The Fabry Family

Connect with Me

Connect with Chris on Facebook Follow Chris on Twitter Watch Chris on YouTube

Featured Books

Featured Books
Coming in January!

Personal Stuff

My Photo
Chris Fabry
Married to Andrea since 1982. We have 9 children together and none apart. Our dog's name is Tebow.
View my complete profile

Where We Are Now

After finding and remediating mold twice in our Colorado home, we abandoned ship in October 2008. Because of the high levels of exposure, our entire family was affected. After months of seeing different specialists for all of the problems, we came to Arizona to begin comprehensive treatment to rid our bodies of the toxic buildup. In August 2009 we moved into a larger home, four bedrooms, south of Tucson, north of Mexico. I am doing my daily radio program/ writing from that location. Thanks for praying for us. We really feel it.

Search

Loading...

Visitor Count

Visitor Count:
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
The two-lane country road that ran past our house was still unpaved and dusty as a an old saddle. Plumes would follow cars on hot summer days and the flies and heat were oppressive.

Mosquitoes searched the dry creek bed and settled for blood from the veins of West Virginia boys.

Sweat trickled down our dirty backs and faces. It was impossible not to have wet hair, and I suppose that’s what sent us out on our bikes that day. The wind felt good on your face as long as you pedaled hard.

“Car!” my brother yelled.

We would pull over as far as we could near a fenceline and wait, shielding our mouths and eyes from the floating grit.

That’s what a childhood in West Virginia tastes like. Dust between your teeth and chapped lips and the smell of wild lilacs that flower on hillsides. Mosquitoe bites that turn into scabs that are picked bloody. Panting dogs and nervous squirrels.

My memory of that day is hazy. It only came back to me recently as a quick, jittery image. A horse standing too close to the road. Blood and gore and barbed wire to the meat.

“Hey Dave!” My voice was squeaky. Girlish. My mother’s friends would call our home and I’d pick up the big, black, Bell telephone that weighed almost as much as I did and answer—and they always thought it was her.

“Kath-ern?” they would say, mispronouncing her name, Kathryn.

“Come on, catch up,” he yelled. Or I imagine he yelled. What does a brother who is eight years older say to a little fat kid with a squeaky voice?

We both think Bud Shirkey was with us that day, but we do not have independent verification of such. My brothers called him Elvis because he always sang some pop tune as he walked around the bend in the road and his voice echoed off the hills.

Whether Bud was there or not, and whether I was actually the one who spotted the horse we don’t recall. But there are facts we know. The horse had gotten hung up in the barbed wire fence and the metal had wrapped all the way around its leg. Struggling against it had wedged the barbs deeper into the meat and blood ran down and the flies had been notified that dinner was served.

“What are we going to do?”

There was no question we were going to do something. There was no question that coming upon the scene of such tragedy brought a compulsion to act.

But what do we do? The horse belonged to Vessie Sowards. Not the most genial of men in the county. He might have been a prince for all I knew, but he had a reputation to little kids of being stern. Mean. (Whether this was true is not the point. It is the perception of a man in a child’s eyes that counts in such times of distress.)

“We gotta cut the wire,” my brother said.

“Old Vessie’l be mad if you do that,” Bud said. If he was there.

“Stay here with the horse,” my brother said. “We’ll go get the wire cutters.”

And with that they were off, down the road, kicking up dust. Bud’s old bike clanging.

Bud didn’t have a bike. His family was too poor. Maybe he stayed with me. Maybe he wasn’t even there. It’s not important. When memories like this come, I want to get the detail. The time of year. Were there june bugs? Japanese beetles? Fireflies at night? But I can’t make it clear. The snapshots are fuzzy and the film in the camera jumps on the spindle of memory.

The horse looked scared and I tried to calm it with my voice. I must have done something like that. Me on my banana seat that barely contained me. In the summer I would slim down and burn the fat riding the roads and looking for beer bottles to set up and break with rocks at fifteen paces. But in the winter it was back inside to my mother’s fudge and pound cakes and there was always that temptress, Little Debbie, with the cute smile and the hat on her head and those oatmeal cream pies. Demon woman. I’ll carry her secret sins with me to the grave.

It always came down to food in the West Virginia hills. Hot dogs and battered shrimp and marshmallows and fried chicken and macaroni salad and potato salad and rolls and spitting watermelon seeds. I remember talking to my brothers once when their friends were over and saying, “I’ll bet one day they’ll invent a watermelon that doesn’t have any seeds.”

They all laughed. “How are you going to get a watermelon to grow if it doesn’t have seeds?” They hooted and rolled on the ground as if I did not understand male and female anatomy, which I didn't.

I knew early on that without vision a people perish.

Dave rode back to the scene with the wire cutters and hesitated. It was a big, towering workhorse. The animal nickered and swished his tail at the flies and looked like he could rear up and stomp all three of us. He put his head toward the wire and tried to get at it with his teeth, but he couldn’t.

Bud must have gone to Vessie’s house to tell him what happened. That’s how it went. Dave went for the wire cutters, Bud went to find Vessie, and I stayed with the horse. Yes, it's coming back now.

“We should wait,” I said.

Fear brings doubt and doubt and death are kissing cousins.

Dave, who would become a chemist and work with petroleum much later in life, must have known he had to cut the wire or the horse would do even greater damage to its leg. So he tentatively cut one side, mashing with both hands until the click. And the horse tried to move back and the blood streamed faster and Dave moved to the other side but the wire was being torn away by the retreating horse and everything whirred and swam in my vision...

Click.

He was free. Free as a bird to fly and kick up his heels in the pasture. But he stayed right there and looked at us. Me, the fat little kid who had noticed him in distress. Dave, the skinny, no brawn, all brains kid who had the gumption to get the wire cutters and the will to use them.

It was a surreal moment, suspended in time. Just the three of us looking at each other and the sun beating down and the flies and blood and sweat in the still, calm of summer.

I believe it was that day that I realized the power of noticing small things. We could have kept on riding but the horse had been too close to the road, and I had seen it. Maybe that’s what a writer does, the best thing he does, and all he does. Simply notice and call attention to things we pass. Plain things. Ordinary. Secretly wounded.

And then a car came. Or an old truck. Yes, it was probably a truck. Rusted out. Balding tires. I’m picturing a Chevy with the rounded hood. And Vessie Sowards got out and hurried to us in coveralls. Manure on his boots and hay down his shirt collar.

“I’m sorry I had to cut your fence, Mr. Sowards,” Dave said.

“No, no,” he said, inspecting the wounded horse. He took a moment, then dramatically turned to the three of us. “Why this horse could have died out here. Just bled out. Or he could have torn all the tendons in that leg if you’d have left him there.”

We looked at the horse and at Vessie but not at each other. There is a quiet humility among heroes. Inside we were beaming. On the outside it was…it was just men being men, doing their jobs, caring for creation and women-folk. Anyone worth his salt would have done the same thing.

And that’s where the picture fades and the film snaps and I am left with the faint smell of sweaty boys and a horse with wire sticking out of his leg.

As far as I know the horse made a full recovery. And Vessie praised us for getting involved, taking responsibility.

I mentioned this to my brother the other day and the memory was just as vivid for him. He said Vessie told us he was going to give us a reward for what we had done. As thanks for our heroic act, he gave an open-ended promise that something good would come our way.

It’s been 40 years and my brother is still checking his mailbox. There’s been no check, no deed to the farm, no firstborn foal.

All we have is the memory. Faded and jumpy and unclear in places. And somehow that feels like enough.

6 comments:

Tim said...

Thanks Chris. I'm 52 & grew up in Gallipolis OH....bikes, friends, playin' ball....good memories of a different time...

Bud Shirkey said...

Chris,

This is Bud! Just finished reading your story and yes I was there. I remember the story the same way that you wrote it! As for the horse, my dad ended up owning it! He traded with Vessie to get it! I'm not sure what Vessie got in return, but we got the horse! :) We had great times and I'll never forget those days. I still like to sing a good "Elvis" tune from time to time and would love to see you again and relive old memories. I saw the picture of your big family. Looks like you have really been blessed. I have a son and 3 daughters, 3 granddaughters, 1 grandson, and a grandson on the way. Alot has happened since those days, but it seems like only yesterday!

Take Care,
Bud

Bud Shirkey said...

Chris,

This is Bud! Just finished reading your story and yes I was there. I remember the story the same way that you wrote it! As for the horse, my dad ended up owning it! He traded with Vessie to get it! I'm not sure what Vessie got in return, but we got the horse! :) We had great times and I'll never forget those days. I still like to sing a good "Elvis" tune from time to time and would love to see you again and relive old memories. I saw the picture of your big family. Looks like you have really been blessed. I have a son and 3 daughters, 3 granddaughters, 1 grandson, and a grandson on the way. Alot has happened since those days, but it seems like only yesterday!

Take Care,
Bud

Wood chips from the wood pile said...

Your reward was helping that helpless creature..thank you!

Chris Fabry said...

Bud!
So glad to hear from you. Send me an e-mail--saw some of your family at my dad's viewing/funeral. So good to see them. You were always the best at spitting watermelon seeds. Do you still have that talent?? I've been practicing. Hope to see you some day.
cf

Robin J. Steinweg said...

That snapshot you wrote was detailed enough that I'm not so sure a horse-crazy, skinny-bones Wisconsin girl wasn't there with you!