Friday, March 25, 2005

If Wishes Were Horses...

At odd unexpected times I am both appalled and astonished at the difference between my own childhood, and that of my four daughters. Just the other day I caught an old episode of "Leave It To Beaver", an unintentional result of channel surfing. Beaver and his buddy, Larry Mondello, were spending their Saturday roaming the neighborhood, taking in the little boy delights of watching road construction and the filling of the community swimming pool. Ward and June were doing their thing at home with nary a worried frown in sight ( at least until the Beaver seemingly forgot a birthday party he was to attend). What a difference twenty-five years can make. I suppose it should come as no surprise; put another way, twenty-five years does constitute a quarter century.

While I was born in Cowtown, my grammar school years were spent in three separate small towns. Perhaps my father, a policeman at the time of our first move, perceived the toughness of the city and wanted something else for my brother and me. For whatever the reason, the chance to be a country kid was a gift greater than I ever realized until many years later.

Memory can be selective and misleading, but my recollections are fond: long summer days spent exploring dusty caliche roads on bicycles, searching for discarded pop bottles in the tall sharp blades of johnson grass - manna from heaven for a late afternoon Fudgesicle washed down with Delaware Punch; forts and playhouses constructed in trees and deep gullies, adorned with treasures from a rancher's pasture dump; sleeping in the back of a pickup truck, a canopy of Big Dipper and Orion for nightime viewing; well houses with dark cobwebby corners and a scent of old kerosene, made more ghostly by the washed and starched Levi's drying on medievel-looking wire stretchers hanging overhead; scary stories about the crumbling old house at the end of a rare paved street, birds' nests poking out from under the rotted eaves and the remains of tattered and yellowed lace curtains billowing out of a broken upstair's window, the taunting "I double dare you's" exchanged in bravado. Life was not spent indoors huddled around electronics, or sequestered inside a climate controlled shopping mall. While our home had a small television, my brother and I seldom spent much time watching, it's longest use occurring when we were sick with the measles or mumps - childhood illnesses not experienced now for many years thanks to modern innoculations.

My children's Wonder Bread years were quite different, their youth spent more supervised and controlled by the necessity of big city living. Sure, they were trotted out to the zoo, the Nature Center and occasional swimming and fishing in the lake, but it was all so contrived and "safe" as were the childhoods of their peers. Sesame Street and Mister Rogers were great educational tools but poor substitutes for childhood adventure that molds character and imbues self reliance.

I understand about the dangers that have beset our small towns and cities since my last ride down a steep hill on a bicycle with "no hands" and the necessity of protecting our children. I just wished I could have given my own daughters a chance to live a little more like Beaver and less as prisoners of an urban jungle.

"If wishes were horses"
Tis a thought I well know
"Beggars would ride"
But where would they go?
To sun-speckled pools
The dappled mares go
They race up high mountains
To dance in the snow

"If wishes were horses"
I know where I'd ride
For a fortnight I'd travel
To be by your side
I'd crash through your office
"On the twenty-first floor?"
Lift you up to the saddle
And race out the door

And then up the walls of the world
We would race
Laughing and singing
Feel the wind in your face?
Through star-studded meadows
Our stallion he flys
And we'd stop 'neath an elm tree
And I'd gaze in your eyes

"If wishes were horses"
They are love, they are!
"Beggars would ride"
So let's head for the stars


Ronni Bennett said...

I'm just catching up here from the past week. I love it when you "Texas history blog."

Excellent description of your childhood and it brought back a lot my own memories: downhill biking with no hands, Delaware Punch, Fudgecicles, big, empty, scary houses, etc.

But what's a caliche road?

Bill said...

The clothes being dried outside on the line from the house to the garage was neat.

Anonymous said...

kuh leechie. Crushed limestone topping on dirt roads.

Hokule'a said...

You brought back a few memories for me too, I grew up in Los Angeles suburbia and there was a small twon feel to the town I grew up in Not any more its horrible and that is one reason we are looking at your fair state!