This is part 5 of the series “Immigrant: Expectations vs. Reality”.
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I last left you with one of the most traumatic experiences of my childhood. Now let me top that.
While I had the best parents that a kid could ask for, I was still surrounded by some bad actors in the neighborhood, starting with a really mean dog owner in Sandy, Utah.
MY FIRST ANIMAL ENCOUNTER
Despite having a black eye, I still played in our neighborhood as if nothing had happened.
I wasn’t ashamed of my new trophy, and even though some kids made me feel bad about my skin color, I still had the self-confidence to go out into the neighborhood and do whatever it is what young boys my age did.
Ride bikes, explore the nearby gully, play in the weeds while pretending I was Indiana Jones. The usual stuff.
Around the same time, my Dad’s childhood best friend (Rashmi Auntie) moved in with us, and she gave me my first skateboard…so scraping up my knees was part of the equation too.
I lived. I lived well. That is until it all came crashing down.
One day, I was walking around the neighborhood with my skateboard, minding my own business. Electra Lane had a little hill, and at the top, I’d sit down on the skateboard and ride down the hill…because I couldn’t quite figure out how to ride this thing while standing up.
As I got to the bottom of the hill, a husky dog of some sort was approaching. I had never in my life seen a pet other than Yogi, my aunt’s family cat, which you saw in the first part of this series.
When the dog was near me, I panicked, and started crying (on-brand for me), and ran towards my house, dropping my skateboard along the way.
The dog snarled and chased me. When I got close to the sidewalk near my home, I tripped and fell face first.
This beast then approached me with his authoritative snarl, and in a gesture of kindness, I put my hand out as if to show that I was a friend, not an enemy.
The dog snapped and BIT my hand. I screamed bloody murder, so loud the entire neighborhood could hear it. Even my hard of hearing Mom, who came running to my rescue while screaming even louder than me. That dog got scared from all the noise and ran away into the blur of the neighborhood.
Mom nursed my wound as best she could, and we waited until my Dad was able to come home from work so we could go to the hospital.
We went to Alta View Hospital’s ER so I could get “treated” with some bandages and various precautionary vaccines. We didn’t have insurance at this point in time (hey, it was the mid 80’s), but this sets up the rest of what I am about to tell you.
MEET THE NEIGHBOR, TUCK
We had no idea who’s dog this was, and why it was running around the neighborhood terrorizing
children me that day. No one on our street knew, and this was before the NextDoor app was a thing, let alone any form of digital communication.
After some investigation by some of the friendly people on our street, they determined this dog belonged to a Delta Airlines attendant named “Tuck.”
Before my parents got involved, one of our neighbors, Gabriel, went over and spoke with Tuck about the incident because he was concerned for his own children. He also asked Tuck to apologize to me and my parents, but this didn’t go over well. Tuck kicked Gabriel out of his house and that was that.
A few weeks later, my parents received a bill from Alta View Hospital for $550 dollars (about $1300 today). Twice my parent’s monthly mortgage payment at that point in time. The natural thing to do was to get in touch with the owner of the dog that caused all this, right?
My parents walked over to Tuck’s house with friendly intentions and the hospital bill. Tuck wanted no part of this situation, hurled some racist words at my parents, and then told them to “fuck off”.
Pretty rude considering my Dad even offered to split the bill with him.
My Dad’s next course of action was to have one of his friends consult an attorney friend, and then this situation headed to small claims court. They waited for the court date.
THINGS GET WEIRD
On a casual afternoon, my Dad and Mom were working on organizing the garage. I was pulling weeds from the lawn by hand (because for some reason I used to enjoy this kind of mindless manual labor), and Rashmi Aunty was doing laundry.
A normal weekend for us.
Next thing we know, Tuck comes walking through our street pushing a big wheel that his son was riding. We thought nothing of it, because hey…it’s a neighborhood. It was only a little weird because Tuck’s house was a couple of streets over.
Then he circled our block. The first time, we thought nothing of it. The second time…again, we thought nothing of it. Maybe he was doing laps. As an airline attendant, he probably was flying quite a bit, and he was cherishing precious time with his kid.
The third time around though, he looked across the street at my parents and hurled racial insults including the word that ends with an “er”.
Tuck circled the block again. Several times over. And each time, his words were getting more and more hateful.
Dad made up an excuse to send me into the house. Rashmi Auntie came outside to talk to my Dad about something completely unrelated. Dad calmly asked her to call the police.
As I was inside, I stared out the front window and saw something that looked like a knife sheath over his back pocket. Within minutes, police arrived at our house, and spoke to my Dad about the complaint.
Tuck turned the corner and saw the police car. He tried to carefully turn around, but by then, the officers called for him and started questioning him on what was going on. Then out of nowhere, they handcuffed him and hauled him away to jail.
We later found out that Tuck was purposely trying to engage in some sort of battle with my Dad that would end with him pulling a gun on my Dad and then shooting him.
Tuck was arrested that day, but it wasn’t for the racist slurs, or trying to bait my Dad into a violent attack…his firearm was unregistered. Go figure.
IS THIS A HATE CRIME?
The next few days were tense. We knew that Tuck was quickly released, and we probably pissed him off even more. He was told to not even go near our street, and as a precaution, we were to do the same with him and his street.
One afternoon, I was walking home from school and saw a bunch of neighborhood kids at the foot of my driveway and laughing. I quickly ran up to the kids to see what the fuss was about and there it was…
On my driveway…a cow’s head…full of blood, gore, and flies.
I was MORTIFIED. My second animal encounter…what the hell?
After running into the house, I immediately called my Dad, and he came home from work (for the third time that month). He called up the county animal services to have them haul it away.
It turns out that Tuck was bragging to some of the other neighbors that he was the one who “threw the cows head at the Hindu family’s house”. The police were unable to do anything about it since no real crime was committed at the time. They had no need to investigate any further.
Today, the State of Utah has a law on the books defining a hate crime. What do you think? Would Tuck’s actions fall into this category today?
Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
This entire series of events was traumatizing, because for the second time in a month, I was bullied by an adult. He didn’t hit me with his hands…this guy hit me with his hate.
Trusting an “American” adult was tough. I learned to embrace the kind neighbors who had our back over the next decade and a half — through the various parts of town we lived in.
As far as dogs go…well that’s another story.
I spent the next decade of my life pretending to be “allergic” to dogs because I was absolutely terrified of them. I was too ashamed to tell people about this story, so I had a convenient lie.
In the next part of the series, we will get back to some of the happier memories…” The Firsts” including Halloween and Christmas
If you made it this far, THANK YOU for reading! This was part five of my Immigrant series. If you’d like a refresher, please re-visit my other stories.
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