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.