I could tell stories about mom’s pan fried gluten steaks, the Tupperware party songs and our goat buck Siggy (short for Siegfried) at our ranch up the road from Ardenvoir who could jump any fence, but instead this one’s about an after-church late summer potluck at Hazel Dell Park in Vancouver, Washington in the very early 1980s.
The hero is Bob Bolton and his lovely brunette wife Rhonda. I liked her smile because her teeth were flawless and I never saw her bite anyone. She represented genetically perfect maxillofacial structure in my young mind. I was in awe of how perfectly the upper and lower jaw aligned, the strength and sharpness at the corner beneath her ear and how when she’d speak the mystery would unravel like a hot pink stocking. My young mind was so curious and intuitive. I thought.
Bob was and probably still is a jovial active outdoorsman. Seems like he was a draftsman or systems engineer or punch card computer programmer. He had the body of a devoted student. He had a pinched temple thirty-yard gaze, also known as nearsightedness. He loved the particular details of life. Like names of things. He was a birder by hobby and boasted about his acumen often. And he emphasized his dictums with a rub of the nose and a pushup on the glasses.
And on that day in that park after our church members had broken bread and casserole and veggie links and corn and pie we were all standing around shooting it you know? I probably had a friend or two there to hang with. Mom and Dad yucking it up with Doris or Pastor or someone. The group must’ve dwindled to a few dozen by this time. Then Bob lets loose with a report aimed at Rhonda but directed to all of us.
“Rhonda, was that I Rufus Sided Towhee?” he exhuberated. “I think that was a Rufus Sided Towhee Rhonda, did you hear it?” Rhonda barely turned off her mousy prattle to arch her porcelain brow at Bob’s invitation to listen and look for the feisty under brush thrasher. But Bob did his 123 rub glasses nudge so proud of his achievement. Internal clone high fives commenced.
Within a few moments we’d loaded up the hot plates and coolers and were headed on to our next Sabbath afternoon destination. I believe it was our favorite aftermeal hike that short trail at the end of the hall that led to mattress flats right above box springs. Hardyharrhhharrr.
Me and Mom and Dad have been laughing about that for a good 30 years. And where I live now, a convenient 1,000 miles south in the Upper Ojai Valley. I see that little black winged bird with the white specks and the reddish brown breast threshing the fallen leaves and twigs searching for the grubs and seeds that fill his little Rufus Sided tummy.
And then finally I did this little design and made some new things. The cool part is that I finally did a black design that I paint in the details. I love being an artist and I’m so grateful for my childhood. It’s a sort of coloring book life that inspires what it was like for me growing up in my hometown.