I am afraid I don’t remember much about my earlier years, so some of these episodes will come from conversations with my brothers, which I hope are reliable.
I remember we lived on a farm on a gravel road close to the small town of Littleport. I remember a tiny grocery store that also served as the post office. I believe Bud Liddy owned the store. Whenever Bud saw me, he reminded me of a time I encountered a large bull snake, and I apparently asked Bud, “Do you think he is afraid of me?” Bud thought what I said was funny, but I failed to see the humor in it.
Littleport also had three taverns, which appeared to be busy all the time. Littleport also had a softball field where my Dad and Uncle Kenny played. I remember retrieving the softballs hit out of play and returning them to the concession stand where I received a nickel for each one. I would race with the other kids to get to the ball first. Maybe, that is where I learned it was better to be in first place and not second place. Second place didn’t get the nickel.
I was the fifth son of our family, and my youngest brother Terry was seven years older than me. My parents were pretty old when I came around, and I think my Mom was pretty worn out from my four older brothers, so she had a hard time keeping track of me. I took off one time down the gravel road heading towards Littleport. I’d gone quite a distance when a car saw me and figured correctly that I was heading away instead of heading to where I was supposed to be. They put me in the car and headed in the direction I was coming from and took me to the first house they came to which was ours.
Later, I had a collie named Shep that was my constant companion. One day, I tried to ride Shep like a horse, and he bit me to show his displeasure. I never wanted to ride him again. When I was five, we moved to another farm by Strawberry Point. The day we moved Shep ran away, and we never found him. Very sad day for me.
We had other dogs too. Two puppies were born, and I named them Ketchup and Mustard. The dogs and kittens we had followed me when I went on my unauthorized excursions in the fields on our farm. I remember crossing a creek, and my companions would cross with me, even the kittens.
We had a large barn where we stored our hay bales. On the second floor of the barn, someone had installed a basketball hoop. I remember climbing up to the second floor and watching my older brothers play basketball. I would sit on the hay bales wishing I could play, but I was too little.
There was a large field across the gravel road by our place that served as the perfect place to sled down a steep hill in the wintertime. We had an old rickety wooden sled that my brothers would slide down that hill. Toward the bottom of the hill, you would have to turn the sled to the right to continue down the driveway and then stop. If you went straight, you would slide into the barbed-wire fence that kept the cows in place. I begged my brothers to let me try, and they finally relented. They reminded me to turn the sled to the right toward the bottom. They also said if I could not turn the sled, just fall off and you will eventually stop before you get to the barbed wire. I saw how much fun they had, so I was pretty excited to go down that big hill. I got on the sled head first so I could steer it and away I went. Maybe because I was so small, it seemed I went faster than they did. When I got toward the bottom of the hill, I tried to steer the sled, but I was not strong enough to make it turn. Instead of falling off like they said, I continued straight heading for the fence. Fortunately, because I was so small, I slid underneath the fence and fell to the ditch below, breaking the sled. I never went down that hill again.