A Slice of Life
Sometimes deep, dark secrets in a person’s past silently chew on them enough to force a confession, rather than continuing to “bottle up” a troubled and agonizing truth.
What follows, dear reader, is written with the belief that revealing a long-held secret that has tormented me for years will relieve me from further internal suffering and recurring nightmares. The description of events is entirely factual, other than a few minor details understandably muddled by the excruciating strain of recalling a very unpleasant episode.
Perhaps a warning is appropriate here too, as some of what I am about to reveal is somewhat graphic in nature. Now that I’ve cleverly set the hook to capture your attention, please read on.
The year of this unfortunate incident shall remain a secret, mostly because I can’t recall it with any precision. So, the distant past or several years ago will have to suffice. Anyway, what really matters is the content which I am about to publicly reveal for the first time. Here goes.
Several years ago, when I was a television reporter doing a year-long series of stories on historical people, places, and events in North Dakota, I came across the name of George Perfecto Baye in an old newspaper. Intriguing, I thought, but further investigation into Perfecto uncovered little. Nuts.
As my good fortune would have it, a month or so after giving up on creating a genuinely interesting story about Perfecto, whoever he was, I recalled a man who had politely invited me to hunt on his private land. Since it was now pheasant season, I called him to inquire if his invitation still stood to hunt on his property closed to all others.
Before I could inject the reason for my phone call he began talking about my historical series on television. Then, to my complete shock and surprise, he mentioned George Perfecto Baye. I’d forgotten about Perfecto and had long since shelved the story. Huh?
Without any prompting from me, he proceeded to detail the life of Perfecto before dropping a complete stunner – George Perfecto Baye used to live in a small cabin on his land and he would like to show me the site. Wow! Incredible luck! Then he added, “Bring your shotgun and dog. There are pheasants everywhere.”
That’s the ticket! Not only would I get an exclusive on George Perfecto Baye, but I would be able to hunt a favorite bird on land closed to all others. The offer was quickly accepted.
I drove into his farmyard a day or so later with my Brittany “Dandy” seated next to me. Against the back side of the barn, which was visible from the entrance road, I noticed a large pile of chicken feathers, evidence of recent butchering.
Not seeing any chickens or other animals roaming the property, I let Dandy out to run a bit and knocked on the farmhouse door. I was greeted with a powerful handshake from a very friendly man who graciously invited me inside for a cup of coffee and a generous wedge of homemade pie. It was my favorite – juneberry.
After a lengthy and infinitely informative and friendly conversation he stood up and said, “Let’s go to Perfecto’s place.” With that I headed for the door, grabbing my jacket off a hook located in the entryway.
As I opened the door, and my host was right behind me taking his coat off a hook, I saw Dandy sitting proudly on the porch with a chicken in her mouth. Yikes! I’m doomed!
I understood the killing of farm animals of any size is a heinous act, regardless of circumstances. I had visions of being buried up to my neck next to an anthill if discovered. Oh, what to do?
My host, whose view was blocked by this writer’s presence, said, “I’ll be right out. I have to get my hat.” With that, he turned and walked back into the house.
Quickly, I had Dandy drop the chicken into my hand. The chicken’s head was hanging but its feet were still kicking. I tossed that bird into the feather pile next to the barn just as my wonderful host was emerging from the house, a broad western hat on his head.
As we climbed into his old pickup truck, dog too, my eyes were fixed on the pile of feathers and assorted chicken parts, fearful that Dandy’s chicken would come wandering out any moment and greatly change the demeanor of my kind host.
Driving across some broken pastureland bordering a wooded creek bottom, he brought the pickup to a halt.
“Here it is. This is where Perfecto lived for years,” he said.
There was some evidence of a cabin still visible, foundation and the like, but the walls were completely gone. My host pointed out a small stream, not more than a foot wide, that ran very close to the cabin site. It was from that tiny stream, he said, that Perfecto drew water for his cabin.
Then he showed me a scrapbook containing some old, yellow newspaper clippings about George Perfecto Bay. The aged articles confirmed Perfecto had quite a reputation as a roper in early day Dakota, winning at rodeos and performing rope tricks at schools and fairs and similar venues.
A short time later I was shown the location of the best pheasant hunting on the property. My thoughts again turned to the chicken that would likely be limping around the farmyard when we returned to the house to get my vehicle and commence a few hours of hunting.
I’m sure I had a few nonsensical stories made up as an explanation for a wounded chicken but was grateful I never had to blurt out such unbelievable garbage. That previously healthy chicken was still in the feather pile.
How long it remained there, or when it was discovered, I cannot say. I wasn’t about to inquire either. In fact, I never spoke to or crossed paths with my fine host again.
There, dear reader, is the truth about an egregious incident that has haunted me for years. I feel better already. There’s comfort in knowing I have confessed to the sordid affair.
For all you sleuths wondering where these events unfolded, I leave you with one clue – George Perfecto Baye.