Thursday, May 19, 2011

just bullwhipping

Tommy Barnes had some time to kill between classes at the university where he’s a junior creative writing major.
So he went out to his truck and got out his bullwhip.
He had some empty water bottles, and he set them up on the open tailgate of his pick-up truck for targets. Tommy began practicing his aim with the bullwhip—CRACK!, in the lovely fresh air that early fall day on the edge of the shady campus parking lot.
A little background may put this in perspective from Tommy’s point of view. He’s a backwoods-of-Florida young man (yes, there are a few still left), about 26 years old. At one time in his life, he lived alone in the woods in a trailer with no running water or electricity.
He hunted, trapped, and ate the animals. He grew vegetables. He rarely went to town or shopped for food. He wrote poetry. He grew a beard. He was 20 years old.
When I met him a few years later as his first college English teacher, he had a meticulously-kept folder of dozens of his poems. Good poems!
Tommy is that rarity in modern life, an individual. Lady Gaga, you Madonna wanna-be, you only wish you were half the unique person Tommy is.
Maybe this explains why when Tommy took out his bullwhip on that sunny fall morning, he didn’t dream of the reaction by the conformists, his fellow university students in North Carolina. College students raised on a bland diet of Domino’s pizza, the Simpsons, the Sopranos and re-runs of Friends were not prepared for Tommy. The little lambs.
Slack-jawed with astonishment at the sight of a ball-capped, blue-jeaned bullwhipper, they called the cops as quick as their fingers could hit 911.
A few minutes later, campus police arrived.
Lost in the moment, unaware of any commotion, Tommy was still bullwhippin'.
“What are you DOING?” they asked. Pre-Tommy, they thought they’d seen it all.
“Um, practicing with my bullwhip…” Tommy tried to explain. Essentially a sweet soul, he doesn’t truly understand the magnitude of his own uniqueness.
“Well, you’re scaring people. You gotta stop.” The campus police officers looked at Tommy, his bullwhip, and his rusty pickup truck plastered with the University of Florida Gators logos.
“You’re not from around here, are you, son?” the flabbergasted officers deduced.
“Nope.” Tommy rolled up his bullwhip. He didn’t argue.
I’m guess I’m just an ole redneck, Tommy thought. He was happy they didn’t arrest him, but amazed that his bullwhip had cause such a ruckus.
I’ll never have another student like Tommy. Gosh, I love that kid.

(Student names are always changed to protect privacy.)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Melanie! I posted a comment the other day, but it is not showing. Sorry! So, here I am again, and wanted to let you know that I very much liked your story about Tommy. :)