“Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him.”
Psalms 128:1 NIV
The following story is an excerpt from Barrio Walk: Stepping Into Wisdom:
At that point in my young life, I was not quite five years old and spent a lot of my time entertaining my younger three-year old sister named Lupe. She was lanky and not comfortable walking on uneven surfaces. Her manner of walking outdoors looked like a newborn colt taking its' first steps, sort of like Bambi on ice. We did not get to spend much time outside without adult presence. We were both at an age where our curiosity seemed to keep us locked up in trouble. One of my favorite things to do was to show off for "Lupeanuts", the nickname I gave her.
On this particular day, I decided to demonstrate to her how the rooster walks. As we slowly walked down our neighbors' dilapidated sidewalk, we were careful not to step on any of the plants they were growing. There was a damp and musky smell because our neighbors grew whatever they could wherever there was dirt. They had hierba buena (mint), cilantro, jalapenos, and tomatoes. I told Lupe to stay back as I stretched my legs and struggled to straddle over the small fence quickly so I would not be seen by my mother.
When I saw the rooster strutting, I went into a conceited stroll of my own. My head bobbed while I stretched my imaginary wings and raked the ground with my feet. My sister laughed as she enjoyed my rooster imitation act. I felt like I was about to sprout feathers and could hardly wait for the next sunrise.
Much later in life I learned, "There are three things that are stately in their stride, .... a lion, mighty among beasts, who retreats before nothing; a strutting rooster, and a he-goat." Proverbs 30:30-31 NIV
All of the sudden, I looked up and was staring eye-to-eye with a rooster that did not like being mocked. He had a look in his eyes that said, “oh heck no!” I made a futile attempt to intimidate the cock by displaying my fiercest mean-mug look. It did not work as the stupid rooster went into attack mode. It scared me into running faster than my little legs could go and I fell to the ground. To this day, I’m not sure if I fell on my own or the rooster gave me a flying double kick. That no good yard bird proceeded to do a tap dance on my back and pecked me like a large corn on the cob. I screamed while the rooster pecked me for an eternity (probably less than half a minute).
Our neighbor, Chavela heard the commotion and ran out of her house with her broom swinging. She yelled, “Gallo condenado, te voy a matar!” That means, "You sorry rooster, I am going to kill you!" Chavela was animated and always wore a bandana like Rosie the Riveter. She spoke in a rapid-fire vocabulary that mixed choppy English with Spanish. She picked me up and rushed me into our house. Chavela apologized profusely and I remember my mother saying, "It's his own fault, I told him to stay away from the rooster."
They laid me on the bed and brought out the sangre de chango (monkey’s blood), also known as iodine to put on my injuries. This hurt more than the rooster’s pecks and scratches. As they applied the iodine on my back with the stiff plastic applicator, I squirmed liked a worm being impaled on a fishhook. Chavela tried to distract me with one of her favorite sayings. She said, "My husband esta tan viejo (is so old), he doesn't let me buy green bananas." She was laughing before she could finish the sentence and I had no clue what she was talking about.
Later that evening, Chavela and her husband Eleazar invited all of us to their house for dinner. Chavela had prepared for us some arroz con pollo (chicken with rice), in this case, it was arroz con gallo (rooster with rice). The meal was by far the best dead chicken I had ever tasted. We did not use napkins during those days, and everyone passed around the same cloth napkin which was usually a dish drying towel. Prior to the meal, my mother told me and my two older brothers she did not want to hear a word out of us except for, "thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Ramirez." We were on our best behavior. My oldest brother and I had been known to just look at each other and start laughing. Our most recent occasion was during a rosary held at our house.
During the meal, Chavela enjoyed telling everyone the story of how she looked outside and saw the rooster scratching and pecking me on the ground. She was talking fast and would barely stop to take a breath. Her story was colorful, and she even threw in a few choice, extra cuss words other than, "gallo condenado." She went on to describe how much she enjoyed twisting the rooster's head off and pulling off his feathers con ganas (with gusto) while getting it ready for our meal.
When we finished eating, Chavela hugged me and told me I would not have to worry about the rooster anymore. She took me outside to show me the rooster's decapitated head that she had discarded in her back yard. I was afraid to get too close to the rooster's head because his eyes were bugged out and had a look of confusion. From a safe distance, I pointed at the rooster and stuck my tongue out; I laughed and yelled out, "Ha! Ha!" I hugged Chavela and told her, "Thank you for saving me and the food was good too."
Later that night, before going to bed, I imitated the rooster one last time for my sister Lupe. She laughed as she saw me attempt to strut with a hunched, hurt back. At the end of the day, even though the rooster won the battle, I won the war (thanks to Chavela). In my opinion, this makes me more than a conqueror because I went to bed with a smile while burping rooster.
It was difficult to sleep that night because it was hot, and my back was irritated. My mind kept reliving the terror of being helpless against the rooster. I cried silently and wished I had obeyed my mother and stayed away from the rooster. Hmmm .... maybe that's why the good book says, "Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this pleases the Lord". Ephesians 6:1 NIV
Even today, more than 60 years later, Lupe will occasionally tease me by saying, "Hey Ruuster" instead of Ruben.
Hasta luego! Until next time!