Getting through a barbed wire fence was always easier for Robin than it was for Mike. Rob deftly lifted or squeezed the wires just right and quickly slipped through without a hitch.
Even though Mike and Robin were only 9 or 10 at the time, Mike’s navigation through a barbed wire fence resembled a 90 year old doing the limbo. In spite of the extra caution and time he took, Mike invariably got snagged on one of the barbs.
Robin lived on a farm, but Mike was a “city boy”. Didn’t matter that the “city” only had about 5,000 people in it, Mike lived “ in town,” which made him “city.” Things that seemed ordinary to Robin were often either great adventures or daunting trials for Mike.
As always, with a snicker or two, Rob patiently waited for Mike. He could have been cruel, given the disparity in their skills, and, of course, he had to give Mike a hard time now and then. But, overall, at least in his dealings with his buddy Mike, Rob had a sweet patience beyond his years.
Every day can’t be a major escapade. Moms only tolerate so many grand adventures per week. Most days, a young fella has to just improvise with what’s nearby. So, to make it more interesting, common things quickly become exotic.
Not far from Robin’s place was a field behind a neighboring farm. Splat dab in the middle of the field, at its highest point, stood one lone, majestic old pear tree.
Now, most fruit trees only live 7 to 15 years, but some said that this tree was over a hundred years old. No one knew how old it was, but it was undoubtedly a remarkable old tree.
It was the only tree of its kind anywhere nearby. Trees more common to the North East Texas forests surrounded the open field where it reigned. There were Pines, Elm, Pecan, Sweet Gum, and several others … but no pear trees!
The old pear tree was much bigger than any fruit tree either boy had ever seen. Its branches and trunk were as big as an ancient oak’s – rugged and twisted with so much character and personality.
In spite of its age, the tree always bore a great bounty of fruit, year after year. Its massive canopy burgeoned with giant green pears on every limb. The pears were always hard, but sweet.
Key among the old pear tree’s endearing and mystical qualities was its preeminent climb-ability. It had no equal among the great trees of the world for a young adventurer who must attain great heights in very little time with only modest effort.
Finally, the most magical aspect of the old pear tree was the intricate system of hollowed out branches, which fed into its hollowed out trunk, complete with a nature-made delivery chute at the bottom of the tree.
Trees don’t last long once they begin to hollow out, but, in spite of its many cavernous, hollowed appendages, the old pear tree stood sturdy and strong. The old tree seemed to go back as far back as time itself, and the boys imagined that it would be there when Jesus returned.
Once both boys got through the barbed wire fence, they made a beeline for the old pear tree. The early morning air was cool and sweet. The soft morning light gave the receding dark blue sky a light blue hue with warm yellow and orange tinges on the tree tops.
The boys trudged through a blanket of morning dew, which still covered the rugged tufts of brown grass. Their boots and bottom of their jeans got soppin’ wet, but they didn’t care. It would all dry up within ½ hour or so as the warm morning sun joined their mission at the old pear tree.
Whenever Rob and Mike committed a few hours to the old pear tree, they always had to figure out what their mission was that time around. Today’s mission was especially important. The US Calvary would be bringin’ supplies within the week, if, that is, they weren’t bushwhacked by Indians or delayed by severe weather. It was Mike’s and Rob’s job to protect the fort (the old pear tree) until the Calvary arrived to relieve them.
Mike and Rob were not regulars in the army. They were independent scouts. They acted as trackers and guides, hired by the US government to assist the Army in its expeditions through the untamed West.
In fact, Mike and Rob had been personal friends with other great scouts, such as Davy Crocket, Wild Bill Hickock, or Buffalo Bill Cody. No one understood how they were able to live so long so as to know Davy Crocket and the other two great scouts, but that’s just the way it was. The boys were legends.
Each boy would take turns being the lookout at the top of the old tree, peering out between the leaves to detect possible raiding parties of Indians or outlaws.
It was uncanny. Invariably, only moments after scaling one of the wide, accommodating branches, the lookout scout would spot something amiss.
To keep the fort’s attackers from realizing they’d been spotted, the lookout would carefully and quietly grab a pear hanging near his face. It was critically important to not make the branch quiver even the slightest bit to avoid being noticed by the approaching enemies. He would steady the pear’s limb with one hand as he carefully and slowly tore the pear’s stem away with the other hand.
He would then quietly flip open his official, US Army supplied, pocketknife and etch an alert message into the pear’s flesh.
If he took a bite off the opposite side of the pear that meant that the raiding part had ten to twenty attackers in it. Two bites meant the raiding party was 20 or more in size.
The lookout would then warble some random birdcall to alert the scout below. It mattered not that no known specie actually made a sound like that. The enemy was too dumb to know this.
The lookout would then drop the pear into one of the many open holes in the large branches above. The pear’s descent was mostly silent, betraying only one or two faint bumps on its journey down.
Having heard the bird warble, the scout below knew to be attentive to the message chute at the bottom of the tree.
The scout with ground duty had the most perilous assignment. He had to go ambush and repel the attackers. The lookout could, of course, sit and snipe the enemy from his superior elevation. The pear tree was always generous to offer a small branch when an improvised Winchester was needed.
When the raiding party became too much, and the ground scout would holler out for help. In no time, the lookout scout slid down the tree and began to fight shoulder to shoulder with his partner in mortal combat against their enemies.
Swords and Bowie knives cut and jabbed the air, as each agile scout dispatched one enemy after another. At times, though, even the best of the fighters gets injured. When one of the boys was stabbed or shot by an enemy, he’d yelp out that he’d been hit, then stumble or even completely fall to the ground.
His companion would quickly close in to guard and protect his friend. Standing over his partner he would swing his arms with ever greater vigor at his enemies, switching from sword to knife to bayonet to pistol … whatever was needed in the instant, and depending on which firearm was loaded.
Eventually, the frenzy would subside. Exhausted from the seemingly endless melee, the standing scout stood panting as he surveyed the field. All of their opponents lay dead on the ground or were fleeing in terror back into the thick woods that surrounded the old pear tree’s field.
Now he could turn his attention to field dressing and bandaging up his wounded friend.
One huge advantage of make believe, is that the body heals at an amazing rate. Within only two or three minutes, the wounded scout would be almost 100% recovered, showing only a slight gimp in his walk, or only the slightest favoring of one arm over the other.
The day progressed as Rob and Mike heroically handled one wave of attackers after another with only short pauses between each one.
Again, with uncanny timing, Rob and Mike saw the US Calvary coming through a path in the woods right when Mrs. Smith banged the cow bell on the back porch announcing to the weary scout’s that their lunch was ready.
True Story by Mike Strong and Robin Smith
This post was submitted by Mike Strong.