Back in the days when Westwood Road and Phillips Road were still dirt the school bus I rode picked me up at seven o’clock in the morning and dropped me off at home at four that afternoon. Long day, but we were the farthest out so we left early and got home late. The town kids had a shorter rout so they left home later—got to sleep longer—and were all finished eating their cookies and milk while we were still churning up dust on Westwood and Phillips.
We rode those buses from elementary grades until we graduated, so we got to know everyone very well. The two drivers I remember during those years were Mr. Morgan and Mrs. Johnson. I also remember a boy four years older than me by the name of Bob Sutherland. By the time I got to high school as a lowly freshman he was a high and mighty senior, but we were still bus mates as well as friends.
He graduated and went into the service—Navy, I think. I finished high school, went to McNeese two semesters, got married, and followed my Air Force husband to SAC bases for sixteen years.
We all ended up back in Westlake and the years went by. I would see Bob from time to time in the library where I worked for twenty-eight years. I had heard that he was a talented writer, and his name appeared a lot in the letters to the editor page of the American Press. One day he saw me at McDonald’s and gave me a copy of a story he had written.
I read it and laughed and filed it away. He passed away a year or so later and I forgot about the story. Life goes on, however, and the other day I was cleaning out a drawer in my filing cabinet and ran across that story. “A Star is Hatched” is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. It needs to be shared so I’m sending it out here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
A Star is Hatched
By Robert C. Sutherland
It was a warm and humid night. The damp air was so saturated with humidity it carried the musk of the forest into the innermost cavities of the earth. Seedrick discovered that each time he flicked his tongue out it came back completely coated with moisture so thick it kept him in a perpetual state of salivation.
But Seedrick didn’t mind. Seedrick was ecstatic. Seedrick was jubilant. Seedrick was rejoicefully overwhelmed with his good fortune. Seedrick and his friend, Fram, had finally been recognized for their musical abilities and were scheduled to hold their first public concert. All of their work, all of their previous rejections, all of the teasing of their peers, only made him all the more appreciative of the occasion.
Seedrick was a six-month-old puff adder, commonly called a “spreadenadder” by the locals and Fram was a five-month old blue runner. They had met as hatchlings and formed an inseparable bond through their mutual love of music.
Early on Seedrick discovered that, if he slithered down into the lower recesses of a craw dad hole and hissed with all his might, the sound was magnified and deepened and it came out sounding like the notes of a tuba, especially if he spread his head as flat as possible, inhaled deeply, and exhaled forcefully.
Fram had been slithering by one day, heard those magnificent tones emanating from the depths of the earth and gone down to investigate the source of such lovely, resonant sounds. There he met Seedrick.
He hissed a hello and, Seedrick, always sensitive to new sounds, noticed that Fram’s greeting had a higher pitch.
“Point your nose up and give me your best hiss,” he suggested.
Fram did as requestsed while Seedrick slithered up topside and the results were amazing; Fram’s hiss came out sounding like a clarinet.
When Seedrick returned he said, “Let’s try it together. We won’t get the full benefit of amplification, but we should get a good idea of what adjustments we might have to make to harmonize.”
Soon they had the full, dulcet tones of harmonious hissing emitting into the forest stunning the occupants and making them pause in pure wonderment.
That became the starting point for an inextinguishable flame, welding, bonding and uniting them forever.
Seedrick, to the best of his restricted knowledge, was third generation musical.
His grandmother, Weemie, started at a very young age slithering into Pentecostal tent revivals and enjoying the music, tastefully blending in with the evangelizing and the movement of the spirit among the congregation. She could never release the music within her owing to her hatch defect. The fork in her tongue was abnormally short, thus giving her hiss a congenital lisp, or, her hith had a lithp.
She did assimilate a healthy appreciation for the Gospel and named her first hatched, “Sara” or “Thara,” after one of the principles in the sermon.
Thara inherited her mother’s love for music and saintly demeanor. She also developed an attachment for the wonders of television and would slither off to a house nearby, after dark, and lie on a windowsill watching old movies.
It was during one of those late night sessions on the windowsill that she became attracted to Sir Cedric Hardwicke and decided to name her first hatched, “Seedrick.”
Fram’s history was not so predestined.
When he was a very young hatchling, not much longer than a string bean, he had ill-advisedly slithered into a discarded oil filter which had been removed from a big truck. He immediately became disoriented by the strange taste and smell and could not find his way out, hiss as he might. A human creature came by, retrieved the filter, and as he shook the excess oil out of the filter he also shook Fram out with it. Once he related his adventure to his mother, she decided to name him “Fram.”
One afternoon, weeks after their bonding experience, they were slithering along the path, hissing harmoniously, when they came upon Mrs. Potts’ pit and immediately noticed there were a dozen or so craw dad chimneys in close proximity and, piqued with an irresistible curiosity, they dared to venture inside.
Luckily, Mrs. Potts was abroad marinating some frog tonsils in the murky waters of a hollow stump.
They quickly took advantage of her absence and began hissing, full blast into the junction of those many craw dad holes and the results were thunderously effective.
Those craw dads who were sleeping in their abodes were traumatically awakened and, believing the world was ending, forgot they were craw dads, designed to walk backwards, proceeded to gallop forward out of their chimneys using their claws and tail fins to propel them out of harm’s way.
Mrs. Potts was returning home with her marinated frog tonsils and got caught in the stampede, losing more than half her tonsils.
Angered by her loss and intrigued by the harmonious sounds coming out of the ground, Mrs. Potts slithered into her pit in a vile mood.
When she discovered Seedrick and Fram were the source of the stampede and her subsequent loss, her temper flared. Coupled with the piles of dust, generated by the hasty exit of the chimney dwellers, and the trespassing perpetrators, she scolded them soundly.
“I know you two are only youngsters and have not yet developed a sense of privacy. I think you both have a lot of talent. But you need to realize that this is my pit. You both have home pits and I think you should go home and hiss in your own pits.
Reluctantly the two musicians slithered off to Seedrick’s pit where Seedricik’s mother was waiting, alarmed by the strange new musical sound she had heard breaking the tranquility of the forest.
Seedrick explained to her of his and Fram’s discovery of a new sound, the makeup of Mrs. Potts’ pit, along with her unceremonious ejection of the pair.
“Well, that’s a fine thing,” exclaimed Thara with more than a little anger and exasperation. “I knew Paula Potts when she didn’t have a pit to hiss in!”
On another occasion Seedrick and Fram were slithering about in Farmer Framer’s garden searching for frog tonsils for Thara and they encountered Farmer Framer, a human creature, busily hoeing potatoes in knee-length rubber boots.
Since they were both young and mischievous they decided to test Farmer Framer’s courage.
They silently positioned themselves about three slithers, or about six strikes, apart, one slither measuring the same as two strikes.
Seedrick reared up as high as he could, flattened his head as wide as he could and cut loose with the most devastating hiss he could conjure up, causing Farmer Framer to scream something like “OSIT!” drop his hoe, jump straight up out of his boots and land three slithers away. There he landed a slither or two from Fram who reared up and hissed shrilly, prompting another mournful “OSIT!!” and another four slither leap.
Seedrick and Fram repeated the game occasionally until Farmer Framer developed the presence of mind to hang on to his hoe thus making the game more potentially lethal.
One other encounter with Farmer Framer is worth relating because, thanks to Weemie, it was his last.
Weemie asked him to accompany her to a tent revival, promising him he might pick up new tunes and rhythms. Once there Seedrick spied Farmer Framer sitting right in the middle of the congregation.
“No hoe, maybe just once more for old times’ sake,” he mused.
Right in the middle of altar call, Seedrick silently positioned himself between Farmer Framer’s ankles. Just as the preacher called for sinners Seedrick reared up, head flat as a frizbee, tongue fully extended and let out the most vicious hiss he could muster.
“OSIT! OSIT! OMIGOD! OMIGOD! 0-0-0-!
The rest of the congregation was flabbergasted, then inspired. They all gathered around him, singing, praying, clapping their hands and hugging him, convinced he had had a moving spiritual experience.
Seedrick and Weemie slithered silently out and she chastised him all the way home, making him promise never to do that again.
Now Seedrick and Fram were about to make the big time. Since the encounter with Mrs. Potts’ pit and the new found knowledge about the enhanced acoustics gained by using multiple craw dad chimneys, they concluded that hissing through PVC pipes of assorted sizes would serve them just as well without having to put up with Mrs. Potts’ temper tantrums. So they set about gathering the material they needed.
Once they had all the pipe and ells and tees they deemed necessary they solved the question of the pit by cleaning out an old armadillo hole. They diligently bored out holes compatible with the various pipe sizes, made whatever dual connections they thought necessary for muted and combined sounds, and tested it out.
They cleared a section about twelve by sixteen slithers all around the site and invited their friends and neighbors to their very first concert.
It was a resounding success! By the last performance and upon returning to the surface they were overwhelmed by the sound of tails slapping the ground, congratulatory hisses all around and scales rubbing against pine cones in unison.
One deeply impressed rattlesnake spectator exclaimed, “I just hitched a ride in the wheel well of an eighteen wheeler out of Salt Lake City and, believe me, the Mormon Tabernacle pipe organ never sounded so good!”
So now, some ten or twelve concerts later, Seedrick and Fram were ecstatic and convinced they had arrived. The Community Concert Director of Chitlin Switch, Arkansas, was coming to hear and evaluate them; indeed a high honor.
Thara and Weemie had waxed their scales to a blinding sheen, fed them an ample helping of frog tonsils, and gave them a loving constrictive hug.
“Break a leg,” Thara called out encouragingly as they slithered off towards their converted armadillo hole.
So rest in peace, Bob. You left us too soon.
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