Sunday, July 04, 2004

Memories of Past Independence (Days)

My oldest friend, always cogent, topical and right-on-the-money, had many recommended posts these last two days on and about our Country's birthday. I did not post the full text of the Declaration, as he had already reminded us of the great men who shaped the revolution and the world-changing tenants that are at the heart of American Independence.

He also mentioned the celebrations of our youth. We would gather the clan for each holiday, though some branches of the extensive tree would spend this or that one with the "Outlaws." (My Mother and his, as well as all who married into the extensive family that spawned our respective fathers adopted this moniker. It was only partially in jest...) Since my maternal grand-mother lived in the next railroad-town up the road, our family was around for all the respective holiday occasions. Some were around for Thanksgiving, others for Christmas, but, for some reason, everybody always made it for the Fourth. Some summers our cousins from back East would travel from Virginia or Maryland or wherever the present church our "Outlaw" preacher Uncle was presently pastoring. They numbered four boys in that particular branch, plus one girl. There were six of us that came as a kind of 'matched set'. Three were boys, Me, Bob-O-Rama and another who will never be hip enough to blog... (He was older by six months or so, Bob and I are four days apart.) We each had younger siblings, me a little brother, the other two sisters. These were also closely grouped in age, four years younger than us. Add to this 'core' various and sundry nieces, nephews, first and second cousins and there were always LOTS of kids running around.

And man, did we ever blow things up!

Big things, little things. One "Outlaw" Uncle was a Mason in nearby Lebanon, MO. (I used to joke with people about my Aunt and Uncle that lived in Lebanon. Of course, being Missouri, we pronounce it Lebnin'...) I don't remember Missouri being known as quite the FireWorks Mecca of the mid-west that it is now. The Masons ran the really BIG tent in Leclede county. (Several counties surrounding, for all I know.) He could purchase the stuff wholesale, so we had beau-coup amounts of ordinance. (Now there is a funny word combination: ETYMOLOGY: French : beau, bel, fine, handsome; see beau + coup, stroke; see coup. Now what the hell good stroke has to do with a lot might seem illusive at first. Unless one equates one's ability to beat somebody up and take their stuff with abundance... But that's for another more serious posting.) We had many 'combustibles' to play with through the years, many now totally verboten. I remember clearly there was one year when we had an unexpected visit by this same Uncles Niece and Nephew. Instead of dividing the spoils between ten kids, we had twelve participants in that years mock mayhem. To give you some idea how deprived we were that year, we had to make do with one dozen less than a GROSS of bottle-rockets apiece.

We three older boys acquired a length of pipe, can't remember if it was that year or another, and proceeded to play "Rocket-Propelled-Grenade" or Bazooka, if you prefer. One would hold, one aim and the third would light the projectile. We got pretty good. One day, while walking to "our tree" on the road below the high-school (it had a limb that had grown straight out, parallel to the ground, making a perfect bench) when we stopped short. Some high-school boy had the audacity to be parked in his convertible, right in OUR SPOT! He was busy making out with his girl-friend at the time and had not noticed our approach. We brought out the weapon, took careful aim and fired a salvo into the right-rear bumper. We immediately decided discretion was the better part of valor and beat feet to retrace our steps and head down another country road to find an unoccupied firing range.

We would walk for miles on the country roads surrounding my Grandparents small town. (Stoutland Missouri is, as far as I know, the most unique town in the US. It is the only municipality in Camden county through which the railroad passes and yet, it is NOT the biggest town in the county.) No one worried a bit on where we were or how long we took in these walks. Occasionally we would be passed by a farm vehicle, a tractor or pickup on it's way to town for supplies. Always a friendly wave and a smile, as if they recognized us as locals.

For that matter, the Halloween's of my youth were also ones of freedom and adventure, unlike today's world of 'mall treats'. Bob-O-Rama will remember one GI-Joe halloween night, I believe. We spent as much time skulking and stalking mock enemies as we did collecting loot. We were quite the sniper/ranger team...

A different time. Of HAND-CRANKED home-made ice-cream. (None of those electric doo-dads for us, no sir. I firmly believe this was actually some kind of penance for the amount of fun that otherwise occupied our time.)

I remember running up and leaping into the billowing smoke of the 'mushroom clouds' our bomb-lets produced. Baseball in the side yard. (Thou Shalt Not Steal, the Pastor turned pitcher would admonish.)

And most of all, playing guitars on the front porch. And being cajoled into one more years rendition of "I wandered today to the hill Maggie".

Memories of the care-free abandon of a childhood our parents never dreamed of and that we baby-boomers long to re-create for our own children.

I think I'll go pick up the guitar now...


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