“You wanna play chicken?” said Harold Tabor. He looked like a scarecrow with hair sticking out in all directions, wearing torn, dirty clothes. I was a clueless kid and had no idea what Harold was talking about. I imagined walking around with my hands in my armpits, elbows moving up and down, bobbing my head back and forth. There were a knot of kids on their bicycles in front of the Tabor house.
The Tabor’s house looked like it had been vacant for a long time but in fact was occupied by a family of four: a mother and her three children. The front yard was mostly dirt, scattered with weeds. Very few people had seen the backyard; the grass as high as my nine-year-old eyes. My little brother imagined jungle creatures living there and maybe a small tribe of pygmies with blow darts thrown in for good measure. Much later another son was born and it was rumored that Mama Tabor gave birth to him in the bathtub.
Once the kids grew to know Harold they gave him a wide berth when seeing him skulking around the neighborhood. Some would even hide. All the kids called him Harry Canary, although never to his face. Harold was a mean natured violent kid who seemed to always have an endless supply of firecrackers in his pocket. My brother and I once came home speckled with cow manure because Harold had stuck a firecracker in a cow-pie.
“What’s chicken?” I said. Harold explained “we ride our bikes at each other and the first one to turn away is chicken.” I’m not sure why, but I agreed. We rode our bikes out onto the street about 100 feet apart. Facing each other, Harold said “GO!” Off we went riding toward each other, Harold furiously pumping the pedals as hard as he possibly could. At the last second I turned away and Harold turned into me. Harold had wanted to crash from the start! We were lying on the street with our bikes on their side, the wheels slowing spinning on the bent rims. Harold got up with a smile on his face.
He seemed satisfied with the way things turned out.
A 2006 mug shot of Harry Canary, aka 130759.