A Story of Love and Time

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a Rick Sikes original story and this one always touched me. Of course he writes in parables, but I see the comparisons clearly. Enjoy!

A STORY OF LOVE AND TIME BY RICK SIKES

     I can’t tell you why men write and I have been thinking pretty hard on it these past few hours. It could be a man finds something inside of him so damn beautiful that he wants to get it down on paper before it slips away. I guess it could be that a man stumbles onto a thought so damned earth-shaking he figures just about everybody should get a chance to hear it. Who knows? Not me. I ain’t no writer. I’m a cowboy…

     But, here I am writing!

     It all started last night. You see, when the whistling West Texas wind drives chariots of tumbleweed across this God-forsaken plain, a man finds his body creeping closer to the fire as surely as he finds his mind seeking the warmer memories of his past… and last night was black ice, raw and bitter… and as surely as my fire drew me to its warmth, one of my memories drew my soul… until… like a Roman Candle exploding in huge darkness, I saw that memory in a new light… and I was wanting to write it down… so I could share it… earth-shaking or not…

     So, here I am, sitting on my saddle, with a pencil in my ol’ paw and an empty stomach, doing two things I ain’t never done before…

     Missing breakfast and writing a story!

     But, sometimes a thought can feed what a meal can’t. Depends on a man’s hunger I reckon.

     I know the thoughts in the Good Book used to feed my mama, and I can remember a teacher I had once, years ago. They fed me so much poetry that my heart was filled to bursting because I couldn’t let it out for fear that my pals would laugh me to shame.

     Funny, ain’t it… how one thought leads on to another? And that brings me to the memory I discovered last night.

     I grew into manhood on a rocky Texas ranch. Pa died early. Ma still lives on the place. The soil ain’t good for nothing but cactus and windstorms on that place and it weren’t no different when I was growing up. But, we had some times on the old place worth remembering, and I find it’s true the older I get, a few things happened there a boy had to grow into understanding. My story’s about one of those things.

     There was an old billy goat on our place. He was wild and wicked, crafty and cantankerous and smelly and scrawny. He was also lonely. His smell would gag a buzzard and he was so scraggly looking that the horned-toads paraded their ugliness past him like it was finery. Pa used to say, when we’d catch a glimpse of that ol’ goat, he was so poorly looking that he’d force a train to take a dirt road. I always smiled and nodded.

     Pa died in the winter of my fourteenth year. Later the same year, April I think it was, I came up on a sight which I didn’t give much thought to ‘til last night. I was with our hired hand and his boy, Junior Bascomb.

     Junior was my best and only friend growing up. He was two years older than me and I always thought of him as a kind of god. I guess he must’ve known the answer to every growing-up question I ever wanted to ask.

     Anyway, we rode up on one of the prettiest roses a man could ever want to see. Right next to that rose, laid out and dry, was the bones of that ol’ billy goat. I can remember Junior Bascomb saying, “Well, now, ain’t that the purdy’est rose you ever seen?” And his Pa answering, “It surely is.” I can remember how we all noticed the skeleton of that ol’ goat and sort of laughed when Junior’s Pa said the old billy would’ve eaten it sure.

     Junior wanted to pick the rose for a little gal he was seeing in town, but his Pa told him to leave it where it grew. When Junior asked why, his Pa said, “Well, son, I think it’s kinda nice for old Billy, onery cuss he was, to have such a purdy flower growing there by his grave…”

     And we rode on…

     And I’ve been riding on ever since.

      I’ll be fifty come June.

    But, somewhere between then and now, I’ve come to look on that long ago day with a different view… and I guess my story is a little more than the story of an old billy goat and his rose. Just as a man sees things a tad different than a boy… because in my man’s soul I can almost see that old, lonely billy goat wandering through his empty days. That lonely little rose was solitary but splendid; nourished by a tiny stream and hemmed in by a few weeds.

    I can see the old billy goat coming up to that little rose, and I can see him wanting to eat it, but he didn’t because he felt something just in looking at it that he hadn’t felt in years.

     He felt younger, richer and less lonely.

     So, he grazed all around the area and he fell in love with the awesome intensity only an old creature can feel. The sight of the rose made him spry and the scent of the rose put him in a romantic mood. One day, he became so jealous of the weeds growing around his rose that he tore them from the ground and gobbled them down in a frenzy that he hadn’t felt in years. They tasted terrible in his mouth, but seeing them gone made him feel pure in his soul. He had never been so happy. At night, the warm breeze blew the fragrance of his rose softly into his nostrils and he slept well.

     The summer passed well. Every day began with the sight of his lovely, dew-kissed rose, and every day ended with perfume and dreams.

     But as summer ended and the rose began to fade, the old goat began to eat less and less and worry more and more. When the frost came, chilling and killing his love, it killed something in the old goat too. One by one, the petals dropped from the rose into the dust and the old goat followed soon after.

    Every year, around spring the rose returned to bloom beautifully, beside the bleached bones of the old billy goat. Eventually, the sands shifted, covering both Billy and his rose…

     But what is covered is not always forgotten,

     And what truly matters finds a way to bloom again.

     Even in the heart of an old cowboy.

For more about the life, times and music of Rick Sikes:

http://www/ricksikes.com

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Jonah Part 2

A young man named Jonah has been exiled to an island for reasons we do not yet know. It’s not your typical island as it is covered with stinging nettles, venomous flowers and mythical fanged creatures. He’s been there a few weeks already but he watches daily for the boat that will come and take him back to the mainland. What does he have to do to be rescued? Let’s go see.

Jonah awoke with a start. His hand flew his dagger when he heard a loud thud.  Warily, he peeked out of his crude shelter expecting the worst.

A burlap package lay a few feet from his hut.

burlap-bags-1

He turned in a full circle and did not see another living soul or source from where the package could have come. He dashed out, grabbed the bag and ducked back inside his shelter. His heart raced! He wasn’t forgotten.

He opened the bag as eager as a child on Christmas morning. The first item he discovered was a sealed package of dried buffalo. Without looking any farther, he tore into it and groaned aloud as he savored the flavor of the meat. Anything was better than the muddy fish he’d been forced to eat to stay alive.

He sat back on his haunches and explored the remaining items in his mysterious package.

A bar of soap, toothbrush, and hairbrush fell out on the floor of his hut. How had he made it this long without them? He set them aside and continued exploring.

In the bottom of the bag lay two books and a pencil, along with a handwritten note.  He unfolded the parchment note.

There is only one way off this island. You must examine yourself, face your truths and make peace with your demons.

Jonah folded the note, lay it next to the bag, bit off another piece of jerky, then carefully resealed the bag and opened the first book, “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Four Agreements

The first sentence on the inside flap, “Be impeccable with your word,” brought a snort. He tossed the book into the corner of the hut. He didn’t need any philosophy BS, he just needed to get home.

He reached into the bottom of the bag, hoping for more food and found another book and a pencil. He opened it to find only blank pages.  He tossed it into the corner along with the other book.

He’d heard the psychological and philosophical jargon his entire life and none of it had helped him survive on the streets. None of it had helped when his father was beating him across the back with a leather strap. And none of it put food in his belly when he was starving.

No. He’d made his way with his own strength and that wasn’t about to change now.

He pulled his hair back and ducked out of the shelter into the early morning dawn. The most important thing he could do was keep his body strong and ready to fight. After all, it was what he did best. He stretched his taut muscles and began a series of Tai Chi maneuvers. He twirled and kicked, landing in fighting stance. Yes, this was what worked for him, not religion or philosophy.

manbun

A scurrying sound drew his attention and he glanced toward the hut in time to see a furry rodent dashing inside. The jerky! He lunged forward and reached the critter at the same time the critter reached the bag. With a precise throw, his dagger landed in the varmint’s neck. He tossed the invader into the murky water and grabbed his precious staple. After he dug a hole inside the hut, he buried the meat and covered it. Then he placed both books on top.

There. That should protect it. He’d gather the mushrooms and edible roots he’d discovered and make a stew later. No, he didn’t need self-examination. He needed sustenance and most of all he needed to get back to the mainland and back to living, back to ruling his kingdom.

He pondered the words on the note. What was he going to be forced to do?

 

Jonah – Part 1

Jonah

Jonah stood on the sturdy wooden dock and scanned the horizon. He could make out the outline of the mainland. He’d attempted to swim it more than once only to be forced to turn back or die. Would today be the day the boat would arrive? Brown murky water lapped at the timbers and a scaled water lizard trolled for a morning snack.

A low guttural growl turned him around. The feral creatures on this island were like none he’d ever encountered. Half animal and half-mythical, he discovered their weakness quite by accident and out of desperation.

He strode down the dock, stopping to scoop up the golden dagger he’d left lying in the sand. He ran toward the creature screaming, dagger aimed at its heart.

Perhaps it was the glint of the sun off the metal blade. Jonah didn’t know, but it worked every time.

It now seemed like a lifetime ago that he was dropped in this godforsaken place. Had it been the right choice? He questioned himself every day. Maybe prison wouldn’t have been so bad.

He scanned the horizon a final time before kneeling to light a fire. If he’d only known when the option had been given, he might have chosen differently. But, at the time, anything sounded better than being locked in a cement box buried in the ground.

Sure, they’d given him the dagger and a few supplies. Everything else, he had to get on his own. And, it didn’t help that the island was covered with thickly tangled nettles that stung the skin when touched, flowers filled with deadly venom and blackbirds that swooped down without warning and pecked at his head. But, the creatures were the worst of all. He’d never forget the first time they showed themselves. Fangs that glowed red when they growled and claws like that of Eagles had sent him climbing the nearest tree despite the stinging nettles and prickly thorns. But, their claws allowed them to easily climb and he was left with no option but to run. It wasn’t until exhausted and unable to run anymore, he finally turned and drew his saber. He prepared to die. But instead, they backed down.

With welts covering his body from the stinging nettles and sweat dripping down his face, he’d waded into the murky, muddy water. Strangely enough, the mud lessened the pain and he’d left his body covered with it for two days.

Driven to construct some sort of shelter, he used his saber to cut branches and brush.

shelter

That was the first day. He’d improved the shelter over the many days that followed.

He kept track of time with marks on a piece of driftwood. It was now covered with thirty marks and he was still alive.

But, for how long?

mythical creature

Hi, everyone. I hope you enjoyed meeting Jonah. Will he survive long enough for the boat to arrive? What did he do to get exiled to this horrible and dangerous island? Join me on Sunday to find out more about him and this strange arrangement.

Hugs!!