The Only Way Through
When the federal government implemented a program during the last Great Depression to raise the price of beef by slaughtering half the cattle of every rancher in New Mexico, they did not anticipate the wisdom of everyday people. Those everyday people, including my great grandparents and my great great grandparents, knew for a fact that while you could count on a cow to feed and clothe your children and neighbors, you could not count on the promise of an increase in the price of beef to do the same.
Government officials came to the gate of my great great grandfathers ranch with the paint they intended to use to mark their choice of the cows to be killed. They met two gentlemen who had been warned by their neighbors about the unappreciated company. One was the owner of that ranch and my grandmas’ grandpa William; the other was his son in law, my grandmas’ dad.
They held their guns, not pointed but in plain sight, and calmly explained the situation to their ignorant visitors. These two men, from whom I descend, informed the guests that they had no problem with the government coming through the gate provided it was by falling through it.
The officials were not apparently obliged to consent to that particular arrangement and took their leave. No one on that ranch saw them or their paint again. All the cattle lived on until they laid down, not to increase a national profit, but to feed those who had tended them…
When he yelled at her in front of that stupid ska show, so close to her that his breathe blew her bangs away from her face, he did not notice the scrawny pink haired barely pubescent punk behind her. He did not notice that is, until I puffed up and stepped between them, trying to defend her.
His veins popped and his fists clenched, I was deflated. The power of my sneak attack was short lived. I wondered if we should run before he swung, but then the most beautiful thing happened. She, who had stood in the line of his nasty vodka scented insults for months, came alive in a never before seen way. She scared him, screaming so close to his face that every hair on his head ran away and he is bald to this day…
When I sat pleasantly drunk on the clown bus listening to a moonlight trumpet serenade with my grease paint smeared but not forgotten, I could not have imagined that anyone in the neighborhood was not in love with the night. But there was a man, half a block away, whose pulse was increasing, his pupils were dialating with every brass note. He hated clowns and fun and music but most of all he hated to miss an opportunity to punch someone.
I met him at the bus door and walked around the front with him. I mistook him for a reasonable man who was reasonably irritated and he mistook me for a freak that needed my teeth knocked out. Half way through the first sentence of my admission that we had been a little loud for a school night, his fist caught me so hard in the chin that I flew into the bike rack on the front of the bus. I started to stand up. But just as my oversized shoe souls reconnected with the pavement and my mouth opened to catch my sentence where I had left it, he hit me again so hard that this time bells rang and I was out.
Ten clowns ran off the bus and right into his worst nightmare. He, never having had violence fail to solve a problem before, ran scared into the night with them on his heels. The one who stayed behind was the trumpet player and his song brought me back into the beautiful night.