The long wooden hands moved very slowly under that raggedy jacket arm. Jerry had seen it though. He had seen the movement and it was for him academic that it now stood still in the corn field, unmoved by his attention.
He knew Hondo did it for him.
Upon seeing this marvelous animation, he ran back to the farm house where Dad was prepping the chicken for dinner in the kitchen and Mom was brushing the dust off the pictures above the fireplace mantel.
Jerry unknowingly kicked the cat as he ran in the house and the cat began racing around the house like a wild beast that had been dealt an unexpected blow. But it was just a cat.
“Jeremiah Alistair Lalonde, you little troublemaker, stop that ruckus and come sit down,” Jerry’s Dad yelled.
The minutes were left to their own devices and they spun away and sped away before they were corralled by the hour. Jerry had become antsy amongst all the time lost and his mind spun a tad out of control until he stood up and said in an eager voice: “Dad! You got to see what’s going on outside. I’ve never seen nothing like it.”
“What Jerry?” his Dad said in patient annoyance.
“Outside… outside,” Jerry begun pointing to the window that overlooked the browning cornfield in hopes that Dad would understand what he was getting at without saying more.
“Sit down and calm down. Dinner will be in a couple of hours and you have Sunday homework to be on, don’t you,” said Dad in a there-there tone.
The night sky was chasing the sun westerly and Jerry thought his dad might miss one of the most stunning moments ever seen on this property -- which his family had spent 200 years ploughing and sowing -- rubbing sauce all over a chicken breast.
Grabbing his dad’s right hand, Jerry pulled with all his might his dad’s thick body towards the door. But it was all for not. His father was built like a 19th century engine locomotive, heavy and slow and his father never moved until his whistle blew loudly.
“Jerry, what has gotten in to that scrambled brain of yours? Sit down and begin your studies,” said Dad without blowing his whistle too loudly.
“But I saw it!”
“You don’t know what you saw. But I’ll tell you, you’ll see the back of my hand if you don’t see the words in those books very soon. Now come on,” said Dad, who tore apart the chicken pieces one-by-one.
Jerry opened his Math 4 Basics book and began to mouth the words so that his dad would believe he was reading and thinking about the book’s contents but his very true thoughts belonged to that slight rolling of a wooden broom stick that was the scarecrow’s arm. For the last few weeks of summer he spent his dusks talking to the scarecrow who he had named Hondo. As the first breeze of fall blew through the field Dad took to the field with his farmhands, as he had every year of Jerry's life, and began to pull off the blanket of corn on the farm bed. Jerry thought that soon Hondo would be as cold as the snow that was waiting to attack the winter days without the corn. And so he begged his dad to give him one of his old raggedy jackets to put on poor old Hondo.
“I don’t like you spending all your time out in that field alone,” said Mom one night at the dinner table. Mom had been watching Jerry arrive home from school and immediately drop his bag, pick up an apple and run outside to the cornfield.
“I am not alone,” said Jerry in response but to no avail, Mom and Dad had grown sick and tired of the whole Hondo thing.
That conversation did not lead anywhere and back to the present the current reading of his math book didn’t fool Dad, who stopped his chicken prep and walked over to the table to sit beside Jerry, his brown eyes cold and loving stared right in to Jerry's mind.
“You are growing famous around town, Jerry. People say it is weird that you don’t make friends from school,” said his dad.
Jerry just kept reading, “8 times 8 is 16…”
His dad placed his hand on the page Jerry was reading from but Jerry kept reading, “9 times finger is…”
“You have to see it from our perspective, Jerry. It ain’t right that you are spending so much time with that bundle of sticks.”
Jerry kept reading, though he wasn’t reading from the book, which Dad had taken away.
Dad got up from the table and left the room exasperated. Jerry smiled a little since he knew he had out willed his father, had endured the stormy issue and could now rock back and forth on his chair in victory.
A sudden urge developed inside his heart and his mind begun to stir about. He got up from the table and walked over to the window which looked over the cornfield and began to gaze at Hondo, who stood alone, his smile appeared sad, his body unattended.
Hondo the strong: the only one who could survive a night, a winter, a lifetime in the outside with nothing to keep him company but the whistling of dead corn and the spare time of a nine year old boy from Leader, Saskatchewan.
As he stared silently out the window, a light burst from the right where the barn was. A couple of cows could be heard complaining but Jerry thought nothing of it. He turned his attention back to Hondo and gave him a quick wave hoping to see that right arm re-animate and wave back as a magical moment in a Saskatchewan fall.
A shadow walked out of the back of the barn and storming like a bull in heat. The shadow was tall and thick and Jerry knew at an instant it was Dad, carrying an axe in one hand and a bag in the other.
Dad made his way up to Hondo and without a thought began chopping down the scarecrow limb-by-limb, first starting at the arms, then the neck and finally the post the scarecrow had sat upon until there was no evidence of Hondo ever existing.
Sitting down on the floor, Jerry felt a ripping sensation run through his body from his stomach to his neck until he felt a bulge at his Adams apple and the darkest emotion burst forth until Hondo became a tired memory.
Dad walked back in the house and dropped the bag of sticks that had once been Hondo and said in matter of fact tone "pick him up and let's build him in your room."
But Jerry returned to the table. It as as if Hondo were just a figment of Jerry’s history that had been forgotten.
ONE MORE SMOKE FOR THE ROAD
9 years ago