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Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.

Welcome to ADHD

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Barry and bird Wild Bird and Wilder Barry enjoy an unusual moment on the high seas …

I’m sure of it. Somewhere in the world, there are people who get along with animals.

They aren’t named Blackwells, says Screen One. The people, I mean.

It’s not that we dislike family pets. We love ’em.

To death, cracks Three.

“True,” I sigh heavily. “Not our intent, of course. But if animals could speak in human tongues, those bound for the Blackwell Bed-and-Breakfast would ask to be put down instead.”

You’re serious? asks Four.

Turtles inexplicably climb sheer-glass tank walls and die beneath couches. Cats wordlessly run away. Rescued squirrels freeze in the night. Cats get hit by cars. Goldfish gasp and go. Cats disappear without ransom notes. Dutch rabbits become neighboring dog dinners. Cats die of feline leukemia and –

Point made, assures Six. Why so tough on the Wild Kingdom?

“Hold on. They’re tough on us, too.”

Thor gets chomped by raccoons while feeding them late-night bread. Dianne’s tackled by a bear cub when she steps inside a safety circle representing the tiny bruin’s reach. Jeff all but sits on a rattler in a Denver mountain outhouse. Mike outswims alligators as he dives for golf clubs that slipped through sweaty hands.

Shouldn’t all these family facts be stories of their own? wonders naturalist Five.

You skipped yourself, Screen One notes. And Barry.

“No time to cover all my mishaps. But a perfect example occurs when gentle-hearted Ma Blackwell thoughtfully puts purple tissue paper in my guinea pig’s cage for warmth. Snowflake ingests poisonous dye and passes.”

Harsh, concurs Five. Things are no better when you take the family cocker spaniel to Lincoln Park for his free shot. After two sunstroke-inducing hours in line, Frosty urinates on your pants. But what about Barry?

“Never once wet my leg.”

I mean, does he strive with the animal kingdom, too?

Barry? Stalker of grizzlies in northern climes? Hero who swims through hammerheads with groupers tightly tied to him? Master builder of spear guns and shafts so accurate, even Cupid buys them? That Barry?

“Somehow, his situation is different. He must have inherited the bulk of Mom’s chromosomes –

Jean’s genes, corrects Five.

Wild Things“ – because he and the Wild Things respect one another. Just as Mom could get a nervous horse to gentle right away, cause bunnies to bed down in her hands, convince raccoon babies to relax, Barry can walk or run or swim or fly (yep, he’s a pilot) in the presence of creatures and still have everything go well.”

Even that time Barry swims toward the ocean bottom and meets a great white shark swimming up, marvels Six. No offense, Boss, but sometimes we wish we were screens in his head. You have escapades. He has adventures. Glorious adventures.

“Wait a minute,” I protest. “I have adventures, too! Are you forgetting?”

Black, in light of your post-Accident TBI, it’s a miracle we remember anything. Feel free to remind us.

I’m walking behind ill-tempered cowboy Lee Sundance [not his real name, lest I get strung up] as he tells me about the expansion of his ranch. Explaining more fences will be needed to handle the expected influx of horses, he offers to show me the fine stallions he now boards.

“Thanks, sir,” I say, “but that’s not necessary.”

What? shouts Five. You’d pass the chance to see these enormous equines up close?

I do so because Screen One re-plays co-worker Scott and I approaching two horses as they casually walk the main road. “We have to save them!” declares Scott as he jumps from my car, undeterred by lame protests that superhero abilities are limited to my “Turtle Patrol” talents.

He walks slowly, steadily up to the pair, stroking their muzzles –

Ponies have pistols? gasps Two.

– and speaking horsey things to them. Stepping neatly between the giants, Scott turns, puts one arm beneath the neck of each, calmly walks both to the nearest fenced field.

Black, says Three, you’re shaking.

“Right,” I reply. “I don’t like the memory. And I don’t like walking behind Lee as he hikes among these – these land hippos.”

Large horses. Not land hippos. What could possibly go wrong? quip all six screens.

We are just halfway through the very first enclosure when a stallion nickers curiously and walks right up to me, blocking my path. I try to step around the beast but it swiftly turns around, throws it massive body against me and pins my chest tightly to the fence. Close my eyes … hard to be an optimist about this.

Well, observes One, at least the fence isn’t electric.

“Lee,” I call, painfully winded by the impact of heavy horse against human heart, “can’t … um ….”

Tough to explain your predicament, agrees Four.

Lee’s body is not visible, but his words are clear and firm. “Let him go,” he says to the unmoving horse.

Sterner, deeper. “I said for you to let him go.” The stallion pins me more securely yet. Even Lee’s tug on the bit, which is painful for a horse, doesn’t free me.

I glimpse the angry cowboy throwing a roundhouse punch. The horse collapses, as do I. “Get up!” barks Lee. Horse and human leap to feet. “You,” points Lee, “go there!” Horse unsteadily gallops away. “And you,” he motions to me, “stay close!”

“Yessir, Mr. Sundance. Right here. Tight, tight!”

He mutters, “Not a lick of horse sense.”

Six defiantly laughs, Tell him you’re nobody’s foal.


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Postscript: Last week’s column dealt with contracting poison ivy rash just prior to an operation on my shredded left shoulder. Today’s postscript deals with the same problem, only post-surgery.

“OK, Black,” summarizes Dr. Foetisch in the recovery room, “you’re rebuilt. But that poison ivy itch on top of your pain will make you crazy.”

We do crazy right, says Three.

“What do you recommend, sir?”

“Run as hot a bath as you can bear. Soak everything but your stitches. Keep adding hot water.”

Not recommended, whispers Four. Opens pores and lets poison in!

“Natural antihistamines will rise to the skin surface and alleviate the terrible itch, at least for a few hours.”

My beautiful brown-eyed bride rushes me home, but the desire to scratch hits unbearable levels. “Stay still,” Miss Laura advises impossibly. “I’ll run a super-hot tub and all your troubles will be over.”

“Thanks,” I whisper back, wanting to tear the skin from my body. I wiggle and squirm, barely comforted by the thought of that smokin’ tub water.

My wife reappears. “Um, Black?” She blinks back tears. “Hot water tank just died.”

* * * * *

Sure, there ‘s The Duke. Roy Rogers. The Lone Ranger. But how ’bout …

This Black Beauty and rider?

Bridleless bareback champ Stacey Westfall?

Barrel horse trainer Rachel King?

Ghost Riders in the Sky?