 years and knew that the boasts were not much more than that and there really wasn’t much chance that they could be backed up. How many times had she likely heard “My Dad is better than your Dad” or some such drivel in those 10 years? It seems likely that it was more than a few. She politely and innocently questioned whether this could all be true. Could it be that she really was standing in the midst of a rock thrower the equivalent of David of Old? There was no way she could have ever known.

She finally asked for a demonstration of this great ability and mistakenly challenged this majestic rock thrower. Oh, the regret that would follow such a challenge, it was innocent enough indeed but nonetheless would be filled with regret.

Now, how does one go about demonstrating the accuracy of a thrown rock? How do you know that it was thrown to the exact spot that was chosen? Well, we all know that you need a target of sorts. But we are standing in the middle of a field near a flowing river; there isn’t a target that can be selected so easily in such a circumstance. We also need to remember that we have rallied the troops, the adrenaline is flowing and the gauntlet of proof is required. Is the school teacher to blame for being caught up in this ever increasing frenzy of ‘upmanship’? Of course not, it would seem only likely that she too would make a rash decision. Now she doesn’t remember that she selected this target, even some of the brothers don’t remember that is was her. There are enough of us that remember, including #3, so the story goes. Her decision, one she would regret almost immediately, a magpie.

The magpie is officially a member of the crow family. Interestingly here in China they are considered good luck.

The magpie is officially a member of the crow family. Interestingly here in China they are considered good luck.

There sat across the flowing river some 50-60 feet away a magpie in a willow. This bird was most certainly in the wrong place at the wrong time. He became the pawn of proof and the legend of this story, he became the Goliath. The school teacher’s challenge was to throw a rock across the river at the bird. As quickly as the target was selected and before further discussion could occur, #3 reaches down, selects his stone (remember he has spent hours honing the skill of rock throwing) a perfect throwing stone. A stone that won’t waver or wobble in its flight, it won’t curve or drift, a stone that will fly straight and true. Number 3 quickly sets up and throws.

Thought a little visual of the spot would be helpful. Sadly, I don't have a scale to show you how far it is. you can use the dirt road on the left to get a better idea.

Thought a little visual of the spot would be helpful. Sadly, I don’t have a scale to show you how far it is. you can use the dirt road on the left to get a better idea.

The throw is perfect. A B S O L U T E L Y   P E R F E C T!

In a flurry of feathers the magpie crumples and falls. High fives all around by the brothers, the boasting is no longer just hyperbole, it is demonstrated. The school teacher is stunned. There is no taking back the target at this point; it is too late the blow has been dealt and feathers are wafting and floating through the air.

You might remember that our Biblical hero David didn’t get it done with just a rock. He also needed a giant’s sword to cause the actual death of the giant. While Goliath lay there on the pavilion of the battlefield stunned from a rock to forehead, the rock slinging hero removed giant sized helmet and his over-sized sword from its sheath and used it to remove his everso large head. My story’s hero, Brother #3, had just made an equally brilliant throw to the amazement of all observers and his brothers are proud of the shot, the skill, and the luck that was observed. The family’s honor was vindicated as it was proved that what they said was true. Brother #3’s throw also was not thoroughly fatal even though thoroughly fabulous. The rock, while thrown true, was not immediately deadly and required some country-boy compassion be displayed. Brother #3 waded across the Salt River and found this poor hapless feathered friend and as only seemed the compassionate thing to do; held its head under water until it quietly passed away.

I don’t remember what happened next but I suspect that the tour was over. The little boys likely didn’t notice that the school teacher was just a little bit nauseous and no longer felt well. She is devastated for she feels that it is her fault that the magpie is now dead. D E A D, dead; most definitely a wrong place at the wrong time for the bird that has turned to family legend. The bird was struck a fatal blow; though, not dead immediately it nonetheless ended just as it had for Goliath. The good guys won and the praises were sung as the tour abruptly ended and we all returned back to the house.

This could have easily been a tragic end to a short romance for the widower. It is likely that this scenario should have been the crack in a façade that was presented to the school teacher that showed just what kind of family this was. It, however, did not have that effect and there is good news; the turn of events was not too much to change the school teacher’s mind. She made the plunge a few months later as the woman that would try to rein in the house full of boys. In the process of that already momentous task she added 3 more boys of her own to that bunch; and then there were 10.

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