[June 23, 2023] Looking back on my time as a kid, I’m not so sure I was using my thinking abilities properly. Yeah, the men in my town were nearly all combat veterans. I was enthralled by their harrowing experiences, cool demeanor, pretty girlfriends, tales of growing up in the boonies and swamps of Louisiana, great physical strength, and fearlessness. And in school, my teachers were stable, married, smart middle-aged women teachers who understood little boys and took our rambunctious behavior as normal. Both knew how to deal with my friends and me. I was lucky. Despite the advantage I gained with their help, I did things that made me ask myself, what was I thinking?
Hey, watch this! There was when my friend jumped 20 feet off the train trestle railroad bridge into the river below, and I thought he had died. Running to get help in town, my vivid imagination had the town Sheriff throwing me in jail for murder or just shooting me on the spot and then telling everyone in town what a lowlife coward I was by abandoning my best friend to the watery depths. There was no scenario I was getting out of this. My friend lived, and I was not thrown in jail. We often laugh about this incident to this day. The old Sheriff has passed along, but after I grew up and visited my hometown, he still remembered the event and how I was in full panic mode when I found him.
Or the time I ran away from home. I don’t remember why; it doesn’t matter anyway, and it was likely a conflict with my dad (mom was too easy to push me that far). I had my maternal grandparents “only” a 20-minute drive away, but on foot, a nine-year-old stride would take far far longer, and I was lucky to get about a third of the way by walking the railroad tracks; I knew where the tracks went because my dad was in charge of that area. Looking down the tracks, I could see forever and no end to my trip. I thought I would die on these tracks and no one would notice. I turned around finally, as it was getting dark and headed back home. My parents acted as if they even noticed I was missing. I didn’t dare to ask, and they weren’t telling. A few years ago, before they passed away, I thought about asking but decided to let it go. I should have asked.
The year before my grandpappy got me my first real job, my grandmaw Satterfield decided to teach me about life. It was a hot summer day in southern Arkansas when at the meager age of six, it was my turn to catch, kill, and prepare one of her chickens for our supper that evening. Killing the chicken would be a first for me, but it would forever remain a defining moment in my life. This coming-of-age event was supposed to be an adventure of sorts. If you’ve never caught and killed a chicken (the proper way, so my grandmaw says), then you have not lived the life of hardscrabble or are sufficiently close enough to “God’s green earth” for it to matter. Such
virtues were not just ordinary but also expected if you grew up before the 1970s. To do those things necessary to live and do them correctly and morally and with grit is a lesson that a young boy or girl would learn early and then carry through life.
These adventures were all part of growing up.
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