The Jay-Walking Chicken: Tales from the Rez
So…..this goes way back to when. I learned how to drive on a John Deere tractor. Mama didn’t drive. Never learned. Other than Mama and my little sisters, I was the only one home at the time so the job of helping Daddy fell on me. He ordered me outta bed very, VERY early, saying that I needed to get up and help out by driving one of our tractors to some field. No volunteering happened here. The tractor was stick shift and I had no clue how the whole manual transmission thing worked. I mean, what the heck, I was still in elementary school and had yet to even drive a car. Daddy, as impatient as ever, barked off instructions while demonstrating how the whole clutch-gear shift thing worked, then he left to go commandeer a Ferguson tractor. He started rolling along and when he looked back and saw that nothing was happening on my end, he began hollering and gesturing at me to hurry up, which only got me more flustered and upset. That’s the day I think I learned how to swear very well. Anyway, I had no idea how the heck I was supposed to hurry it up when I still had no clue of what to do. But miracles do happen and I somehow managed to figure out how to make the clutch and gear shift work and proceeded to make painful, grinding, and jerking progress to another field. And of course, a boy who had a crush on me at the time happened to be out helping his own father in their field. Man, I like to have died when I saw him watching me, and more so when he waved to me. My hair was a massive tumbleweed, my driving embarrassing, but in spite of my humiliation, I learned how to drive stick that morning.
Anyway. The chicken.
So my father was gone, hauling something or another to somewhere and I was left to drive Mama around. That is, around the reservation, not up to town. I was still in grade school, maybe seventh grade. Maybe younger. Mama was participating in some church thing and I had to go pick her and the twins up. I forget what car we had at the time but no doubt it was second-hand and a clunker. So at 11:00 and because I’m already late, I’m flying down the reservation road at 45 mph which was pretty fast to me back then. No other vehicles were on the road but I eased up on the gas as I was nearing the main road where I’d hang a left and head down to the church. A short way from the main road two houses stood across from each other. The inhabitants were related. Cousins, I think. The Bys lived in the better house. They had a big picture window which we all envied and even though they were in their late forties or early fifties, they acted like high school lovers, sitting all close like when driving down the road in their pickup truck or big car with a bench type front seat.
The Seeds lived across from the Bys. Mr. Seeds used to draw pastel pictures of sunsets which he believed were masterpieces. Seeds was an arrogant ass, always complaining about others. I mean, he really thought highly of himself and not so highly of the rest of us reservation dwellers.
So on this particular day, the day I was late to pick up Mama, Seeds was outside watching the non-traffic go by. Until I came flying down the road. At the very moment I appeared, one of the Bys’ free-range chickens happened to be crossing the road. It was jay-walking, really. I didn’t see it and I did not know that I had blasted right into the jay-walking bird. I saw in the rear view some feathers flying up behind me but honestly, I didn’t realize I had just pulverized a chicken.
A few days later, my dad started questioning me about a chicken I had supposedly mowed down. I honestly had no clue what he was talking about but I guess old Seeds had gone stalking over to the Bys that morning and told them what he had witnessed. He even dragged them out and over to check out the splattered evidence on the roadway. Seeds told them that they needed to call the Indian police to come down and charge me with reckless driving and for driving without a license. But the Bys refused and told their lame relative that their chickens didn’t have a license to be on the road either. Plus, they said they didn’t think the police would appreciate being called down the reservation to check on a dead chicken. So in the end nothing but laughs came out of the jay-walking chicken incident. But from that time some of my own lame relatives often felt the need to say to me, “Hey, how about the time you did a hit-and-run on a chicken.”