Rattlesnakes, mountain lions, javelinas, and eclipses; nothing can stir up a conversation faster than mention of one of these. An eclipse is an odd thing, for sure, and I’ve been blessed to have spent a lot of time outside, especially at night, and have watched my share of these phenomenons.
I was in Idaho cooking for the YP cowboys last month, and the morning after the full moon there was lots of talk at breakfast about the eclipse that had happened that night. There’s just something that gets folks to talking about the moon or the sun not shining like they should. It really gets imaginations going, and as often as not, facts take back seat to wild tales.
Back in 84, Augustine and I were working on a windmill down in Terrell County, and wouldn’t you know it, we’d forgotten to put a welding hood in with our equipment, and needed to weld on the red rod. I was ready to drive three hours one way back to my folk’s house in Crockett County to get one, but Augustine had a better idea. He wandered off down the draw, looking in drifts, and pretty soon came back with an old gallon brown glass drench jug that had been thrown away years ago. He could hold it and I could look through it to weld.
You know what they say about necessity....
We got everything ready, cranked up the old SA 200, and were just fixing to splice those sucker rods to the right length, when he said, “Aiy, que paso con la luz?”
We both got to looking around, and boy the light was sure odd. I thought it might be from trying to focus my eyes through that brown glass jug, but pretty soon could tell that something strange was going on. We were both a little spooked for a minute, and then he said, “Aiy, aiy, es un fenomino.” It didn’t take me long to put two and two together, and figure that “fenomino” is Spanish for “eclipse”. It got pretty dark for a few minutes, and we did our best to peep at the sun through that glass jug, but only managed to get a vague impression of what it looked like, then the light cleared up to normal and we went on about our business. Sure enough, when I got home that night and was talking about it over supper, my dad said he’d heard on the radio that there was supposed to be an eclipse that day.
I looked up “fenomino” in the Spanish dictionary, and it said, “unusual, curious, or astonishing event”, or “an observable fact or occurrence.” Sounds like a pretty good description of an eclipse, especially the astonishing event part.
Old Augustine was from way down in Guanajuato, hadn’t been to school a day in his life, couldn’t read or write or drive a pickup, but he was one of the smartest, most resourceful, and most likable men I ever knew. He was a good cook, and the walkingest man in the country too. But that’s a different story.
Can you imagine that the moon and the sun are just the right diameters and just the right distance from us to be a perfect cover for each other when things line up just right? Can you imagine that the whole system is so precise that the smart fellers can predict exactly where the sun and moon and earth will be at any given moment, and know when an eclipse will happen, and even know if it’ll be total or partial? Pure happenstance I’m sure. The Bible says that Jesus is holding up the universe with his powerful word. Jesus is doing it. Not Mother Nature. Not blind chance. Jesus. Now there’s a fenomino. Wow.
One time I was on the highway real early in the morning, way before daylight. I forget what was going on, but I thought I was in a hurry. It was the night of the full moon and I was steaming along and saw some tail lights blinking up ahead, slowed down, and started to ease around an 18-wheeler that was broke down half in the road. When I got past him, I pulled over and walked back to see if I could help, and it was a feller that was pretty buggered and glad to have some help. He’d lost his air pressure and his brakes had set, and we were trying to find the problem in the moonlight and the glow of the truck’s headlights since neither one of us had a flashlight.
Somewhere along the way, the light got dimmer and dimmer, and one of us looked up at the moon and saw it sliding behind the shadow of the earth. That’s a pretty strange sight when you’re not expecting it. It was an astonishing event. We took a little break from our trouble shooting and watched that eclipse. The old boy told me to not look directly at the moon because some way or ‘nother that moonlight would burn my eyes.
For all I know he may have been right. My eyes aren’t all that good, and my problems may have started from looking at eclipses. You can’t ever tell what a fenomino might do.