Sunday, August 27, 2006

Hypovigilance

Little brother was not practicing the necessary level of vigilance considering his precarious position, sitting between his two older brothers on the tailgate of a ‘66 Chevy Pickup. The outside positions in that seating arrangement were hotly contested as those locations had something with which to hang on. The middle position could be a scary place when the old man was in a hurry. It would have been inconceivable to retreat to the relative safety of the bed of the truck or even worse, climb into the cab. You would sooner be caught stretching a fifi bag than suffer that indignity.
On the farm, the tailgate transportation system was as natural as the smell of chicken shit and a preferable alternative to walking. From the standpoint of the old man, it was an efficient use of resources considering the logistics of loading three grunts into the cab especially when the destination was likely not more that a few hundred yards away. It was a simplified process. Climb in, step on the gas and go. They either catch the ride or walk their asses to the next stop. Those short little hops between pasture and barn or barn to fence line were fast, bumpy, hot, dusty and fun. They were the closest thing to relief likely experienced during those long hours of slaving for the perpetual project-maker.
So it was that little brother, occupying center position, was bouncing and shifting in unison with the two older tailgaters on a day when the old man was in a big hurry. In an act suspiciously similar to “culling”, where the weak or lame are removed from the herd, the old man hit the gas pedal as the pickup simultaneously went haywire in response to a series of potholes. I say “suspicious” because the old man’s rut and pothole navigation skills were as flawless as any self-respecting tractor jockey could hope for and yet there he was, brazenly violating one of the cardinal rules of farm equipment husbandry.
Little brother catapulted off the tailgate. Subsequent to reaching the maximum altitude in his trajectory, he seemed to float in mid air for a brief moment prior to his dramatic reintroduction to the hard packed, tire-rutted roadway. Tumbling and rolling, arms flapping and legs flailing, little brother added significantly to the dust cloud kicked up by the balding tires before finally coming to rest. The old man hit the brakes but he didn’t exit the vehicle. The rear and side-view mirrors provided all of the information he needed to assess the situation. Little brother, having taken on a monochrome hue with patches of red here and there, picked himself up and resumed his middle position for the remainder of the trip. A spoon dropped in the gravy at dinnertime would have caused a bigger stir.

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