Red-winged Blackbird… to defend his territory and attract a mate, male perches on high stalk with feathers fluffed out and tail partly spread, lifts leading edge of wing so that red shoulder patches are prominent, and sings.
Archives for March 7, 2021
Flash fiction by Jessica Murphy
Prompt: Yellow scene-of-crime tape surrounded the area.
“Funny you should ask. This all goes back a ways.” Dr. Wilkins checked the animal’s chest with his stethoscope, nodded sadly, and made an entry in his log book.
“Four or five years ago there was a spate of injuries to donkeys at certain animal refuge centres in the U.K. The worst was the incident of over fifty stab wounds to one elderly female. Six of the wounds were to her eyes, which left her blind. That attack got a lot of press.” He replaced his needle kit and other paraphernalia in his aluminum case and closed it with a crash that surprised me. Doc Wilkins is usually a very quiet man.
“So, of course, there were copycat attacks. This sanctuary suffered three cases of donkey abuse. Then it set up security cameras.” He sighed. “Donkeys can be their own worst enemies. They are trusting of everyone. Until they are given a reason to be wary.”
The doctor gave one final pat to the head of his patient, then walked from the barn towards his SUV. I joined him.
“Some three years ago Lizzie there was living peacefully on a petting zoo farm. She used to pull a cart filled with kids, and sometimes, brave little ones would get on her back and go for a ride.” He laughed in remembrance. “Well. A walk really. She was always slow and gentle, seemed to know that children are fragile. Then one night she was attacked. Teenagers they thought. She was repeatedly struck in the eyes with a short knife. Thank god it was short or the blade would have entered her brain and killed her. As it was, she was blinded. Totally. She came to the sanctuary, for a well-deserved retirement and the care she needed.”
“Most people around here thought they knew who was responsible. There were some bad kids we all knew about. But nothing got done, no one got charged.” He was now striding quickly. “I guess giving out a speeding ticket is more important than investigating an animal’s mutilation,” he snarled.
We passed the corral that was marked with bright yellow ‘Scene of Crime Do Not Enter’ tape. Fresh sawdust had been strewn over what I knew to be a bloodstain of inhuman proportions.
“Have you ever looked into the eyes of a donkey? Or a horse?” He slowed a bit, in thought. “Any equine, I suppose. The eye is so large, when compared to ours. And so dark. It reflects what the animal is seeing, but the image is curved, like the eye. And the iris is dark and huge. Again in comparison with ours.” He looked off, at nothing. “It’s like looking into a black crystal ball.”
I had not known Dr. Wilkins to be so introspective. Or sensitive. Most veterinarians are not, at least publicly.
He shook himself, and continued to the parking lot. “Anyway, it’s a kind of poetic justice, I suppose. Except not for Lizzie. This sanctuary is a charity. As such, it’s on the list of local work sites to which magistrates can assign community service hours.”
“But?” I asked. I knew about community service, but what was that reference to poetic justice?
“Yeah. That kid—criminal really—got community service because he was only seventeen. Been in trouble forever, but still isn’t a grown up, in the eyes of the law. So, he got assigned here. Must have scared the hell out of him when he had to feed Lizzie.”
He continued. “So, you asked if I thought Lizzie recognized the little bastard as the kid who blinded her, three years ago?
“Well, yes.” I had not really asked in those words, but that was the gist of it.
He opened the hatch of his SUV, placed his case inside, turned and sat, his feet just touching the dust of the farmyard.
He smiled humourlessly. “Well. As described by at least three witnesses, all of whose statements have been sworn to, when the kid offered Lizzie her bucket of grain, she smelt the food, then, instead of eating, she began to nuzzle him. Pushed against his chest, moved her lips over his shirt, then pressed her chin in under his. Apparently, the kid was all smiles, happy to have the donkey accept him. When he patted her head, she bared her teeth and ripped out his jugular vein, in one quick bite. Ever notice the incisors of an equine?”
The vet nodded his head. “Yes. I think Lizzie recognized her torturer.” He got up, walked to the driver’s door and opened it. “And I think she knew what that attack would mean. For her. What the result would be. The sentence, so to speak. I swear, that as I gave her the injection, she smiled. A big, happy donkey smile.”
Tears glinted in his eyes.
February was black history month. There are untold stories that we missed due to time culture and even racism. Some stories were told just not given the attention they deserved. The story is about a Canadian that received recognition but not as high profile as it should have been.
This story is one of human triumph not just a footnote from the sports world. Sports has been both a beacon on the hill and a dark series of more sinister thoughts hidden away in the basement of collective dark minds. We’ve all heard of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball or Professional boxer Joe Louis. In 1959 Bill Wright broke the Pro Golf color barrier and in basketball it was Earl Lloyd in 1950. Until recently professional hockey almost forgot its hero who blazed the trail for players of color. Some have said hockey is the white mans sport and always has been. I am happy to say that assessment is no longer the case.
As I started to refresh my memory about a man I will introduce yo to, I realized just how narrow the blazed trail was and how steep the climb was. He endured racial slurs, racial taunts, death threats, and unfair expectations. Hockey was both cruel and kind to this man who if not should be championed as a genuine hero not just for sport but as a member of society.
At first he was overlooked, but true talent eventually shines through. Not only was he a solid performer he hid a secret that would have crippled his career. A hockey puck struck him and left him blind in one eye. Yes he played in the old days of the Rocket and Gordie Howe . He was conspicuous by his presence when in 1958 he stepped on the ice in a Boston Bruin Uniform.
Yes number 22 played with and against the best of his time. He played for Boston and later was traded to the Montreal Canadians. The Habs traded him into the professional Western Hockey League. Ironically Boston’s number 22 played pro hockey for 22 seasons retiring in 1980.
That’s not the end of the story he went on to encourage, coach and mentor hundreds of kids especially children of color introducing them to the sport he loves.
Take a pause here, and think, we remember Bobby Orr, the brothers Richard, Wayne the great one, even Jerome Iginla,
but how many would say. “I remember Willie O’Ree?” He is a Canadian, he has been honored with the Order of Canada. He has been inducted into the Hockey Hall Of Fame and his Boston Bruin number 22 has been retired by the team. The stellar part of Willie O’Ree’s career is he is still introducing the love of hockey and the principals of sportsmanship to young children at the age of 85.
There are so many strange and unruly people in sport and in the general public and we know them by their misdeeds and attitudes. Yet a man with the ethical and moral courage of Superman goes by almost unnoticed. Then consider true greatness often comes with humility. Next time you are talking about great achievements in hockey history remember Boston’s number 22 Willie O’Ree, who blazed the trail for the players of color in the NHL that we are so familiar with today. The only sad part of this story or even this article is there had to be a mention of a color barrier at all.
Shortly before 00 39 Sunday a wild grass fire erupted south of Eastside Rd on the hill side just above Heritage House.
Lots of manpower and two engines on scene – soaking the area so that the blaze does not get out of control and threaten homes
Command terminated about an hour later. There has been a rash or burn piles of concern
within the last 24 hours
Only evidence from Salamander Avenue is some sloughing and water damage visible on street
1701 at or near Thorp Rd – Rural
1807 at Locust Rd near Island Rd – Rural
and the early morning fire in Oliver
No open burning is allowed in the Town of Oliver