Recently, I had the fortune to be visited by a large number of house guests. A group of 19 family members to be exact. This is an odd number by all accounts, but luckily a friend dropped in to make it an even score. They all came from the metropolitan East Coast searching for the Old West and a chance to relax at my expense. Their relation obviously moving to Colorado Springs so that they could have affordable vacation housing.
For the first several days I had to work, causing me to miss out on opportunities involving tourist traps and family gossip. I did get to see my relatives in the evenings and by the weekend I had had enough of them, so I volunteered to babysit while the group paraded around Old Colorado City. I explained that I needed to have time to catch up with my nieces, nephews and my daughter. They swallowed this line heartily with no indication of having seen through the ruse.
My friend offered to join me. I accepted based on the fact that he arrived only the night before and was not quite on my nerves yet.
After the group left, I relaxed on the couch with a beer. I was none too worried about the children. I set them off to play with each other and thereby solved the need for supervision. My friend joined me on the couch with a beer where we struck up a conversation.
At first things went well. We discussed old times and caught up on each other’s recent activities. When these topics dried up, he began to talk about the West and what he expected to find on his vacation. Apparently he is an expert on PBS specials and other documentaries. He told me all kinds of fascinating facts about life in the West.
Having never witnessed these abundant western sights, I asked him how far west he was planning to travel to find them. He assured me that they were close at hand, and he was certain that he could find them in this area.
The conversation was moving along pleasantly and I was learning a great deal about the nesting habits of the eagle when a distant rumbling was heard.
“What is that?” my friend asked.
I had no idea what it might be and told him that my best guess was an airplane.
Suddenly he jumped to his feet and shouted, “Buffalo!”
It had been several years since I’d seen this fellow and I began to wonder if it had been a mistake to invite him into my home.
He started babbling about some National Geographic special on buffalo herds and was now saying we were about to experience one. Having never seen a buffalo herd myself, I began to get excited and reached for the remote control.
“What channel?” I asked.
“No,” he said, “Not on TV, they are coming here. Can’t you hear them?”
It was true that the rumbling had reached upper decibels and although I had never seen, nor could I imagine, a herd of buffalo in my neighborhood, I decided that he was the expert.
As we got up to view this natural wonder, the front door crashed open and a herd of children piled into the living room, thus ending the speculation on buffalo.
I sent them to the back yard, explaining that children were best kept in the sunshine for maximum growth through photosynthesis.
My friend was a bit disappointed but this did not lessen his zeal for the subject. The conversation resumed and I proceeded to learn all the habits of the buffalo. We were on our fifth beer and things were going quite nicely when a piercing screech rang out.
“Listen, the mating cry of the American Bald Eagle! I can tell that sound anywhere,” my friend said.
Eagles had not been regular visitors to my block since I moved here, so I asked him where he had heard one before that he was so sure he could identify one anywhere. He explained that he’d seen numerous programs on the American Bald Eagle and that if I had any hearing ability left in my ears, I could tell that the sound was certainly not human.
I had to admit to his last point and so joined him at the window. We searched the sky to no avail. We were about to give up when the screech was heard again coming from the rear of the house.
We ran to the back door expecting to glimpse one of God’s majestic creatures. Once there, we saw the source of the noise. The children, in a surge of creativity, had tied one of my nieces up in the clothesline and were currently decorating her with socks and underwear.
We turned away disappointed. I tried to reassure my friend by telling him that eagles did indeed live in this part of the country, but that they probably did not venture into this neighborhood for fear of children.
After a time, and several beers, my friend’s spirits were sufficiently recovered to resume reflections on the West. Here we entered a long stretch of conversation without disturbance in which I learned a great deal about survival in the harsh West. Up until then, I had been living under the illusion that Colorado Springs was a civilized modern city.
I went to the refrigerator for more beer. By this time I had lost count of our consumption, which was best, so I would not have to lie to my wife on her return.
Returning to the living room, I found my friend examining our houseplants.
“Fascinating, look at the way these leaves have been demolished.”
Generally, the houseplants are in the realm of my wife’s care and I do not concern myself with them. Now, as I examined the plants, I noticed that they had a sickly quality to them in that the leaves had been chewed on. I commented that it was truly interesting and then returned to the couch.
“This is obviously the result of a locust swarm,” he said.
I assured him it was not possible that a locust swarm had come into my home without my notice, unless it occurred while I was at work, and then my wife would certainly have kicked them out. He said he’d seen documentaries on this subject and was confident that this was what had happened.
By this time his assurances had lost credibility with me, so I argued against his theory. As we discussed the matter, a small hand reached up, seized one of the plant’s leaves and disappeared with it behind the end table.
A closer look revealed my seven-month-old daughter who had recently learned the art of climbing and was now chewing on the leaf. My friend was suddenly alarmed. He claimed that this plant was poisonous. I told him that I was sick of his western lore and no longer believed a word of it. Never the less, it was past lunch time, so I ordered pizza for the children, complete with pepperoni and orange juice to round out the four food groups.
Eventually the rest of the family returned with tales of Indians, cowboys, bears and other such nonsense that cannot be found hereabouts. I told them that they were all loons and then passed out from intoxication.
Copyright © 1994 by David A. Kilman