Yea, though I walk through the valley of the Shadow of Death...
İ Donn Haven Lathrop 1998
In the early 'thirties, a stalwart young couple of recent marriage and
of a religious persuasion embarked for Mexico, with the intent of making
a life in that country and, as was common in those days before the
concupiscent 'television minister', becoming missionaries to the
benighted heathen. Their '31 Ford rattled over the unimproved roads in
the mountains west of Mexico City through the Mil Cumbres (One
Thousand Peaks) region to Lake Pátzcuaro in the heart of what had once
been the Tarascan Kingdom, a kingdom that had managed to repulse the
bloodthirsty Aztec horde and retain its independence.
They settled across the lake from the town of Pátzcuaro in an even
smaller town named Puacuaro, where 'ere long, they were blessed with
For some reason, perhaps the machinations of the local curandéra---a
form of healer, witch, layer-on-of-curses, or perhaps the machinations
of another, older and better established religious sect, the Town
Fathers of Puacuaro determined that the couples' presence was inimical
to the health and happiness of the townspeople, and that they should in
some way be persuaded to leave. I believe that modern scriveners of the
mystery/adventure genre would label this "persuasion" as "termination
with prejudice". Upon hearing of this, the husband racked his brain for
some means through which this verdict could be voided.
The four children were enamored of a cuckoo clock hanging on the adobe
wall of the kitchen, and learned very quickly to tell time, that they
might hourly gather before this miracle of horology, and watch the bird
bob in time to the "Hoo-hoo---clang"---a show which not only fascinated
the children, but the townspeople as well.
The town offices, and indeed, the entire town, were devoid of the
sophistication of modern horological devices, and told time according to
the heliacal passage, or according to the dissonant clang of the
canonical hours which issued from the tower of the local church.
Inspiration struck, and the husband took down from the wall the beloved
cuckoo clock; bird, weights, and bellows, and bore it to the town
offices. With many a formal and flowery phrase the clock was presented
to the Town Fathers, instructions as to its care and feeding were passed
on, and the little town of Puacuaro---now a clock-owner---rose mightily
in the esteem of its neighbors.
The husband discovered that the Shadow of Death no longer hung over his
valley, and 54 years later his son is still alive to write these lines.
The son grew to adulthood, and in midlife, as do so many of us, became
enamored of clocks, and delved into the
Ancient Art and Mysterie of Clockmaking.
In due course, many thousands of miles from Lake Pátzcuaro, and many
tens of years later, a customer brought to his shop a cuckoo clock in
need of some skilled attention.
Upon inquiry as to the cause of its injury, the owner responded, "My
husband shot it!" and there, in the small door behind which lurked the
bird and the "Hoo-hoo---clang" mechanism, was a small hole---roughly .22
inches in diameter. A startled glance at the back of the case revealed a
much larger hole not made by the maker, and that within the case the
splintered remains of a hand-carved wooden bird were bestrewn. Further
discreet questioning revealed that the husband was now 'ex-', the owner
wanted the clock repaired, and that there was no possibility of
retribution from the bird-killer against the clock, its owner, or the
These two clocks---the owner of the one visited by the Shadow of Death,
and the other itself having endured a fell blow from the Shadow of
Death---yet still alive---are for some reason inextricably linked in the
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