|Clowning around in The Field.|
On the edge of The Field lived my Greatest Childhood Friend Randy Bottoms. We must have been friends since we were babies, because I don’t ever remember a time when we weren’t buddies. We spent countless happy hours playing trucks, riding our bikes, or just lying on our backs and staring up at the clouds. Randy once took possession of an abandoned dog, a friendly jet-black mutt that I suggested should be named Snowball. Appreciating the irony, Randy went with the name, and Snowball became a regular member of our group. Early on, Randy and I recognized the need for some type of signal; a way to let each other know that one of us was outside and available to visit. During our early elementary days, the recognized signal was a Tarzan yell. If I went outside to play, I would face in the direction of Randy’s house and cut loose, unashamedly, with my best Tarzan yell. Invariably, Randy would soon emerge from his house, ready for whatever we had in store. As we got on into the upper elementary years, the Tarzan yell became a bit of overkill. Our signal evolved into an indescribable falsetto mechanism, something like a controlled scream that went kind of like, “Rhee –aaaaa-Rheet!” It was a sound later perfected by Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees. By our junior high years, I was still doing the “Rhee –a –Rheet,” but Randy had developed a whistled version of Rhee-a-rheet that was just as effective but not nearly as taxing on the vocal chords.
|The Blue Thing|
Another thing you would find in The Field was The Wheels. The Wheels were just that; a set of iron wheels about 4 feet in diameter connected with an iron axle. What you did with The Wheels was push them. You pushed them and pushed them and hoped nobody would get in your way, because it took a little effort to get them to come to a stop. If you got tired of pushing them, and you had someone else there, you could turn them on their side with one wheel on the ground and the other wheel in the air, and then climb on the wheel that was in the air and get the other person to push you and you had a merry-go-round. And, if you were my older brother Phil, you could pick them up like a set of weights and raise them over your head.
Speaking of Phil, one time he and my brother Gene brought home a bunch of black one-inch sticks from the furniture factory. They were intended for tomato stakes, but they decided to stack them up like Lincoln Logs to build a rectangular structure, about 5ft x 5 ft x 5 ft tall. They put a piece of cardboard on the top, and I decided that it would make a great clubhouse. I immediately appointed myself as president of the unnamed club. The clubhouse had everything; proper ventilation, plenty of space, and it looked real good. Well, I guess it didn’t actually have everything; it didn’t have a door. To resolve this minor problem, we dug a hole on one side, and I and Vice-President Randy gained entry by slithering under the bottom rail. The thrill of the clubhouse quickly wore off.
Daddy made one innovation to The Field for which he became famous among kids from several blocks away. He stretched a strong rope between two electric poles, one end slightly higher than the other, attached a pulley with a little piece of rope to hang on to, and put a ladder leading up to the higher end of the stretched rope. Kids climbed the ladder, took hold of the pulley, and rode the zip line to the other electric pole. A line quickly formed at the base of the ladder with kids I didn’t even know showing up for a ride. I, however, with my fear of heights and lack of self-confidence, couldn’t make myself ride the zip line, although everyone else did, including my sister Janet. After about half a day, a truck from the electric company showed up and the zip line was taken down. But still today, I encounter people who remember Daddy’s zip line.
The Field doesn’t exist today; there’s a house there now and a fence. If you had a field to play in when you were a kid, you’re lucky. There aren’t many places like that today. And if you had a Greatest Childhood Friend, you’re even luckier.