Friday, June 23, 2006

eyes in the night

Sometime during the 1950’s, maybe in 1956 or 57, I went with some older kids to a double feature matinee of horror movies.

This was in Dallas, Texas.

Downtown, Dallas, Texas.

I was maybe seven or eight.

The first movie was the House of Wax, with Vincent Price. I don’t remember much of the movie except for Price, dipped his victims in vats of wax.

The reason why I bring this up, though, was the second movie, which I have very little memory of. I don’t remember the title, or plot or actors or anything else, except...

Except I remember the monster.

And I remember the music that played just before the monster would appear.

I only bring this up because I heard, or imagined I was about to hear, this same music just the other night.

It was Tuesday, shortly after midnight.

I had fallen asleep on the sofa. The book I had been reading, a better than average SF, had fallen on the floor, the radio set to an XM space music station, was still on.

I sat up and remembered, suddenly, I hadn’t locked up the chickens.

So I got up, pulled on my blue jeans, put on my boots, got the flashlight, and went outside.

The chicken house, for those of you who have not been out recently, is a quarter of a mile away from the house. A quarter of a mile down the dark driveway, around several fields and through a little bit of forest.

As I walked down the lonely, dark road, I almost could have sworn I heard the music from that movie, the 1950’s horror movie, in the far distance.

Now in this movie, the one with the distant music, the major event of the movie would be when someone was handed a card, sort of like a business card, only, instead of phone numbers and e-mail addresses it had an evil symbol, and after getting the card, the eerie, monster invoking, music would start playing and before you knew it, the person, the one that gets the card, is running through the dark, (as I remember on some lonely railroad tracks, with a storm and wind blowing and a huge monster would appear and chase the person down and, I think, step on them.

Throughout my life, whenever I’ve wanted to enjoy that peculiar chill of fear running down my spine, I remember this scene.

Like when I was a paper boy in Arlington County in the early 60’s, out delivering the Washington Post at 4:30 on particularly eerie mornings, I would re-imagine the monster down at the far end of one of the especially dark streets on my route.

Or during the winter and spring of 1968, in the middle of the night, on the edge of a rice paddy. I was the medic on an advisory team in Vietnam and we would be out on night ambush and everybody was asleep.

Everybody but me. It would be my turn to stay awake watching the rice paddy through the night scope and that's when the music would start playing (in my imagination) and off in the distance, in that place between where you can see and where you can't see something would be moving just on the edge of darkness.

And while I never did personally see this monster at 4:30 in the morning in Arlington county, or even in Vietnam. I was sure I heard the music several times.

I only mention this because I heard it again last Tuesday.

I’m walking to the chicken house, with the dark forest on both sides, and the wind blowing, and trees swaying and up ahead, I flash the flashlight, over by the gate across the driveway, and there, in the dark, are eyes.

Ten eyes.

Eyes staring at me.

Blue eyes.

Bobbing, and leering, and swaying from side to side.

In the dark.

And I’ll stop right then and there and give you, instead, the farm news.

1. Farm party. July 8th. Saturday. evening. 5ish. Pot luck. If you are interested in helping organize this, or just help out, e-mail me back. This will be a pot luck. I’ll show people around the farm. We usually have an organized hike to the top of the mountain. Full details next week. But put it on your calendar. This is a time to meet the other shareholders. See the farm. Take in the beautiful view from the top of our mountain.

2. Vegetable new. Things are doing fine. The greens should be slowing down soon and the summer vegetables picking up. Actually, the coming week is usually the slowest week of the season. The week where its gotten warm and the spring greens have stopped growing and the week where it is still too early for the summer vegetables to kick in. That’s how it usually is, but that’s not how it is this year. We won’t, I don’t think, have a late June slow down. I think we’ll make the transition from spring to summer crops without a slacking.

3. Chicks. What was first thought to be baby chickens and then guineas and maybe bobwhite now looks a lot like grouse or maybe pheasant (we have a fair amount of grouse around here, so I say grouse). In the last week their wings have doubled, if not tripled, in size. Is anyone good at flying lessons?

3. Rain and lightning. We were suffering from a major drought but last night, Thursday night, we got 3 inches of rain in one of the most ferocious lightning storms I have seen in the 20 years we’ve lived here. I was up at midnight and saw lightning strikes in several places on the edge of our fields and some major strikes up on the mountain. In fact I ran outside to bring into the house the chicks from the cage in the greenhouse where they normally stay, and stepped almost on top of a copperhead. I couldn’t have been more than two or three steps outside the back door when the sky lit up from a close-by lightning blast and I saw it, the copperhead, just as it coiled and struck at my foot, Missing. Somehow. I didn’t stop running but when I got to the greenhouse I had to look for fang marks. It was that close.

And since we’re on to eerie things lets go back to the eyes. The bobbing and staring eyes.

I stopped waiting for that monster to appear. The one that steps on people (off camera) in that cheap 50’s movie.

Only the eyes stopped moving for a moment and I walked a little closer and could see that the eyes were connected to deer.

Five of them. Just on the other side of the fence. I guess looking for a way around the fence so they could come on in and eat your, our, vegetables.

The deer, though, realizing the spot light was attached to a human, finally blinked and turned and disappeared into the night.

And that’s one of the reasons we keep the gate closed out here on the farm. If you come out and the gate is closed, please close it behind you.

Before we put up our anti-deer fence and hung the gate across the driveway the deer used to eat in the neighborhood of ten to fifteen thousand dollars worth of vegetables a year. Deer damage is a good way to turn a great vegetable year into a miserable one.


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