When I was a Kid…

by Doug Claybourne


I tortured horny toads
when I was a kid

I don’t feel good about that
but I did –
I surrounded em
with lighter fluid mostly
shot match sticks into the sky
lit fires in my eyes.
I remember thinking
jeez – it’s just a horny toad,
but I was wrong
and I should have known better.
Frogs, ants, grasshoppers
I’ve exploited my share or better
run over em – and
burned some out of their dirt homes.
I was trouble I admit it
when I was a kid I
lit those fires around em
mostly with hand made match guns
shooting’ high over Joe Creek
as I just didn’t have a sense
of anyone getting hurt
me – or anyone else
for that matter
not mean spirited of course
I was just a dumb kid
seen now as a grown up
and looking back and forth.
I never hurt a dog
but I threw some cats against walls
as we heard they always landed standing up
and I told ya before
I’m not proud of it,
but I don’t think I did
any real harm to cats
they all meowed after
and came back for the milk
and food that my
little sister always fed em.
And we didn’t throw em that hard
it’s not like they bounced or anything
or yelped or screamed
but they did land on all fours
just like they said.
In junior college,
I had a German Sheppard
that ate the hamburger meat
I left up on a counter – ten pounds of it
purchased for a party
lucky he didn’t eat my roommates marijuana as
that stuff was in 10 gallon trash bags.
I wasn’t playing with frogs
or horny toads anymore
I was listening to
“Hot August Night” and The Doobie Brothers
and wondering if I would ever
get out of Tulsa.
I did finally
But then of course
you never really get out of your home town
it’s always in your blood
we learn as we get older
it’s a part of your DNA
it’s like the air you breath.

When I was a kid
I used to like to go down
to Joe Creek and throw skip rocks
across the water
look for crayfish and tadpoles
it was pretty simple back then
call a buddy
find a stick and take a pocketknife,
and just hang out on a Saturday
that’s it – but it’s not so simple these days I guess.

This poem appeared in This Land, Vol. 5, Issue 7, April 1, 2014.