Early Years home

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Upside of R&R Home

The Early Years

    Undeniably, those fishing trips with Dad are wonderful memories that I treasure to this day. Sometimes, Mom would go with us. Adventure that was basically FREE. To paraphrase my band mate, Cory Wells, concerning his own youth: "We didn't have a lot of money, although I never really noticed, so what we did for entertainment usually fell in the FREE category." My father came from rural Oklahoma and that was his experience as a child and what he loved. Winter time? No skiing for us. That required expensive gear and fu fu clothing. It was toboggans and 3 layers of clothes that got soaked in 10 minutes. Never a sled (an East coast thing). At best, an inner tube or a disk to ride down a hill that seemed to always have a little creek at the bottom, waiting for you if you went too far and couldn't stop. We usually went East into the Sierra mountains to a place called "Strawberry Lake." It's called "Pinecrest Lake" now. There's also a kids hill named, "Little Sweden" that we used to toboggan on. Small. Just off the edge of the road.

    My mom was the overprotective mother from heaven. I wasn't spoiled, but basically, I could do no wrong in her eyes. Oh, she took a switch to me now and then, when I needed it. I still hate those darn weeping willow trees. Even worse, if I ran she would give me the old, "Fine! Wait till your dad gets home and he can whip you." Not to be desired in any kid's book. This meant THE BELT. Not quite as bad as THE RAZOR STRAP, which Grandpa used on him, but plenty bad enough. Holding my arm (or my hair if I struggled) and whipping my butt as I ran in a circle around him. Child abuse? Nah! Just another time. Another set of rules to go by. Rules like he grew up with, rules I understood. Clear cut, no misunderstanding kind of rules. No place for heart to heart talks. Counseling? Oh, please. THESE WERE THE RULES. Strait from the Bible. Spare the rod, spoil the child. My Dad? He was a self-made, strong, definitive father figure of a man who, together with my mom, gave me a wonderful childhood, with never a fear that things would ever be any different. Security of home, even to the point of taking it for granted. A wonderful thing, to be able to take it for granted. Childhood should be that way. It was for me. A gift every parent wants for his children, guaranteed childhood. Oh, there was plenty of "get out there and hoe those levees and get the weeds off them. We have walnut trees to shake; you boys help pick up the nuts." It was his responsibility, like all parents, to teach his kids "how to work." Work is a fine institution and something to be proud of. Thus was the teaching, a good teaching, to take pride in a good day's effort at work. To not look down upon another human being due to his occupation, and not to feel you are less than others, due to their more lofty work status. All work is good and necessary in this life.

    While living in the semi country part of West Modesto, I made my first attempt at a tree house. It really just consisted of a platform between 2 branches of a walnut tree, but it was cool. I recall my Dad buying a tent that I had set up next to the back yard. We had a small (approx. 7' x 3') fish pond made of concrete that had a hole in one side, just above the water line, that a frog use to use as his home. Hibernate, ya know. Pollywogs were a staple of the area, as were mosquitoes. What an interesting transition, from pollywog to frog. Another thing my Dad got us, that we used many times, was a 2 man rubber raft. It was yellow and blue with a big rubber bag that, when put in the water, would fill up and help stabilize the rear of the raft. We had many fun times in canals and going down dry creek in it. I think it was really made for one man, but two kids could get in it and have a ball. We didn't have a pump that worked on it, so blowing it up manually was the standard. You'd be blue in the face, trying to hurry and get it blown up so you could get in it. Great fun. At one point, my Dad even got me a pony, a brown pinto, but that was a short-lived thing. The horse knew who was boss and it wasn't me. Heaven help you if you put your hand on the horn of the saddle. A major sin, according to Dad. No matter that your feet didn't reach the stirrups, ride like a man, or don't ride at all. He gave the same routine to my son Jesse, when he rode a horse as a kid. Fun times, even though I definitely took a fall or two off that horse while trying to gallop her. I'll look for the picture and include it here if I find it.

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