I was four,almost five, years old the morning I followed my father out the back door. He had a rooster in one arm and a hatchet in the other hand. I had no idea what this all meant, I just knew something was up, something perhaps fabulous, something out of the ordinary, something I was about to be a part of in ways I could never have foreseen.
My father gave me the rooster to hold. He grabbed a sawhorse. He drove two nails in it close together. He took the rooster from my arms, stretched out it's neck and wedged it between the nails.
Then so quick I didn't have time to imagine what was happening right in front of me, he raised the hatchet and brought it down on the rooster's neck. The rooster's head remained between the nails, eyes blinking. The rooster's body dropped to the ground, stood up, and began running around.
I was not prepared for that - the rooster's body ran straight for me - I panicked, turned to run but tripped and fell - I turned quickly to my back, the rooster's body climbed on my leg, across my hips, my stomach - I can still feel every step that headless rooster took walking up my body until it stood on my chest jumping up and down, it's spurs ripping into my flesh, blood still pumping from it's severed headless neck, blood that soaked my t-shirt,
splashed into my mouth, fell across my eyes. I had never before been frightened like that, I had never before been in shock - I looked toward my father, he was laughing, not meanly but with a degree of amusement. I knew then that my father could not see what had happened to me from one moment to the next. I knew that if my father could not see it then no one else would ever see it either.
I was four, almost five years old, I had been changed forever. I couldn't see it any more than anyone else could, I just knew it had been done.
Sixteen, almost seventeen, years later the US gov't sent me to Vietnam. They knew nothing about, & couldn't have cared less about, my history.
They provided me with a gun, grenades, combat boots, a helmut, some underwear, a change or two of clothes, and something called training. I had already been trained but they could not see it.
I knew the moment that my feet touched Vietnamese soil that I would come out of there alive. The Vietnamese who wished to end me never knew what hit them or why. They did not know and could not see my history.
Now, 45, almost 46, years later I sit with these words in a rented house by a river. Outside it is raining. Today I flirted with the teller at my bank, I brought coffee to the pawnshop owner, got some information on an item he knew about. I tipped my barber and he said "Thanks." The cashier at the market smiled at me as she totaled up my groceries, I smiled back.
I do not know the histories of any of these folks. They do not know, nor can they see, any of my history. A history that was granted me by God through the agency of a headless rooster some sixty, almost sixty one, years ago.
It has never failed in standing me to the good and I have never spent so much as a single moment in guilt over the trigger I had to pull or the bullets I sent on to their perfect destiny.
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