Something great happened today. I was visiting Wheeler Farm here in Salt Lake City (an old farmstead/park complete with farm animals and a river through the middle) with some friends, and somehow the conversation turned to a short storytelling session where I shared a few of the more absurd memories from my youth, while the kids ran around and played in the creek.
The thing is, I’ve been told that many times when it comes to my adverse childhood experience, but never anything positive. It struck me there sitting in the shade…maybe I should write about the good moments. They’re still very strange and fantastical stories, but for their strangeness, they’re still heartwarming, or at least humorous. With what I’m going through right now, I will take heartwarming and humorous. So, I’ll start today with re-telling two of the tales I told earlier this sunny afternoon.
The Bear Trap
I was not encouraged to ever be in my house as a child. Ever. And barring the fact that there were a few toys and snacks within it, I wasn’t really happy to be in it much, so most of my “free time” was spent exploring the mountains. I ran into some strange things out there, and I don’t think my parents have any clue just how far I traveled…it was miles and miles each day. Anyway, this afternoon I was doing my thing and surf-sliding down a very steep mountain.
My dad was always adamant that I watch what the hell I was doing, mostly for the unmarked underground wells that existed all over the Appalachians where we lived. I had enough fear for them considering the neighbor boy, slightly younger than me, fell in one and drowned when I was four years old. So as I slid down the slippery pine-needles and leaves, I watched the slope with an eagle eye, scouring the horizon for deadly wells…. when I saw an old bear trap directly in my path.
I recognized it as my dad’s; it wasn’t the “full size” bear traps, but slightly smaller. I have no idea what he was trying to catch, but the point here is that the trap was open and I was careening toward it. I immediately stood from my crouched slide, and when my feet hit the open trap it stayed opened. It was rusted open. Lucky me? But then I looked up, still sliding forward, and met eyes with a rotted rope, and hanging from the end of it, a gnarled chicken foot and leg.
My dad had used one of his roosters for bait, hanging above the trap, and over the months (year?) the carcass rotted, leaving the one leg and a bunch of matted feathers and meat to drip slowly down onto the trap. My brain realized all this in the span of about .5 seconds before I screeched and the thing thwacked me right in the face, dead chicken just exploding everywhere and going in every single opening in my skull. It was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever encountered with my face, and it encountered aaaaallllllll of my face. The meat was soggy and just kind of made a plegh sound as it smacked me, like even it was disgusted at what just happened. Later when I told my Mom about the incident she laughed so hard she doubled over and I just stood there unimpressed, but I have to admit, if I had been in her shoes I would have probably done the same thing.
tl;dr, I got hit in the face with a dead chicken, while trying to avoid a rusted trap.
I woke up one night, about six or seven years old, to my dad very excitedly telling me to get out of bed (the couch) and come outside. My dad is never excited about anything, so I remember tripping over my nightgown and stumbling out into the moonlit night. He was dressed in camouflage and his truck was parked in the front of the house, and several of his louder, more rowdy friends were with him.
My dad’s friends were a strange bunch, all convicts or hunters/hillbillies, with hearts of gold toward me, whom they considered to be the prodigy of the forest. They all smiled and called to me, standing at the tailgate of the truck, and I remembered thinking from everyone’s giddy level of enchantment that they must have gotten me a present! My child logic was not wise, considering I 1) never got presents and 2) a bunch of grown men waking up a six year old at midnight and calling her outside was a sinister beginning to a present.
So my dad told me to go and look in the back of the truck. I traipsed up the hill, excited, as he went ahead of me and around the back. He looked to be holding something in the bed, but I had no clue what it might be. The men parted around me as I rounded the edge of the corner and A FUCKING BEAR LUNGED AT ME, ROARING.
I screamed and about three seconds later heard the uproarious laughter of the hunters; my dad had killed a black bear that night while I slept, and brought it home on the truck bed. This thing’s face was inches away from mine, his mouth open, blood dripping out. I remember seeing the gleaming white fangs in the light of the moon, and the black fur. My dad had made the roaring sound and thrown the body towards me as a joke. Ha, ha. Hilarious.
After my lip stopped quivering, I asked if I could pet the bear, and my dad let me. I have to marvel at kid Alex, what a resilient little thing. I was always sad to see a dead animal like that, but these animals were our survival. That bear meant good meat for months ahead. I knew that from a very young age, so I petted it and told it thank you, and then went back to bed. Normal night for the Worleys.
tl;dr; my dad uses an actual bear to scare the shit out of me in the middle of the night