Sometimes when I take a picture, it makes me think about what kind of story could be behind it. On a recent trip to Colorado Bend State Park I took some pictures that brought back many memories from my childhood days on my grandparents ranch in south Texas. So I wrote a story. Many events in the story are based on my experiences as a child, but it is fiction.
The Day Everything Went Wrong
It was a warm sunny day as I walked the old family ranch, though the cows on the ranch no longer moo for my family. We have long since moved on and now lease the land out for others to graze their cattle. My brother, sister and cousin seldom come out here anymore as they are focused on their own lives and families, but I still come out here alone from time-to-time.
I wander through long grasses gently blowing in the breeze and come to the place where the old house used to stand. It has long since burned down after lightning stuck it. Fortunately, it had been abandoned by then but the remains of the foundation and well are still there to remind me of the past. I think back to summer mornings when I was a boy, sleeping with the windows open and being gently awakened by the mooing of the cows as they wandered near the house at dawn. I smile and long for those peaceful mornings as I continue my walk.
I walk on, enjoying the sound of the breeze rustling the leaves in the live oaks and eventually come to the old windmill sitting in disrepair. The sight of the windmill evokes other memories, unpleasant memories of a day not unlike this one. A day when everything went wrong.
It was summer, school was out, and the long days were filled with exploring and fun on the ranch. My two older cousins were spending the day with me and my younger sister and we were off exploring the land. On this afternoon we headed to the pecan trees for a snack and then maybe we would go down to the river to have a swim. I followed my older cousin Robbie around and hung on his every word; at age 14 he was 4 years older than me and strong and I wanted to be just like him.
He ran ahead across the field toward the pecan trees being chased by me, my cousin Suzie and my sister Charlotte. Suddenly he fell as he stepped in a hole and twisted his ankle. He screamed in agony as we caught up to him and then we heard the rattle. A sound that stopped me in my tracks and made my stomach sink. Robbie had fallen on a rattlesnake and it had bitten his arm. Robbie grabbed his arm and I saw the large snake begin slithering away.
Suzie began screaming and panicking. Robbie couldn’t get up and walk and he was too big for us to carry. “Stay with him!” I commanded to Suzie and my sister “I will run to the barn and get Pa and uncle Paul!”. And I took off as fast I could run across the pasture.
I decided to take a short-cut on a trail the cattle had made through the woods. It was muddy but led directly to the barn where Pa and uncle Paul were working on a tractor. As I ran through the low hanging branches I ran face-first into a yellow-jacket nest. I fell and rolled in the mud as they repeatedly stung my face and shoulders. There were so many of them; I got up and ran trying to get away from them, but they were in my shirt. I tumbled and fell again and ripped off my shirt to get them off me. Finally the last of them had stung me or died and in terrible pain, I continued on my with my mission.
I got to the barbed-wire fence and carefully threaded myself between the wires and made a run for the barn. “Pa!” I yelled. “Uncle Paul! We need help!” As I came to the barn, Pa and uncle Paul were nowhere to be found. ‘Where were they?’ I began to panic.
I ran out of the barn yelling for them and looking everywhere and couldn’t find them. So I ran up the road toward the house and as I crested the hill I saw the windmill in the distance with Pa’s pick-up parked next to it. Nearly out of breath, I ran as hard as I could for the windmill. It seemed to take forever and my legs were burning with pain. When I got close, Pa saw me and asked what happened to my face. My face was swollen, red, and in pain from the yellow jackets.
Nearly out of breath, I gasped “Pa! Robbie was bit by a big rattlesnake. Down by the pecan trees. Hurry!”
Pa quickly took charge. “You get in the truck with uncle Paul and show him where Robbie is. I’m going up to the house to call Dr. Peterson.”
I jumped in the truck and we headed down the road and bounced through pastures to get to Robbie. Uncle Paul tried a short cut down a trail the tractor had made through the woods to get to Robbie. But it was muddy and the truck became stuck. He rocked it back and forth but it was not going anywhere.
“Get over here!” he told me. “When I get out and yell, you shift it in ‘L’ and give it just a little gas; not too much. I’ll push. When we’re out, you stomp the brake. Got it?”
“I got it!” I said and jumped behind the wheel while Uncle Paul got around back to push.
“OK” he yelled. I shifted the lever all the way down to ‘L’ and slowly tapped the gas pedal.
“A little more!” he yelled. I gave it more gas. I could feel the tires spinning the truck sliding around. Uncle Paul’s boots sunk into the mud as he pushed with all his might. After what seemed like hours, we got the truck through the mud and up to the more solid part of the trail and I stomped on the brake.
“Put it back in park!” he yelled. I did so as he climbed in and off we went across the pastures to the pecan trees. Uncle Paul drove so fast, that I bounced all around the cab and could barely hang on. Eventually we got to Robbie, Suzie, and Charlotte still sitting under the trees.
Uncle Paul jumped out of the truck and ran to Robbie. Robbie looked sick and was wet from sweat and could barely talk. Uncle Paul reached down and picked Robbie up as though he were doll and carried him to the truck. He told Suzie and Charlotte to get in and hold on to him while he drove back to the house. There was no room for me and I said that I would just run back home and that I’d be OK.
Off they shot across the pasture. Uncle Paul took the long way around the woods to avoid the mud pit. I was breathless and my face was swollen and in pain and I didn’t have any more running left in me, so I walked back home across the pastures and through the woods while carefully watching where I stepped.
When I arrived home, Momma told me that Pa and uncle Paul had taken Robbie to the doctor as she had a look at my swollen face.
But, Doctor Peterson was out of antivenom and hadn’t been able to get more. So they had to drive Robbie down the long highways to the hospital in Victoria for treatment. Unfortunately, Robbie ran out of time on the way there.
The breeze blows again and with tears in my eyes I leave the windmill to continue its decay. I suppose these memories are why my sister and cousin never come out here anymore. And I never really wanted to bring my own children out here as they were growing up. But I find that I have to come out here every summer and listen once again to the breeze blowing through the live oaks.