SOMEONE once said that we (any and all of us) are the total of all those we’ve known and all of the things we’ve experienced. It would follow that our character is developing for the entire span of our lives.
What brought this to mind was an experience with some neighbors when I was a boy in Teague. I’m the eldest of four sons and that benefited me in many ways, one of which is I got to witness a lot of things that happened to my younger brothers that could be defined as building character.
At the time of this particular incident, there were only three Webb sons, the youngest (Clydell) being a toddler.
Our next door neighbors were the Horns. Mr. Horn was retired from the railroad, the principal job provider in Teague. Horn, as he was called by toddler Clydell (“Mister Horn” being too big a mouthful), suffered from diabetes and a heart ailment.
WE WERE allowed to go to Horn’s house once in awhile. He taught me to play solitaire, a game I enjoy to this day. I didn’t think too much about it at the time, but Horn had so much time on his hands and his physical movement was so limited that solitaire and his very slow, deliberate walks around the yard were the most enjoyable things in his life each day.
Horn would amble slowly around his yard and ours. Clydell moved from window to window in our house, stood on his toes on the baseboard, and talked to Horn, who loved every minute of it. I’m convinced that Horn’s affection for Clydell and those little daily encounters extended the older man’s life. Horn’s son and his grandchildren lived in Houston. His inability to travel and his grandchildren’s two-times-a-year visit limited his time with the grandkids. So, Clydell filled a void in Horn’s life.
Occasionally, Mother would let Clydell outside when Horn was out. Clydell would hold Horn’s hand and they’d saunter around the two yards. A broad smile stayed on the old man’s face the entire time.
ON ONE of the toddler’s visits to Horn’s house, they were out in the yard and a baby blue jay fell out of his nest. Clydell picked up the little bird and clasped it gingerly in both hands and began walking toward our front door to show Mother his “prize.”
Uh, oh. Big mistake.
Mama Blue Jay took great umbrage at this tow-headed toddler’s seizing her baby and began squawking and started dive-bombing Clydell, giving him several pecks on top of his head with each swoop. Clydell maintained his grip on the baby bird and extended his arms where he was holding the little jay directly in front of his chest. Despite what I know had to be painful pecks, Clydell maintained his clutch. I was paralyzed with fear and amazement and couldn’t move for what seemed a long time but was probably just a few seconds.
Horn, however, was laughing uproariously and enjoying every second of what he deemed a comical scene. Clydell’s anguish finally convinced him discretion was the better part of valor. He dropped Baby Blue Jay and Mama Jay scooped it up and returned it to the nest but continued a squawking condemnation of humans from the treetop.
MAMA JAY’S noisy chastisement of us three humans was still going when Mother came out of the house to see what the commotion was. Horn was still laughing and I was still gawking with bug-eyed amazement. Mother gave us her “why-didn’t-you-two do something” look and we brushed the smiles away with great difficulty.
I was admonished for not acting faster and saving my little brother from the pain and the fright of the bird dive-bombing him. I suppose you could say I developed a little character from that experience but probably not as much as little brother did from the painful infliction of those dive-bomb attacks by Mama Jay.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.