Most folks my age played outside when they were growing up; Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall……nothing but the game changed.

My 1st memories come from McKenzie, Tennessee, where my dad had moved us so he could attend Bethel College. We lived in a nice neighborhood and my across the street new playmate was Steve McAdams. He was older than me and I wanted to play the games he played, but I was 2 little at 3 years old. He was a rough and tumble type of boy with blond hair and was pretty damn mean to me. This kind of “friend” was the first in the long line of new friends I would engage throughout my younger days and my many moves.

I don’t remember much about living in McKenzie, but I do remember this much and this much is, Steve was a bully to me. Later, we became friends in college and in our professional world but in my young world, he was my first bully.

I do remember some good things and one of them is when I climbed my 1st ham radio tower, those metal triangle looking tv antennas that seemed to reach all the way up 2 Heaven. One day I heard Momma calling for me (we all played unsupervised legally) and as I made that tower sway, I hollered back from near the top, “Momma, I am up here.” Momma of course, panicked and screamed for me to get down — then, “no, no, no, stay where u r.” Fearing I would fall, she got help and I got down. I loved 2 climb things. Momma didn’t have a heart attack and later on, she used to laugh when she’d tell the story about the day she found me at the top of Red Summer’s giant tv/ham radio tower swaying, testing fate & the guide wires that held the tower in place. I got scolded pretty good when I got down and then got me one of those “now come here and give Momma a hug,” ’cause momma-hugs made everything better.

My second trip up Red’s tower a few days later took me higher up the tower which brought Daddy into the picture and he made sure that was my last 4 year old tower climb. Everything I did wrong usually ended up in well explained punishment and a final statement by Dad, “Son, you’re killin’ your Momma, and you’re gonna kill yourself if you don’t start minding.”

Well, being I couldn’t mind too good, my life was constantly in danger and I was usually scared when Daddy came home from whatever I did wrong earlier that day. One day, I learned to ride my bike in the front yard in McKenzie. And after many tries, 1 day I got it going. I was so proud as I cycled wobbly across the front yard, I looked back over my shoulder to see if Momma was still holding me up from the push that was required to get me going…..and she wasn’t there. So, I hollered, as I pedaled, “Look, Momma. I did it.” And about that time I blind-sided Steve McAdams and his buddy who were playing football in the yard next door. Of course, Steve and older boys were not real happy for me and took my moment of joy and turned it into an embarrassing, feelings hurt moment.  Once they recovered from my square in the back hit I put on Steve, Steve was not happy and angrily called me a “stupid little kid,” and he told me as I laid there hurting from the wreck to get back in my yard and to not come back.

I think that was the only time I hurt Steve McAdams, but it wasn’t the only time I wanted 2. He was the first bully I had to deal with in a long line of bullies. He’s a semi-friend now, I guess.

Dad bought a brick house from Red Summers and Red lived in his big, fine, new house that was a little closer to the highway. An entire new neighborhood was being built at that time (1958) across the street from us and I liked to play over there and get pieces of wood left from the carpenters’ cuts. I’d drag ’em home to see if Daddy would let me use his hammer so I could, “beat nails into them,” and to this day, I love driving nails.

One day, LuAnne and I were playing in the old green and brown round-bodied car Momma had in the driveway and soon, we were rolling down the driveway backwards, wide-eyed and excited. I can’t really remember if Momma came running right out or if the neighbors had to tell her, but she was excited 2, but in a different way.  I can see her running down that driveway that curved and all the way across the street to the tree that eventually stopped our little joy ride. Momma wasn’t real happy when she reached the car out of breath, but hugs came next and when Dad came home, we got in trouble and Momma kinda did 2. I remember these 2 events as my highlights of McKenzie, Tennessee, probably because Momma would tell these stories to others all my young life. I’m not really sure that I even remember, but I think I do.

I started pre-school or kindergarten in McKenzie a year early. I now know that was because Momma needed somebody else to put up with me for awhile each day. I was the typical freckle-faced, little red-headed tyrant that loved the adventures of daily life in the South. So at 3 & 4, I went to kindergarten during the day.

I remember a few other things from my 3’s and 4’s. A fond memory comes from a lady that would come visit Momma and read us books. LuAnne and I would sit on the couch on either side of her and listen to her read us the stories of Shirley Temple and such. I can still picture me sitting with my feet barely touching the cushion’s edge and LuAnne’s legs dangling over the edge, but not touching the floor. The kind, elegant lady holding the over-sized book, with glasses low on her nose, looking over them to tell me to be still. She would somehow manage to read us the whole book before I got in trouble. I don’t know who she is, but I want to thank her.

As far as some painful memories, I remember dropping a can-like tube holding plastic, red bricks on my big toe and crying and being told to hush, “It’s not that bad, Son.” I lost my first toenail soon after. It hurt. I was amazed how it turned black under the toenail and so were my, “be tough” talking parents. I also remember earaches in McKenzie and those hot eardrops it seemed you could only get from the doctor and how bad those earaches hurt. I would lie on my side with my head in Momma’s lap and she would try and comfort me by tickling my arm and my back.

I can faintly remember a Christmas there and a big rug that covered the hardwood floor of our den. The rug was made of many colors, constructed by sewn rolls of fabric, rope-like material that reminded me of those big lollipops that are made from swirls. The swirls started in the center and would go round and round and round until a giant circle was formed (8′ x 10′). And on that rug was a train set that smelled of electricity as it ran in circles nearly as big as that rug…I got to watch it run as “Daddy operated it,” on Christmas morning. I don’t know if I ever got to run that train myself but do remember I could never play with it unless Dad was around, which was seldom 2 never. I am sure I tore it up as soon as I was allowed 2 play with it. Dad was at college all day, library all nite, and traveled to preach on Sundays. I barely remember him from those days except for the times he meant for me 2 remember and those times were punishment times.

Today as I look back on my days in McKenzie, Tn and I reflect on my college days compared 2 Dad’s college days, I realize he was much “richer” than I was at that point in our lives. He bought a house while in college, had cars, wore suits, and wingtip shoes in college, and had 2 kids and a wife that didn’t work outside of the house, except in the yard.

Dad had money, but back then we didn’t know it. We lived on a strict budget and a lot of momma love. Dad had sold a new car dealership to Murray Wood in Savannah and left his hometown and his old life to become a minister. He as a sharp businessman and a good student and Momma was his disciple, doing as he said, when he said, as did I, sometimes.

One never knows what shapes their life until we look back and do some deep reflecting at an age of understanding. This, the 1st move from one town 2 another, was 2 be my life’s pattern. And with each new move and each new town, “hometown” meant nothing 2 me. Settled and familiarity and childhood friends were nonexistent and not missed at 3 and 4. Everything was new at that age and I knew Momma loved me and Daddy scared me.

It wouldn’t be long until Dad graduated Bethel, on the fast track, and we were moving to a new town, Hohenwald, TN.  I was glad to be moving away from Steve McAdams, who never liked me, but I thought he was cool, and I envied him.

His Dad would pitch ball to him and Steve could throw hard and catch good and I could not. Steve’s Dad had a fishing boat and they would go fishing and bring home fish by the boat loads and I would crawl up on the edge of the boat trailer and look over the side at all the fish flopping. He knew about rods and reels and hunting and baseball and football. I wanted to be like Steve so bad, but I was a Momma’s boy and she did her best to help me learn these things and Dad, bless his heart, tried to find an hour or so a week for me in the yard.  And he would tell me what I was doing wrong “you’re turning your head” as I would try to catch the baseball.  He would tell me “watch the ball all the way into your glove”, that was two sizes too big, and there was no way I could close it with my little hands. I never felt good after those sessions “of yard play” with Dad because in my eyes, I could see his eyes thinking, my son’s scared of the ball… and I was, because Steve McAdams could throw good and he hit me in the face with that baseball enough times I learned to turn my head as the ball sped toward it’s “intended target”, my face.

So I guess my proudest moment in McKenzie was the day I wobbled and zigzagged that too big for me bicycle (my sister’s sissy bike) joyfully across the yard, square into the back of Steve McAdams. I just wish I could have seen it as it happened… I was looking back at Momma, waving with one hand as I hammered ole Steve, for the first time causing that bully pain.

Today Steve and I talk every few years. I re-hooked up with him by accident during my “National Catfish Derby” days. He was the head of the well-established Crappiethon and as a pro-fishing guide and tournament promoter, I called him to get some tips on running a national fishing tournament.

He barely remembered me, and said, “So you finally learned to fish?” I said, “no Steve, I never was taught to fish but I learned I was no follower, but rather a leader and a doer”… and he quickly blew me off… just like in the old days…. not the kind of “blew me off” of today’s gay world… but rather the I am to good for you blow off that is timeless.

This I learned in McKenzie, “bullies suck” when u 1st met um and I didn’t meet any that really liked me. …..until I stood up 2 um or ran um over with a bicycle from behind….just sayin….Steve is a good guy…I guess. And he made me better prepared 4 the next one, showing me the recipe 4 dealing with a stronger than u bully…..hit um when they aint lookin….and learn 2 run fast. The dinner table of life serves up lessons if u can swallow the bitter truth….bullies r everywhere and they must b dealt with at any age.

 

corrections in facts…..my dad built the house we lived in McKenzie and sold it 2 red summers….and the tower I climbed belonged 2 a doctor….and the car rollin down the hill happened in Savannah at aunt Dots….my basis of Authority….my older sister LuAnne told me after a reading and my dear father Jack….who has not read one of these blogs yet…1 28 2011….I told u I wasn’t sure if I remembered these right.

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