Thursday, March 14, 2013


The secret club consisted of two brothers who were actually next door neighbors but had long before decided they were in it together and would fight whoever said otherwise.  They lived in an old gypsy wagon—one of two planted in the back of Butch’s yard and up against Sonny’s yard—and in that wagon they kept their secret symbol (a half-pound chunk of quartz wrapped in one of Butch’s mom’s prized scarves) and over the wagon flew their official flag.  They called themselves The Bull Brothers and why that was the chosen name has faded over the years but it seemed appropriate enough for a couple of poor kids surrounded by beer joints, gas stations, cotton gins and one very convenient blacksmith shop.  The shop had belonged to Butch’s father but he was killed in a car accident when Sonny was in the second grade and Butch, if memory serves, was in the fifth grade.  Afterwards, other blacksmiths rented the shop from Butch’s mom but the two brothers still had access to the place carte blanche.  Learning was a process of observation and by the time Sonny was in the fourth grade the two boys had learned to forge steel and had used their knowledge of that process to make two small push carts, several knives, a couple of sabers and some very lethal rockets that were blasted into the far reaches of the universe from the vacant lot next to Butch’s house.  It was all part of the Antnik Program which was a spinoff of the Soviet’s Sputnik launched in the mid-1950s.  In those days firecrackers were real and potent and the two brothers had a good source of supply.  Cherry bombs, TNTs, M-80s and an assortment of Mexican fireworks with roughly the equivalent power of a small stick of Dynamite guaranteed a launch system capable of propelling a red ant into the outer ionosphere.  The Antnik Program brought real meaning to the saying, “an astronaut sits on a bomb.”  Butch would light the fuse while Sonny gave the countdown.  Unfortunately, only one ant survived.  Not to be deterred the brothers set out on other adventures and built a smaller fort under the great Hunchback of Notre-Dame—a huge salt cedar tree that leaned over the fort like an old arthritic man and was said to possess spirits and from which creatures emerged at night.  One evening Butch called Sonny to come over but when Sonny ventured across the fence he saw the Great Hunchback looming over him.
          “Hey, Butch.  Maybe you better come over here instead.”
          They fought the Apaches as Cavalry and then they fought the Cavalry as Apaches.  They dug fox holes across the street near the railroad tracks and on one daring mission even laid banana peels on the tracks.  Conscience won out however and a few minutes before the train was due they ran to the tracks and removed the peels lest they cause a horrific accident.  Who knows how many lives were saved that day.  Tom and Huckleberry eat your hearts out for there was never in the history of rambunctious boys the likes of Butch and Sonny.
          Ah, but all good things must come to an end and on one fateful day Butch discovered girls.  Sonny, of course, was heartbroken for he was still too young to appreciate that great find.  Not long afterwards Butch’s mom remarried and they moved away leaving a very sad little boy.  The years past and now and then the two Bull Brothers would reunite for an evening of reminiscing and swapping lies.  Butch moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico where he operated a small business and Sonny worked in the newspapers and then magazines and even taught for a while.  A few years back Sonny was informed that Butch had left and so now only one Bull Brother remains.  What happened to the knives and sabers of yesteryear is lost to time, but one artifact remains.  A piece of history found in an old box.  Constructed over 50 years ago the artifact has obviously seen better days.  A genuine late 1950s tomahawk used in battle against a rival tribe and made of Chinaberry and sandstone and wrapped in vulcanized sinew; the tomahawk is held in place by nothing more than memories.  Sonny holds it in his hand and thinks back.  Such are the laments of an old man.


In memory of Roland Bourgeois

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