Fight or flight: A few noteworthy encounters with other species
My first chore as a child was picking up the eggs. My brother and sister called me “The Eggman, Coo Coo Cachoo.” Every afternoon, I would walk back to the barn and raid nests in three large chicken coops. The first two were easy, but the third was a different story…
The year before we had gone to the State Fair in Hammond, Louisiana. They had a game where you had to pitch a nickel into a glass jar. It looked easy, but, like most arcade games, it wasn’t. We spent hours (and probably a mint) tossing coins. Finally, while we weren’t looking, my father slipped the man a 10-dollar bill and the man handed me a chick. Unbeknownst to us, the adorable chick was actually a dude. He grew up to be one of the biggest and meanest roosters we ever had. We called him Goblin.
Goblin ruled the 3rd coop like a North Korean dictator. He was cruel and ruthless. Whenever I entered the pen, he puffed up his chest, flashed his long curved spurs and squawked in protest.
One day while I was hunched over picking up eggs, Goblin crept up behind me like a panther and pounced on my back. He thrust a spur deep into my side and pecked violently at the back of my neck. He had obviously had enough of me stealing his progeny!
After an epic battle filled with blood, tears and feathers, I finally freed myself from the tyrannical fowl. Angry and embarrassed, I picked up a broken rake handle and flung it at the bird. It spun across the coop like a boomerang, striking Goblin in his long cocky neck. He dropped like a sack of chicken feed. Our prized (and expensive) state fair rooster was dead and gone.
To this day, my family holds it against me. After every dispute, they remind me, “Yeah, but you killed Goblin!”
“Yes,” I say. “I know.”
I went to visit a farmer in Zhumar, Ecuador. He was trying to raise rainbow trout in earthen ponds. I was a Peace Corps volunteer at the time. I worked with small animals, including fish.
When I arrived, the farmer wasn’t there. Apparently, he was out trying to round up a fugitive cow.
The farmer had a pet deer he had raised from a fawn. It was tethered to a wooden stake near one of the ponds. Curious, I walked up to the animal and pressed a hand against its antlers. It instinctively pushed back. I pressed again and the buck reared up to butt me, but the rope held him at bay. I then pressed (my luck) a third time. The deer dug in with his hoofs and lunged with all his might, ripping the stake from the ground. Like that old poster of a locomotive going off a bridge, I simply said, “Oh shit!”
I tried to run away, but the deer, well, ran like a deer. He quickly overtook me and knocked me down. He swung his head from side to side like a medieval mace. I covered my head with my hands and curled up on the ground like a frightened pangolin. The deer reared up on his hind legs for one last, decisive and fatal blow. He came down with his mighty rack and drove a point through my jeans and into my butt. I let out a bloodcurdling scream and dove headlong for one of the trout ponds.
About a half an hour later, when the farmer finally came to my rescue, I was still cowering in the cold muddy water – with an extra hole in my rear.
I was playing in a Whiffle Ball tournament with friends at Wisner Center Park off Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans. It was the last inning of a close game. We were down by one with two outs. Like a diminutive version of the mighty Casey, I was at bat.
The first pitch was a curveball (Is there any other kind in whiffle ball?). I swung and missed. The second dropped just before it reached the plate. Strike two. The third pitch hooked to the left as it approached. I lunged and cracked a forehand like Roger Federer. The plastic ball arched out into centerfield. I took off like Pete Rose on a bet. As I was rounding third, the shortstop threw the ball to the catcher. My friend Larry Shoemaker now stood between me and home plate. I was trapped in a pickle.
With the game on the line, my fight-or-flight response kicked in. I looked down in desperation and saw a pile of red ants. In one fell swoop, I scooped up the entire pile and threw it on my (former) friend Larry. Larry screamed in horror, dropped the whiffle ball, and started flailing like a man on fire. I trotted triumphantly across home plate.
No, I’m not proud; but yes, I did hit a home run in Whiffle Ball!
Folwell Dunbar is an educator, artist and wild animal survivor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Folwell Dunbar is a New Orleans educator, artist and survivor of many things, from roaches to German U-boats and heartbreak. He is putting together a collection of these short stories and survival tales called He Falls Well (his name is pronounced “fall well”). NolaVie is honored to preview some of those stories here. Email him at email@example.com.