When I was a little kid, I found that I didn’t always have to have another person to play with in order to have fun. I guess you might say, I had a vivid imagination. I created my own worlds to play in, and stayed in them for hours and hours sometimes. Many times when I stayed at my Grandparent’s home I would go up behind their house into the hills alone, and stay there most of the day. I would hunt for arrowheads and many times would find one or two. I made myself bow and arrow and shot them at invisible enemies. I dug into the red clay dirt and made a cave in which me and my gang of outlaws hid. I climbed trees….not too high because I was afraid of heights, but high enough. I took sticks and limbs which had fallen from the great high oaks and hickories, and built little cabins. I cracked those hickory nuts, and ate persimmons and liked them. I lived many lives there. Only the way my Grandmother’s voice carried in the thin mountain air served to draw me back into the reality of the world of others.
At home I also had my sanctuaries. The old river dam at Trion was a second home. I fished there with a cane pole pulling out many a tiny bream that my Dad would look at and judge and then say “throw ‘em back…too small” I went on my own many times to the jagged limestone rocks which jutted out into the river at many places and jumped from one to another, sometimes making it, sometimes not. I swam at the “boat dock” sometimes alone, sometimes with friends like my ol’ buddy “Barbeque” who lived on the same street as me. Countless times before I ever played organized baseball, I would play the entire World Series in my back yard. Throwing the baseball up against the rugged red bricks on the backside of our house, sometimes clipping the siding…much to my Mom’s dismay but drawing very little ire from my Dad, who seemed to understand where I was coming from. Playing with my dogs, especially my old buddy Lobo..who was a mix of just about every kind of dog a man could think of, and about as tough a fighter and survivor who ever lived. He was near death so many times, and brought back to life with Peroxide and love, you would think he had a cat’s nine lives. He taught me a lot about the will to live, and how strong it is in every living thing.
I also developed a knack of “inside the house” entertainment too. I would sit around and read comic books by the hour. Uncle Scrooge comics at first, and then graduating to Superman and Batman, and finally becoming excited about the “new” Marvel comic books which were coming out. Spiderman, and The Fantastic Four, Dr. Strange, The Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man. I bought them all, just as soon as they came out and then followed them religiously. They were cheap, and it was what I spent my allowance on. If my Mom hadn’t thrown them all away when I went off to college, I might be rich today. I also loved books, and constantly had my nose stuck in one. If I was inside, I was reading. Listening to music and reading. I loved the big 33’s and bought the ones which were cheapest at the store. That means I listened to a lot of Broadway, since they were usually 99 cents versus 3.99 or more for the “Rock and roll” records. I can still sing most of the songs word for word. “Some enchanted evening…you may meet a stranger…” or “I could have danced all night, I could have danced all night and then have begged for more…I could have spread my wings…and done a thousand things, I’ve never done before” Yep…My Fair Lady, The King and I, Oklahoma, Camelot…and on…and on…I was a weird child.
I’ve done so much as a child, before my adult life started, even though much of it was on my on…inside my head, that I don’t feel like I was “cheated” during my childhood. I don’t feel deprived. I feel…normal. My adult life has been equally fulfilling. A lot of you have seen the pictures of my family. I love them as much as I appear to…believe me.
Now, I don’t know how other people feel…don’t know how they experience things. None of us do. We live our entire lives side by side with other human beings, but we have no earthly idea exactly what’s going on inside their head. We assume they process and navigate information the same way we do. That can’t be so, otherwise we would have a world full of people who are essentially alike. I think one of the things which has brought the human race to where we are today, is not our similarities but our differences. We need to celebrate that fact. We are all a universe inside the frail body of a human being, and even after that body fails us that Universe will go on. Together we will go on.