Most of my childhood was uneventful. I will mention a few little short stories for now that stand out particularly strong in my mind.
The Coon Hunts and the Universe
It was late at night when we began to prepare to go on a hunt. I had gone on many a coon hunts with my dad. I didn't enjoy the hunt as much as my dad but there was many reasons to go with my dad. It was a chance to spend time with him and to see the world from a different view. He was not very close with my two brothers and me. I guess this was because his first family basically disowned him when he divorced their mom and married the woman that later was my mom.
My dad always made sure I put on at least three pairs of socks and wore thermal long johns beneath my clothes to keep warm. I usually did not want too but later that night I was always glad that I had when it got really cold. We would each take a strong beam flash light for shining up the tree when looking for the coon. My dad usually took a shotgun and a rifle with him on the hunt. Then there were the coffee and sausage biscuits. After we packed everything we needed for ourselves we would go out and load the dogs into the back of my dad's old pickup truck. He had this big old handmade wooden and wire cage that he put them in. Then we would always go and meet one of my dads coon hunting friends. It would be decided whether we would either take their truck or ours to some remote place to enter the forest.
More often than not the location included going down some bumpy old dirt road that passed by a graveyard or some old haunted home. The night being so dark I would imagine I saw ghosts. There was always a tall tale associated with these locations. Once we pulled to a stop my dad would turn off the engine and the lights to the truck. It was so dark I could not even see my hands in front of my face. The quietness would come rushing at us like a monster of its own accord. Stifling the little whispers of my dad to his friend and the frenzied yelping of the impatient dogs in the back of the truck. We would set the dogs free and they always ran around like mad for a few minutes, sometimes jumping up on me and almost knocking me to the ground. This was because they were leashed with a long chain and it was their one night of freedom after maybe weeks of waiting. My dad would start off into the woods calling to the dogs with names like, spike, old blue, preacher, and so many I can not recall them all to follow him. Sometimes we had as many as ten dogs from my dad and his friend to go on the hunt. After a few minutes my eyes would adjust to the night and I could see the world take on a completely new shape. You could see the glow on the sky of some distant town lights and the stars thrown across the heavens like so many diamonds on black carpet. My dad said that if you went hunting when the moon was out the dogs could never get the coon to climb a tree and he would always end up in a hole that was unreachable by the dogs or us.
After a short time in the woods the dogs would start barking off in the forest somewhere. They had that sound almost like a train, but special in its own way when they caught the scent of their quarry. We would continue on into the forest until we would find a clearing somewhere. This was one of the other things I liked about the hunt. We would sit there with the lights out and just listen to the dogs as they raced after their prey as fast as they could through the night. I would sit back and just stare at the stars and marvel at the creation of God. I would picture in my mind how big the universe was and think just how small I was. How could me, a small little clump of water and minerals of the earth amount to anything to a God that could make such a creation as the universe? I would silently talk with God in my heart and thank him for being so gracious that he saw fit to let me live even if I was not worthy of his majestic glory. Sometimes I would get lucky and see a shooting star go across the sky.
Then the dogs would change their note from the long drawling howl to one of short choppy barks. My dad would turn on his light and we would start hiking to the place they had ran the coon up a tree somewhere deep in the forest. Sometimes it would be difficult going through briars and swamps. Almost always we ended up in some water. This made my feet so cold. When we got to where the dogs were we would find them jumping as high as they could up the side of a huge old tree. My dad had a special light with a really strong beam that he would use then. He would shine the light up into the tree and start making a growling coughing sound like someone clearing out his throat. This would cause the coon to look into the light and its eyes would glow in the dark of the tree branches.
My dad would have me hold the light at the coon and he would position himself in way that he could hold the rifle in its beam and aim at the coon. My dad was a good shot and it usually only took one or two tries for him to bring the coon tumbling from its perch high in the darkness of the tree. I always felt sorry for the coon as it fell from the tree to a loud thump on the ground. Quiet often it would not be dead but just wounded. It would fight four or five dogs for its survival, but always in the end it would lose. My dad would wrestle the coon away from the dogs and put it in a big plastic feed sack. I would have to tote the coon over my shoulder which weighed anywhere from 5 to 10 pounds. Its blood soiling my clothes and sometimes I could here it still rasping to breathe in its last throws of life. My dad would call the dogs away from the tree and get them started looking for another scent trail. It would not take long and the dogs were off again on the trail of another coon. Again the dogs barking would be like a train on a track that raced through the forest. If I was lucky my dad would have a difficult time locating the coon or the coon would be in a hole. This gave me time to start a little small campfire and to open up the biscuits. Coffee and biscuits never tasted any better than they would when you had walked so many miles and your shoes are steaming by the campfire from some swamp you crossed. This would continue through the night leading from one tree to another. The hunt would sometimes last from 10 o'clock at night until we saw the sunrise in the morning especially if we got lost. We would always get three to five coons in one night.
In order to help with expenses my mom worked in a sewing factory for some time. My mom started taking us to a childcare center near to where she was working. I remember them mostly for making us take a nap around midday. I also remember they tried to get me to eat some kind of sour vegetable very often that I hated. It was on the way to the childcare center one cold morning that I thought we were doomed. There was a long bridge that crossed a rocky river below just before you entered the town of ware shoals. My mom started across and the car slid out of control on some ice. My mom said some words that I do not recall then she managed to get control again. The childcare center must have been expensive because my mom started looking for baby sitters. During this time my brother and I went through several baby sitters. I don't remember a lot about them except one that could not cook. If I close my eyes I can still smell the scent of burned corn. Then there was the one that wanted to keep us from watching TV. I don't know what possessed me because normally I would never hurt anyone. But when I was a child nothing would get between my Star Trek TV show time and me. Well this lady had the idea that children should always be outside playing. It was 4 O'clock and time for Star Trek. She told us we had to stay outside.
Something must have snapped inside of me because I started grabbing the biggest rocks from my mom's flowerbed and began throwing with a vengeance. I had the poor woman dancing and yelling that she was going to tell my mom. I did get into the house and watch Star Trek but I realized I was probably going to get a severe spanking for this. Well my mom came home and I kind of stayed in the background. The lady proceeded to tell my mom what happened. Evidently it did not ever sink in to my mom's head what really happened. Are maybe it was that she really wanted to do this herself. It turns out the lady had been stealing diapers from my mom so my mother fired her that day. Boy was I lucky and I still watch Star Trek sometimes. Don't get in my way. It was shortly after that several of the neighbors said they seen me also. They could not believe such a little boy was throwing such huge rocks. It created very interesting gossip for our normally uneventful neighborhood.
The Garden Snake
I was about four when I remember helping my dad in the garden. We had walked what seemed like miles through the woods. It would then open into a two acre clearing. Every year my dad would plant tomatoes, corn, beans, and usually a few other things. We used a rotary tiller with the blades mounted in front to break the ground. This was like any other day with me following at my dad's heels. My dad started the noisy old tiller and began plowing. I was watching to see how many earthworms I could catch for our coming fishing trip. I got bored for this when I could not find any so I chased my dad through the field. He finally stopped and asked if I wanted to plow.
He held on for a moment are so then he let me have the control. I felt like a rag doll. The thing must have shaken every tooth in my head that I had left. My dad took over when he seen that I had enough. It was as we were changing off that I saw this black stick moving across the ground. It was a tiny black snake. My dad stopped the tiller and started walking away at a pace that for me was running. I was scared. Luckily neither of us was bitten but I never forgot that otherwise peaceful day in the garden. I now know that a garden snake is a well-known alternate name for a garter snake, which is the proper common name. It is not poisonous or deadly to humans. A full-grown garden snake rarely gets over 3 feet, and more often is seen around 2 feet. They are black with a long stripe running lengthwise down their back.
The Billie Goat
My dad was always keeping some sort of animals around the house. He had this mean old goat and told me many times not to go near the fence. But the little boy adventurer had to come out one day. I had an older friend that lived just across the way and he came over to visit. I just had to show him the new goat. I do not remember how exactly but like some nightmare we were inside the fence with this old goat and as fate would have it we were chased from the fence. The only problem was we left the gate open and the chasing did not stop there. We did manage to escape with out any serious injury. In the end I was left to explain to my dad why the goat was out of the fence.
I could not have been much older than five at the time. I know I had not started to school yet. It was one of those hot summer afternoons. It was not long after returning from the hospital with our new baby brother. My younger brother and I were headed across the back yard to our favorite spot. It was the swing my dad had put up from an old tire. My younger brother climbed into the swing and I began to push him. I told him I would be so glad when our new addition to the family got a little older. It would be so nice to have someone else to do the pushing. It never occurred to me that if we were still interested in the old tire that someday we might have to share it with him. As I look back upon this I think that it would be nice if we could think the other way. I guess, as we get older we start to think about things like this. I recently have begun to understand what it means by it is better to give than receive. I know that is an old cliche but it fits this little tidbit from my past.
I feel that the very nature of our thought balances us between good and evil. Some people say that it is just blessings are that the angels look out for those that help others. We must help each other and sometimes thinking more of others with our hearts than our selves. It is only done through our true innermost selves. In the realm of Gods creation there exist the ultimate good and the ultimate bad. Most everyone will exist in the center of this region. As you get closer to the bad end of the realm you find that it is an awful world of hate and violence. If you wish to move toward the good end you must learn to truly be good. Only the extreme good parts of our souls ever reach a perfect world promised by God. Only those of with true good ever reach the perfect world. This is not people whom are just good for show but those whom can not think any other way but to do good to others.
The Day I Lost Four Front Teeth
It was a hot summer's day and life was just wonderful. I had played in the yard, building huge construction sites with my toy trucks most of the day. I had gotten kind of tired, I sometimes found it fun to climb up as high as I could get and just enjoy the breeze. This is where my mom could never find me. We had this huge oak tree in the front yard that overlooks the small country road we lived on. It was my favorite spot to just sit and relax after a hard day in the gravel pits. I was about five years old at this time. I had already lost a few of my baby teeth and felt that I was moving into adulthood. I moved my car, which was an Oldsmobile pedal type made of cast iron to the point I could easily reach the lowest limb of my goal. I grabbed the limb and swung like Tarzan to the first level of my sky perch. Once here it was an cinch. I could easily reach the next limb to reach the point I could sit comfortably. I was reaching for the next level when my foot slipped. It was like a blur from there as I fell between the two branches that only a moment ago had been excellent footing. Somehow when I fell my teeth managed to be the only thing I was able grab hold with. I had conveniently knocked out my four front teeth that till this day are probably still buried in solid oak. I hardly cried when I had physical pain. I went to my mom and all I could think about was whether the tooth fairy would bring me four dimes in one night. It is one of those childhood memories I still live with. It turns out that those childhood teeth were more important than I thought at the time. As my permanent teeth came in they did not have anything to control their growth. My top four teeth are now some what crooked to this day.
As my life continued I began some time are another to start feeling like I was just in a bubble and my city was all that there was. I guess that comes from being raised in a small town. I still remember the first time that my mother drove us through Greenville, SC. I was totally amazed at the ten to fifteen story tall buildings. They were so big. At this time I have been around the world several times and I still feel that I am just in a bubble like a lab rat. The only difference now is that I have felt the walls and know that it is true. The Earth is really not so big.