Friday, May 29, 2009

Country Kids

Hello wingnuts,

I was just sitting here reflecting on the good ol' days back when I was a kid growing up in the country. I had a wonderful childhood, with freedom to run and play, and with no fears about perverts or molesters. My friends and I spent hours swinging on ropes from the rafters in old barns. We used to hang around the old grain elevator and play hide and seek among the old box cars. I had a horse, a gentle Morgan mare named Trixie, and we rode together all over the hills overlooking Imbler and Summerville. I also had a paper route, starting when I was 7 years old. I delivered the LaGrande Evening Observer to people all over the Imbler area, riding my little red 20" bicycle. When I got hired for that job I was the youngest paper boy in Oregon and have an old yellowed newspaper clipping to prove it.

Later we moved to Dallas, OR where we had a big ranch style house out on the Dallas/Rickreall Hwy. I went to Orchard View School when I was in the 5th Grade. It was a two-room country school house. The first and second graders were in one room and the 3rd-5th graders were in the other. We played baseball or dodge-ball during recess. Again, I had a horse and a dog and freedom to wander and it was wonderful. My friends and I used to swim in Rickreall Creek and go out shooting our .22's and doing a bunch of other crazy stuff that my children have been prevented from doing because of growing up in cities.

Looking back I know that I was very fortunate. I got to do all the things that people today are paranoid about. I got my first gun from my Uncle Ray when I was seven. It was a single-shot .22 rifle that he had cut down for my Aunt Lois to shoot but she never got interested in it so he gave it to me. I always carried a knife, and a big sharp one. In fact, every kid I knew carried a knife, even some of the girls. It was normal, and no one ever thought of using it to hurt another person. Most homes back then had gun cabinets and they were always unlocked. Farmers also usually had a rifle in a rack in their pickup. They would park on the street in LaGrande and not even roll up the window. No one would think of stealing it.

Lots of people never locked their houses back then, unless they left for vacation and were planning to be gone for a week. Our house was never locked during the day. I didn't have a house key until I was a junior in high school and we were living in Salem. Up until then I had never needed one. Looking back I see that I was growing up in a different world than the ones my children and grandchildren know. It makes me melancholy to realize that they will never have those experiences.

A friend sent me the following and I thought it was funny. It kind of goes along with what I have just been saying. Enjoy...

The Tennessee Farm Kid
(Writing a letter home from San Diego MARINE CORPS Recruit Training)

Dear Ma and Pa,

I am well. Hope you are. Tell Brother Walt and Brother Elmer the Marine Corps beats working for old man Minch by a mile. Tell them to join up quick before all of the places are filled.

I was restless at first because you got to stay in bed till nearly 6 AM. But I am getting so I like to sleep late. Tell Walt and Elmer all you do before breakfast is smooth your cot, and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, or fire to lay. Practically nothing.

Men got to shave but it is not so bad, there’s warm water. Breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and other regular food, but tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit by the two city boys that live on coffee. Their food, plus yours, holds you until noon when you get fed again. It’s no wonder these city boys can’t walk much.

We go on “route marches,” which the platoon sergeant says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it’s not my place to tell him different. A “route march” is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city guys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks.

The sergeant is like a school teacher. He nags a lot. The Captain is like the school board. Majors and Colonels just ride around and frown. They don’t bother you none.

This next will kill Walt and Elmer with laughing. I keep getting medals for shooting. I don’t know why. The bulls-eye is near as big as a chipmunk head and don’t move, and it ain’t shooting at you like the Higgett boys at home. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You don’t even load your own cartridges. They come in boxes.

Then we have what they call “hand-to-hand combat training.” You get to wrestle with them city boys. I have to be real careful though, they break real easy. It ain’t like fighting with that old bull at home. I’m about the best they got in this except for that Tug Jordan from over in Silver Lake... I only beat him once. He joined up the same time as me, but I’m only 5’6” and 130 pounds and he’s 6’8” and near 300 pounds dry.

Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join before other fellers get onto this setup and come stampeding in.

Your loving daughter,


Oh, yea... did I happen to mention that the girls were pretty tough back then too? You just gotta love those farm girls.

Old and crazy, and remembering those good days,

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