ABOUT RICK

It has been said of me that I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

I’ve made a living in a variety of ways in my life from working cattle on a ranch to making lumber in a sawmill. I’ve been an oilfield worker, professional photographer, carpenter, minister (20 years), realtor, developer, writer, speaker, founded an organization that empowered 120,000 volunteers to provide 20 million meals for disaster relief in Haiti and spend a great deal of my effort empowering people to feed the hungry.

I’m exactly what I want to be: curious and flexible. I leave very few stones unturned.

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Shadow Dancing

Growing Up Kansas: The Little Old Ladies of the Partyline Society

01/28/2015

Part 5 of the Growing Up Kansas series

We country kids invented LOLOPS long before LOL(laugh out loud). LOLOPS: Little Old Ladies of the Partyline Society. We called them the Lollipops.

Unlike city folks that live so close they can hear each other pass gas, rural neighbors live miles apart. When we say, Yeah, I grew up next to them, it means we lived in the same county.

The community thread connecting neighbors was the Partyline, a shared phone line between neighbors, not the dogma of the Communist Party. One had to be careful to make that distinction if you didn’t want to show up on Sen. McCarthy’s or the Lollipop’s list of Communist Sympathizers.

If you wanted to make a phone call on the Partyline, you picked up the receiver and listened in to make sure no one was talking before you dialed. It enraged the Lollipops if you started dialing while they were talking.

A distinctive click alerted you that someone picked up the phone. Whomever was gossiping, er, talking would stop, listen, then ask who joined the call: “Helen, is that you?” If it were my mom, Helen, she joined the gossip then hung up two hours later; Mom was a bona fide Lollipop. However, if one of us kids picked up the phone, we’d wet ourselves and run outside as fast as we could.

When the phone rang, you had to make sure it was your ring before you answered it. Ours was two short rings. Greenwell’s was one long ring. One old man in the ‘hood decided to answer it no matter whose ring it was. My sister from back east kept calling to tell the folks she’d be a few days late, but the old man kept answering our ring. She finally made the old codger jump in the car and drive to our house to deliver the message. Carrier pigeons from New York would have been faster than that old geezer; the old man I mean, not my sister.

Long distance calls were only made in the case of an extreme emergency like when the Russians finally attacked. Our number was: 321-5067. Only you never said three-two-one, five-o-six-seven: you said, Davis one, five-o-six-seven. If you did make a long distance phone call, you called the operator first then had her dial the number. She often listened in to the call. I am not kidding.

You also called the operator if, say, someone was breaking into your house and you wanted to call the sheriff or if you just whacked off body parts with a chainsaw and needed an ambulance. But first, you interrupted the Partyline by declaring, “This is an emergency! I really need to call the operator so I can call the Sheriff.”

However, one first had to be vetted by the Lollipops. They asked why you needed to call the sheriff then chatted a while about the times they called the sheriff. Sooner or later they decided whether or not you really needed to call the sheriff, but by that time, you didn’t need to because the robbers took everything, including your phone.

Most of the gossipers on the party line were bored little old ladies. This was in the era when women stayed home and tormented their children. Several ladies on our Partyline managed to run their children off so they had nothing better to do than watch General Hospital and talk about the miscreants in the area; namely, the McNary children. The Lollipops was a clandestine society complete with secret handshakes, code words, late-night meetings with coal-oil lamps and Ouija boards. We lived in total fear of them.

My next older brother, Mike, was a cross between Gandalf and Gollum. He was wise and magical at times, then bad-tempered and dangerous at others. I lived in that dark chasm between abject terror and hero worship.Being the youngest of six and not in the original family strategic plan, I came along later after Mom and Dad thought they were done. I vehemently argued they saved the best for last, but my older brothers claimed I was a mistake and should have been born wearing rubber booties.

Mike finally cracked the code on the Lollipops. He worked for an electronics business and brought home a speakerphone that was the size of a toaster. This was high excitement on the farm! Remember, transistor radios were the pinnacle of technology during that time.

The idea was to take the phone of the hook, place the receiver in the cradle, and chat away doing whatever you wanted while you talked on the speakerphone. I am not making this up; the cover on the box was a photo of a lady ironing while she talked. My mother thought this was a marvelous idea; she could talk all day while ironing Dad’s underwear. I am not making that up either.

Long before the NSA figured out how to spy on our cell phone calls, Mike figured out how to spy on the Lollipops. If you unscrewed the mouthpiece on the phone, the person on the other end couldn’t hear what you were saying. Mike unscrewed the mouthpiece, laid the phone on the apparatus, and the Lollipops began questioning.

“Who just picked up the phone?”

Silence.

“Gertrude, did you just hear a click? I thought I heard a click. You sure you didn’t hear a click?”

“Why yes, May Belle, I’m sure I heard a click, too. Did someone pick up the phone? Please identify yourself?”

Silence.

“Well, it was probably them darn McNary kids.” Gertrude fumed, “their as worthless as tits on a boar hog anyway.”

“You know how them preacher’s kids are. Their Daddy’s a preacher and he’s a good man but them kids of his is a sinnin’ all week long and it wears him plumb out. He’s got patches on his knees from praying for those little heathens?”

Have I told you yet my Daddy was a preacher? Well, that’s a whole ‘nother set of stories.

We were pretty darn cute listening in to the Lollipops until they bought up the topic of mountain lions eating some of the local rancher’s calves. Solomon said that too much knowledge brings sorrow. However, he should have said that too much knowledge scares the crap out of little kids.

We had enough goblins to fear such as cows, coyotes, my niece Colleen and hateful crawdads; we didn’t need to add mountain lions to the mix. The UFO coming to get us was an isolated moment of terror that could be reasoned away during daylight, but roaming mountain lions made us keep a Daisy Rider with us at all times. No one in the War Department trusted the rank-and-file with live ammo.

In the 40 years since we eavesdropped on the Lollipops, I’ve heard the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks deny, deny, and deny again that there are mountain lions in Kansas. Even if you have a picture with a mountain lion eating your leg near your mailbox to verify the address, they quote the old Groucho Marx line, you going to believe me or your lying eyes? Naturally, I believe everything the government tells me.

On the other hand, I have people that I would trust much further than I can throw a government official say they’ve seen mountain lions in Kansas. I believe them.

I’m still not sure why we were surprised each time our espionage plans backfired. We laid a lot of traps as children and got caught in all of them, eaten by the same prey we tried to snare. Not one more night on the shed or in a tent was spent during our Kansas summers without the expectation of being eaten by mountain lions. Those lions would have found our young, hairless bodies nice, tasty lollipops.

It took us a lot of years and foiled plans to learn this lesson: never, ever, try to outsmart a little old lady. They’ll always win even when they don’t know they’re playing a game.

The photo, Shadow Dancing, is mine. It was taken near Whitewater, Kansas.

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What Part of The Story Are You?

01/26/2015

“Papa Rick?” my six-year-old granddaughter K.K. asked, “What part of the story am I?”

I like phrases that suddenly arrive then stick to my insides for a few days like a double-stacked peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The latest phrase was a gift from a little girl who abducted my heart six years ago and won’t give it back: Cailyn Joy, also known as K.K.

I need to learn how to celebrate small victories in the same manner as my hip-high grandchildren. I asked the three of them, all under six-years-old, if they wanted Papa Rick story. They immediately launched into dancing, screaming, attempting hi-fives (motor skills lacking in the younger two), and careening off the walls. What a silly question; of course they wanted a story by Papa Rick!

After they calmed down and sprawled out on Papa and Yaya’s bed, K.K. asked, “Papa Rick, what part of the story am I?”

Out of the mouth of babes comes a question I think we all ask: what part of the story am I?

All of us like a good storyteller, ergo, the reason for bookstores. Paul Harvey captured the nation for decades with his radio show, “The Rest Of the Story.” Stories are easy to remember because we either insert our self into the story or the story into our self.

How do you see yourself in the story of the world and what kind of story is it? Is life a tragedy? Irony? Comedy? Satire? Farce? Warfare? Romance? What section of the bookstore would your story find itself? Do you like happy endings to your stories or do you prefer they end sadly?  One of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned is to narrate my own life’s story.

I think these are good questions to ask about our own story of life:

  • Am I the victor or the victim?
  • Am I winning or losing?
  • Am I the protagonist or the antagonist?
  • Am I the bad guy or the good guy?
  • Am I the artist or am I the critic?
  • Am I the narrator or do I give the copyrights to someone else?
  • Am I the hero? If not, why not?

What part of the story of life are you?

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Photo was taken by my daughter-in-law, Alana McNary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dinosaur Tree 2

Growing Up Kansas: Crawdaddin’ in Bird Creek

01/19/2015

Note:  This is Part 4 in the series, Growing Up Kansas.

The best part of growing up Kansas are the creeks, ponds, and swimming holes, all of which posed serious threats to our mortality. We didn’t need violent video games; we defied death in real life.

In addition to sharing Hobson’s Pond with the cows, we also had our version of the Amazon River: Bird Creek. The main difference between Hobson’s Pond and Bird Creek was water quality. The cows turned Hobson’s Pond toxic with their poor hygiene. They also justified ownership through eminent domain and argued that possession was 9/10ths of the law. Long before cows started drawing signs for Chik-fil-A, the cows of Hobson’s Pond placed crude signs about the pasture that read:

  • Boyz r stoopid
  • Pond iz 4 cowz only
  • We don’t pee in your bathtub, don’t pee in ours
  • We can outrunn u
  • Boyz pee when cows chase them
  • Eat more boyz

However, Bird Creek was spring fed and scissored through pastureland so the water was unusually clear for Kansas. Most cricks, er creeks, and rivers in Kansas are usually the color of a YourBucks latte and cause fish to glow in the dark and walk upright.

We frequented Bird Creek to fill 55-gallon barrels with water for our livestock. The well at our house was so pitiable it could only fill the bathtub with three inches of water. Saturday night baths were high-time-on-the-farm for everyone else but me. I was the youngest so I bathed last in shared bathwater. I might as well have bathed in Hobson’s Pond.

Dad loaded two 55-gallon barrels in the bed of the pickup and we all jumped in the back without the slightest thought of seatbelts; they weren’t even a law yet. Once we arrived at Bird Creek, Dad backed the pickup down so the tailgate was even with the water, then we’d get grab buckets to fill up the barrels and dump water on each other. We were boys; it was in our DNA.

To my recollection, we never skinny-dipped in Bird Creek. Although we did every other pond and stream for miles around, we never did Bird Creek for two reasons:

  1. The water wasn’t very deep
  2. Crawdads are carnivores and attracted to worm-like things that wriggle in the water

There must be something primeval within a boy’s DNA that each time they near an open body of water, they go skinny-dipping. If you ever stumble upon a bunch of boys in a pond or a good swimming hole in a creek, assume they are naked. When one swims naked, they are far less likely to have a tiny bullhead catfish swim up their shorts and poke their poisonous barbs into one’s manhood (or boyhood as it were-there’s a story about that, too).

Girls, on the other hand, didn’t seem to possess this biological urge to swim in their birthday suits. Try as we might, we could never convince the girls to join us. Oh, sure, they’d sneak up and steal our clothes or go home and rat us out, but they never joined in our reindeer games. Never.

Back to the crawdad:  we loved crawdaddin’. Our favorite tactic was to string a ten foot seine between us, trail a five-gallon bucket behind, and head up the creek. We’d walk several yards, swing the seine to the creek bank and haul out a catch of crawdads, perch, and the occasional water snake. In our honey-holes, there might be a hundred crawdads in each haul of the net. Some were so tiny and cute that we would let them dangle from our fingers pinching as hard as they could. But the big old ‘dads had Yosemite Sam-like tempers and were ready to hurt someone. As soon as they came out of the water they started shooting off their mouths and taunting us.

If cows are the gossipy little old ladies of the animal kingdom, crawdads are the surly teenage boy bullies with zits and B.O. They have beady little Joe Biden eyes, disproportionately large pincers with which they strut around, and tattoos that signify gang membership. Get near a fish in the water and they swim away; get near a crawdad and they provoke a fight. Their usual tactics were to call us girly names, pinch us unmercifully in the softest tissue they could find, and say bad tings about our mammas.

One area of the creek had too many big rocks so a seine didn’t work, but there were huge crawdads so we’d tie a piece of bacon to a string, lower it gently by a big rock, and let the crawdads pinch the bacon. We’d slowly ease it to the surface, reach our hand behind the crawdad’s head, then quickly grab it with our index finger and thumb. However, if you open your index finger and thumb, it exposes that tender spot in-betweenand that’s where they’d grab us. My father called our reaction bellowing-like-a-bull-moose.

The cows were right; boys are stoopid. They have a masochistic desire to prove virility by testing limits of pain with self-inflicted contrivances. We were too young yet to say, Hey, hold my beer and watch this! while we launched into some death-defying dare, but we prepped for our teen years by tempting fate in other moronic ways.

Girls apparently don’t have a desire to test their limits of pain like boys. I doubt we’ll ever see a Janeass movie starring  women because, well, they are a whole lot smarter than boys. Their form of self-flagellation was to read Seventeen.

On the list of let’s-see-how-much-this-hurts activities such as sticking our tongues to frozen aluminum ice cube trays or shooting each other at point-blank range with rubber band guns, we decided to add one more brainless activity: how long can you let a granddaddy crawdad hang from your nipple by his pincer.

Suffice it to say I lost the contest. Even though I thought I was dying, I let him live out of respect as a worthy adversary. Actually, I was too busy howling and looking for a bandaid.

My sons and I are now teaching my grandsons how to crawdad. They’re toddlers unscathed by testosterone and a bit freaked out with all those swarming creatures in net. I walk through Bird Creek and wonder if that old crawdad is still alive. I’ll bet he is and he’s regaled his grandkids around the campfire with stories about the time he made a little boy cry. The big jerk.

I’ll bet he’s given them advice about picking fights, calling names, and has already instructed them: “If one of those little McNary boys ever catch you, just look him in the eye and whisper, ‘Your granddad only lasted five seconds; think you can last ten?’”

I’ll try to warn my grandsons. Doubt they’ll listen once the testosterone kicks in.

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PHOTO: The Dinosaur Tree – an original of mine

North of Cassoday, Kansas, along the Kansas Turnpike- Took me years to get the timing right for this image!  

 

 

 

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Growing Up Kansas: The Night The UFO Came to Get Us

01/15/2015

Note: This is Part 3 in the series of Growing Up Kansas

It’s not every day that six little country kids in Kansas have UFOs show up in their backyard and scare the bejesus out of them.

During the late sixties, there was an uptick in UFO sightings across the U.S. There was also an uptick in the use of LSD. I’m not saying that the two are tied together, but the universe does have a cause-and-effect correlation.

However, we six little kids stuck in a drafty old two-story house for a few weeks each summer were LSD free. The closest we ever got to getting stoned was sniffing the old Schnapps and Jack Daniels bottles thrown in the ditch by passing tourists. We roamed the ditches along Highway 54 looking for pop bottles to cash in at the grocery store but found a disproportionate number of whiskey bottles. After three good snorts of Schnapps one day, we swore of alcohol forever.

Back to the aliens. You might think I digress, but after years of contemplation, light has illuminated my darkness with an epiphany; the UFO showed up the same day as we snorted the Schnapps; I told you there was a correlation.

Six little kids intuitively knew better than to hang inside Command Central all day when the Three Generals were lurking about. We hit the back door shortly after breakfast with packed lunches and crawled back in at dark. We did this not so much for the fresh air and adventure as self-preservation. To be near the Three Generals meant that one was quickly forced into slave labor or, as was the case for us boys, held responsible for all things wrong in the world. The girls stayed inside more than we, but they were always the most-highly-favored-among-men-and-angels. Always.

I’m not saying the girls were from the devil, but we did not share the same lofty opinion of them that, say, the Three Generals or the Commander-in Chief and his Secretary of War. Ah, you haven’t met these two yet?

The Commander-in-Chief was my Dad; the Secretary of War, Tom, was his son-in-law and father to half of the six miscreants. They were married to two of the Three Generals. Nepotism in the ranks always creates disorder in the chain of command, but things were what they were. One of the Three Generals didn’t have a husband at the time and emptied her frustrations with the adult male species on the juvenile male species; namely, us.

The Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary of War were normally gentle giants who graced our presence with wisdom, justice, and mercy. The Three Generals were like BB guns annoying you with stinging shots, but the Commander and Secretary were the Howitzers. However, they, like us boys, left the house as soon as breakfast was over for various hunter-gatherer activities.

Some days we extended our outside activities into sleeping outside depending on the degree to which we annoyed the Generals during the day. We didn’t have fancy tents or sleeping bags, but we did have The Cabin and The Shed.

The Cabin was a little shack my Dad dragged home from the oilfield. Dotted around the oilfields of Kansas beside grasshopper-looking pump-jacks were little 12’x12’ buildings called doghouses. I don’t know how, but Dad managed to place one along the hedgerow north of the house about 50 yards. That was as close as he would ever get to his dream of living in a cabin in the mountains. A little potbelly wood stove tucked in the corner and an old bed, chair, and nightstand made it a comfy little place.

The three girls slept in there when they wanted because, well, they were the most-highly-favored-among-men-and-angels so they got whatever they wanted. Always. We boys, on the other hand, got the Shed.

The Shed was a lean-to on the back of the garage. It was a 15-degree sloping roof that extended ten feet north of the garage. That’s where the boys camped out; the girls got The Cabin; the boys got The Shed.

The Shed had two inherent problems:

  1. It had no roof because, well, it was a roof to something else.
  2. It had a fifteen-degree slope. I woke up one morning with legs dangling over the edge from the knees down.

Had we a tent, we would have happily spent every summer night in it. But the thought of sleeping in the open on the ground gave us the heebie-jeebies. We blamed it on the grass and chiggers, but our secret fears were being dragged off by the coyotes, poisoned by spiders, or waking up to a rattlesnake curled up between our legs.

I’ll be honest; there are various interpretations of the following events depending on which of the six little kids you talk to. I maintain mine is the closest to the truth and the others are simply revisionist historians.

Country folks were abuzz over UFO sightings. The party line hummed as upright citizens who would never get near LSD or Schnapps would recount, in church so it had to be true, stories of UFO sightings. If Old Roy Brenner said he saw a UFO, then UFOs were a matter of fact and not just the fodder of conspiracy theorist. Old Roy Brenner would never be arrested for being a conspiracy theorist. The only time he ever got in trouble with the law was for driving too slow. He’s the reason for minimum speed limits in Kansas. Even Amish buggies passed Old Roy on his way to church.

The three girls, those-most-highly-favored-among-men-and-angels, were sleeping in The Cabin and we used baling wire to anchor us to the top of The Shed to keep from rolling off. Jeff, our field general, posed a curious question that roused us from our slumber; I wonder if we can hit The Cabin from here with a rock?

We cut ourselves loose from the baling wire and crawled down the lattice at the corner of the garage. Yes, that same lattice that we were NOT supposed to crawl up or down. A triangular appendage at the front corners of the garage, they started narrow at the ground level, then widened to two-feet in the eight-foot vertical span; they looked like ladders. Dad created them as artistic pieces to adorn our little garage on the prairie but we boys made the case that real art included both form and function; if it looked like a ladder then it should be climbed like a ladder.

We shinnied down the lattice, grabbed a few small rocks, and climbed back on The Shed. Sure enough, we could hit the cabin. After pelting it a few times, the girls hollered at us and asked if we were the ones making the racket.

We learned early to deny and make counteraccusations. We told them they were hearing things, wondered why they woke us up from our deep slumber, and barked at them to get back to bed.

Had we boys been the sharpest saws in the toolbox, it would have dawned on us that the Commander-in-Chief, his Secretary of War, and the Three Generals were sleeping inside the house with their windows open. They, of course, could only hear our male voices, not those-most-highly-favored-among-men-and-angels. We would have done well to heed Napoleon’s wartime admonition not to wake up China because, once you did, the sleeping giant would devour all.

Like all wars that escalate, ours reached a feverish pitch when Jeff employed the trusted battlefield tactic of diversion; he yelled that he spotted a UFO. Jeff was the oldest and strongest, so Kendall and I followed him like any good lemming running into the sea. If he claimed he saw a UFO, then by Jove, we all saw a UFO. Bored little country kids have an intense imagination that leads them to frequently end up at the altar during the call to repentance.

Over forty years later, I remember being much braver that night than for which I stand accused in family folklore today. Yes, I was the first to reach the lattice, but I reasoned that I was going to run to The Cabin and save the girls. A gallant lad I was; my gentlemanly nature on display even in adolescence.

Poor little Kendall. He was the youngest and more vulnerable to trauma. Jeff bailed, I bailed, but Kendall was paralyzed on The Shed, a wailing mass of hormones so over stimulated by his hypothalamus that he didn’t know whether to fight, flee, or wet himself so he just stood there blubbering.

By this time we had all moved from the early stages of stationary panic into running-faster-than-a-speeding-bullet stage of panic. The girls were screaming, Kendall was crying, I was calling the Sherriff, and Jeff was screaming, “they’re coming closer!”

Then the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary of War woke up. From deep in the bowls of Command Central, we heard the Secretary roar out the open-window something about boys and noise and beatings and for-crying-out-loud-do-you-know-what-time-it-is.

The Commander-in-Chief was also the spiritual father of the clan that was part Scotch, part Irish, and three snorts Schnapps. By the time I came along – the last of six kids – age and perceived failure of raising my other five siblings had mellowed him. But this night, he stormed out of the house and hollered, “Well, Judas Priest!” In my Dad’s world, that was as close to cursing and blasphemy as he ever got; the grass died where he spit that night.

We boys were marched off to the Siberian concentration camps after that to spend the rest of the summer in hard labor on a chain gang. We kept praying the UFO would show back up; we were ready to be captured.

The photo is an original of mine, taken in the Flint Hills of Kansas, just south of Cassoday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Growing Up Kansas: What the Real Cold War Looked Like in Kansas

01/12/2015

Author’s Note: I’ve decided to add a section of humor to my writings.  These are more or less true stories of my youth written as any good revisionist historian with a point to prove. Hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did living them.

All good men have their enemies; Reagan had Solzhenitsyn; Kennedy had Castro; Rocky Balboa had Apollo Creed; I had Colleen Miller. She was my niece, nemesis, and bane of my prepubescent existence. I was thirty-years-old before I could hear her name without curling up in a fetal position.

During my youth, there was The Cold War and The Real Cold War. On the macrocosm, The Cold War was, of course, between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. However, on the microcosm, The Real Cold War was between my niece, Colleen Miller and me. Fifty weeks out of the year half a continent separated us so all was quiet on the western and eastern fronts; she lived in New York and I in Kansas. Over fourteen hundred miles of distance kept our missiles in their underground silos as our fellow soldiers enjoyed peacetime recreation. We couldn’t have hurt each other if we tried.

However, two weeks out of a year we came within firing range when she came on vacation with her family to Kansas. War plans collecting dust and weapons with rusted firing pins were hauled out of the closet, dusted off, oiled, and bayonets sharpened. Lines were drawn in the sand, allies were bribed, threatened, or shamed into allegiance, and new uniforms issued.

The war should have been relatively fair because there was an equal number of gender on each side; three girls and three boys. What the boys didn’t understand until well into manhood was that the number of females engaged in combat was actually six instead of three because of the matriarchs of the family – also known as the Three Generals -who always took the sides of the girls. Always. Really, I mean always. Not once do I recall the boys ever having the support of the Three Generals.

Most of our existence was armed neutrality. A skirmish would erupt on the flanks, we would have to apologize for our existence to the girls and the entire female species then we’d play in the vicinity of each other keeping a watchful eye on any subversive activity. Each side would send the occasional drone for reconnaissance, but we came to accept the fact that the girls were far better at spying than the boys. They were also far more secretive about their plans. One of the boys – whose name I won’t mention – folded like a two-dollar suitcase under interrogation by the females. He not only gave up vital battle plans and ciphers to our well-crafted codes, he fought on their side occassionally. Oh, the shame.

Both sides had their field generals; we had Jeff and the girls had Colleen. Jeff and Colleen happened to be brother and sister so they were well aware of each other’s war strategies. Colleen and her soldiers also had the Three Generals providing logistical support, counter intelligence, and legal counsel. We never had a chance, but that didn’t keep us from relishing small victories. Like the Native Americans who once roamed our prairie and retold stories of heroism around the campfires, to this day when we get together we relive those glory days when, on occasion, we happened to get lucky and win a temporary skirmish.

After the Day We Invented Streaking -when the girls snuck up and stole our clothes while we were skinny dipping -we all decided to go swimming in Hobson’s Pond.

My Dad, who was not the best carpenter in the world but understood the importance of a good swimming hole, erected a wooden dock on the edge of the pond. As was in line with Dad’s limited carpentry skills, the posts rotted out so the dock laid half in and half out of the water. Over the course of time, moss covered the dock and, when wet, made a short, but slippery slide.

The boys wore cutoffs and wallowed around in the pond reminiscent of baby buffalo. The girls wore bathing suits which, it turns out, provide minimal protection to the Gluteus Maximus as compared to a good pair of cutoff jean-shorts.

When Colleen screamed at volume 5 on a scale from 1-10, her voice could shatter fine crystal and the Three Generals would come rushing to execute judgment. She did this often. But this fateful day as us boys were dunking each other in the middle of the pond, Colleen let out a scream so loud that even the cows started stampeding. Usually, the cows were on the side of the girls and normally would have joined in on the chorus with her, but after dodging lighting strikes on the prairie in thunderstorms, they were a bit skittish with loud noises.

We quickly discovered that in her slide down the dock, a big, nasty splinter gouged her right in the butt-cheek then broke off. Those splinters were nasty because they were so rotten than when you grabbed them with tweezers, they crumbled.

She ran screaming through the pasture like a newly branded calf with us in hot pursuit. Why were we chasing her? To help, of course. We were gentlemen; we would help any damsel in distress even if she were our part-time enemy. Plus, we’d never seen a splinter so big in human body and the gross-out factor fascinated us.

Naturally, we got in trouble for it. When the Three Generals looked out the door towards the east and saw six little kids running through the pasture and the one in the lead bellowing like a bull moose, they always concluded it was the boys’ fault. Always.

I don’t recall what kind of punishment was handed out to us, but the biggest disappointment was not being allowed to dig that monstrosity out of her butt-cheek. Heck, we would have been happy just to watch. However, we took some comfort in being able to hear it all. We spent the rest of the summer replacing the storm windows she shattered with her screams.

As the Three Generals dragged us off to the Gulag for another round of imprisonment, we congratulated each other for our valiant efforts to assist the wounded. While incarcerated, we all agreed that those lingering doubts we’d been having about the existence of God would from henceforth and forevermore be removed. There was a God who avenged us innocent boys at least one time out of fifty.

A temporary armistice was signed between the warring factions to allow the wounded to heal. Weapons were laid down; spoils were divided; we sang songs of heroism around the campfire and olive branches were offered for lasting peace.

Little did we know that our skirmishes paled in comparison to the next threat to our existence; extraterrestrials in UFOs. THAT story is the next chapter; stay tuned.

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The photo is an original of mine taken near Newton, Kansas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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