My fondest memories of growing up took place in Via Kista, Texas, outskirt of the gateway to the hill country. Some of the folks I went to school with considered us to be from the wrong side of the tracks. I, like so many others who moved to the area from cities, came in with strange ideas about life in general.
I was in my mid thirties by the time I had all of my lessons figured out enough to leave the “wrong side.” I had many spiritual guides along the path in our developing wilderness, but my favorite was opposite me in most respects. She was about half my age, fearless, sassy, outgoing, high-spirited, and funny. She was a little black girl named Shawn Lajones. She is a great teacher. Some of the most cherished days of my life was spent among her family, which took me in like one of their own. Me and other lost souls.
Shawn taught me the fine art of playing dominoes. She taught me so well that her big brothers could hardly beat me. She taught me to see the table and look at my hand to know which domino I could block with. She gave me the uncanny ability to read my opponents hands and if I could not score I could usually keep them from scoring also. To my recollection, one of her brothers never did beat me, and he would get madder than anything about a silly game. He would allow the anger to cloud his mind and cause him to act a fool. He wanted to hurt me and steal from me and make a fool of me. I let him make off with some of my stuff to keep him sane until the time he stole from my Mom. That was crossing the line in too loud a manner. I got mad at him and encouraged my anger to get the best of me.
I did the unthinkable and snitched out my buddy Nelgs. Now Nelgs was slicker than a slug on snot and fast enough to catch greased lightning so he escaped the clutches of Barney5-0, but his brother, Sito, could not forgive me for spillin’ the beans. Two days later I was walking with Sito and he told me, “Shag, I done warned you before. Ain’t no snitchin’. This time I gots to kick yer ass.” Now Sito was a big powerhouse of a young man and strong enough to lift an ox so I was scared. I didn’t like fightin’ Nelgs and now I was facing death against Sito. Paranioa to the rescue. I had to think fast before we got up the hill so I told Sito about how we had been friends for many years and never done each other wrong. That wasn’t working. Next I went to Nelgs and told Sito about how Nelgs was rippin’ off everybody and needed to pay. I could see the steam coming out of Sito’s knuckles as he cracked them. Then my saving grace come up. Our Mamas. I told Sito, “If my brother were to steal from your Mom I would kick his ass and make him return what he took and apologize to her. What did you do? Laugh it up and pat your brother on the back? Tell him what good he done? You don’t know anything about being a friend.”
Well ole Sito stopped, and I saw a black man go from red to blue as he cooled off. We continued on to his house and I was sweating it all the way especially because he had some uncles there also. When we got in the door he told his Mom, “I can’t do it Mom. Shag is right.” As they retired to another room to talk, we broke out a game of dominoes and chowed on a little soul food, laughing about the time a snappin’ turtle bit my thumb off. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to laugh at yourself and see the joy it brings to the faces of others.