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A bike, a dog, and a pocketknife

By Jefferson Weaver

I had two devices demanding attention, an aching leg, and a car whose stubbornness challenged Mabel the Donkey. I was dramatically late for work, and the only thing in the mailbox was a rightfully insistent demand that a bill be paid. The dogs and cats were behaving as they usually do when my wife is gone, which is to say they were a mob of surly, mournful, lonely, hungry, demanding, destructive toddlers. I’d missed another chance to go hunting, due to family and work obligations. Sleep had been lacking because my heart was heavy for a half-dozen folks for whom I could do nothing but pray, but who would likely be grateful to trade circumstances with me.

I was grumpy, to say the least, and I am ashamed to say I was polishing my problems instead of counting my blessings when I saw the old ribbon.

It’s a blue ribbon my dog Dudley and I won, 40-plus years ago. He was best in show for obedience, appearance and basically being the best danged dog ever, which Dudley was.

I paused and thought about how good we had it when we were kids.

Of course, time burnishes the tarnish and buffs out the bumps of how things were versus how we remember them to have been, but I will stand solid that we didn’t appreciate how good many of us had it when we were kids, as I am sure many children today have a similarly jaded view – perhaps even moreso, since we didn’t have many of the things society expects every kid to have in abundance, regardless of their parents’ finances.

I had a good dog, a bike, a couple fishing rods, a pocketknife, a shotgun and a .22 rifle. When freedom was granted by our prison guards at school, I raced for home, changed from “good” jeans and shirt to attire of lesser repute, and with my dog running beside me, headed out to earn pocket money, tease a bream or catfish from a pond, match wits with whatever was in season with a shotgun carefully emptied and its case strapped to my handlebars, or just to do whatever it was we kids did that kept us out until time for supper. During the glory days of summer, we would dash home, eat as rapidly as our mothers would allow, then dash back out to chase lightning bugs and bullfrogs until the sun set lazily across the river and telephones started tracking us from one house to another. The search method involved not GPS or locater apps or social media or text messages, but parents who called on landlines, passing the time of day with other parents and asking, politely, to send us home to our respective roosts.

I had friends who I met at their homes or after school or at one of the stores or at the bell in the Methodist church yard (yes, we rang it sometimes and ran).

A necktie was only expected on Sunday, or during an auspicious occasion like a big social event, picture day at school, funerals, and weddings (which any wise 12-year-old boy avoided).

There was never any question about what was for supper, nor was there any question that meals were eaten as a family; a place was still set for absent members of the household, even when we didn’t know what time the Old Man would get home from work, or when Mother had a rare obligation that occurred during that time. The television wasn’t on during evening meals, at least not until I was almost out high school. We didn’t have air conditioning at home, but we had big fans that lulled us to sleep and confused the sole mosquito that managed to slip through a screen. The fans would also mask the music from a clandestine radio whose volume was turned down, but not off, in total defiance of maternal instructions to go to sleep.

Nothing was ever as ideal as we like to think, of course; our parents worked hard to give us what they could, and imparted what they hoped would help us to be good grownups when it became our time to pay the bills and wrangle the worries.

But for just a half-moment the other morning – all I could spare, really – I smiled at the thought of once again being a kid with a bike, a dog and a pocketknife, and not a care in the world.

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