I remember when I was eleven living on Livingston Road in Coosa. I loved everything about the middle of nowhere, and I was so proud to be a country boy with creeks and trails and horses and friends.
I remember a little city boy who moved in across the street. “What are those?” he asked, having never seen a cow patty. “It’s chocolate ice cream,” I said, “You ain’t never seen no ice cream field before?” And he hadn’t. My brother and I pretended to eat it, so he scooped a steamy handful (rather greedily) and filled his mouth…and then he exploded.
There was this tree fort we built by cutting down small pine trees with an ax. I saw my first naked girl in there. She liked me and took off all her clothes and stood in front of me and my friend. Seeing her there seemed like nothing and everything. My heart pounded and my next thought was, “Hey let’s build the fort higher.”
I would sneak around and listen to the transistor radio I kept hidden under my bed. We were christians so we couldn’t listen to secular music, which made me want to listen to secular music real bad. I would hold that radio and wait for WGN from Chicago to play Rod Stewart’s, “You’re In My Heart.” I didn’t know why, but I waited every time to hear him sing the words “big bosom lady.” Now I know.
Fishing and hunting and finding stuff to eat in the woods was powerful stuff. “I am a man,” I would think as I skinned a squirrel. I felt even more like a man with Jacob. Some little girl was getting this amazing red quarter horse named Jacob, and I worked for the horse farm that was breaking him. I fell in love with Jacob and worked with him every day. He would buck, filling me with rodeo starness. Then Christmas came and I was told to say goodbye – the owners were coming to get him and give him to the little girl for Christmas. I hated her. Christmas morning came and it was terrible. All I could think about was how much I wanted a horse and how few gifts I had been given as we finished opening presents. My dad told me to get some wood for the fireplace. “But there is plenty of wood already,” I answered. “Boy, do what I said,” he demanded. He could be such a mean man. I stomped outside and was shocked…Jacob was standing in the front yard. “Merry Christmas son,” I heard my wonderful dad say.
I remember camping alone at such a young age, far, far from home in the back yard. I lay there in the dark terrified and thrilled – “I ain’t scared,” I would whisper as the fear choked me.
I remember walking through the living room at Ricky Terry’s house right as his drunk dad said, “This is it!” I turned to look at the old black and white TV as Hank Aaron stepped up to the plate. He swung and my mouth dropped as he broke the home run record with number 715. Suddenly, we all ran out to go play baseball.
But mostly I remember my mom bringing the pb&j sandwiches and Koolaid out onto the porch. I was as big as her, but she didn’t take nuthin’ off nobody. Sometimes we would beg to come in as she stepped inside and locked the screen door. “No, you can’t come in,” she’d say, “you have to stay outside when it’s good weather.” Right then she seemed so mean…tonight I will call her and say, “Thanks mom…for the memories.”
P.S. While I sat outside on the porch editing this, next door I heard my oldest son’s wife shout at my grandchildren, “No! You are not coming in this house!”