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...Darrell Bain

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Savage Survival

 

Darrell Bain's Monthly Blog - March 2012

The contents of this Blog may be copied and sent to both friends and enemies with the stipulation that the source www.darrellbain.com is noted and included.

Bainstorming: Darrell's Bain's Monthly Blog.
Copyright © March 2012, By Darrell Bain
http://www.darrellbain.com

Responses to subjects brought up by this blog are welcome. I can be contacted by e-mailing me from my website.

Subjects this month: Mild Winter, Old Age and Heaven, Love, My autobiography: It’s never Too late, Book Reviews, Operation on feet and progress report, Religious practices, Series--State of America: Environmental Boondoggling and Global Warming, Excerpt from my Autobiography, It’s Never Too late

Mild Winter

We’ve had a very mild winter in this area of East Texas north of Houston. I’m glad. I dislike cold weather. Cold seems to soak in and get my very bones cold. Extreme heat isn’t too enjoyable either as I can testify from going without electricity for a week or ten days at a time after hurricanes in the midst of high summer, but I’ll still take that over cold weather.

There’s one thing about being cold. If you have a wood burning fireplace or stove you can back up to, it’s the most warming sensation in the world but I’ve only lit four fires all winter. Amazing!

Old age and Heaven

I think I’ve finally figured it out. It’s the act of getting old and hurting all the time that makes people think there’s an afterlife or a heaven. It would be nice but I’ve got my doubts.

Love

“Love is being there when it counts”.

I don’t know where I heard or read that, but I agree.

My Autobiography: It’s Never Too Late

There are links on my web page at www.darrellbain.com on the home page that will take you directly to where you can buy It’s Never Too Late. I mention this because if you try looking it up at Amazon or Barnes and Noble by title, you’ll find a hundred titles by that name. If you use search engines, do it this way: It’s Never Too Late by Darrell Bain. You’ll get there quicker!!!

Having said all that, I was surprised at the initial interest in my life but sales have tapered off quite a lot by now. It is available in both print and ebook. If you like to read about “The Olden Days”, there’s plenty of stuff from way back in the 1950s, a long, long time ago and my life from then on, good and bad. Hard to believe I was born in 1939 and I’m that old. Except when I wake up in the morning and then I know I’m old!

Book Reviews

Chiefs by Stuart Woods is written in a low key manner but that doesn’t distract a bit from its impact. It follows the lives of three police chiefs in a small Georgia town from 1920 to the Kennedy era, with a number of other major characters interacting with them. Stuart Woods says that although it was his first book, he still thinks it’s his best. I’ve read a number of his other books and I do, too! Just as a sidebar, I think Grisham’s first book, A Time To Kill is still his best one, too. Both these books are enjoyable reads, ones you will remember for a long time.

Void Moon by Michael Connelly reminds me in ways of King Con, a novel of a big time scam artist, but in Void Moon it is a female character who is the scammer. You’ll enjoy the ins and outs of this book as a scam goes bad and the protagonist tries her best to get away from the repercussions.

I’ve re-read several legal thrillers by Sheldon Siegal, Special Circumstances, The Confession and Criminal intent. His first few books involve criminal defense Lawyer Mike Daley, a former priest and his on again-off again relationship with his former wife and now partner, criminal defense lawyer Rosita Fernandez. I don’t know why lawyer and trial novels are so popular. Perhaps it’s the gladiatorial aspect of them. At any rate, I like the good ones and Sheldon Siegal’s books certainly belongs to that group. It’s hard to go wrong with any one of his entertaining novels. There are always enough twists and turns and down to earth dialog to make them good reading.

When I’m lazy and don’t feel like tacking anything else I can always go back to Robert A. Heinlein and find one of his books to perk me up, in this case The Pupplet Masters. This was his first “adult” book and remains one of my favorites. I re-read the uncut version that came out after his death. It is about an invasion of earth by parasites who take over the rational function of humans and use their bodies for their own purposes. The parasites also multiply very rapidly, giving the good guys and gals only a limited amount of time to find a way to not only stop the invasion but rid all the hag-ridden humans of their puppet masters. A good read even if it is about fifty years old!

Operation on feet and Progress report

It seems that for the last few months I always have an excuse for not getting down to writing more. Finally though, I really felt like getting back to work--just as I had to have an operation for varicose veins on my feet and lower legs. It turned out to be more trouble than I anticipated and has kept me pretty much away from the computer other than finishing the last Bainstorming and answering mail. There is so much I want to do while I can still manage but I know I can’t possibly live long enough to do it all, and there’s nothing life-threatening wrong with me, either. It’s just that many of the various ailments of advancing age, such as back problems, varicose veins, and one thing or another always seem to get in the way of work. And if I’m in reasonably good shape, then there’s something wrong with Betty and I have to help her. So bear with me. I’m going to do all I can and the best that I can and that’s about all anyone can ask, I think.

At the present time I just finished revising the Children’s short book, The Dog Who Thought He Was A Cat and I expect it to be published soon if I have to do it myself. I think it’s a neat little story, perfect for pre-schoolers to have read to them on a book reader such as the Kindle Fire and also a good book for grades one through four in elementary school. Watch for it.

And I’m still slowly coming along with the political commentary. I hope I can finish it before everything in it is outdated. :- )

And last, I have two or three novels underway and outlines of others I’m ready to begin writing if I ever get to where I can and get up the energy again. But…there’s a catch. For some reason I’m not aware of, my sales have been dropping off lately. It’s not just me. My chief publisher says sales are down all across the board. I personally think it happened when Amazon and Barnes and Noble opened up the ebook market to self-publishers. I have nothing against them but I do believe that’s the main reason my sales are down, and while all my books are available in print, the majority of my sales are through ebooks. It’s hard to compete with books selling for $0.99 cents or $1.99. I don’t have any idea how this will all turn out. I’ve read some of the self-published authors. A few were good. Most I didn’t finish, and it wasn’t because of grammatical or typographical errors. It’s simply that I couldn’t get interested in the books. I know I’m not the best writer in the world but I do think I tell interesting stories. I’ve had very few reviewers ever making the complaint that I don’t! Oh well, a hundred years from now who’ll care?

Oh, by the way, here is an apology and a “hats off” of admiration from me to all the women in the world ever forced to wear stockings as a matter of style or any other reason. I absolutely hate those damned compression stockings I had to wear after the operation on my feet and I only had to wear them for two weeks. Every morning I put them on and every evening when Betty helped me take them off I thought of all the women who had to wear stockings all their lives and thanked the Universe it wasn’t me who had to wear them.

Religious practices

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if all the adherents of religions practiced what they preached? Unfortunately, they don’t. If all the Christians in the world lived their religion like my stepdaughter does, it would be a better world. She goes quietly on her way, doing her best to live up to the precepts of Christianity without being strident or attempting to make others behave as she does. That’s what gets in the way of a lot of religions, in my opinion. They can’t leave well enough alone and simply convert by example the way the Master did. No, they have to do their utmost to make everyone else go their way or else. At the present time I believe the Muslims are the worst at that kind of behavior but Christians need not feel sanctimonious. I wish they would just think of the Crusades and Inquisition before they start with the  holier than thou. Oh well. I’ve gone all my adult life without feeling the need of a religion and doubt I’ll start this late in life, but all in all I believe I’ve lived about as good a life as the majority.

Series, State of America: Environmental Boondoggling and Global Warming

          The recent spate of bankruptcies of government financed “green energy” projects shows us that the government “experts” don’t know any more about how to overcome the effects of global warming than a group of Chimpanzees might. The idea is to control the emission of greenhouse gases and particles so that the earth doesn’t overheat. The fallacy of the idea is that it probably isn’t even possible. The earth is still coming out of its last ice age and is warming naturally, so to speak.
          However, I won’t quarrel with the idea we are responsible for some of the rise in global temperatures. We almost certainly are. My real question is what’s the big deal? As average temperature rises there are going to be some winners and some losers. If you happen to live on an island only a few feet above sea level, say goodbye to your homes. If you live in a bitterly cold northerly area of earth, count your blessings: your area is gong to warm up.
          There will be more deserts but also more growing areas available for agriculture as northerly climates warm up a bit. Weather will probably become more extreme at both ends of the spectrum but again, some areas will be better off, some worse.
          Before all the tree huggers start using me for target practice let me state firmly that I do not advocate ignoring the environment. Hell, we all want a nice planet with pristine mountains and plains and rivers that have nary a trace of pollution. The thing is, we can’t have that kind of nation or world and continue to live comfortably. It ain’t possible no matter what anyone says. There’s no such thing as a free lunch and this is a classic example.
          Now then, should we try to combat global warming? I definitely think so, but I also believe, and this is beyond doubt, we are at the top of the food chain. We have to think of us before we try saving the horny toad or the polar bear of any other cute and warm fuzzy animals. We’re the top dog, not snails or lizards.
          Before getting into the subject very deeply, I’d like to ask a question: How many members of the Sierra club and members of all those other activist organization do you see riding bicycles instead of driving cars, eating vegetables instead of meat, recycling their garbage instead of just dumping it, wearing clothes made of cotton instead of nylon and on and on? Very freaking few. Right? You know damn well I’m right. They are a bunch of well-meaning hypocrites who ought to go back to school and take a couple of science and economics and ecology courses.
          Also let’s look at Global warming, or climate Change as they call it now, because the majority of citizens figured out that the earth naturally goes through warming and cooling cycles and there’s little or nothing humans can do to change that. Then, since the environmentalists couldn’t make any headway with the term Global Warming they changed it to Climate Change. I guess they think we’re so stupid we wouldn’t catch onto this little bit of chicanery but people are generally just a bit brighter than the elite self-styled “intellectuals”.
          Climate cycles have been around since the world began some four or five billion years ago but let’s skip the extremes of the formation of earth and all the volcanoes and big meteorites hitting earth and toxic gases and so forth. Instead, how about going back only a couple of million years. That’s far enough back to show that the earth was pretty much as we see it today, except for the extremes of temperature. That’s also about the time humans began roaming around earth, although not yet in the form we know today.
          Listen to this: In the last two million years more than sixty glacial advances and retreats occurred. If "ice age" is used to refer to long, generally cool, intervals during which glaciers advance and retreat, we are still in one today. Our modern climate represents a very short, warm period between glacial advances. Does anyone with brains think humans caused all those ice ages, the earth getting damnably cold then warming up and getting cold again, over and over? Nope. Didn’t happen that way. It’s a natural result of variations in ocean currents, precession of earth on its axis,  variations in the sun’s temperatures and any number of other factors, some we know of, some we undoubtedly haven’t discovered yet.
          Also, during those last two million years all kinds of species have gone extinct and others arose to take their place. It’s the natural order of things, evolution in action. So why are we so all fired wrought up over the extinction of some unimportant critter like a snail darter or a minnow that lives in only one stream or polar bears losing their ice packs and possibly fading out, but more likely interbreeding with grizzly bears and beginning the evolution of a new species adapted to changing conditions? Why should we spend jillions of dollars that could better go to more worthwhile projects than preserving junky little animals, plants or insects that don’t amount to a hoot nor holler in the big scheme of things. Something else will replace them, so don’t worry about it. It’s been happening since life began.
          An exception here is preserving wetlands, especially along the coast where they help resist hurricane damage, although as usual the government can’t seem to avoid going overboard on a program once it is established. There are all kinds of horror stories about farmers being put out of business or land owners being unable to sell land they own because a pond or swamp has been declared wetland. That’s a minor factor in the big environmental scheme of things, though.
          The present earth warming that groups like the Sierra Club are clamoring for us stop is laughable. Our attempts to alter natural earth cycles are about as useless as a kitten trying to stop a freight train. All this talk about “Cap and Trade” of CO2 in order to stop Climate Change doesn’t do much more than stick a lot of added costs on to industry which in turn comes right out of your pocketbook. And if a lizard gets in the way of shale formations we need for natural gas or oil until we can develop alternate sources of energy, that’s just too bad for the lizard. We’re more important.
          Now I said I did care about the environment, didn’t I? And I do. I believe our environmental money should go into preventing pollution as defined by the overwhelming tide of plastic that’s fouling the oceans and using up oil to make the plastics, by keeping toxic products out of our water and stopping this insane growing of corn for ethanol that when all the steps are added up winds up using more energy than producing the gasoline would have in the first place. Not only that, the runoff of fertilizer into our streams and ultimately to the oceans is creating wastelands of dead water offshore and God knows what other damage. If we want to control pollution let’s start by recycling. It’s not all that hard to do and in many cases it will pay for itself.
          Quit the ethanol program (at least the subsidies have ended--I think, but you never know about a government program. Those things are harder to kill than a pit bull on steroids or kudzu in a forest) and some of those other nutty government sponsored programs and put some of the money into research to use waste products like wood chips and corn cobs and weeds and so forth to convert to oil. Put money into research and development on how to get cleaner, less polluting energy. There are a number of truly important developments on the verge of happening right now if only the magnates of the oil companies will leave them be and if government will help put the developments into practice. There are solar energy and fuel cells and other methods of producing energy that use far less resources than oil. Let’s get going on them. Get them in place and one of the more important spinoffs will result in cutting our dependence on oil, thereby keeping our money at home. If you think I don’t know what I’m talking about when I say processes in development, I refer you to the article in the Clifford Pickover Discussion Group,  Digest Number 11445, December 2010, Post number 11 at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CliffordPickover/ . You’ll be as astounded as I was after reading it.
          Natural gas is about the cheapest and least polluting fuels we have access to at the present time and we certainly have an abundance of it. Why not try setting up an infrastructure to use it? We have jillions of tons of coal. Can’t American ingenuity figure out how to use it without creating toxic byproducts? Hells bells, way back in WWII the Germans were converting coal to make oil and fuel to run their industry and vehicles. Did the nation get sick and die from it? Nope. Still there.
          Hydrogen is another good source of fuel. All we need is some research to learn how to use it in abundance. But do we? No. We keep pouring billions into ethanol production or similar programs because of pressure groups beholden to farmers and the representatives in congress who get money from the giant agribusinesses.
          I’ll have more to say about these items in the chapter on Energy Policy later, but to put it all in simple words, we should quit worrying about CO2 and think of ways we can keep from polluting our planet with trash. Do that and the C02 will take care of itself. We should try to preserve species when it doesn’t interfere with us making a living. The environmentalists forget one thing: Humans are at the top of the food chain. Other species either have to adapt to our presence or die out and be replaced by species that can adapt, like the coyote. They are learning to live in our suburbs without doing much harm.
          Besides, so what if the planet does warm up? We’ll adapt. Other species will adapt. The ones that don’t will die out and others take their place, just as has been happening for a billion years or more.
          If we really want to worry about something, remember, we’re in the short interval (by geological standards) between ice ages. What happens when the next one occurs? Can you imagine the whole northern part of the continent covered by glaciers all the way down to Wisconsin and New York like they were during the last ice age? Brrr! I’ll take warm weather over cold any day!
          One last comment and I don’t give a damn who I offend. The idea of birth control being against “God’s will” is absolute nonsense. No one knows what God’s will is if indeed there is a God that cares anything about us. We know that increasing our population indefinitely is one of the stupidest things we can do, yet some religions go right on urging us to procreate as much as we absolutely can. That’s even stupider, you ask me. We should allow enough births to replace deaths and that’s it. I generally don’t believe in government interference in our personal lives but this is one place where it would not only pay off but is going to be necessary. Other nations should do it, too. Forget about Kyoto protocols and any other protocols environmentalists dream up. The simplest and most effective policies of all would be to limit population growth, develop alternate energy sources and recycle. Of those, limiting population is the most important. Unless we do that, we may very well ruin the earth despite anything else we do, but do you hear anyone talking about that, the most important consideration of all when speaking of the environment? Listen to the deafening silence!
          And one last note: we should encourage the use of shale oil, Canadian Tar sands oil, and alternate energy sources. Anything that keeps us from spending more billions or trillions of dollars in the Middle East. Become free of those sources of energy and let the idiots fight it out among themselves. That’s what all those wars have been about, you know. Oil. We’re trying to protect our sources there instead of developing our own. 


           
Excerpt from Autobiography, It’s Never Too Late

          One day Dad was repairing the back steps and left a board lying on the ground while he went to get some tool or other. It had a huge nail driven through it and sticking upright. I was out playing and came running pell mell and stepped squarely on that nail. It went all the way through my foot and poked up the skin on top, making it look like a little tent. Now today, that would garner a trip to the Emergency Room, all kinds of antibiotics, cleansing of the wound with probes, tetanus shots, bandages and so on. But that was then, on a farm out in the country. My treatment consisted of pouring kerosene (which we called coal oil) into my puncture wound to clean it out, then wrapping it with strips of bandage torn from an old pillow case. Know what? It healed perfectly.
          Speaking of kerosene, it had many uses back then. The house was entirely lit with kerosene lamps. Trimming the wicks of those things to make them burn with a bright light is an art, as I found out when Betty and I moved to our own farm and we were without electricity after our first hurricane. I never could get the blasted things to burn right.
          Once there was a jar of kerosene setting on a table or floor or somewhere in reach of Michael. This was after his hand had healed (which left it scarred and somewhat shriveled, along with numerous scars on his thighs from patches of skin being removed and grafted to his hand). Kerosene is a clear liquid. To Mike, it must have looked just like water and he was thirsty. He picked up the jar and drank enough to make him very ill. That required a trip to the hospital for injury to his lungs, but he survived.
          Another time I got hurt by simply doing nothing but watching while Snooky, my oldest sister, was carving on a piece of wood to make something, possibly a butter churn or the like. Well, maybe I wasn't exactly doing nothing. I moved in close to see what she was making just at the time when the big butcher knife she was using slipped. It whacked me right on my upper thigh, making a cut three inches long and a half inch deep. Again, that was an injury that today would require a trip to the Emergency Room. All I got was the inevitable kerosene rinse and a bandage. I still have a beautiful scar from the cut that should have had about a dozen stitches.
          Homemade ice cream was a great treat back then. We didn't have an ice cream freezer, not even a hand-cranked one. The ice cream was made in a metal one-gallon bucket that the ribbon cane syrup came in. (For ages I didn't know there was any other kind of syrup. Ribbon cane was cheap and that's what we got.) Somehow or other, a staph bug must have been in the cream. We all got food poisoning. It felt like I was dying and it looked like the rest of the family was dying, but we all survived. And guess where the blame for the food poisoning went? The adults were firmly convinced it came from making the ice cream in the metal syrup bucket! So why did they do it? Just a risk, they said, and it didn't happen often, but occasionally the metal bucket caused food poisoning. An old wives tale of course, but for years I believed it.
          On a dairy farm, it was a dead certain cinch that we made our own butter. One of the hated chores of childhood was the monotonous task of sitting in a chair and pushing the wooden churner up and down until the butter finally congealed from the cream. It was exhausting, but had to be done. Sometimes Mother used the chore as punishment. It made us behave pretty good. Once the butter was ready, it was put into wooden molds, then into the icebox. The icebox wasn't electric; no electricity, remember? As Dad came home from work, a couple of times a week, he'd stop by the ice house and pick up a block of ice.
          One winter we had an ice storm, then sleet, then freezing rain on top of that, until ice was everywhere about four inches thick. For a while Dad didn't have to bring ice home. The old house had a tin roof. One day when the thaw began, there was a terrible rumbling noise. It sounded like the world was coming apart, but it was only the melting ice sliding off the roof. It's a good thing no one was underneath or they would have either been killed or seriously injured.
          Another illness we all got was whooping cough. God, I can remember plain as day how horrible that felt, coughing as if my lungs were going to come apart, unceasing coughing, coughing day and night to exhaustion, to the point of not being able to breathe, to feeling as if I were suffocating and still coughing. How on earth Mother managed all of us kids with the illness at about the same time and still took care of all her other work is beyond me.
          The farm layout was something like this. There was the big two-story house with a big cistern next to it for water to the kitchen (but there weren't any inside bathrooms; we had an outhouse), a pump house where a gasoline motor powered a pump to pump water from a well to the cistern, a big barn for the cows, some corrals and pig pens and an old rundown tenet house up the dirt road to the gravel road leading to Keithville. There was also a big iron pot out in the center of the back yard. This was where Mother washed clothes, by building a fire around the pot and sloshing the clothes around in boiling water with a big stick. Oh yes, she made our own soap from lard and ashes, too, yellowish gray stuff cut into chunks the size of a grown person's hand.
          Occasionally a frog would somehow get into the cistern and die. We always knew because the water would start tasting rotten. It's amazing how a little frog weighing less than an ounce could make all that water smell bad. The solution was to drain the cistern and find the frog, then refill it. (I think—there may have been another way to find the pesky thing because I don't actually remember it being drained.) The outhouse usually had Sears & Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalogs to use for toilet paper. The pages were slick and didn't work the best, but the upside was you always had something to read.
          Every evening except in bad weather or when it was extremely cold, Snooky would take Gary and me (and later Mike) out to the cistern and give us a bath from the faucet there. I can still remember jumping up and down and trying to get away when the water was really cold, but Snooky brooked no nonsense—we got our baths!
          And here's a funny. After a time, the outhouse would begin to get full and smell. One day I saw Dad with some corncobs and asked him where he was going. He said, "To take a shit" and went off into the woods. A few minutes later, Mother asked me where Dad was. I told her, "He went to take a shit." And that was my introduction to cursing. Before that I had no idea there were words you weren't supposed to use in polite company. Mother really let me know there were!!
          Ever so often a great aunt who was a nurse would paint our throats with Merthiolate or something like that. I think that was supposed to keep us from getting some kind of infection like tonsillitis, but I don't know exactly what. And it may not have been Merthiolate. That was what was used for cuts and scrapes (and later proved to be ineffective). All I remember is how bad it tasted. Years later I had my revenge. I got to draw her blood when I was working at as a medical technologist at a hospital in Shreveport!
          Hog killing in the fall was always a big affair. The hogs would be slaughtered out under the persimmon trees about the time the persimmons were getting ripe, then the meat cut up. The Negroes would come for the intestines to make chitlins. They would grab a long length of intestine and squeeze it empty by running their hands down over it. I couldn't understand why they wanted that part of the hogs but other things were going on and I never asked. Part of the kids' job was to grind the meat by hand for sausage. Mother would mix it with seasoning and form it into patties, then pack it in kegs of lard, which had been rendered from the fat of the hogs. For days after the slaughter we had fresh pork, then it was back to salt pork or smoked ham. I must have eaten several tons of salt pork up until I was eleven or twelve.
          We had a few horses. Gary and I would ride them bareback, but one day I got kicked—and I never got on a horse again until I was working in Saudi Arabia and rode one through the deep canyons to the old city of Petra. I still don't like horses, partly because they scare me, I'm sure.
          Dad always had some Negro men working for him at one time or another. He would calculate their wages using a pencil and writing on the side of a shed. The Negroes were always dressed practically in rags, with shoes split and held together with rope or twine. I thought they looked sad in those old clothes.
          One really poignant memory was one day, out on the dirt road, a Negro man was taking a break from plowing. I went over to talk to him. He looked down at me after we had exchanged a few words and asked, "Whut you rather be, a white man or colored man?" For some reason the question embarrassed me. "White, I guess," I answered. The man wiped sweat off his brow and looked into some far distance then back down at me. "So would I," he said. The memory remained so vivid that after I was grown I wrote a story about it and submitted it to The Saturday Evening Post, the first submission of my writing life. I never heard anything back.
I had a vivid imagination even before starting school, as Mother remarked. One day I noticed that after I had been out playing on the dirt road by myself, and started home, that no matter how fast I went, the sun remained at about the same spot in the sky. When I got back to the house I told Mother, "Mr. Sun followed me home." She laughed, one of the few times I can remember her laughing from then on. I also had an imaginary friend, and either a green or purple alligator. I don't remember that one. Mother told me about it later on in life.
          Somehow, even with working full time on the railroad and running the farm, Dad found time to hunt and fish. Every fall, he went duck hunting, then it was time to pluck the ducks of their downy feathers to make pillows and mattresses. There's nothing so soft as a feather mattress!
          Dad went squirrel hunting a lot. He had a squirrel dog named Tracks. He was our dog as well and stayed with the kids all the time. He was a very special dog and much admired by other hunters. Dad also trapped every fall, using his vacation time for it. He trapped possum, coon and mink, then skinned them and dried the pelts on boards. The mink pelts were especially valuable and he was always extremely careful when skinning them not to make any nicks where they weren't supposed to be. I believe trapping was where the Christmas money came from.
          About the only thing we ever did as a family was to go fishing on the bayou. Mother loved to fish, but got to do very little of it. Her job was to build a fire, clean the fish, and cook them. They were so good, fresh from the water, and of course I didn't realize how much Mother would have loved to be fishing instead of cleaning and cooking! In later years she got to do a good bit of fishing with a friend, making up for lost time.
          We had a battery radio for a while. The batteries were about as big as a car battery is today. One night we all listened to the Billy Conn and Joe Louis world heavyweight fight. We also listened to some radio programs. The Shadow is about the only one I remember.
          All this was happening during World War II. There was rationing of almost everything. Mostly it didn't bother me except cakes were a rare treat since sugar was rationed.
          I started school out there on the farm. We had to walk down the dirt road to the gravel road to catch the bus, about half a mile (not the ten miles through snow you hear your grandparents brag about). The best days were when the bus broke down and we didn't have to go to school.
          I already knew how to read by the time school started. We all started in the first grade. There was no kindergarten, or if there was, it wasn't available to us.
          We had very few neighbors. I only remember two families. The Millers lived right up the road from the bus stop. I thought it was great fun to discover that Mrs. Miller and I had the same birthday. Then there were the Goins, who had a son my age. For a year of so we hung around together, exploring the streams, and fishing and hunting together. Dad wouldn't let me use his shotgun and Bryant, my friend, was scared of his Dad's double-barreled 12-gauge shotgun. I was braver and said I could shoot it. I got my chance one day when we came upon a huge water moccasin sunning itself on a log over a creek. I took off my T-shirt and balled it up under my regular shirt to make a pad for my shoulder, then aimed and fired. I didn't intend to, but I let go with both barrels! The snake parted, with half of itself falling off on one side of the log and the other half falling off the other side. Bryant was envious of me and eventually he couldn't stand it any more and learned to shoot the gun himself.
          There was something else about the Goins that seemed rather strange but made me envious. His mother and father played games with the kids. Of course there were only three of them, but nevertheless, they would get together on nights I stayed at his house and we'd take turns drawing cartoons or making up other games. They quickly found out I could think faster than anyone else there but didn't hold it against me at all. It was fun and I wondered why our family didn't do things like that. The only game we ever played together was the rare game of Forty-two or checkers.
          One Christmas when our radio was either broken or the battery was dead, Gary and I got to go to the Millers and listen to Santa Claus on the radio. I absolutely believed in Santa Claus until I was six, but that Christmas the whole family went to Shreveport for the Christmas shopping. On the way home, I started looking in the big paper bags and discovered some toy guns. "Put those back!" Mother ordered very strictly, and I did. Then the guns appeared under the Christmas tree and I knew immediately that Santa was a fake.
          One Christmas, cousins Larry and Jerry were visiting, along with the aunts and uncles. Uncle T.C. gave Gary and me a real metal gyroscope. It cost a dollar, way back in 1945, so it must have been an expensive gift. It was wonderful the things that gyroscope would do! You wound it up with a piece of string, and pulled the string to get it to spinning. Then you could make it stand upright on a piece of taut string, lean over and not fall and do all kinds of fascinating things. That might have been the impetus for my first interest in science.
          I have to laugh today about the zero tolerance policy of no weapons at school. Back then, every boy from about four or five years old had his own pocket knife that he carried everywhere, including to school. Occasionally a boy would get a paddling for using his knife to carve his initials on his desk, but that was all that ever happened. We would spend recess at school playing mumblety-peg. I don't remember the rules now, but you flipped your knife with the both blades opened, one at an angle to the other, and tried to make the blade stick in the soil when the knife landed. We were forever carving something or other. School teachers and administrators of today probably have a hard time imagining every boy in school carrying a knife, but we did. And the greatest calamity of a young boy's life was losing his pocket knife. It happened frequently, but poor as we were, our knives were always replaced. They must have been pretty cheap, or Mother and Dad felt they were very necessary to a little boy.
          The war ended while I lived out on the farm. I can remember Dad saying, "The boys will be coming home now." And I remember seeing the headlines, covering half the front page: JAPS QUIT!
          By the second grade, I was thinking how silly the Dick and Jane readers were. I always zoomed through mine in two days or so and was bored stiff the rest of the year in reading class. Writing class was boring. We sat for hours making loops and whorls and other symbols as practice for when we were taught cursive writing. I have no idea whether it did any good or not.
          We gave each other valentines each year, to whomever we wanted, and compared the number each kid got. They were dropped into a big box, then on Valentine's Day, the teacher handed them out. There was no worry about someone's psyche being scarred because someone else got more valentines than another person. It was just a rule of nature that some kids were more popular and we thought nothing of it.
          It also seemed natural that there were "rich" kids and poor kids, country kids and "town" kids. I never felt deprived because our shirts were frequently made from feed sacks and everyone knew it, even though the sacks came in colored patterns. What did bother me was that Dad made Gary and me wear overalls. We stood out from all the boys who wore regular jeans. One day I came home crying and told Mother I wasn't going to go back to school unless I had some jeans. See, there was pressure to keep up with the fashions even back then! And even in grade school!
          There was one boy who was so rich that his mother picked him up at school each day rather than have him ride the school bus. By the time we passed his house on the way home in the bus, I could see him out in his yard riding his handsome spotted pony. I would wave to him and sometimes he would wave back if he saw me. I always wondered what it would be like to live like that.
          One day an airplane zoomed overhead so fast it left its sound behind. It was too high to see that it was a jet, but we all thought it amazing a plane could go that fast!
          I guess Dad was drinking more by then because when there was work to do on the farm, Dad always had a big tub of beer in ice water.
          One year there was a flood. The water came up almost to the back door. It wiped out all the crops. The same year prices fell and Dad couldn't stay with the farm. It was the summer before I started third grade when the farm failed and we moved to Summer Grove, a little town closer to Shreveport.
          In the little family history that Mother wrote, she remarked that the farm was a good place for kids. I'm really not so sure. Certainly there was plenty of room to roam and play, but best as I remember, we had very little contact with other kids until we started school in the first grade. I think this lack of interaction may have been detrimental in a sense. I can't say for certain, but I sure didn't know much about other kids except my own siblings. Maybe that was enough, and certainly we weren't the only ones in similar circumstances. A large part of America was still rural in the early 40s. It's actually a moot point, since I'll never know how being alone so much, especially after my sisters both started school, affected me.
          There was one interaction which probably affected me and my next younger brother more than either of us realized for many, many years. After Gary learned to walk, he began tagging my footsteps everywhere I went. He called me "Thon," his best approximation of "Son" or "Sonny" which the rest of the family called me. For two years we played together almost exclusively with each other during the day and of course, being the older, I was always the leader. It strikes me as rather ironic now that this didn't lead to me developing any sort of leadership skills early on. I had to learn them all the hard way, through study and experience, mostly after entering the military, and it still doesn't come naturally to me and it never will.
          Looking back, I think perhaps the "rich" town kids, who had so many more material advantages than us, just naturally became the leaders in elementary school. We poorer kids looked up to and envied them in some ways which weren't really important but which seemed like it at the time.
          We moved from the farm to the little hamlet of Summer Grove between my second and third grade if I remember right.
          This reminds me of an excerpt from a brief genealogy/history which Snooky put together before she was incapacitated by her stroke a few years ago. Snooky loved the farm and so did Dad. When Snooky got her first autograph book, Dad wrote a little verse in it.
          "Here's to the little girl who lives on the farm; we walk to the barn, arm in arm. You milked old Blackie, I milked old Pet. If you don't like the farm you can move to the city and buy you a house and a little bitty kitty."
          The cows were everywhere. Me and Gary, my next youngest brother, also played everywhere, including in the pasture, cows or no cows. Once we saw some of the cows resting, and as nonchalantly as sitting down to dinner, I climbed up on the back of one of the cows and sat there like a Mahomet on an elephant. It's a wonder the cow didn't become annoyed and stand up with me on it. I have no idea what would have happened, but it probably wouldn't have been good. Either the cow would have stepped on me, or I might have broken something in the fall.
          Kids can get into the darnedest predicaments. I have only the vaguest memory of standing behind a farm truck while it was backing up. It knocked me down and passed on over me without a wheel touching me. All I got were a few bruises. Looking back, I may not even remember the event. I may well have created the memory after hearing the story so many times. Remember my discourse about memory?
          Another predicament involved Gary, in which I became a hero. I think my cousins Larry and Jerry and their parents were visiting. There was an old bayou on the farm where a pier had been constructed years in the past from planks. It was old and rotten, but as kids will do, we walked out on it anyway. Naturally, one of the rotten planks collapsed and Gary fell through the hole. I just managed to grab him by the head and prevent him from slipping on through and down beneath the pier, where he would surely have drowned. I held on while either Larry or Jerry ran back to the house to find an adult. I still had him by the head, holding on for dear life, when Mother and Dad got there. I don't remember if we got spanked for playing there (after me being lauded for saving Gary's life and Gary comforted for still being alive), but I would bet we did. At any rate, I don't remember ever playing there again.
          My youngest brother Michael was barely toddling when another event happened, one which was my first introduction to calamity. It was the Christmas season, I believe, and cold. The wood stove was going good. In fact, the sides of it were red hot. The red color must have attracted Mike's attention. Before anyone could grab him, he took a couple of wobbly baby steps, then put his hand out to steady himself. The flat of his hand landed squarely on that red hot portion of the stove. He screamed and screamed, but it was a couple of seconds before anyone could get to him. When he was yanked away from the stove, some of his charred skin stayed there, burning with a sickly sweet odor.
          Remember, this was back in the early 40s and we lived way out in the country. And possibly no one realized right at first just how serious the burn to Mike's hand was. Someone suggested tea, and soon his hand was soaking in a pan of cold, strong tea. I don't remember much else except occasionally seeing Mike with one hand ending in a huge ball of gauze. Probably it was on one of the times he got to come home to visit between bouts of plastic surgery, because he stayed in the charity hospital in Shreveport for three months, having skin removed from his thighs and grafted to his hand. On one of those morning talks with Mother in later years, she had tears in her eyes as she told me how Mike stayed in the hospital so long he began calling the nurses "Mother."
          Remember me telling about how I lit the gas heater in the little while house in Shreveport when I was only three or four years old? And how I said it would have repercussions later? It did. I still knew how to strike a match, and so did my sister Carla, two years my senior. I have no earthly idea why we did what we did. Certainly Carla should have known better. For that matter, I probably should have, too. Be that as it may, one day Carla and I found ourselves alone for a period of time and we went exploring. We got into the closet built under the stairs and found a box of matches there. And then, with not a care in the world, we sat down in that big closet and began striking matches and throwing them away from us. Inevitably, one of them started something in the closet burning.
          The next couple of hours were exciting, to say the least. The closet was situated beneath the stairs leading to the second story. That was also where Dad stored his shotgun shells. Between the closet and staircase being in flames and the shotgun shells exploding and men and women running back and forth with tubs and pans of water, it's a wonder we didn't get trampled. Or perhaps we simply stayed out of sight, knowing that we were responsible. I don't remember, but I surely do remember seeing the efforts to put out the fire and hearing the shells going off. I don't know where the other men came from but probably they were there working for Dad. It's a pure wonder that the whole house didn't burn down, but it didn't. I don't remember the spanking, but I know I must have gotten one. And Carla, too.
          And while I'm talking about Carla, she was always a sickly child when young. Mother and Dad both told me later that several times they came close to losing her, but she survived the sicknesses, only to come down with tuberculosis. Back in those days there wasn't much to do about TB. Maybe they used sulfa drugs. Penicillin was not yet on the civilian market, although it was beginning to be used to treat war wounds which got infected. Streptomycin, an antibiotic which was effective against TB, hadn't been discovered yet.
          Anyway, the treatment for TB in those dark ages was complete bed rest. For six months, Carla wasn't allowed out of bed, not even to go to the bathroom. The rest of us kids had to help with her, emptying the bedpan and so forth. And relatives helped out by soliciting everyone they knew to wrap a present for her. They were delivered in a huge box, and Carla was allowed to open one present a day in order to escape the boredom of always having to stay in bed. Occasionally I would find myself being a bit envious of her getting to unwrap a gift every single day, but mostly I just felt sorry for her, and well I might have. The treatment was based on ignorance. She would have been much better off being able to exercise as much as she could and getting some fresh air and sunshine, but we didn't know any better—that was the state of medicine in those days.
          Carla eventually recovered, but there were other injuries and sicknesses that seemed to dog our steps.
          One day Dad was repairing the back steps and left a board lying on the ground while he went to get some tool or other. It had a huge nail driven through it and sticking upright. I was out playing and came running pell mell and stepped squarely on that nail. It went all the way through my foot and poked up the skin on top, making it look like a little tent. Now today, that would garner a trip to the Emergency Room, all kinds of antibiotics, cleansing of the wound with probes, tetanus shots, bandages and so on. But that was then, on a farm out in the country. My treatment consisted of pouring kerosene (which we called coal oil) into my puncture wound to clean it out, then wrapping it with strips of bandage torn from an old pillow case. Know what? It healed perfectly.
          Speaking of kerosene, it had many uses back then. The house was entirely lit with kerosene lamps. Trimming the wicks of those things to make them burn with a bright light is an art, as I found out when Betty and I moved to our own farm and we were without electricity after our first hurricane. I never could get the blasted things to burn right.
          Once there was a jar of kerosene setting on a table or floor or somewhere in reach of Michael. This was after his hand had healed (which left it scarred and somewhat shriveled, along with numerous scars on his thighs from patches of skin being removed and grafted to his hand). Kerosene is a clear liquid. To Mike, it must have looked just like water and he was thirsty. He picked up the jar and drank enough to make him very ill. That required a trip to the hospital for injury to his lungs, but he survived.
          Another time I got hurt by simply doing nothing but watching while Snooky, my oldest sister, was carving on a piece of wood to make something, possibly a butter churn or the like. Well, maybe I wasn't exactly doing nothing. I moved in close to see what she was making just at the time when the big butcher knife she was using slipped. It whacked me right on my upper thigh, making a cut three inches long and a half inch deep. Again, that was an injury that today would require a trip to the Emergency Room. All I got was the inevitable kerosene rinse and a bandage. I still have a beautiful scar from the cut that should have had about a dozen stitches.
          Homemade ice cream was a great treat back then. We didn't have an ice cream freezer, not even a hand-cranked one. The ice cream was made in a metal one-gallon bucket that the ribbon cane syrup came in. (For ages I didn't know there was any other kind of syrup. Ribbon cane was cheap and that's what we got.) Somehow or other, a staph bug must have been in the cream. We all got food poisoning. It felt like I was dying and it looked like the rest of the family was dying, but we all survived. And guess where the blame for the food poisoning went? The adults were firmly convinced it came from making the ice cream in the metal syrup bucket! So why did they do it? Just a risk, they said, and it didn't happen often, but occasionally the metal bucket caused food poisoning. An old wives tale of course, but for years I believed it.
          On a dairy farm, it was a dead certain cinch that we made our own butter. One of the hated chores of childhood was the monotonous task of sitting in a chair and pushing the wooden churner up and down until the butter finally congealed from the cream. It was exhausting, but had to be done. Sometimes Mother used the chore as punishment. It made us behave pretty good. Once the butter was ready, it was put into wooden molds, then into the icebox. The icebox wasn't electric; no electricity, remember? As Dad came home from work, a couple of times a week, he'd stop by the ice house and pick up a block of ice.
          One winter we had an ice storm, then sleet, then freezing rain on top of that, until ice was everywhere about four inches thick. For a while Dad didn't have to bring ice home. The old house had a tin roof. One day when the thaw began, there was a terrible rumbling noise. It sounded like the world was coming apart, but it was only the melting ice sliding off the roof. It's a good thing no one was underneath or they would have either been killed or seriously injured.
          Another illness we all got was whooping cough. God, I can remember plain as day how horrible that felt, coughing as if my lungs were going to come apart, unceasing coughing, coughing day and night to exhaustion, to the point of not being able to breathe, to feeling as if I were suffocating and still coughing. How on earth Mother managed all of us kids with the illness at about the same time and still took care of all her other work is beyond me.
          The farm layout was something like this. There was the big two-story house with a big cistern next to it for water to the kitchen (but there weren't any inside bathrooms; we had an outhouse), a pump house where a gasoline motor powered a pump to pump water from a well to the cistern, a big barn for the cows, some corrals and pig pens and an old rundown tenet house up the dirt road to the gravel road leading to Keithville. There was also a big iron pot out in the center of the back yard. This was where Mother washed clothes, by building a fire around the pot and sloshing the clothes around in boiling water with a big stick. Oh yes, she made our own soap from lard and ashes, too, yellowish gray stuff cut into chunks the size of a grown person's hand.
          Occasionally a frog would somehow get into the cistern and die. We always knew because the water would start tasting rotten. It's amazing how a little frog weighing less than an ounce could make all that water smell bad. The solution was to drain the cistern and find the frog, then refill it. (I think—there may have been another way to find the pesky thing because I don't actually remember it being drained.) The outhouse usually had Sears & Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalogs to use for toilet paper. The pages were slick and didn't work the best, but the upside was you always had something to read.
          Every evening except in bad weather or when it was extremely cold, Snooky would take Gary and me (and later Mike) out to the cistern and give us a bath from the faucet there. I can still remember jumping up and down and trying to get away when the water was really cold, but Snooky brooked no nonsense—we got our baths!
          And here's a funny. After a time, the outhouse would begin to get full and smell. One day I saw Dad with some corncobs and asked him where he was going. He said, "To take a shit" and went off into the woods. A few minutes later, Mother asked me where Dad was. I told her, "He went to take a shit." And that was my introduction to cursing. Before that I had no idea there were words you weren't supposed to use in polite company. Mother really let me know there were!!
          Ever so often a great aunt who was a nurse would paint our throats with Merthiolate or something like that. I think that was supposed to keep us from getting some kind of infection like tonsillitis, but I don't know exactly what. And it may not have been Merthiolate. That was what was used for cuts and scrapes (and later proved to be ineffective). All I remember is how bad it tasted. Years later I had my revenge. I got to draw her blood when I was working at as a medical technologist at a hospital in Shreveport!
          Hog killing in the fall was always a big affair. The hogs would be slaughtered out under the persimmon trees about the time the persimmons were getting ripe, then the meat cut up. The Negroes would come for the intestines to make chitlins. They would grab a long length of intestine and squeeze it empty by running their hands down over it. I couldn't understand why they wanted that part of the hogs but other things were going on and I never asked. Part of the kids' job was to grind the meat by hand for sausage. Mother would mix it with seasoning and form it into patties, then pack it in kegs of lard, which had been rendered from the fat of the hogs. For days after the slaughter we had fresh pork, then it was back to salt pork or smoked ham. I must have eaten several tons of salt pork up until I was eleven or twelve.
          We had a few horses. Gary and I would ride them bareback, but one day I got kicked—and I never got on a horse again until I was working in Saudi Arabia and rode one through the deep canyons to the old city of Petra. I still don't like horses, partly because they scare me, I'm sure.
          Dad always had some Negro men working for him at one time or another. He would calculate their wages using a pencil and writing on the side of a shed. The Negroes were always dressed practically in rags, with shoes split and held together with rope or twine. I thought they looked sad in those old clothes.
          One really poignant memory was one day, out on the dirt road, a Negro man was taking a break from plowing. I went over to talk to him. He looked down at me after we had exchanged a few words and asked, "Whut you rather be, a white man or colored man?" For some reason the question embarrassed me. "White, I guess," I answered. The man wiped sweat off his brow and looked into some far distance then back down at me. "So would I," he said. The memory remained so vivid that after I was grown I wrote a story about it and submitted it to The Saturday Evening Post, the first submission of my writing life. I never heard anything back.
          I had a vivid imagination even before starting school, as Mother remarked. One day I noticed that after I had been out playing on the dirt road by myself, and started home, that no matter how fast I went, the sun remained at about the same spot in the sky. When I got back to the house I told Mother, "Mr. Sun followed me home." She laughed, one of the few times I can remember her laughing from then on. I also had an imaginary friend, and either a green or purple alligator. I don't remember that one. Mother told me about it later on in life.
          Somehow, even with working full time on the railroad and running the farm, Dad found time to hunt and fish. Every fall, he went duck hunting, then it was time to pluck the ducks of their downy feathers to make pillows and mattresses. There's nothing so soft as a feather mattress!
          Dad went squirrel hunting a lot. He had a squirrel dog named Tracks. He was our dog as well and stayed with the kids all the time. He was a very special dog and much admired by other hunters. Dad also trapped every fall, using his vacation time for it. He trapped possum, coon and mink, then skinned them and dried the pelts on boards. The mink pelts were especially valuable and he was always extremely careful when skinning them not to make any nicks where they weren't supposed to be. I believe trapping was where the Christmas money came from.
          About the only thing we ever did as a family was to go fishing on the bayou. Mother loved to fish, but got to do very little of it. Her job was to build a fire, clean the fish, and cook them. They were so good, fresh from the water, and of course I didn't realize how much Mother would have loved to be fishing instead of cleaning and cooking! In later years she got to do a good bit of fishing with a friend, making up for lost time.
          We had a battery radio for a while. The batteries were about as big as a car battery is today. One night we all listened to the Billy Conn and Joe Louis world heavyweight fight. We also listened to some radio programs. The Shadow is about the only one I remember.
          All this was happening during World War II. There was rationing of almost everything. Mostly it didn't bother me except cakes were a rare treat since sugar was rationed.
          I started school out there on the farm. We had to walk down the dirt road to the gravel road to catch the bus, about half a mile (not the ten miles through snow you hear your grandparents brag about). The best days were when the bus broke down and we didn't have to go to school.
          I already knew how to read by the time school started. We all started in the first grade. There was no kindergarten, or if there was, it wasn't available to us.
          We had very few neighbors. I only remember two families. The Millers lived right up the road from the bus stop. I thought it was great fun to discover that Mrs. Miller and I had the same birthday. Then there were the Goins, who had a son my age. For a year of so we hung around together, exploring the streams, and fishing and hunting together. Dad wouldn't let me use his shotgun and Bryant, my friend, was scared of his Dad's double-barreled 12-gauge shotgun. I was braver and said I could shoot it. I got my chance one day when we came upon a huge water moccasin sunning itself on a log over a creek. I took off my T-shirt and balled it up under my regular shirt to make a pad for my shoulder, then aimed and fired. I didn't intend to, but I let go with both barrels! The snake parted, with half of itself falling off on one side of the log and the other half falling off the other side. Bryant was envious of me and eventually he couldn't stand it any more and learned to shoot the gun himself.
          There was something else about the Goins that seemed rather strange but made me envious. His mother and father played games with the kids. Of course there were only three of them, but nevertheless, they would get together on nights I stayed at his house and we'd take turns drawing cartoons or making up other games. They quickly found out I could think faster than anyone else there but didn't hold it against me at all. It was fun and I wondered why our family didn't do things like that. The only game we ever played together was the rare game of Forty-two or checkers.
          One Christmas when our radio was either broken or the battery was dead, Gary and I got to go to the Millers and listen to Santa Claus on the radio. I absolutely believed in Santa Claus until I was six, but that Christmas the whole family went to Shreveport for the Christmas shopping. On the way home, I started looking in the big paper bags and discovered some toy guns. "Put those back!" Mother ordered very strictly, and I did. Then the guns appeared under the Christmas tree and I knew immediately that Santa was a fake.
          One Christmas, cousins Larry and Jerry were visiting, along with the aunts and uncles. Uncle T.C. gave Gary and me a real metal gyroscope. It cost a dollar, way back in 1945, so it must have been an expensive gift. It was wonderful the things that gyroscope would do! You wound it up with a piece of string, and pulled the string to get it to spinning. Then you could make it stand upright on a piece of taut string, lean over and not fall and do all kinds of fascinating things. That might have been the impetus for my first interest in science.
          I have to laugh today about the zero tolerance policy of no weapons at school. Back then, every boy from about four or five years old had his own pocket knife that he carried everywhere, including to school. Occasionally a boy would get a paddling for using his knife to carve his initials on his desk, but that was all that ever happened. We would spend recess at school playing mumblety-peg. I don't remember the rules now, but you flipped your knife with the both blades opened, one at an angle to the other, and tried to make the blade stick in the soil when the knife landed. We were forever carving something or other. School teachers and administrators of today probably have a hard time imagining every boy in school carrying a knife, but we did. And the greatest calamity of a young boy's life was losing his pocket knife. It happened frequently, but poor as we were, our knives were always replaced. They must have been pretty cheap, or Mother and Dad felt they were very necessary to a little boy.
          The war ended while I lived out on the farm. I can remember Dad saying, "The boys will be coming home now." And I remember seeing the headlines, covering half the front page: JAPS QUIT!
          By the second grade, I was thinking how silly the Dick and Jane readers were. I always zoomed through mine in two days or so and was bored stiff the rest of the year in reading class. Writing class was boring. We sat for hours making loops and whorls and other symbols as practice for when we were taught cursive writing. I have no idea whether it did any good or not.
          We gave each other valentines each year, to whomever we wanted, and compared the number each kid got. They were dropped into a big box, then on Valentine's Day, the teacher handed them out. There was no worry about someone's psyche being scarred because someone else got more valentines than another person. It was just a rule of nature that some kids were more popular and we thought nothing of it.
          It also seemed natural that there were "rich" kids and poor kids, country kids and "town" kids. I never felt deprived because our shirts were frequently made from feed sacks and everyone knew it, even though the sacks came in colored patterns. What did bother me was that Dad made Gary and me wear overalls. We stood out from all the boys who wore regular jeans. One day I came home crying and told Mother I wasn't going to go back to school unless I had some jeans. See, there was pressure to keep up with the fashions even back then! And even in grade school!
          There was one boy who was so rich that his mother picked him up at school each day rather than have him ride the school bus. By the time we passed his house on the way home in the bus, I could see him out in his yard riding his handsome spotted pony. I would wave to him and sometimes he would wave back if he saw me. I always wondered what it would be like to live like that.
          One day an airplane zoomed overhead so fast it left its sound behind. It was too high to see that it was a jet, but we all thought it amazing a plane could go that fast!
          I guess Dad was drinking more by then because when there was work to do on the farm, Dad always had a big tub of beer in ice water.
          One year there was a flood. The water came up almost to the back door. It wiped out all the crops. The same year prices fell and Dad couldn't stay with the farm. It was the summer before I started third grade when the farm failed and we moved to Summer Grove, a little town closer to Shreveport.
          In the little family history that Mother wrote, she remarked that the farm was a good place for kids. I'm really not so sure. Certainly there was plenty of room to roam and play, but best as I remember, we had very little contact with other kids until we started school in the first grade. I think this lack of interaction may have been detrimental in a sense. I can't say for certain, but I sure didn't know much about other kids except my own siblings. Maybe that was enough, and certainly we weren't the only ones in similar circumstances. A large part of America was still rural in the early 40s. It's actually a moot point, since I'll never know how being alone so much, especially after my sisters both started school, affected me.
          There was one interaction which probably affected me and my next younger brother more than either of us realized for many, many years. After Gary learned to walk, he began tagging my footsteps everywhere I went. He called me "Thon," his best approximation of "Son" or "Sonny" which the rest of the family called me. For two years we played together almost exclusively with each other during the day and of course, being the older, I was always the leader. It strikes me as rather ironic now that this didn't lead to me developing any sort of leadership skills early on. I had to learn them all the hard way, through study and experience, mostly after entering the military, and it still doesn't come naturally to me and it never will.
          Looking back, I think perhaps the "rich" town kids, who had so many more material advantages than us, just naturally became the leaders in elementary school. We poorer kids looked up to and envied them in some ways which weren't really important but which seemed like it at the time.
          We moved from the farm to the little hamlet of Summer Grove between my second and third grade if I remember right.

 

Darrell Bain
Shepherd, Texas
March 2012

 

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