In Selah, Washington, my grandparents’ fruit ranch topped a hill. I ran amok with local pre-adolescent boys through parched, snake-infested hills, doing things against which mothers warn. The Yakima River meandered the valley below; the sky shone cerulean blue. Sun-baked dirt shimmered. The neighborhood sons were tough, progeny of seasonal Hispanic fruitworkers and hard-drinking African ranch hands.
In the dusty heat one afternoon, we ruffians (perhaps I was only a wannabe) set our minds to a rock war. Discarded fruit pallets became forts, twenty paces apart. After much jostling and giggling, our opponents hollered, “Done.” I stood to set them straight. We were erecting defensible walls, and they should promptly reconsider their ramshackle affair. A ping-pong ball of river rounded granite arced toward me as I opened my mouth to correct their failure of prudence. I remember the thwack.
When I regained consciousness, blood was pouring down my forehead into my eyes. Mixed with tears, red goop spread down my face and neck to bloody my white tee. I hobbled back to Grandma Ada’s kitchen. My mother gasped. Rapid descent to the hospital in Grandmother’s cherry red Karmann Ghia ensued. A doctor swabbed and injected. Antiseptic bit my forehead, then stitches. Maternal recriminations, a bit of well-deserved cursing, warm caresses. My father just frowned and sighed. He shook his head slowly. I was abashed.
Muhammud reports that Luqman, an Arabic sage, advised his son: “Turn not thy cheek in scorn toward folk, nor walk with pertness in the land. Lo! Allah loveth not each braggart boaster. Be modest in thy bearing and subdue thy voice. Lo! The harshest of all voices is the voice of the ass” (Koran, Surah XXXI: 18-19).
I lost the rock war in an instant. I gained a permanent scar, and (maybe) a lesson. Hee-haw. Hee-haw.