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The Village Idiot

And then there was Denver

Jack Deatherage, Jr.

(1/2016) No, not Denver, Colorado. Denver, the rock. My pet rock.

It seemed everyone had a pet rock back in the latter years of the 1970s. I couldnít turn on the radio or sit down before the idiot boxÖ ummÖ television, without hearing a commercial for "pet rock" food, houses, travel boxes, leashes and bath soap. (Is it possible I heard such commercials once and they just looped about in my semi-pickled brain?) "Middle sister" had a pet rock, much to the surprise of everyone in the house. She tended to be one of the few practical members of the clan, and continued to hold that place among us once she explained her rock was a wild one. Sheíd gone down to the creek, captured and eventually tamed it. (What money she earned was too dear to spend on some factory-produced rock that needed constant attention and money spent on accessories.)

Taking a cue from "middle sister", I too acquired my rock. Though being lazy, or hung over, I didnít stalk the banks of the creek. No, I was at the factory mixing some bagged cement to repair part of the building that age and weather had dropped into what used to be a flowerbed out front of the building. Having a handful of the "mud" left over, I carefully shaped a ball of it and set it on a shelf in the shop to dry. Weeks later, when I was smearing masonry paint across the front of the building I chanced to have some paint left and recalled the rock. A quick dip into the paint bucket, a return to the shelf and a few weeks later I had my own pet rock.

I donít recall what tricks "middle sister" may have taught her wild rock. I know my rock was mostly a paperweight and a conversation piece. When my friends came over to drag me off to get drunk, and having navigated the piles of books, magazines, clothes, models of cars, boats, aircraft, and coolers and odd bits of furniture that cluttered me and "middle brotherís" bedroom theyíd pick my rock off my writing desk.

"Whatís this?"

"My pet rock. I made it."

"Cool. Letís go get drunk."


Yep, that rock inspired many such conversations.

And yes, I had a writing desk in those days. I suffered a delusion that had me thinking Iíd learn to write. I eventually shrugged the mental error off sometime in the 1990s, after spending about a grand on a word processor and another grand on a home-study writing course that finally convinced me Iíd not master the craft. The rock was there as I pondered past and present participles. (I still have no clue as to what a participle is.) The rock offered no opinions when I shook my head over the taboo of ending a sentence with a preposition. I could grasp not ending a sentence with a proposition, but what was a preposition? I still donít understand a split infinitive! (Actually, I donít know what an infinitive is.)

Frustration at my inability to comprehend such literary maxims would flare into anger, a precursor to rage. Not a place I wanted to visit, having been there and carrying the scars to remind me. Iíd focus on the rock, considering how its shape fitted my hand. I contemplated seeing it fly from my fingers, striking the glass of the bow window, possibly making it through the double panes and tumbling into the street. My arm would slowly cock itself for the throw until the thought of DWís confused, fearful, betrayed expression overwhelmed the growing temptation to unleash the beast. Women, the ruination of perfectly asinine rages.

When I still lived out on the Taneytown Road, freeing the rock seemed like a good idea. I considered the ways I could accomplish such a task. Releasing it into the creek seemed unfair, as it hadnít come from there. I worried the moving water might dissolve the poor creation a bit quicker than it did the wild cousins.

Hurling the rock into a cow pasture seemed the best idea. I might chance upon it days, months, years later and either bring it home or fling it farther out into the world. I also entertained an idea from the Bible story of David and Goliath. (About all I recall of that tale, is David slinging a rock agíin Goliathís forehead and laying the hero low.) I went looking for how to sling rocks.

If there was an Internet in the late 1970s, I wasnít aware of it. What pictures I found in books gave me a vague idea of how a sling was assembled. So, with several varied pieces of cord and a few pieces of scrap leather from the factory, I started making slings to the amusement of several drinking buddies. On the rare occasion some pebble I experimented with (I had enough sense not to use my rock) stayed in the sling long enough for me to begin swinging it above my head I managed to send it flying! I hit the ground, the house, the chicken coop, the dog box, a tree, myself, but nothing I had been aiming at.

While I suspected my sling design was less useful than old Davidís, I was also aware that David had spent a lot more time than I had learning to use the weapon. He didnít have my distractions to deal with- Western, Sic-Fi, Adventure and War novels, assorted magazines, or the idiot bo- television, the radio and motorcycles. We may have shared a passion for alcohol, though I donít recall the Bible mentioning that. Anyhow, I never did master the sling and the rock remained on my desk until it got put somewhere during one of my occasional fits of rearranging the house.

Having misplaced the rock seems to be a good thing considering how the warm season played out last year. The temptation to repeatedly slam the rock agíin my head to distract me from the pain of lost dreams and friends faded to merely minor aches as the gloom of winter neared, deflecting my thinking.

Until a shot and a half of 90 proof Turkish Raki (flavored with anise seeds) sent me to bed to awake in the early morning with the first coherent thought being "And then there was Denver", I hadnít known the rock had a name.


DW and I have been noticing slips in our thinking and memories. Short-term memories seem as fleeting as our paychecks of late. I keep telling her Iím older, so I get to lose my mind first. Now Iím wondering if the rock is wanting me to search for it. Maybe Iíve reached a place where it can talk to me and Iíll understand it?

But Denver? Really?

I have access to the Internet now, and a quick search for "sling weapon" turns up sling designs and videos on how to use them. Maybe itís time to free Denver? Even in the coming dementia Iím not wasting time talking to no rock named Denver.

Read other articles by Jack Deatherage, Jr.