Search This Blog

Showing posts with label childhood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label childhood. Show all posts

Saturday, May 27, 2023

The Time I Set A Chair On Fire

This is a memory that will stick with me the rest of my life!

The year, 1977 and I remember this time so vividly. I guess because it was such a traumatic event as a young child. I was four years old. One of my favorite things to do next to playing with my toys was watching old reruns of The Carol Burnett Show. I didn’t know they were playing reruns. I just enjoyed watching the comedic skits.

One particular episode I found hilarious was when Tim Conway had a pig nose on and was oinking. I don’t know why I would laugh so hard but I did. My mother would come in the living room and ask why I was laughing so hard. All I could do was point and laugh at the television. I couldn’t talk from laughing.

One day I was watching the comedic-variety show and my mother said it was nap time. I just couldn’t miss the episode so I begged and begged to stay awake. She finally gave in and said I could watch just as long as I stayed really quite. I was told to stay in front of the TV.

My baby sister had just been born not too long previous to that time and it was important to my mother to give her a good nap. I’m sure she was ready for a nap herself because of having a four year old boy and a new born daughter.

I really did enjoy the show.

After the episode was over I became bored. I knew I had to stay in front of the television and was not allowed to leave the living room.

I looked around for something to do but I wasn’t interested in the toy I had at the moment. My parents were smokers at the time and I found myself playing in the ashtray. The ashes and the squished cigarette butts soon lost my interest. I noticed the Bic lighter by the ashtray and promptly picked it up with my small hand, looked around to see if anyone was in the room, and began to flick it.

I wasn’t successful the first few times but I had carefully watched my parents make it work many times before. I knew if they could do it, then so could I.

It seemed so big in my hand and it hurt my little thumb as I rolled the flint wheel. It was almost unbearable. After some strikes, the flame finally held. I was elated! I tried it again and again. I had mastered the art just like my parents. My thumb was begging me to quit.

I gave the old boy a rest while still grasping the lighter in my hand. Looking around the room my eyes rested on an old chair in the corner. The chair was ancient and I knew it because it had an oder like must or mold. It reeked of antiqueness. 

It had fringe lining the bottom of the seat. I saw a single piece of fringe reaching for the floor and seemed to actually call to my four year old ears. “Come to me Robbie, come to me.”

Like a dart I was there, eye to eye with this single little string. Then like an epiphany, I knew I was born to create a single moment of dancing between the lighter I held and the tiny string. I was a match maker!

I carefully lifted the lighter in my hand and with a stroke, the flame appeared. I held the button down hard and silently said fair well to the lonely string. Then I did it! I sent that little fella to it’s eternity.

I never saw something disappear so fast in my whole four years. It was gone! But it wouldn’t go alone. It seemed to want to take a few more friends with it as it flew away.

The other obedient fringe grabbed the little flame and began to pass it one to the next. All I could do was watch the flame spread. What do I do? I have to blow it out!

I sucked in some air and gave it a good blow. The flame just spread even more. Try again! It got worse!

Wind would not do its magic to extinguish the flame. I thought I was a smart four year old boy and quickly searched my mind for what to do. I had it finally. An idea so ingenious that if employed no one would ever know I set the old chair on fire.

It was water! I remember from preschool the firetruck coming and the whole class got to go outside and see. The firemen in their uniforms extended the ladder on the truck to the heavens. I imagined myself climbing to the top.

The heroes showed us the truck and how it worked. How it hooked up to the fire hydrant and pumped the flood to put out fires. I dreamed of being a hero and saving lives.

Well here was my chance.

I ran down the long hall, or it seemed long to me, and skittered across the black and white kitchen tiles to the sink. That’s where the water was. I couldn’t reach the sink to turn it on and then I knew I needed a chair. I ran to the table and with all I had, I pushed a kitchen chair to the sink.

I climbed up on the chair and filled it full of water. I had it! That’s what firemen need to put out a fire and I was on my way to victory.

Running through the swinging kitchen door and down the hallway, I left a trail of water. By the time I got back to the old chair I couldn’t believe my eyes.

The entire ancient throne was engulfed with flames that seemed to laugh at me. Thick smoke covered the ceiling out of view and it rose forever.

I threw the little water I had on the fire. It wasn’t enough. I went back for more. That for sure wasn’t enough. The fire was worse.

So what did this fireman do? I ran back toward the kitchen, through the swinging door and on to the back of the house behind my bed. I was hoping it would just disappear.

Quickly smoke had filled the house and caused my baby sister to cough. Her cough made my mother wake up and she ran to the living room where she saw the old chair on fire.

She was a firewoman! She got a large pitcher and filled it to the brim with water. Making several quick trips, the fire was finally out. She had to open the door and windows to let all the smoke out.

The old chair was no more and left soot from the fire on the wall. I don’t know what happened to the old chair. I think it was probably a good surprise for the garbage man that week.

My mother told me to stay in my bed and to wait for my father to get home. I knew she was so mad she would kill me if she laid hands on me. I wished she would so maybe my father wouldn’t get hold of me. I knew it was coming. I was going to die like the old chair. I was terrified and just cried in my bed until I fell asleep.

Next I knew, my blurry eyes opened to my father saying my name. “Wake up!” There he was in his camouflage outfit. He was in the military and towered over me like a general.

Fear shot through me. I could hear him talking but I couldn’t understand. I was so afraid and I was just thinking how I didn’t want to die. The adrenaline stung my body and my heart pounded. At any moment he was going to grab me by the arm, swing me over like a rag, and give me a spanking I knew would be my last.

He didn’t do that. Probably because I had forgotten all about the beating my mother gave me before I went to sleep. It was shock that hid the memory of my mom’s beating.

He had the lighter in his hand and just raised it up in front of his face. He said “Look at this.” Then he flicked the lighter and I saw the familiar flame. While it burned in his hand he said, “This little fire could have killed you, your mother, and your little sister. Would you want that?”

I said “No.”

I can’t remember what he said to me after that. I just remember it being so threatening I must have buried it in the deep darkness of my little mind. I also remember the relief of him not spanking me.

To this day, just about every time I flick a lighter, that memory flashes through my mind at the speed of light or faster. Almost as fast as that little string disappeared.

#fire #childhood #memories #truestory

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Fishing With Grandma

Thinking of my grandma today. Her name was Wilma. Wilma Ward. That was her married name. My grandfather, Bill misses her badly and right now he is 93 years old. He still drives.

I spent a lot of time with my grandparents when I was a kid. During the 80’s. My mom’s parents.

One memory I have of my grandma when I was young was when we would go fishing together.

She was an incredible lady. She gave me a Bible she owned before she passed on. In the first few blank pages of the Bible she showed me I drew a couple of circles when I was only a few years old. In one circle I drew eyes and a smile.

This was amusing to me. She showed me this when I was an adult. That’s when she gave me her Bible. I was touched by the gesture. She said she liked what I drew. I secretly felt bad I marked in her Bible and apologized for what I did.

The spine of the old sacred Bible is cracked from the years of use and seems brittle. I thought to have it rebound but I think I’ll keep it that way. I store it in a cigar humidor I don’t use anymore. It fits perfectly. I take it out and look at it once in a while.

I was completely spoiled to great fishing as a child on my grandparents farm.

I remember her saying, “Son! Let’s go down to the lake and go fishing.” She said she liked fishing and even if she didn’t get a bite it made her feel better. It calmed her she said. I didn’t understand the depth of what she meant then but now I do.

There’s something primal about the outdoors. It feels right. It’s like it’s hardwired into the human DNA. You know the feeling when it feels right.

There was a worn path to the lake from many trips. She would tell me not to brush up against anything green so we would avoid any ticks. I always came back loaded with ticks no matter how hard I tried. It always ended with a warm bath she made for me afterward. She put one small cap of PineSol in my baths to wash away tons of tiny “seed ticks” that would cover my legs. It seemed to work and I liked the smell of the cleaning solution on my skin.

We would get to the lake and pop open the tackle box.

I call it a lake because it seemed so huge to me as a child. She called it “the lake” too. It actually had an island in the middle of it. While fishing I would daydream of being on that little island. Oh what it would be like! Fishing from the bank there.

When I was four years old my grandparents made the lake. A big man in overalls came with a bulldozer and pushed the earth into shape. I was amazed!

He let me ride on the dozer with him. He gave me hard candy from his pocket. I don’t remember the flavor of candy exactly but I’ll never forget the feeling.

The earth was so red and rocky. How would we get water in there? Grandma said “Rain son.”

I tried to imagine. At first I thought they would stretch the well house hose to the lake and turn it on until it filled.

It wasn’t to long and the lake was full. It couldn’t drink another drop. Before it was full, grandma would walk to the lake to see the waterline after each rain. Once it was full as she like she told my grandpa to order fish. They stocked it full of Crappie, Bass, Blue Gill, Catfish, and Perch. They also put a few Carp in there. They weren’t for eating. They were for the moss they said and they grew to at least three foot long. I heard tales of grandma “snagging” one, and it broke her line like you could snap a spiders web.

There was a small spillway from the edge of the lake. It carved a beautiful little waterfall right into the rock. I played in the tiny spillway sometimes while grandma fished. Sometimes I would see tadpoles, crawfish, and even baby catfish that traveled their way from the lake.

It’s like a dream today. Where did that time go? I go back there sometimes in my mind. It feels good to visit.

Now when I say I was spoiled to fishing in the lake I mean to explain that they allowed no one but family to fish there. It was stocked full and grandma would often take a five gallon bucket of fish food and throw it in, one handful at a time. It was a frenzy. The fish went wild. It was a buffet.

It was nothing for me to cast a line and pull in a five pound bass or a giant bull catfish. Most of the time we would throw them back in to freedom. When the weekend came and grandma wanted fish, we would load our stringers.

It was a feast! I cleaned many fish with grandma and grandpa. She made homemade hush puppies.

How could I forget fishing with grandma. When she fished she glowed.


Saturday, May 20, 2023

The Dancing Chicken Machine True Story - A Great Metaphor


I am a Generation X'er and grew up in the seventies, and eighties. One day my mom said we were going to the county fair. At the time I lived in East Texas. Needless to say my younger sister and I were very excited. I went to bed thinking about cotton candy and corndogs. I thought about all the rides I would attempt with bravery. Hopefully, they wouldn't make me sick after taking a whirl.

The county fair was your average fair. Food carts were set up, and all the odors in the air did nothing but excite me. Burning oil and rubber from the rides, a whiff of popcorn, funnel cakes, and corndogs mingled with the sweet smell of cotton candy was something I would wear home with me.

The people who operated the rides, "carnies" as they were called, always had a look about them that was both exhausting and exciting at the same time. They would yell out for riders to dare the adventure and bark at those who didn't follow safety rules. I always wondered what their lives were like working and traveling from one town to the next. Where did they sleep? Did they eat the fair food all the time? Maybe they ran to the local fast-food restaurant and grabbed a cheap meal.

When we finally arrived at the fair I couldn't get out of the car fast enough. I was told to stay close to my mother and it was torture to me because all I wanted to do is run and look at all of the sights only to stop briefly at each ride or food booth to fulfill the lust of my young eyes. On lucky occasions my mother had enough money to purchase an "all ride" bracelet that allowed me to ride any ride I wanted as many times as I could handle. On this trip, we only had a limited amount of tickets.

At the fair, there were tents set up in a row that featured various attractions like the BIGGEST COW IN THE WORLD or some drunk carnie that was dubbed THE HUMAN PIN CUSHION. The tent doors were closed but each time someone would enter or exit I would do my best to peek inside and discover what the fuss what all about. Try to see if I could make some confirmation about what was advertised by the tent entrance.

My step-father was a hunter and entered a turkey shoot contest. He had to hit a bullseye using a compound hunting bow and would win a frozen turkey. He felt it was worth the entrance fee but didn't win. No turkey for us that night. I could tell he was disappointed the same as my mother. Tickets weren't used to enter that shooting contest. Only cash was accepted. I was oblivious to the fact his loss meant he might not get that extra soda during his next work week. 

There was one giant tent that was free to go in and we all went inside as a family. I saw at least twenty different vending machines that were set up in a row. I quickly figured out why it was free to enter. Each machine was a little show you had to pump quarters into. It was a trick and we fell for it. I asked my mom if I could have some quarters from her purse. She dug in and pulled out a handful of change. I spied exactly what I needed. She sifted through the change and handed me three beautiful quarters. I ran as fast as I could to the machine I wanted to feed.

The machine I chose was one called THE DANCING CHICKEN and I was desperate to watch this fowl entertain me. I quickly pushed three coins into the machine. I was tingling with excitement. I peered through the glass of the machine and noticed a tiny piano in the corner. What was going to happen? Was the chicken going to come out and actually play me a song for the mere price of seventy-five cents? Would it be wearing a hat or a costume? I couldn't wait to find out.

Music began to play as soon as I heard the kerplunk of my coins. Over to the side of the machine was a little door that slid open. While the music was playing I saw a little red hen run out and quickly stop at the center of the machine. She was facing me and kicking her legs one after the other while the music played. I was in fact witnessing THE DANCING CHICKEN. It was real and the machine sign didn't deceive me. Very quickly the music stopped, and a few pieces of corn fell into a small dish by the door she ran from. She ran to the dish, gobbled the corn up, and jetted back inside the little room she nested in. The door slammed shut and the music stopped. That was it. I wanted to see the show again but that was all the money I had. I knew my mother wouldn't pull a magic pile of change from her purse to give me another dancing chicken show. I wondered if the little red hen anticipated the next few pieces of corn. I'm sure she certainly did. I would if I were a chicken in that show.

Today there are no more vending machines with animals in them ready to perform for a few pieces of food. I am sure the chicken was well fed and watered each day or that's what I hoped was the reality of the situation. Animal rights groups have made such shows a thing of the past. 

Years have passed and I have never forgotten THE DANCING CHICKEN I witnessed. I have recalled that childhood memory many times and it always brings me a good feeling. You know, one of those memories that you can never forget. This is one of those.

Now that I am a grown man and learned many lessons, I have made connections and understandings about that experience. I have given it a lot of thought and discovered some things about life and business that can connect to the little red hen who is no doubt past the plate to another dancer.

Now what I am going to share here is no disrespect to anyone or any position in life. It is merely an observation and my intention is to open you up to possibilities and opportunities in your life. If anything, I hope you find my true story a little humorous. Maybe you will leave a comment below and let me know what you think?

I have often thought about that dancing chicken while working various jobs. I have even compared myself to that chicken. I didn't view my job as a negative thing. I would get up every day, head to work, and do my little dance. At the end of the week, when the show was over I would get my few pieces of corn and run back home. I had my paycheck and was happy to get it. I had a purpose and it was fulfilling. I couldn't wait for the next few pieces of corn. Do you get the idea? Most people are just like that little dancing chicken and go through the motions just for a little bit of money each week. Most wish they had a few more pieces of corn to enjoy or share with others.

Please don't misunderstand me. I am not insulting anyone for just having a job and trying to make ends meet. My current job is more than just a job to me. I've done it most of my life and each job has taught me many things. I am just sharing my thoughts on mindset. Right now I work at a great job and get to help create beautiful products. I'm proud of that.

Let's go a little further in this thought process.

I didn't have the extra seventy-five cents to see the chicken again but I have thought about the person who owned all those machines with performing animals in them. I wonder if he or she had plenty of quarters. Surely they did because we were not the only family in the giant tent pushing quarters in machines. So that led me to another thought. I needed a dancing chicken machine! Then I could have plenty of quarters.

Here's the idea. When we go to a job we are like the dancing chicken, but what if you had your own machine? This is an entrepreneurial thought but instead of making just a little money, what if you had a business of your own that provided a great product or service to the public? You would no doubt reap the benefits of something like that.

Not everyone is a business person with the ambition of being an entrepreneur. That's ok and if you are content doing that then keep doing that to the best of your ability. I applaud you for doing what makes you happy and is rewarding. It takes time to learn the business and how to operate it. The good thing is we have the Internet today and unlimited amounts of useful information can help you. It is a learning process, and if you begin on the business journey you will make mistakes. If you completely fail you can always start another venture. You will take with you priceless business experience that will only help you succeed with something else. 

What hobbies do you have? Did you know that you can turn a hobby or an interest into a business? Just think about it. Do others enjoy the same hobby you have? They surely do. Then you can ask yourself how you can serve others that have the same hobby. Begin by asking what problems they have and coming up with a solution to their problem. Then go serve them by providing a product or service. They will thank you for it and gladly give you money in return. 

I hope my little story was fun to read, and you hopefully were entertained. Maybe even got a little inspiration from it to begin your own journey. I would love to hear from you about this idea.

Now, go get yourself a DANCING CHICKEN machine! That is if you are so inclined.

Friday, May 19, 2023

The Stallion In My Dreams - My Horse


When you are a child it is the big things that stand out in memory. The earliest memories are like a dream. 

My mom gave birth to me when she was just seventeen years old. Can you imagine how difficult it must be as a parent to have your young daughter become a mother?

Mom said she had never heard my grandpa cry like that before. She said he sobbed. I’m sure it was difficult for her to see and hear. Maybe she didn’t even grasp how soul crushing it was for him.

As a man, and a father of three daughters, I can say there is something so special about a daughters.

You see this beautiful little soul come into the world. Her tiny hands. Her adorable little feet. The sound her cry makes your heart weep. You want to keep her warm, fed, and close to you at all times. 

You see her grow into a toddler, a little girl, a young lady.

You work everyday thinking only of her happiness. When you come home from work she comes running into your arms like she has done so many times before. She says “I love you Daddy!” You tell her you love her too and try to keep a tear from forming because you’re a man. Men are suppose to be tough they say.

You would give your very life if it meant preserving hers. She’s this beautiful female that carry’s your blood in her heart.

You’ve done all you can do up to this point to protect, and safeguard her from the evils of this world. She’s not even fully grown into a woman. Then you are told that your baby girl is going to have a baby. The shock! She was just born it seems. Where did my little girl go? Who took her away from me? What will happen to my daughter? I tried my best to keep her safe! I’ve failed! I’m a terrible father! How could I let this happen to her. It’s all my fault! I should’ve been better!

He weeps.

Time passes, and as many young grandparents do, they help raise their first grandchild. They give their little grandson so much love and provide him happiness.

My grandparents lived on many acres in Southwest Missouri. They owned beef cattle that grazed the property they had to check often. There was a “dump” they called it. It was a giant ditch in the ground, hidden from view by those who might drive down the gravel road grandma and grandpa lived on. In the dump there was old fence wire, tires, and other various objects cast away.

Among the forgotten items I spied an old rocking horse that was free of its rusty frame with springs. I was with my grandparents at the dump. I saw the horse on its side and it begged me to set it free.

Come nap time, I snuggled with the old plastic stallion in grandma’s bed. I was the happiest two year old. Grandpa protested the old horse maybe because it took his side of the bed. Grandma wouldn’t see me part from my new best friend.

Grandpa tried to be part of the nap as best he could. I know the horse didn’t like him much. It kept kicking him in the back. I giggled and fell asleep.

In my dreams I still ride that stallion. There, I am free. 

paid ad

Popular Posts