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  • Writer's pictureDick

Going Way Back

We are all on our own journey through time and the world around us.  Where we go is determined both by the choices we make and by the vicissitudes of life.  I have always been filled with wanderlust and a penchant for adventure.  At an early age, I was fascinated by the world around me.  I loved to explore and figure out how things worked.


Growing up in the 1950’s gave me some freedom to explore that doesn’t seem to exist for the children of today.  My first real memories are of living in a modest parsonage in Austin, Texas.  Mom, Dad and Grandmother lived upstairs, while my brother and I shared the basement.  My older sister had her own room, a cement storage area off of the garage.


From the ages of 3 to 7, my world was limited to an area within about 175 yards of the house.  What a wonderful world it was.  A cedar tree just the left of the front porch gave off a pungent aroma that permeated the air while climbing.  Across the driveway was a china berry tree with a small tree fort perched on a limb about 10 feet off the ground.  A dead tree in the back yard was covered in Wisteria that sported a brilliant purple flower when in bloom.


Doffing my coonskin cap, I would climb trees in the backyard scouting in my Davy Crockett personae.  My poor younger brother usually ended up as prey or as an invader to be conquered.  In one exciting television episode, Davy walked into a trap that left him hanging by one leg roped to a tree limb.  I am sure that any passing church members must have been alarmed to see me hanging by one foot from a tree with the tail of my cap brushing the ground.


The fig tree in the back yard was the size of a large bush and had a delicious fruit.  In late July or early August, I would crawl under the foliage and lay on my back sampling the tasty figs until I was full.  The twittering squeak of swallow-tailed flycatchers filled the air while the occasional horned toad would wander through.  That backyard was a wonderful world full of adventure.


At some point in my seventh year we moved a few blocks to a house my father had built for the family.  The back yard backed up to a creek at the foot of a bluff.  The creek ran through a wooded area that fanned out.  A tree had fallen across the creek just behind the house.  Donning my Robin Hood personae I would hop on to the log and use a stick as my trusty staff to fight Little John to gain my right to cross the creek.


Pathways led into the woods which was sparsely populated with cedars, live oaks and other trees native to central Texas.  My wandering range grew to about a quarter of a mile.  Encounters with tarantulas, scorpions, rattlesnakes and the occasional Gila Monster were not uncommon.  In advance of future development, some new roads were built in the area and some of the magical woods disappeared.  Their mystique was replaced by the mystery of long stretches of storm water culverts that became caves and gold mines to my pre-adolescent mind.


Rounding out that part of my life was hanging out with the Newberry boys down the street.  Football games in the front yard and dirt clod fights filled many hours.  Keith and I built suits of armor from cardboard boxes and covered them with aluminum foil so they would shine brightly in the hot Texas sun.  With swords made from sticks of wood, we would wallop each other with resounding thuds while fending off the blows with our cardboard shields.  I learned the art of fisticuffs in friendly skirmishes with Keith behind the local gas station.  With an unknowing shrug, I would brush away the parental queries of the origin of my occasional black eye.


At the ripe old age of nine, our family moved to Overland Park, Kansas.  At the time, our home was on the westernmost suburban edge of Kansas City.  Our home was a standard split level that you might expect in such an environment.  There was a big flat back yard that backed up to an Osage Orange windbreak.  My adventurous spirit was not to be stifled.


Innocently towing my little red wagon, I would spend evening hours scouring the developing neighborhoods.   With little difficulty, sheets of plywood and two by fours could be balanced delicately on the wagon for the haul home.  These ill gotten goods became tree houses in the Osage Orange trees, or in one case a free standing fort.


During this period of my life two other things helped sate my wanderlust.  The first was a classic Schwinn fat tire bicycle.  My roaming range was now extended to miles.  As I rushed out the door letting the screen door slam behind me, I would yell out “I’m going out to ride my bike”.  Unbeknownst to my unsuspecting mother, I rode miles away from home, exploring nearby towns like Prairie Village and Leawood.  One of my longer excursions took me into the neighboring state of Missouri.


Joining Boy Scouts was the second and probably the most important thing that helped my adventurous spirit grow.  Primarily, scouting taught me basic survival skills and how to stay alive with minimal resources.  Camping trips, canoe trips, jamborees and camp all helped sate my thirst for adventure.


I’ll never forget my first night sleeping alone in the woods with only a sleeping bag and canteen.  At some point during the night a lone snake decided to slither across my sleeping bag which peaked my curiosity, but oddly, I felt no fear.  He didn’t bother me, so I didn’t bother him.  Many years later the same sleeping bag and canteen accompanied me on a grand adventure.


Over the years, the lessons learned in my youth  were incredibly valuable as I careened through life.  I will leave the stories of my adventures until another time.  My thoughts now are focused on my current quest.  This quest is a new beginning for me.


About 10 months ago, I had the heart wrenching experience of losing my soul mate and life partner of 20 years.  Her passing marked a point of departure from the life I had grown into and the man I had become.  My beautiful, loving daughter mused that I would need to reinvent myself.  I agreed and began readying myself to embark on a journey of discovery and re-discovery.  So here I sit, riding in the backseat of the WABAC Machine watching the reddish sandstone buttes and Mesas of Northern Arizona slip by as we roll down the road.


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