Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Snippet Scenes

The memory of life in Glenloch plays like a movie trailer in The Old Goat's mind, not of coming attractions, but of a short subject long over. Snippets flash by, hints and teases, abbreviated scenes that sometimes please and sometimes haunt.

Perhaps long exposure to isolation exaggerates winds in the night or hones observation in the day; perhaps in loneliness is the soil for a writer's imagination. Or perhaps realities in such a life cause a boy to seek comforts in the peace of a field or the fantasies he wished to believe.

One Christmas Eve, in the dim and quite hours pass midnight, The Kid heard the whoosh of Santa's sleigh circle that house. And on a cold and early Easter morning, when fresh snow had settled across the lawn, this child found the bunny tracks that came to the side window, then away from where the rabbit entered to leave the basket of jelly beans and coconut creme eggs upon the dining table.

When you have heard St. Nick or trailed the Easter Rabbit's route, how can you not extend belief? Who is there to tell you different? But if those mystical moments can be conjured up clearly, so the scenes of real life are as well.

The Old Goat can still picture the silent snows of those winters or the butterflied and flowered fields of quite summers.

In the spring, grass grew high across the cow pasture, speckled with yellows and blues of wild flowering weeds. The ground was split by a narrow stream within a deep crevice where The Kid dropped in petals to watch them float or followed crayfish down stream. He never tried to catch these strange creatures, which reminded him of scorpions with their little claws. He would never have considered eating such a thing, but he did pluck and sample the watercress that lined the banks.

In summer there were cows in that field. I don't know from where they came. There was nothing much around, no sign of barn or farm.

There must have been a farmer somewhere, for corn grew on the steep hillside behind the house. The Kid doesn't recall the planting, but he experienced up close and personal a fall harvest. Some men came with odd machines and one man let him ride in the cab, a contraption in front swept over the corn, crushing down the stalks. As it did the cobbs, still wrapped tightly within their leaves and silk came whizzing out a tube over the roof of the cab into a truck bin behind. Occasionally an errant missile flew through the open side windows and The Kid would react to pick a bird: duck or grouse.

It took a few hours of one fall day and they were gone and he doesn't remember them ever coming back. Broken stalks rotted across the hillside forever more and when he toted his sled up he had to stay along the fence line or be thrown by the rough and treacherous traps of crushed cornstalk. It was while sledding down that tree line he found his dog, Topper. *** (If you care to know how that happened, click here and read "Ground Dog Day". "Ground Dog Day" as a short story is a thinly disguised description of how The Kid got Topper.)

In rescueing Topper, his dad showed the care and dedication he had for doing right, characteristics The Kid seldom recognized as a child. His dad and he did not have an easy relationship. They never quite understood each other. His viewpoint of his father is probably illustrated well by another instance back in that swamp.

On his eighth birthday he received a bike, his first two-wheeler. It was a "twenty-six" incher, meaning the wheels had 26 inch diameters. This was the standard, normal bike size of that time. They had "twenty-four" wheelers, but he had the big boys' bike.

There were no training wheels then. His dad took him out to what they called their front yard to teach him to ride. The trick to riding is learning to balance. His father held the bike as The Kid climbed onto the seat. There was a flat rack over the rear fender.  It was there for tying on packages to carry or allow a second person to piggyback a ride, but in this case it provided a handhold for his dad to keep the bike upright. His dad told him to push the pedals. The bike wobbled a bit and The Kid grew nervous, but his father assured him he would not let him fall over. "I'll be right behind you holding it up," he said.

The Kid's feet slipped off the pedals at first, but finally he was pushing them down effortlessly and moving in a circle about the little plot of land at the edge of the swamp. This was fun. Then he
grew tired. "I want to stop," he yelled back to his father, but they kept going. He didn't know how to stop, he was depending on his dad to halt the bike and hold it up until he got off, yet his dad didn't respond and pull him to a halt. "Let's stop," he yelled and looked back over his shoulder at his dad, except his dad wasn't there. He couldn't know if dad had left seconds before or minutes, but his father had gone back into the house and he had been peddling along on his own quite well; at least until that moment of discovery. Now he lost control. The front wheel began to quiver and he fought to straighten it up and still not knowing how to stop went over the little embankment and landed in the marsh.

Dragging his dripping body and bike up to solid ground was when he stopped trusting his father.

It mattered little, because his dad was seldom around. His trucking took him away most days of the week. Although he was there the first day The Kid almost died.

He awoke one morning with the sun was shining brightly through the bedroom windows. He threw aside the covers, anxious to get up, but as he swung his legs off the bed was struck amidships by a sharp pain. He fell to the floor with a scream. It was loud enough it brought both mom and dad scurrying in where they found him in a ball on the floor, howling and crying. His dad scooped him up and they drove the eight miles to the hospital where he had been born. He was taken for immediate emergency surgery.

He had come very, very close to suffering a burst appendix, which would have most likely resulted in peritonitis and his demise. They didn't have the antibiotics to fight that condition back then.

He was in the children's ward, long lines of beds full of kids with various problems. He didn't like being there and didn't like the nurse, who perceived as mean. They didn't sew up the incision, they clamped it shut with staples. Removal was a form of torture. If he had had any secret information, he would have told them all.

He missed almost a month of school. It took awhile to walk comfortably again. When he went up and down stairs he had to step with his left leg, then carefully ease his right down or up to the same step than repeat. He was left with a long scar this time, perhaps three inches long, but it was at least in a spot that didn't show.

The Kid didn't mind missing school. In truth, he felt he missed all that particular school anyway. He remembers nothing about it. The Old Goat drove there decades later and photographed it, but nothing came back to him. He can't even find the report cards for that period. He has all the others from all the other schools. If this were a horror movie there would be a deep, dark secret that happened at that school. Is there? Will some long forgot goblin pop through The Old Goats brain someday?

The Kid had little interest in what was taught anyway. He had discovered a wonderful thing in the fourth bedroom of that house, the one used as a storage space. What he found in there made him think about the world beyond the swamp and gave him his first ambition, the first pursuit he thought he would someday accomplish.

*** The Kid had three pets when living in the swamp. Peppy is the Toy Fox Terrier he's holding in the first photo. His grandfather had given her to him when she was a pup and he was six. He also had a white rabbit named Snowball. She was kept in a above ground hutch back in his mom's garden. He believes she had been an Easter gift as a kit, a practice he doesn't approve of today. But they took good care of her. Topper became the third, discovered by him in the rows of trees between two fields that ran down the hill behind the house. Topper was one of several puppies left in a groundhog hole to perish, but his dad dug them out and rescued them. That is him playing with Topper in the middle photo. (You can go read the story of how Topper was discovered by clicking on the title of this post.)

The bottom photo is West Whiteland Elementary School which he attended over a two year period.


Tamela's Place said...

That was kind of your dad to rescue the puppies in the groundhog hole. What happened to the other puppies? Maybe i need to go back and read the story you wrote about topper to refresh my memory. Do you think that you would be a writer today if it wasn't for the swamp time of your life? I enjoyed the way you wrote this it was very good :)

Ron Tipton said...

Excellent storytelling Lar! I'm learning more and more about you every time I read one of your installments of your childhood. I did not know that's how you came to get Topper.

I also did not know the story of how you lost faith in your father. At least he taught you how to ride a bicycle. My Dad didn't even do that. He basically ignored me and my brother Isaac. For some reason he latched on to my youngest brother, John. I grew up hating John but that's a story to be told on my blog.

I think there is a reason why we all experience what we do in life. I too have had those near death moments (remember the staph infection when I was 17?)

I anxiously await the next installment of your life history.

A Joyful Noise said...

Those "big boy" bikes were dangerous! So difficult to make them stop. Even us girls tried to ride my brothers bike, and we learned to swing our leg over and coast as we slowed down. Thanks for some great memories you have let us share with you.