Normally I write short posts. I know your time is valuable. Bear with me on this one. I got carried away in the past! The picture to the left is my son (on the right) and his buddy Daniel
I grew up on a street with all boys. There’s just something about a group of wild untamed boys to make life interesting. I guess that is the way we were. It was glorious. My brother Steve and I had tons of friends on our road and I’m grateful for the experience of coming up where I did. There were the Rumple boys, Ricky and Jeff and their dad Mutt. Mutt was a small engine genius; he could fix anything. The Boggs boys lived on Edgewood Rd. too. Chet, David and Joe were their names. Chet was like 7 years older than us. I always remember him picking on us and making crude jokes about our genitals. Half the time I didn’t understand what he was talking about, but I laughed anyhow. David was just two years older than us, he was a part of our group, until he got older and started hanging out with girls. Joe and I were the same age and remain good friends to this day. Their dad was named Charlie. I’ll have a word to say in another story about Charlie-isms and the time he said and incantation over a wart that I had on my arm. There was Andy Rice and his sister Kim who felt out of place around all the boys. There was that Wilfong kid, but he moved away. The Penland boys, Randy (everybody called him Piggy) and Chris (Everybody called him Cricket) lived between Joe and me. Their dad had lots of money and we could never figure out whether they were into the mafia or what. They had lots of parties and lots of cars would be there, real late at night. I actually believe that when Mr. and Mrs. Penland were getting their divorce that the kids lived there with no supervision for a year at least. I saw lots of cops that year. Jose Rafols lived down the street and came to play with us all the time. He was Cuban and we thought it was really cool that he spoke Spanish at his house. There were other boys that lived up the street like Scott Beacham who hit me in the eye one time and called me a faggot. By the way, Scott’s a good friend now. Its funny how time changes stuff. There was Jeff Bunton who I really liked a lot, but didn’t know very well. There was Lyn Cleary. Everybody was scared of Lyn. He was older. He had the baddest bike on the street. He had a candy apple red 3 speed Apple Crate Schwin Stingray bicycle. He could ride a wheelie on that thing for days it seemed. It was with effortless precision that he did it too. It was incredible to watch. He would ride that thing from one end of the street to the other. We were all just green with envy.
Behind our house was the world as I knew it. Between our house and Joe Boggs’ for ½ a mile stood 150 acres of hardwood trees. It was the “woods” as we called it. I lived out most of my childhood among the oaks and the poplars. Great fierce wars were fought there. Battles that were full of heroes and great escapes. One of my best friends, Dirk and I used to ramble through those woods with reckless abandon knocking down all the older dead trees. It made us feels so powerful to send them crashing down. Dirk and I had gotten involved in fantasy games and my role, being a bigger kid was to always play the Viking or the muscle of the group. Dirk was always the sorcerer or the elf. Elves as described in fantasy realms were not the wimpy little creatures that we think of, they were majestic and wonderfully talented with swords.
The “woods” also were used for our off road tracks. Joe’s older brother David built the world’s most awesome go-kart. These were the days before the advent of 4 wheelers and three wheelers. David had this double welded square tube frame go-kart made. I remember the day that it arrived. We all stood around it like it was a Winston Cup machine. We oohed and ahhed over the thing for hours dreaming of the times that we’d be free to ride that thing. There was tons of work to be done on it. It should be noted that we were huge race car fans, although I never even saw a race until I was in my twenties. On Sunday afternoons we used sit in Charlie Boggs’ 63 TR3 and listen to am radio coverage of the races. We all used to want to be Buddy Baker. I think I liked him because he had the same initials as me.
We got a 5 hp Briggs and Stratton lawnmower motor and a David bought a torque converter from some magazine. It was one of those magazines that had all black and white pictures of parts and cool stuff that boys knew that they really wanted. We dreamed and worked, but mostly dreamed. In our minds we had visions of the little Hot Wheels cars that we played with; visions of Hemi engines and Holly 4 barrel carburetors. We made car noises and mimic how our cars would sound and how fast they’d go as we’d rebuild the motors in them to make them burn rubber. I remember the first day that the go cart rolled under power the first time. David put some golf cart tires on that thing. It looked different than anything around. Most go karts were low to the ground, but this sat up high. It was awesome and fast, I mean dangerous fast. It was so fast that mom banned me and Stevie from riding the thing. That never stopped us, we just did it out of sight of our house.
Those days were some of the best of my life. I remember the hope and the excitement with each new day. Life’s harsh realities had not crashed in on me. Just the other night I sat with Thomas, one of my oldest and dearest friends, and we laughed and carried on about childhood. We remembered people as children. The people we know today, whose lives are now marred by alcoholism, divorce, sickness and unhappiness. We are not the people that we used to be. John Eldredge in his book “The Sacred Romance” shares from his heart about being free in his childhood. As you who read this, maybe a teenager, maybe an adult, think of your childhood. Maybe your childhood never happened due to death or maybe you had one, but the “arrows” of life have just inflicted so much scar tissue on your heart that to feel again would be too dangerous. I want to encourage you to search back now. It may be like Indiana Jones creeping through an old mausoleum full of cob-webs and God knows what, but the treasure waits through here. I’m convinced of that.
I took a short run tonight through the woods. It was a hard day today, not anything particularly hard, just a day that I was engaged in warfare of the spirit. I was drained. I needed to be in the woods today. I’ve got a State Park across the street from my apartment. It may be the only thing that has kept me connected while being deployed here. I saw a young boy, red haired playing in the woods by himself. He was kicking trees and defeating some menace I’m sure of it. I looked at him right in the eye as I ran past. God reminded me right then and there, that was me. And in many ways, still is. I’m still the red headed kid that God gave dreams to. I’ve seen many of them fulfilled, but many are still to go. But I still dream, longing for the closeness of God and His power and glory to be displayed. I still long to be a part of something bigger than me and my orbit. I’m grateful this is the life that God has called me to. I’m grateful for a run in the woods that brought the memory back.