Brandi Chambless – A Bird In The Bush Is Worth Two In Each Hand

There’s just something enticing about a perfectly good hunk of rock sticking up out of the earth into the sky that makes me want to climb it. The red rocks of Arizona speak my name any time I head West.  The first time I saw the purple sunsets, oleander canopies, plush golf greens, and desert terrain, I knew my time in this writer’s nook would be memorable–especially once I drove through the gates of the resort where my accommodations had been made.  “This girl is definitely not roughing it!” I say to myself with perfectly straightened hair and 0% humidity to boot.  It was a good day. “Helloooo, fountain!” I spout out in my best sing-songy voice–taking in the lush landscape of pools, waterfalls, fruit trees, and exotic birds. Now a girl like me can really get alot of work done in a place like this.  

Absolutely exquisite!  I couldn’t decide whether to eat the air or make a candle out of it, so I just sniffed it until I was nearly floating.  It smelled sweeter than honey! 


My room was every bit as rustic.  As always, I opened every window, door, and drawer.  God bless the Gideons. Dear Reader, don’t you think I don’t know for one minute that you are one of the GUILTY who yawn and mentally check out for a brief moment whenever they send a precious messenger to your town to speak of the work they’ve been doing; if you know what I’m talking about, you might be a Baptist.  But, I’m always thankful that in America I still open my nightstand drawer and see the words, “The Holy Bible”.


One slight problem with this fine resort: The minimalistically-designed night stand had no drawer. After a call to guest services, I am promised a morning Bible drop from housekeeping. I turn off the light and sprawl out amidst seven feather pillows. Good night moon. A king-size bed all to myself in a labrador-free environment.


The two hour time differential between the DFW Metroplex and the Valley of the Sun helped my body to cooperate with my idea of beginning the day with a morning hike up the neighboring mountain range.  At 5:30 AM, the sound of belligerent knocking at my door told my feet to get a move on. A dark skinned senorita presented the Indestructable Book as if on a silver platter and announced….”La Bibla.”


“Thank you.  Muchas gracias.”


I grab my tennis shoes and head out toward the mountaintop to beat sunrise, but not before stopping by the lobby and halfway jokingly asking the concierge: “There are no coyotes here, right?” Everyone within earshot of my question began to make fun of my accent and laugh at my naivete by cracking jokes, “Ma’am, they only attack in packs….(laughter) of course there are no coyotes here, only javelinas!”  The laughter continues.  Just another Deep South idiot in the desert.  I feel the insults heaping upon my head like burning coals over my flat-ironed hair from these smiling desert people.


“Okay,” I tell myself and everyone at the coffee bar and I head up the mountain alone in the dark.  I thought….if I were a Northern girl I might have given them the special wave or goodbye gesture with both hands that I’ve seen somewhere between LBJ and The Bush in a Dallas evening commute.  But I just kept smiling right back at those desert people with their bad hair and no make up.


Several Minutes Later…..


I’m headed toward the peak of the red rock.  The sounds of morning silence are broken with sounds I’ve never heard on Bayou Rouge back home, that’s for sure.  The sun is getting ready to break.  My Mama would not approve of this, I know.  Not one little bit.  She would dole out a sermon that consisted of a perfectly cataloged list of every bad thing that could happen to a girl like me in a foreign land climbing a deserted mountain range before dark.  But I just can’t help myself…..I can hardly wait to experience the moment when I make it to the top of the rock as the sun welcomes me to yesterday’s tomorrow, that is, until Murphy’s Law takes effect.


Shhh!!  I freeze.  Something’s there.  Here I am, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, standing face to face with….of all things–a coyote. Darn. Those desert people!!  I never felt so UN-vindicated in being right!  There he was, this coyote–brown and hairy and hungry. Man, he was the definition of COYOTE UGLY.  I thought I might prefer gnawing my own arm off than have him do it.  He looked right at me and I stared him down pretending that I wasn’t afraid at all.


Now, being from Louisiana my Daddy schooled me in the rules of encountering alligators:  Never run in a straight path while being chased…always zig-zag.  And I’ve heard from time to time the wisdom of Floridians:  If attacked by a shark, simply punch it in the nose as hard as possible. Though, neither of these life-saving techniques sound simple, I have them filed away in my “just in case” lobe as a rule of thumb, compliments of my mother Debbie, Queen of Precaution.


I sifted through my mental index, but could not recall any coyote wisdom for a situation such as this. Our gazes locked, I began to call upon the name of Jesus; other than the coyote, Jesus was the only one who could hear me!! Brooke Fraser’s “Desert Song” took on a whole new meaning.  The coyote ducked his head low behind a bush, but kept his eyes locked on mine. When he lifted his snarling teeth back within my view, they were wrapped around a fat white dove. Long feathers stuck out of his mouth as he chomped the squirming bird and then ran off into the distance.


“Thank you, Lord!”


Shaken, I crawl back to the concierge with low blood sugar and what was previously silky hair, now disheveled, and I proceed to prop one elbow on the counter, “No coyotes, huh?” The desert people laugh in disbelief until I finally convince them this was no fish story.  I toss my head back and down a shot of freshly squeezed juice, but it might as well have been tequila were I to gauge the embellishment of my story each time it was repeated.  The desert people liked me now.  I wondered if this was some sick sort of hazing procedure…..“Welcome to Arizona!  You’re one of us now.”


Other than the coyote encounter, seeing that Arizona sunrise from the red rock was entirely worth the risk.  The next day, I venture out again before dark…only this time I bring a friend up the mountain, lowering my chances of being eaten alive by 50%–I’m a business woman after all.


As I passed by the spot where Mr. Coyote had been, I considered my fleeting life, stuck my chin up in the air proudly and decided….the old euphemism holds true any way I looked at it.  Whether the bird is in the hand or the bush, usually it’s better to have a small real advantage than only the possibility of an even greater one.  I made it to the top of the red rock and watched the Master create this day’s masterpiece right before my eyes.  What handiwork!  Great and unsearchable things I know not of are mine again to behold!!


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Brandi Chambless
Read Brandi's column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.

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