Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Confrontation (Part 1 of 3)

While in the fifth grade, I was afforded the very exciting opportunity to go on a week-long camping trip in East Texas with my classmates. Upon arriving at the campgrounds, I immediately noticed the towering pine trees that guarded each side of the dirt roads, the crystal clear sky, and the strange yet beautiful flowers that grew like vines around the massive trunks of the trees. There was something else that became strangely apparent to me after arriving at the camp. As I cautiously hiked along the muddy trail to the log cabin that I, along with nine other ten year old girls, would call home for the week, it seemed that the clarity in the colors of the leaves and wildflowers was not as defined as I expected them to be. Low hanging branches were discovered only when my face was being scratched up by the bristly leaves or pointy edges of the twigs. My ability to discern dry ground from puddles of muddy water was inexplicably impaired. To say the least, my ability to independently navigate, without incident, had been seemingly altered overnight. However, I didn’t know why.
With good reason, I experienced a great deal of trepidation when traveling throughout the campgrounds. No matter how careful I tried to be, I stumbled into one accident after the other. I was either stepping my brand new, white sneakers into a puddle of murky mud, getting clawed in the face by hanging limbs, or tripping over large stones and fallen branches.
The mystery of why I was having trouble seeing was outright baffling. Fear, confusion, embarrassment, and anger took turns visiting me while I was at the camp. I was scared and concerned for my safety. Likewise, I was embarrassed that I couldn’t manage to take a step without stumbling or losing my balance.
Children being the cruel, little people that they are so capable of morphing into tormented me with their jokes and ridicule. The more they laughed, the more I stumbled, and the more I stumbled, the more they laughed. The kids managed to keep my embarrassment heightened. I grew angry at the children for laughing and taunting me, rather than being concerned. Even my classmates, who knew me all of our school-aged-years, were laughing and making jokes about me the entire trip.
After three days of observing my unusual clumsiness, Miss Tina, the director of the camp, contacted my parents to tell them about the problems that I appeared to have with my sight. My parents did not hesitate to travel to the out-of-town location of the camp to come and rescue their child from whatever was happening.
When my parents arrived, I was a little disappointed that they were there to pick me up, being that later in the morning we were going to get a chance to go horseback riding. I pleaded with my parents to please wait a few hours to allow me to finish the morning activities. My father, who was always a stickler about time when he was traveling outside of Houston, reluctantly agreed.
“Margie and I will go grab something to eat while you ride the horse. And try to be careful. We came to pick you up to take you to see Dr. Jeffrey about your eyes, not to go to the emergency room because you done broke your neck.”
I hugged both of them and offered them a hearty thank you for giving me the chance to go horseback riding for the first time.
Daddy asked Miss Tina where they could find a Denney’s in the area. The nerdy, yet athletic looking leader of the camp pulled out a map from her desk, drew a line from the camp to an intersection on the map with a red marker, and assured him that he wouldn’t get lost.
Before leaving the director’s office, Mama pulled out a purple brush that had thick black bristles rising from it. Being the mother of four girls, she always kept a brush in her purse. She grabbed my face with one hand and started brushing the wavy strands of hair that crawled restlessly out of my pony tail back to a submissive position on my head. She took her hand and rubbed my hair back as she continued to brush.
“Margie, the girl looks alright. Let her go ride this horse she was talking about so we can get back to Houston.”
My mother kept brushing until my hair met her level of satisfaction. When she finished, she adjusted my clothes, rubbed my hair again, and then she looked down into my eyes.
“Promise me you’ll be careful, Ann.”
“Yes, Ma’am. I promise.”
“Yeah, at least wait until we get some more life insurance on you first.” Daddy laughed as he poked me in the shoulder.
“Stop it, Thurman.” Mama said.
Miss Tina left me in the small office as she walked my parents back to their car. All four walls of the office were covered with pictures of elementary school age kids of all races, smiling and waving at the camera. There were several boy scouts and girl scouts posters also hanging on the wall to the left of me. On the wall behind Miss
Tina’s desk was an eight by ten framed picture of a small, ruddy face girl with crystal blue eyes and golden blonde hair pulled into a pony tail on top of her head. She was dressed in a green and white shortset, white socks, and white shoes. She flashed a wide smile as she boastfully held a large, blue ribbon in her right hand. The little girl kind of sort of looked like our always smiling, overly energetic camp director, Miss Tina. I decided I would ask her was she the little girl in the photo when she came back into the office. When Miss Tina returned, I looked at her blue eyes and compared them to the blue eyes of the girl in the picture.
“Is that you?” Pointing my right index finger at the photograph.
“Yep, that’s me. I was ten-years-old in that picture. About your age.” She admitted.
She next announced that she would walk me over to where my group was fishing at the lake in the middle of the campground.
“Fishing?” I asked as I hopped out the wooden office chair.
“Yes, fishing got added to today’s activities since you guys missed it on the second day because of the rain. Let’s go.” Motioning me to follow her out of the air conditioned office back into the clammy, hot outdoors.
I was excited about getting a chance to go fishing and horseback riding. Two firsts in one day was pretty good. I thought. I was so glad Daddy and Mama agreed to let me stay for a few more hours.
When Miss Tina and I were walking to the lake, I was met with the same problems I had been experiencing the three days before. I stumbled over large rocks and broken tree branches. My steps slowed down as I looked down at the ground to make sure my feet wouldn’t continue to betray me. I looked over at Miss Tina, who looked nervous as she intently watched me. Her ocean blue eyes poured with concern and even pity.
“Be careful as we go down this hill up here.” She warned.
The dirt trail narrowed as we trotted down a decline in the ground. I turned my head and looked to each side of me. There were tall trees that stood closely together, making it difficult to see if some wild animal was lurking within the foliage. Suddenly, the largest brown squirrel I had ever seen darted down from one of the husky trees into the middle of the trail directly in front of us. Next, a small, blue bird with gray and white streaks splashed in its wings flew from the same direction and furiously dove its pointy beak into the top of the squirrel’s furry head. The squirrel quickly turned around and took a bold stance to defend itself. The angry bird landed about two feet in front of the squirrel and the two animals squared off.
My eyes popped as I watched the squirrel and bird challenge each other. Even though the squirrel was much larger than the bird, I quickly concluded that the bird definitely had the upper hand, being that the bird could fly. I rested on my heels and watched to see if I was going to be right.
The squirrel jerked his large, muscular body towards the bird, obviously trying to intimidate the small, feathered creature. But the bird didn’t fly away. Instead, the bird locked its tiny pupils on the squirrel and raised its wings in a seething motion, indicating it was ready to attack once again.
Miss Tina stopped and held her slender arm out in front of me to prevent me from walking further down the trail. There was no need for her to worry. I wasn’t going to take a step forward until the path was clear again. I didn’t want the squirrel and bird to realize we were there and then join forces and attack us rather than each other.
Miss Tina pulled me in closer and whispered to me. “The squirrel must’ve invaded the bird’s nest. Mama birds are very protective of their nests. I need to stop them from fighting.”
The camp director, who looked to be in her early twenties, bent over to grab a gray stone from the dusty ground. When she stood erect, her blonde hair swept across her narrow face. Next, she pulled her hair back behind her ears with one hand and tossed the round stone towards the squirrel and the bird, hoping she would startle them and cause their attention to shift off each other.
When the stone hit the ground, the squirrel snapped out of his fight trance and looked at the rock. Suddenly, the bird lifted its small body into the air, swooped down towards the squirrel, and pecked the furry enemy in its head three more times. The squirrel twirled hysterically as he tried to dodge the bird’s air attack, but the bird continued to swoop down and successfully strike the wobbling target. Finally, the bird flew up into the sky and back towards the trees, leaving the squirrel battered and disoriented in the middle of the dirt trail.
“Oh, my God! You think he’s okay?” I asked.
“I’m not sure if it is a he or a she.” She corrected me, rather than answering my question.
As she took a step forward, the squirrel realized we were present and it bolted into the brush within the wooded borders of the trail we were walking on.
“I guess the squirrel is scared we’re going to try to fight it next.” She giggled.
“So, do you think the squirrel will be okay?” I asked again, without the gender description, hoping she would go ahead and answer my question this time around.
“Yeah, it’ll be alright. I bet it won’t mess with another mama bird again.” She declared as she continued on the trail.

I'll post the other two editions of this recollection later this week. Please let me know what you think!**

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