A number of years ago, I had to have what’s referred to as a “come to Jesus” conversation with my mother.
Don’t get me wrong, she’s a wonderful woman, but sometimes her desire to not worry me is frustrating. The comment that spawned it all began, “Well, your brother is finally home from the hospital.”
There are so many things wrong with that. First, I had no idea he was in the hospital, and the word “finally” indicated he’d been there a while. Long, drawn out story short, he was bitten by a brown recluse spider, there was necrotic tissue, a hole in his leg and a hospital stay.
I explained to her that even though I was almost 1,000 miles away, I really, really needed to know about things as they happened, not after the fact.
I truly thought we were on the same page until I talked to my parents last month for Christmas. That day I talked to my dad, which was a rare occasion. He’s never been one for phone conversations and as his Parkinson’s has progressed, he’s even less patient with them.
For whatever reason, he and I ended up talking and of course, the conversation landed on his dog. Because what else is there to talk about in Ozark life other than the shenanigans of your dog?
He was mentioning just how loud Sunny’s bark was, especially in the house. (Sidenote: the name of this dog is a whole column in and of itself.) He casually mentioned how he even chased off a crazed killer from the house one day.
Now my dad has a way of telling a story that can make you a bit uncertain whether he’s pulling your leg or telling the truth, so I asked him if he was serious. He was, mostly. The guy wasn’t an actual killer, just a wanted violent felon.
Apparently, one of the guys from the local volunteer fire department came by the house one day to alert my folks to a manhunt in the area. Seems like a gentleman had broken into several houses in the area and brutally beat some people, and he was last seen headed in my parents’ direction.
So my parents, being my parents, settled into the living room and Dad got out his pistol and set it on the coffee table. Oh, so many questions. Dad has a pistol? When did that happen? Is it like a six-shooter? Cause I kind of think it is since he called it a pistol.
Anywho, not long after, the dog — who had been quietly napping — explodes in a frenzy of barking. Something more than his usual, “Hey, a squirrel farted in the woods” kind of bark, so Dad takes a look out the window.
Sure enough, there’s some guy walking up the road looking shady. So what does my father do? Yep, he steps out onto the front porch, which in my mind is now concerningly close to the road, with his pistol held behind his back. He tells the fella to keep moving, which he does.
Dad watched him continue up the road, getting to the vehicles parked outside his workshop on the other side of the yard. Then this guy casually walks off the road and behind one of the vehicles.
Since Daddy can’t see him, what does he do? Yeah, that’s right. He heads out into the yard to see where he went. Well of course, the wanted felon had gone around the vehicles and was now walking across the yard towards the house.
That’s when Dad pointed the gun at him, and told him he definitely needed to keep moving. The man asked if he could have a drink of water, to which my father answered “no.” We’re Midwestern and polite, but we ain’t stupid.
He turned and left, heading into the acres and acres of National Forest land across the road from my parents’ house. Law enforcement caught up to him a day later in the next county over.
As I processed this information, I casually asked when all this happened, fully expecting it to have been a week or so ago. “Oh, sometime over the summer,” was my mother’s vague answer.
I reiterated to her my desire to be told about things in a more timely fashion. She seemed surprised I found the incident interesting. Again, I know there’s nothing I could have done; there was nothing to be done frankly, whether I knew in December or five months prior.
I guess my need to know is based on the ever more frequent realization that my parents are vulnerable to harm — that they aren’t untouchable, that they live in an area so rural and undermanned, volunteer firefighters assist in man hunts.
That the best line of defense between them and a violent, wanted man is my father, who’s dominant hand trembles so badly he can’t eat peas with a spoon anymore, and his pistol. Here’s hoping he can shoot right handed.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.