I have considered many times over the years penning my autobiography. If I were able to begin this work of nonfiction as a destitute underling clawing his way from the sewers of Lichtenstein and one day parking my keister in the cushy monarch’s chair; then I’d say yeah, sure. That would at least be something worth writing about…or, possibly if I was a repugnant little quip, born with a silver spoon in my mouth having lived my early teens with a lifestyle of entitlement until the powers-that-be kicked me from the lap of luxury into the streets of South Franaganistan. Through my years in the low-rent district, I learn a great deal of humility. With my tail tucked between my legs, I returned home, organized a coup, and slaughtered all those responsible for my banishment.
Being as my life reads more like a Tom Sawyer novel, I guess this is where we’ll begin. It seems that Huck, Jim and I were rafting down the Missi— hold the phones. Correct analogy, wrong story.
Let’s begin again, shall we? I was born a middle-class white boy. By the time I hit my early teens and discovered the Chickahominy River flowed within a mile of my house, it became my second home. Starting the last day of school for summer vacation, I was standing on the bank of the river, casting for chain pickerel, a smaller version of a northern pike.
Hanging with friends, we would participate in all sorts of mischief, nothing mean-spirited, but things that certainly, OSHA would not have approved of had they known. For instance: locate a suitable sapling, make a mad dash toward the tree. Once you make contact incorporate both feet and hands to literally run up the tree, 18 to 20 feet. After reaching said height, throw your weight backward and ride the sapling to the ground. A perfect landing would be your feet softly touching the earth as you release the top of the tree, sending it back to its original position. No harm, no foul.
An unacceptable landing would reveal your inability to choose a suitable piece of lumber to climb. The unacceptable landing would go something like this: run, run, run. climb, climb, climb. Throw weight backward. Hear bone chilling snap just prior to your back contacting the unforgiving ground. Wait several minutes until ability to breathe returns, then on to the next activity.
Let’s wade through foot deep, snake and leech infested stagnant water, to catch snapping turtles. “By the way, how does one catch these snapping turtles?” I smile. You, stomp through the black water until your foot lands on something that moves. Pick it up and hope that it’s a turtle. If fingers began to drop into the water, this will be an indication that not only have you secured a turtle, but have grasped it by the business end. Make mental note: keep fingers on the outside of snapping turtle’s mouth.
Now, it’s on to more fun activities. Swimming with snakes, building rafts from 55 gallon drums, chopping down random trees with an axe to build a log cabin and my favorite: wading in knee deep swamp water in the middle of the night, gigging for frogs. (Believe me when I say, keep the flashlight off as much as possible. You’d rather not know what you’re sharing the water with) As I’m sure you agree, all are perfectly safe activities for young teenagers to participate in.
It’s a good thing my parents didn’t know what I was doing… In fact, I’d better stop there before I start spilling my guts and let something slip that may have been dangerous.
Come to think of it, maybe I’d better check on mine. He’s too much like his old man for my comfort.