I’d never heard this story from my four sons until a few years ago, but here’s the true talking points of an ever changing set of “official facts”, depending on who you talk to. The bottom line was they were playing Cowboys and wanted to rope calves. Since we didn’t have calves, they told Clark, who is the youngest and only four years old at the time, that they would give him candy if he would run wild while they chased him down and roped him. “It’ll be fun Clark”, they told him, “It’ll be fun”.
Most of the time when mischief was involved, there was a common thread of how it went down. Blake, the oldest, was the mastermind. Jared, the second born, did it. Todd, the third, got blamed. This time, however, they were all in it together. They envisioned themselves as a hard riding, straight shooting, rough and ready band of true blue cowboys…at least in their imaginations. But in reality, they were a barefooted, t-shirt and shorts, backyard, band of boys 12 years and younger.
Unfortunately for Clark, he was basically chosen at gun point to be their stray calf from a cattle drive. Each boy whirled a rope above his head before swinging the horse trailer gate open so the two legged “calf” could make a run for it. Clark would take off running for his dear life while the rag tag band of cowboys chased him down.
The first time was fun for everyone, even Clark who loved being included and the center of attention from his big brothers to boot. After the first one got lucky though by landing a rope around Clark’s waist and pulling him to the ground, Clark realized it may not be as much fun as he thought. But being battle hardened by three older brothers, Clark was naturally a tough little poot, so he was game to run again as a stray cow. Besides, his brothers hysterical laughter must mean it was really a lot of fun, right?
After being roped, tied up and locked back in the horse trailer several more times, Clark began to tire of his role. After being roped a couple of more times on top of that with leg and ankle lassoes from the “cowboys”, the cow realized he was doomed and flat out quit. He sat in the trailer whimpering and refusing to come out. That’s when they starting poking Clark with long sticks through the horse trailer slats pretending they were using cattle prods to move him on. But Clark just wouldn’t run any more, no matter how much they prodded him with sticks.
Blake, as the oldest, took charge. Peeking at Clark through the slats, Blake began talking slowly, spreading out every syllable trying to convince Clark that being run down and roped was really fun.
“Claaark, you’rrre goooing tooo haaave tooo ruun fassster thannn thaaat thisss time.”
“I don’t wanna run! I’m tired of being roped like a cow! I wanna go inside!”
“Welll Claaark, if youuu don’t ruuun, you’re not gooonna geeet anny caaandy.”
“I don’t want your candy! And if you don’t let me go, then I’m going tell on y’all!”
“Coome on Claaark! Youuu saaid you’d be the calf for sooome candy! Alll youuu got tooo doo is maaake it two tiimes aroound the house withooout getting roooped, and youuu’ll get candy and get to goo insiiide. But if wee caatch youu, youu’re gooonna haave to ruun one more tiiime!”
Outside the trailer, Jared, Todd and the two cousins looked like laughing hyenas drooling over a baby antelope. Jared chimed in with Blake, “Yeah Clark, just run, that’s all. Just run.” Then Todd added his lies to the pack of promises, “And Clark, I promise I won’t rope your leg so hard next time!”
For a split second, Clark felt relieved as he sat locked in the horse trailer. But when they all laughed at once, he became incensed and said the worst things his 4 year old mind could come up with, “You shut up!! You, you, you….you stupid!”
Blake started again. “Awww Claark! Youuu shouldn’t have goone off and saaaid that! Wee doon’t want to tell on youu cause youu’ll get in baad trouble foor taaalking soo mean, but nooww youuu’re gonna have to get roooped twice mooore before youuu geeet youur caaandy and go in.”
Somehow, someway, Clark, the calf cow, escaped without physical injury that day, at least long term anyways. With a series of more bribes, threats and pieces of stale Halloween candy, Clark didn’t spill the beans until years later about his day as a stray cow.
You know, when you’re the youngest, justice seems to wait a long time before it comes into play, but it usually prevails in the end. Now Clark is taller, bigger and maybe even stronger than all his brothers. I need to add that all of the boys grew up to be excellent young men of character. Clark is even psychologically stable and a very well adjusted young man….no thanks to his brothers.
There’s something about the early days of life that can be so fun, and sometimes cruel, and sometimes both at the same time. There are bonds among siblings that are kiln dried in the fires of time that help solidify who we are, and aren’t, what we do, and don’t. Siblings are the first lifelong friends. Even if they go their separate ways, siblings have anchors in the mind that share memories, some hilariously funny, some painfully quiet, some methodically routine and the bond through those memories is always there.
It’s often the most simple of things from yesteryear that burst back into vivid color with just a tell of a tale of a time. It’s interesting. What was entertaining back in the day may bring side splitting laughter today, the kind of laughter where your side hurts and tears roll down your cheeks.
Yesterday’s memories, particularly the good ones, often redirect today’s compass to point in a direction of what’s really important in life. Those memories, of those days, of those times, help us remember yesterday, which helps us know today, what’s really important.