Another Look at Spear-Chuckers

 

 

 

Another Look at Spear-Chuckers

Excerpt from ANIMAL DOCTOR by Lucas Younker and John Fried, EP Dutton, 1976: 69-71

For most of the school's [Midwestern's]
history, blacks didn't have to be tolerated at all because they
simply were not admitted. The first black to attend the school was an
African who came to Midwestern during my third year. He was a
government official who had enrolled as a graduate student in pathology
because he wanted to learn about effective techniques to increase farm-
animal production back home. But even his standing as a foreign digni-
tary did not protect him from petty harassment.
In time, however, Omar, the African, was able to bring the razzing
to a dramatic halt. He was a big man, tall and stout, who was even more
ominous for the three parallel tribal scars that cut across each cheek. He
had already earned his doctorate in Europe and was always willing to
share his knowledge with those students who would ask him for help.
Several of us, including one professor who delighted in pretending
that Omar was little more than an ignorant bushman, were in the school's
post-mortem laboratory going about our various chores one afternoon.
The post-mortem lab had several uses. I was in there because I was
learning how to do cataract operations. Like other students learning
surgery and learning to perform this particular procedure, I was prac-
ticing on dead animals. I had to do the operation one hundred times on
dead animals before I would be allowed to work on a live one.
Omar, the professor and the other students were in the post-mortem
lab working on turkeys. The school is in the midst of a rich turkey-
farming area. Many of the farms grow as many as one hundred thousand
turkeys a year. Because the economic stakes are so high, every two weeks
turkey farmers would pick twenty or thirty turkeys out of the hundreds of
pens on their farms and bring them to the school to be killed and
autopsied. Thus, any incipient disease could be spotted and treated before
it spread to the entire turkey crop.
On that particular day, the lab was full of gobbling turkeys and
chattering students. Every once in a while the professor would look up,
give Omar an idiotic grin and call out to me a variation of "Hey,
Younker, now make sure Omar doesn't cut himself with that knife."
Omar, intent in his work, said nothing.
Late in the afternoon, a truck bearing a new supply of turkeys pulled
up to the large double doors that opened into the post-mortem laboratory.
As the farmer was unloading his birds, one, knowing full well the fate in
store for him, thrashed out of the man's hands and took off into the field
adjacent to the lab, moving just as fast as his legs and flapping wings
allowed.
All of us started running after the bird, but Omar stopped us with an
imperative shout of "No! Leave this to me!" We stopped dead in our
tracks and turned to face Omar. He picked up a post-mortem knife, ran
out about six steps into the driveway, and, with a fluid sidearmed motion,
flung the knife far out into the field. Hypnotized, we watched that old,
clumsy knife with an eight-inch blade and a cumbersome handle sail
gracefully through the air. After what seemed to be an interminable time,
the knife, looping sideways handle over blade, caught up with the turkey,
neatly severing its neck. The head flew off, the bird, carried by reflex
action, ran about twenty more feet and then dropped dead. There was
deep silence all around.
"Jesus," I finally muttered. "You sure are good with that knife,
Omar. "
"No. No. Actually I am a much better marksman with a spear," he
said, speaking in that refined, precise king's English he had learned in
Europe. "Sometimes I do miss with the blade. I have never missed with a
spear. "
After that, no one ever had an untoward word for Omar again.

 

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