Twin Tail

Having a twin is a fearful business, sharing so much for so long.

He and his sister were precluded from the usual mischief of identicals, so their bond and boldness brought new imaginings of misbehavior. They were without guile, merely sharing together the last of five births. Two surviving elder siblings, likewise sister and brother, already carved roles as dutiful firstborn and budding black sheep. To the twins in those early days, then, fell blind love and none-too-watchful parents. The farm meant work, and neither keeping up nor getting in the way was open to them.

They had adventures lavished on them by the land. Tadpoles needed snatching, blood-red clay needed molding, dogs needed chasing. Someone invariably wound up locked in the smokehouse, stuck on the sandbar inHay! the creek, or dangling from that lowest pecan limb just high enough to make the ground too far away. Getting caught meant a wink and playful smack; a switching and dinnerless bedtime awaited discovery of more grievous transgression. Most of these were concealed by the unspoken pact between them to which all children subscribe, that the silence of both was to be preferred to the punishment of either. Eighty years hence, hints of those mutual secrets (embarrassingly innocuous) were ever visible in the mirth of their meetings.

One caracole, though, broke the spell, bringing tanned hides and great responsibilities in its wake. It burned into the family lore, marking as it did the emergence of cruelty which always ends childhood.

The summer between fourth and fifth grades saw the flourishing of a new venture. Mr. Roosevelt’s Depression showed no signs of ebbing; the price of cotton no longer supported every mouth to be fed. Bigdaddy turned to a less labor-intensive product to cut costs. The dairy, in its third year, began to bring more money than trouble. The small clutch of cows multiplied; that spring saw seven new heifer calves, each invested with hope of future prosperity.

The truck (and with it all supervision) went to town, unloading milk cans, and buying necessities. Afternoon heat built, and stifling boredom fell on calves and kids alike. As two calves barreled down the field, innocence gave way in young minds.

“Reckon we could catch them two?”

“They’re way off yonder, but they’ll run back in a minute”

“You get Brownie, I’ll take the splotchy one.”

Two sets of naturally curious creatures met at the top of the hill. As the calves licked the children’s sweaty right palms, a left hand slipped a length of rope from a pocket. Together, they slowly, gently wound it around each animal’s tail, finishing with a square knot any scout would admire. A quick slap unleashed a 4-acre roving tug-of-war, ending with a bloody nub crowning a splotched rump and one heretofore unseen twin-tailed calf.

The family had never tasted veal before, and never would again.

I never heard this story told but between barely contained fits of laughter. At the time, the inbreaking of carnage and consequences emptied two small worlds of fun and free time. Bigdaddy made sure the devil’s workshop was closed for good.

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