I might have bought a horse on Christmas day. I don't think so, but the duck definitely did not survive.
The horse comes later in the story. First you have to understand that I apparently look almost exactly like some guy who either lives on St. Croix or used to. I've been mistaken for him four or five times. One guy challenged me rather aggressively when I claimed not to be him, asked me how my two sisters in Phoenix are. For the record, I have seven sisters, none of whom live in Phoenix although when we were kids we visited the Grand Canyon, which is in Arizona but I don't think that counts. Another guy was sure we used to work together. It took me several minutes to convince him we didn't. I've had people yell his name, "Winegar!" as I drove by. So I apparently look exactly like him and that may or may not have anything to do with this. (Winegar, by the way, must be a devilishly handsome fellow.)
On Christmas Eve Tori had gone with a co-worker to another co-worker’s home and killed I think eight ducks, cleaning them and plucking them. She came home with one for Christmas dinner, the hunter gatherer returning with the feast and many gory stories about viscera. Also a bit of blood on her clothes. Our son Jack was visiting us from the Bay Area and Christmas morning was great. Then Tori set about roasting the duck – which apparently involves as many steps as launching a small weather satellite – while I had to work briefly. I walked down to Budhoe Park to cover a Christmas concert that was supposed to happen at 6 p.m. Not a bad walk, mile and a little bit, maybe a mile and a half.
Got there, and there was no one. No one was there. No concert. Nothing. That happens more often than you'd think. Something is planned and then canceled, and everyone just seems to know that it isn't going to happen, but I just don't seem to be hooked into whatever kind of social telegraph would have tipped me off. Disappointing, because I get paid by the story, but I saw a gorgeous sunset in the balmy weather. I hung around for a while, just in case, but it was, after all, Christmas day, and a really good dinner was coming up, so I turned around and started walking home.
Walking up King Street I found myself drawing up on an old woman with a cane who was laboring up the hill a bit slower than me. As I passed her, I said, "Good night," which is required, it's part of living here - Good morning, good afternoon, good night.
Anyway, she answered "Good night," then as I pulling away, she said what sounded like, "Savwok."
I turned. She said it again. I said, "I'm sorry, but what?" She repeated it, then seeing I didn't get it, said, "You're going home, right?" I said yes. She said, drawing it out and over-enunciating as you would to a small child, "Have a safe walk."
"Oh, I've been here over a year, but that's a new one on me, thanks," I said. Merry Christmas."
"You too dahlin."
So I head off, walking down the road, and here comes a guy on a horse. So I stepped back to give him the right of way, but he stops, so his horse is blocking me, and tells me he knows me. Well, maybe. Maybe he knows Winegar. Or maybe he's just stoned, which in fact he was.
I'm told people sometimes talk about the white family in Smithfield who never sleep: “De lights and de noise be on all de time.” That would be us. Definitely not the family Winegar, although they may have curious sleeping habits as well.
Anyway, the stoned horseman – for he was indeed seriously stoned – points to my hat and mentions the race car. No, it's my Seattle Seahawks cap but I decide not to press the point.
The guy starts talking about his horse. I think he said something like, "Next time I bring you one, you see." Then I think he was comparing his horse to a dog, with the dog coming out second best but both rating high in intelligence and loyalty. Or he might not. There seemed to be a part with how the horse is around children although I could have gotten that wrong. It might have been something completely different. The point is, I couldn't understand a word he was saying, but he was saying it in a very friendly, enthusiastic way, and that's always kind of entertaining.
The guy was seriously Crucian, which means his patois is right on the edge of my understanding in the best of circumstances. Others in the family have much less trouble, but this guy also was stoned, so there was that. He might have been comparing horses and boll weevils, or Ukrainians. Or it might have had nothing to do with horses, although he did pat the wiry steed vigorously several times. His sweeping hand gestures, which twice almost toppled him from his mount, weren't helping convey whatever the message was.
At the five-minute mark I was looking hard for a way to end it. Every time there was a slight slowing in the flow of words I'd try, "Well, gotta ..." but that's as far as I got. We shook hands two or three times, fist bumped a few more. He wasn't going to stop until he'd said what he wanted to say. Finally I heard something that again sounded like, "You see. I show you. I bring you one next time." And, smiling and nodding, I thanked him again and finally was back on my way.
It was a safe walk, and an interesting one. And as I neared the house and the fabulous Christmas dinner of roast duck and pork and potatoes and salad and fresh bread rolls, a thought hit me. In my nodding and smiling and all, had I just agreed to buy a horse that the stoned horseman would bring over “next time?”
I don’t think so, but if I did, I hope Winegar has a place to keep it.