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Pets
Wild Things


        Jason was a story teller. His children loved his stories even if he did tell some of them over and over. It was as if he was fascinated about a happening in his life and wanted to make sure they knew about it too.

        “We were just boys,” he began, “way out there on the Arkansas River flowing through Osage County.  Time wasn't as important to us as it seems to be to you children. We had all the time in the world.  There were days on end when we roamed all over that prairie. Some  days we did nothing but fish. If we got tired of fishing on the banks of the river we found a pond somewhere. When you can throw your line in the water and instantly pull a good size catch out, well, there is nothing like it.”

        “Dad,  tell us the coyote story. Please.”  They all chimed in with a request to hear that same old story again.”

        “I'll get around to it, but right now, I'm tellin' some of the other things we did. It was just Goshen and me.  Goshen had lost one leg when he was just a little fellah. That didn't matter though. He could keep up with the best of  'em. Goshen was Osage and he knew all about everything, it seemed to me.”

        We were playing down by the river one day. There was an old gas tank from a car on the sand bar.  I guess it had washed up there at some time or other. Goshen asked me, “You reckin' there's any gas in it?”

         “Naw, I don't 'spose so.”  I told him.

         Anyways I was proud of the way I had learned to strike a kitchen match with my thumbnail by dragging it across the head of the matchstick. We weren't standing too far from the tank. I told Goshen, “Bet cha, I can hit that gas tank's hole with this here match.”

        “Before he had a chance to answer I struck the match and flipped it at the open pipe on the tank.

         There was such an explosion you have never heard one like it. It knocked us all the way off our feet and down on the sand.  I'm tellin' you, I didn't think I would ever got through doin' chores over that little deal.  I don't think your grandmother ever did forget that one.  Jason chuckled at the thought of the reprisals.

          After the children's laughter had subsided Jason started another story.

         “Dad, tell us about the coyote.”

         “All right. Directly,  but first I want to tell you about the.....

         “Dad, please tell us about the coyote.”

          “Well, all right. Seems to me you kids would get tired of that story.”

         They never did. Something about coyotes always gave them cold chills. It might have been their laughing calls at night or it could have been the fact that they were wild things.

         “Well, you see,” Jason started his story. “There is never a time you can make a pet out of a wild thing. Sometimes if you get them while they are very young they will be yours for a good while.

          All at once the animal will up and leave so quietly you will not know they are gone. He might come back once or twice. Possibly more than a few times the critter will come home. Each time he leaves he will stay longer until he doesn't return at all. Mother would never let us keep a wild things. If they had a broken wing or hurt in some other way we could only keep them until they were well.”

         “Goshen and I were out on the prairie when we came up to the top of this small rise. Goshen had stopped and was looking at something. What is it?  While creeping up so quietly and slowly on my hands and knees at the top of the small hill there was  a young coyote pup in a frozen stance.  He was looking  intently into a hole on the side of the place.

        We watched him for a good while and he never moved. He was stalking some small creature, maybe a mouse.  By reaching out it would have been  easy to touch the animal. Maybe, possibly, even capture it, although it was true this shouldn't be done.”

         “Slowly, so slowly I moved my hand right over its back and took hold of it. The little pup turned suddenly. He was so totally surprised. He dropped right in his tracks. We thought he had fainted but in reality the wild little coyote pup was dead.  Goshen and I both were so remorseful we carried the little animal home to bury him close beside the house.”

        “I didn't want to hear Dad say, 'I told you so, Son. You can't make a pet out of a wild thing. It just isn't possible.

          “We did though, occasionally, but sooner or later we usually had to give them up.  They  are so sensitive and different.  That is the way it is.”


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