Monday, November 24, 2014

Forever A Hillbilly: The Pork and Beans Trips - Conclusion

Forever A Hillbilly: The Pork and Beans Trips - Conclusion:      My next trip was toward Okefenokee Swamp on the Georgia-Florida border. It is simply a spot where the Swanee River spreads out very...

The Pork and Beans Trips - Conclusion

     My next trip was toward Okefenokee Swamp on the Georgia-Florida border. It is simply a spot where the Swanee River spreads out very, very wide, fifty miles or so, and is still one of the true remaining wild places in the United States. It was not successfully crossed by the white man until up in the 1930's. Alligators abound, by the thousand, and it takes three days or so to paddle across in a canoe. Raised platforms have been placed about a day's travel apart, to avoid having to sleep right down in among the gators. I had always wanted to paddle across it, but never could find anyone to go with me, and one can't do it alone. Against the rules.
     I headed out, again in my little red truck. I got to Tallahassee the first day, It was raining hard, and that little bit of mud to put a tent up on was only $10 less than a cheap room, so I violated one of my rules that night. I arrived at Mark Twain State Park, on a peninsula well out in the swamp. Tons of wildlife to photograph. I rented a canoe the next day and paddled far out into the swamp and got some really good gator shots. If I knew then what I've since learned, I would not have gotten quite so close. I have heard they can outrun a horse for 30 feet, but I really didn't believe it until I saw one do it, going after a bird, at Aransas, on the Texas Gulf Coast. They can really come up on those toes and fly! I got one pic of a big mama gator sitting on her nest, and as I snapped the shot, I saw movement above her. When I got the pic back, there was a baby gator crawling over her head. I've been back to Okefenokee several times since, and I always see lots of wildlife, and called up lots of foxes.
     On the way back, I found a pure white squirrel, totally beautiful. I dropped down to the Florida gulf coast to camp, and while I was cooking supper, sun still up, the raccoons were already coming in for supper. I sat up a photo session after dark, heated some leftover soup up in a skillet, and they flogged me. I got eight of them in one photo. One particular coon constantly kept stalking me, coming real close. Not sure exactly what his intentions were, but I finally got up off the ground, and ran him off.
     For my next trip, I decided to drive totally around the border of Texas, with Big Bend National Park my main goal. I spent the first night, again, at the Witchita Mountains, then drove down the western edge of Texas the next day. My old trucks never seem to keep the A/C working, and this one was no exception. I about burned up. West Texas is different. I passed the opening gate to a ranch, with a dim trail going off across desert out of sight. The sign said, “so and so ranch, 38 miles.” Distances are very great in west Texas. Telephone poles were about head high, consisting of little scraps of limbs. Just work with what you've got. I topped off my gasoline every time I passed a rare station. Distances were the same in Big bend, 20 miles plus from the entrance to the Visitor's Center. When I started in the building, a big roadrunner was leaning up against the building, in a small bit of shade, tongue hanging out. It WAS hot that day. I started to go back for my camera, then I thought, I'll see lots more. I never saw another that close. There is a campground on the far south side of Big Bend, right along the Rio Grande, but it was deserted, and it didn't have a good feel about it, right on the border. The major campground is up in the mountains, so I chose it. Lots of desert wildlife around up in those mountains.
     Javelinas, or Collared Peccarys, were plentiful. Stalking a large group, I came upon a large male, very close, and It made him mad. His hair went straight up, and I snapped a photo, not totally sharp, as I was getting out of there. Texans tell me, they will even attack a man on a horse, as well as on foot, and those sharp tusks can cut a man or a dog up real good.
     Heading east along the Mexican border, I got to a large State Park just after they had closed down for the day, and I left early the next morning, so I never saw another human. The Jackrabbits were plentiful, though, and I got my best close up Jackrabbit photos at sundown.
     If anyone ever asks you, how far it is around the Border of Texas, it's about 2200 miles, including a few side trips.
     I did several other other Pork and Beans trips, mostly in the 1990' s. I always scheduled  these when Barbara was otherwise entertained, in some fashion. The most recent of these involved her going with her sisters Sugar and Frances, along with France's husband, Bill. They went on a cruise to Hawaii and on to Fanning Island, during which Barbara completely lost half her birthday. The ship anchored offshore on her birthday, the launch to the island carried her across the International Date line into another day, then came back to what was left of her birthday that night. I went on a  trip into the Grand Teton Range, and spent several days mostly just looking at my favorite view in America. As always, in my cute little red truck.
     When the cruising crew returned, the sisters told me right off, “Bill slept on top of Barbara every night while we were at sea.” That caused a momentary wrinkling of my brow, until Bill said, “I prefer to say, I slept ABOVE Barbara. Bill had the top bunk.

     Actually, I saved us a lot of money with my trips. I never spent as much as I would have had I went along on that cruise, nor did I gain as much weight. And, I was happy, in the wilderness, plus Barbara was always happy to see me when I got back, and likewise. A win-win situation. I finally decided, I had photographed, in some fashion, about every Animal I was likely to find in America. But if one of those long, super strong digital lenses ever falls into my lap, I think I will start them all over again, if Barbara is agreeable to that.. My limited lens at that time limited my photos, And, after all, I have always been only a “pretend photographer.” I'm not like Barbara or Jane Dunn. But, I was out there, doing what I love to do, in the wilderness. My Pork and Beans Photo Album still lies on our coffee table. But, actually, I'm about the only one to ever look at it. But every picture, even the bad ones, bring about memories of a very special time in my life. I did sell one, a picture of the white squirrel. So, I guess actually, I am a professional Wildlife Photographer. That title and a dollar will buy me a burger at McDonald's.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Forever A Hillbilly: Part Two - The Pork and Beans Trips

Forever A Hillbilly: Part Two - The Pork and Beans Trips:      After our children were grown and gone, I planned my first real Pork and Beans trip. Barbara's sister planned a car trip ...

Part Two - The Pork and Beans Trips

     After our children were grown and gone, I planned my first real Pork and Beans trip. Barbara's sister planned a car trip to New England, six days, and they wanted Barbara to go along. This situation was perfect. I slept as late as possible the day I left, ten AM. I headed out for Rocky Mountain National Park. Actually, I just wanted to get as close to it as I could that day, never intending to drive the whole way, but that's the way it turned out. Those Kansas plains just offered few camping spots while thunderstorms rolled through. Driving through a small town in Oklahoma late that afternoon, I pulled over to study my map. I noticed in my rear view mirror that a truck pulled up behind, and an angry looking man got out, walked up to my window. “Somebody driving a truck just like yours just shot out my front window,” he said, looking me and my truck contents over good. “Now look,” I said, “Don't you think if I had just shot out your window, I would already have my getaway planned out? Do you see what I'm doing? I'm reading a map! And, do you see a gun in here? I'm shooting with these cameras.” He looked my gear over good, but I guess my words settled him down a little, because he turned and left. 
     I went on up through Kansas to I70, did a hard left, and began the long haul up toward Denver. Approaching a long grade near daylight, the lights of Denver began to appear. As I dropped into Denver, my need for sleep began to overtake me. I dozed off twice momentarily passing through Denver, but soon I was in the Rocky Mountains, and my excitement pushed the sleep urge back. I realize now, a sleepy driver can be as dangerous as a drunk driver, and I don't push my limits like that any more. No more 24 hour drives for me. Well, maybe one. A couple of years later.
     I headed north, fully enjoying the early morning views of the Rocky mountains, no big rush now. I arrived at the west gate of Rocky Mountain National Park around 10 AM, a twenty four hour drive. I arrived at a campground, set up my tent. I was much too excited just to be there to sleep now, so I walked through a creek bottom, looking for wildlife. I got a good picture of an elk calf suckling, and saw lots of other Elk. I drove slowly back toward the entrance and back, and saw a large wolf and a Moose with two calves wading in a pond. When I got back to camp, I was at 8000 feet or so. I decided to drive on up to the Continental Divide, at about 12,000 feet. Climbing on up in my little red truck, I was beginning to feel the effects of altitude sickness, climbing so high in my exhausted state. I turned around. By the time I got back to the campground, It was hitting me hard. I crawled into my sleeping bag, really not caring whether I lived or died, at the moment, and was soon asleep.
     I awoke at dusk, and could hear some sort of program starting up at the pavilion, but I really didn't care. I went back to sleep, and slept the night through. When dawn broke, I awoke, feeling a little better, but I still had a major headache, and my eyes were totally red from the long drive with my windows down. Looking out, an elk was right beside my tent. That brought me fully awake, and I soon was headed back up to the Continental Divide.
     Exiting my truck standing right on the Continental Divide, I looked up to the tall peaks around me. The divide was at about 12,000 feet, and the peaks went up to around 14,000. I could see tiny white spots near the top, probably mountain goats. Could I climb that high? I decided to find out. The altitude was hitting me hard. I walked 30 steps, rested, and did 30 more. Finally, I knew I had to be nearing where I had seen the goats, but no sign of them now. Then I looked up, and they were lined up on a ledge above me, all staring at me, 60 feet away. I got several good photos.
     Traveling a little farther in my truck, I saw a narrow foot trail winding up the mountain. I decided to take it. Half way up, I met a huge bull elk, his beautiful rack in full velvet, heading down. He was used to tourists, did not fear me, and saw no reason to yield the trail to me. He kept coming, and I was about to take my chances down the steep slope, when he took the lead role and headed straight up the mountain. I did get several good photos.
     Heading home, I decided to make a halfway stop at Witchita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge near Lawton, Oklahoma, and have used that as a good place to spend the first night out since then, several times. It was set up as a place to start somewhat of a comeback for the Buffalo, right after millions upon millions had been killed for their hides. It still has large herds of Buffalo roaming free, as well as many deer, elk, and smaller animals. It has a couple of good campgrounds, and it is a good spot for wildlife photography.
     My next trip would be to the Okefenokee Swamp on the Georgia - Florida  border.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Forever A Hillbilly: The Pork and Beans Trips

Forever A Hillbilly: The Pork and Beans Trips: “What in the world are you THINKING,?” she was saying to Barbara. “Haven't you read The Bridges of Madison County?"      “...

The Pork and Beans Trips

“What in the world are you THINKING,?” she was saying to Barbara. “Haven't you read The Bridges of Madison County?"
     “No, actually, I haven't,” Barbara replied, still smiling.
     Her brow tightly knitted together, the lady just said, “Well, maybe you should!” and shaking her head, walked away.

     Many years ago, in the early days of our marriage, when Barbara was still yet a teen, Barbara readily accompanied me on my “Roughing it in the wilds” adventures, for a time. Two particular trips brought that to an end.
     Once, when we still lived at Fayetteville, we drove over to War Eagle Mills. We opened the farmer's gate and drove down to that beautiful river, which the farmer allowed at that time. This was before the days of the  big festival now held there. We found a beautiful spot, we fished, built a fire, cooked, ate, and just generally had a great day. That night, we rolled out our sleeping bags, and since Barbara was not really a “sleep out under the stars” type of person, as I was, I made the concession of stretching a tarp over us. I slept well, as I always do at such a place. As dawn broke, Barbara was awakened by a big, slobbery kiss – right on the lips. No, not by me, this is not that kind of story. A big old hound dog.
     “We need a tent,”  Barbara stated firmly, “If we're going to keep doing this!” I went to Walmart, right behind our house, the next day. I found a perfect one. But I didn't buy it. A purchase that major, in those days, was something for us both to discuss long and hard. We were pore' folks.
     Tommy Beard was one of my best friends and fishing buddy. He was a student majoring in business, and he was destined to become a financial wizard, managing and investing money for several large companies. But to me, then, he was just another kid, newly married to his wife Pat, and he loved to go along with me in search of the catfish. While Barbara and I were still agonizing over that tent purchase,  Tommy said to me one day, after taking me aside, “You need to scrape together every penny you can. A company up the road is about to make their first stock offering. This is a once in a life time opportunity. This company is going to really, really go places.”
     "Tommy,” I said, “ We live in a trailer park. We don't have money!” He didn't say any more. Just walked away, shaking his head.
     Barbara and I made our decision that night. We would buy that tent. The next day, I walked into Walmart, one of only a small handful in the world at that time, and bought a six million dollar tent.
     Twenty years later, I was reading the Sunday paper one day. I saw an article about a large company from Arkansas, detailing what the initial stock offering for that company was now worth. The $36 dollars I paid for that tent translated into six million dollars at that time. The company? Walmart. 
     Several years later, When he knew I had decided to leave coaching, and was looking for a teaching job, Tommy again advised me. “Walmart has just started a new program, training up store managers. No telling how much you could wind up making, if you get in that program on the front end.”

     I chose teaching. Story of my life. A pore' boy, destined to die a pore' boy.

     Anyway, let me get back to my story. Shortly after we bought that tent, we went back to the War Eagle River, camping once more. The river bank was pretty well grown up in bushes, but I did find one clear place. Kinda in a swag, but the sky was clear, no rain tonight. We now also had air mattresses;  I had to make Barbara as comfortable as possible, to keep her roughing it with me.
     About midnight, dark clouds rolled in. It came a “Toad Strangler.” (That's hillbilly for “A major rain.) I slept through it. I always sleep my best, out in the wild. Until Barbara elbowed me sharply in the ribs. “My air mattress is floating around!”
     By daylight, Barbara had had all she wanted of “roughing it in the wild places,” and she has never weakened or wavered from that position in 45 years. The next day she declared, “If you are going to keep doing this, you'll have to go alone!”
     Well, that set the stage. Barbara knew I have to return to the wild places periodically, to recharge my batteries. It's as necessary for me as breathing. I grew up a loner, and I am far more at ease and at home in the wilderness. It would be many years before “roughing it” was not the only option for such trips.

     We worked out a deal. I would do my thing, in the wilds, while she would do her thing. That often turned out to mean, she would visit her family, go on car trips with her sister's family, or, later, her and one of our kids or sisters went on a cruise.
     The Pork and Beans trips were born. I planned my trips very carefully. Wildlife photography was my main goal. Hunting and fishing lost it's attraction before these trips began. Barbara didn't like wild meat, but the clincher was, she didn't want to cook it either. If we were not going to eat it, I didn't want to kill it.
     Not spending much money was rule number one. I cooked every meal, I never ate out. I  cooked only the least expensive foods, so pork and beans was a major staple, along with potatoes and

spam, if I really wanted to live high. I could pull over to a park picnic table, whip out my little burner and skillet, and have a meal ready in five minutes. Barbara and I adopted, early on, a little but very effective rule to live our lives by: Always live below our means. That rule has been good to us, and enabled us to do many things that pore' people like us usually never get to do. I camped only in the least expensive places, usually National Forest Campgrounds, or maybe Walmart's parking lot.

Continued in a week or so. Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Forever A Hillbilly: A Different Kind of Child - Conclusion

Forever A Hillbilly: A Different Kind of Child - Conclusion:      Our subject was approaching five now. I have a two story tree house in my yard, for the children around me. To keep the small chi...

A Different Kind of Child - Conclusion

     Our subject was approaching five now. I have a two story tree house in my yard, for the children around me. To keep the small children below, and safe, a knotted rope must be climbed to reach the second floor. Well, it didn't work out right. The older children could not do it. Guess who did? You guessed it. Right to the top. When I arrived on the scene, he was on the second floor roof, singing a song to celebrate his accomplishment.
     Time for the church fish fry. Our friends host this at their farm. Some of my wife's family were there, along with our subject. My wife has a large family, lots of kids, from 5 to 12.  A couple of the girls, 12 years old, ran the show. The older boys, 10 and 11, ran from these girls. For good reason.
     Well, one of the older girls climbed up on a tractor. Our subject started up. She gently put her foot against his face, pushed him back. He needed to know his place. A major mistake. He came back, tiny fists flying. All night he pursued her. When he found her, he always attacked, fists flying. He finally graduated to a stick. When a rescuing parent was finally brought to the scene, she was back peddling, “Get away from me, you little kid!”
     On the way home, he was counseled wisely by his older brother. “You just can't do that,” he said, “to older kids. They will beat you up!”
     “They may beat me up,” he replied, “But I will hurt them while they do!”
     He's at the top of the kid pecking order now. When older kids see trouble with him on the horizon, they run tell us. They want no part of having to fight a small bundle of fury again, again, and again.
     When kindergarten rolled around, his mother took him to preschool visitation. It was at the school his parent's badly wanted him to go to, as his older brother was there. But, the kindergarten classes were about filled up, and his chances were slim. We had all stressed to him about respecting and obeying the Principal. We had no idea what might happen in a school situation, because of his nature. When they signed in, he asked, “Is the Principal here?”
     “Yes, she's over there.”
     “I would like to meet her.”
     When the secretary called her over, his mother told her, “I have a young man here who wants to meet you.” And, she added, privately, “So, run with it!”
     The principal, a very large, tall, stern lady, bent over to get her face next to his. Looked him right in the eye sternly, and said, “If you come here, and act like God and your mama want you to, you will have no trouble. But if you come here and cause problems, you will have lots of trouble!”
     He looked her in the eye awhile, then that grin appeared. “Nah, you won't have any trouble from me. I can count to 20! wanta' hear it?”
     She burst out laughing, losing all her bluster. “I would LOVE to hear you count to 20!” Privately, she said to his mama, “I will see to it PERSONALLY that he goes to school here!” Somehow, he managed to snag the very last kindergarten slot.
     True to his word, she had no trouble with him. Nor did his teacher. However, he was not good at obeying teachers whose class he was not in. Unquestioning obedience to an adult, just because they are bigger than him (almost everyone is) is just not a part of his makeup. But a logical, calm approach by his mother, about the “right thing to do” did the trick.
     Millions for logic, not one single penny for intimidation.
     In kindergarten, he quickly became a leader and protector of the weak. One large boy stomped on the foot of a small girl, injured and unable to wear a shoe. Our subject filed it away. Days later, he saw the boy with his shoe off. He stomped it, grinding it as much as his small body would allow. “You don't hurt little girls,” he said, and walked away.
     Summertime came. We all knew that swimming lessons were a requirement, again because of his nature. He really needed to be able to swim. His mother took him to his swimming teacher the first day. He was unable to swim a lick. He looked the situation over for a moment, grinned, then ran to the deep end of the pool, did a cannon ball, sank like a rock. The shocked teacher dove in behind him. As she was dragging him out, she was shaking her head. “He was grinning, all the way down, all the way back up!” she said.
     A neighbor gave him an old bicycle, when he turned six. Never rode a real one before. He ran to it, jumped on, and rode it off. Pushing it to the top of the highest drive in the neighborhood, he jumped on and flew down the drive, rounding a sharp curve at the bottom. After that, if he went out the door, he had a headgear on.
     Razorback football came around. At one game, a redneck man, sitting up behind his family, spent the entire game shouting at the umpire, the other team's coach, the other team, often with profanity. Finally, our subject stood up, turned around, pointed his finger at him. “Sir! Oh sir!” When he finally got the man's attention, said, “When I am a man, I won't talk like that!”
    The shocked man turned red, then laughed. “Well, sonny, that would probably be a pretty good decision on your part!”
     Soccer season came around. We had been waiting for the day, because of his natural ability. We just knew he would be great. That held true in the first game. He scored four goals, driving in and scoring at will. We were really excited, starting his second game.   He just was not in the mood. When the game started, he bored quickly, would sometimes be wrestling a teammate to the ground while the other team scored on the other end. After a while, he walked over to a nearby field, lay down, chewing on a weed. The coach called him, no luck. Finally, the coach just went over and pulled him up.
     Flag football was a mixed bag, also. He often thought it was just as much fun to pull his teammate's flag as an opponent's. About that time it hit me, remembering the sleeper caper.
     It had to be his interest, his idea. Not his parent's, not mine.
     He and his older brother both decided they would like to wrestle. His brother proved to be a coach’s dream – listening to the coach, filled with effort and drive. His coach, a four time national wrestling champion in college, said the brother had more “heart” than any kid he had ever seen.
     Our subject, however, was not a coach’s dream.  Often as not, when the coach instructed, he needed to go to the bathroom, or was at the back of the pack, in his own world. After a few months, the State Wrestling Championship rolled around. Our subject became transformed, working his way up to the finals. He was seven, his opponent was ten. A much taller boy. The 90 pound division. He quickly pulled a very complex move the coach had been teaching all week, and pinned him. At seven, the state champ! The coach just walked away, shaking his head. “Now, where the heck did that come from? While I was teaching that, he was at the back, singing a song!”
     Our subject has a very large heart for the homeless. Singlehandedly, he collected fifty some-odd coats for the school “coats for the homeless.”
    What kind of man will he become? One thing I know, it will be his decision. His area of interest. I just hope I'm around to see it.

     Jerrel Patrick is not my real name. You see, I have other grandchildren........

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Forever A Hillbilly: Catch a clue from History

Forever A Hillbilly: Catch a clue from History: I seldom comment on politics, but occasionally I just have to comment on current events. I will post the second half of Baby X on Monday. Th...

Catch a clue from History

I seldom comment on politics, but occasionally I just have to comment on current events. I will post the second half of Baby X on Monday. Thanks for your time, and your attention. Pat

     I thought it very ironic that Gary Stubblefield R-Branch is already fighting Jonathan Dismang R-Searcy for the position of president pro tempore of the Senate, only eighteen months after Dismang was elected unanimously to that position.
     Perhaps the Republicans should step back, take a deep breath, and look back at history.
     The Republican Party has been in trouble in Arkansas for 140 years. In the 1872 governor’s race, the Democrats entered no candidate, preferring instead to step back and give the Republicans enough rope to hang themselves, which they proceeded to do in splendid fashion. The feuding Republican candidates, Elisha Baxter and Joseph Brooks, eventually caused the Brooks-Baxter War in Little Rock, which grew into the largest civil conflict during the Reconstruction. Thousands of armed men faced off around the Statehouse and Anthony House, just across the street. The Baxter forces even dug an old cannon out of the river, cleaned out the mud and, naming it “The Lady Anthony,” pointed it at the Statehouse.
     A stray shot triggered five minutes of sporadic firing at each other. However, the results showed little signs of accuracy, with only one old man, watching from an upstairs window being killed. A few in the conflict were wounded. A woman was injured jumping from an upstairs window, and an old man hurt when jumping through a glass door. However, a good number of men were later killed before the President put an end to the conflict, naming Baxter the winner and awarding Brooks the position of postmaster.
     This scrapping became a blow that the Arkansas Republican Party has never recovered from……until this year.
     Today, the Republicans are finally, after 140 long years, back in power. But, only days after the election, they’re back to their old scrapping and feuding ways…….. among themselves once more.

     Good grief! With a perfect historical example staring them  square in the face, will they ever learn?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Forever A Hillbilly: Baby X - A Different Kind of Child

Forever A Hillbilly: Baby X - A Different Kind of Child: BABY X - A Different kind of Child  He's not like anyone you have ever met. Like nobody anyone has ...

Baby X - A Different Kind of Child

BABY X     
A Different kind of Child

By Jerrel Patrick

He's not like anyone you have ever met. Like nobody anyone has ever met. The first sign that something was amiss came with the first ultrasound. He was grinning! His mischievous grin, I now know. The same one I have seen dozens of times, right before he does something little kids just do not do, and I go into panic mode, once again. Just biding his time. Just waiting to pop out and shock the world.
     The day of his birth rolled around. A C-Section. As soon as he was pulled out, he raised his head and looked around at the doctor and nurses, individually, as if in greeting. They were dumbfounded.
     I watched him on my living room floor, when he was entering that stage were babies lie on their stomach and wiggle around. He put his hands on the floor and tried to push up, again and again.
Finally, he raised his upper body off the floor, held, his arms started to quiver, then he collapsed. Nothing abnormal here. But he did it again, held a little longer, arms shook more, tears started to flow. Collapse. Up again – tears – a little longer – Collapse. This was repeated, again, again, and again. Tears, hard sweat now. Finally, total exhaustion. Temporarily delayed, never defeated. A healthy respect started to grow within me. How could his tiny body contain so much determination?
     Winter came. It was cold in that house. His family lives like Eskimos. He was put into a sleeper, zipped up. The next morning, he was naked in his crib. Though he was far too small to leave that crib, little signs of mystery began to show up here and there. He had wandered at will about that house, naked.
     I put a couple of rounds of duct tape around his chest, to keep that sleeper on. No luck. Next, a safety pin was fastened to the inside of the zipper, near the top. The next morning he was naked in his crib, punching holes in the mattress with the open safety pin.
     I went shopping. In the fishing department, I found a giant snap swivel, so strong I could barely open it. I substituted it for the safety pin the next night. The next morning, the sleeper was still on, but he must have found a tiny hole in the toe, worked it, worked it, and worked it until one whole leg was out, which he proudly displayed.
     His father, worn out by this struggle, was beginning to fathom the depth of his determination. He just asked, “Which sleeper do YOU want to wear?”
     He pointed one out. “That one.” End of the great sleeper struggle.
     For a time, his parents kept him in his crib with an elaborate, tent like structure over the top. Then, they just had to give up. He wandered the house at will at night, still too small to get out of that crib, supposedly.
     They had chocolate cake for supper, just as he was beginning to talk. He loved it. He asked for seconds.
     “No, save it for tomorrow”
     Our subject calmly stated, “Mom, while you are asleep, I will come in and get a second piece.” Well, he was less than two years old now, small for his age. But mom placed it on top of the fridge, just in case. The next morning, the cake was on the kitchen floor, intact, except for a piece missing, and a chocolate trail leading to his crib. After the scolding, they just had to ask; “How did you do that?”
     He brought out a two step ladder with a circle bar on top for a handle. “I stood on top,” he explained, pointing to the handle.
    They were on vacation in a condo. He slept on the folded up hide-a-bed. When morning came, he was just gone. Could not be found. After a time, he crawled out of the bowels of the folded up hide-a-bed. He always liked tight places, loved the challenge of going where it seemed impossible for him to go.
     I took him for a walk in an athletic field. I always try to keep him in large, open spaces, out of trouble. We came to metal bleachers by the tennis court. He started climbing half way up, going to the end, jumping off, rolling out of it. He never hurts himself when he falls. I was distracted for a moment, a very bad thing. When I looked around, he was at the top level, about to jump. My scream caused him to slip, and he fell down through the framework. He hit a bar that cartwheeled him. Hit another bar, another cartwheel. Finally, he hit the ground with a splat. I ran to him. The breath was knocked out of him. When he recovered from it somewhat, he said, “I need to sit down for a minute.” No tears. We have an understanding in our family. If a hurt brings tears, call 911. At the end of that minute, almost exactly, that grin started to spread across his face as he jumped up. “I'm going to do that again!”
     “No, you're not,” I said. “We're going home.” 
     My wife's family reunion rolled around. Later, we all visited the old farm home site. It was surrounded by hundreds of acres of plowed ground. The kids all romped and played. This one child, different than the rest, now two, started walking away. Farther and farther he went. Finally, a concerned adult asked, “When will he turn around?”
    “He won't,” I replied. “I will have to go get him eventually.”
    To make my point, I just watched. I decided I would just let him go, as long as he was in no danger. He became a speck in the distance. Finally, I started moving fast to catch up, before he had time to get to a road. He and I walked back, as the families watched. He tripped, falling face first in the dirt. A collective “oooooooooh!” arose from the onlookers. I paid no attention. He arose, wiped the dirt off his face, so he could see, and quickly caught up. He never hurts himself with his falls.
     He was approaching three now, watching his brother's basketball practice. The coach was a hard case, ran his team with an iron hand. His teams almost never lost. Parents were afraid of him. When practice was over, our subject walked onto the court, shook the coach's pants leg, and said something.
     The coach could not hear. The coach got down on a knee, face to face, and said, “What did you say, buddy?”
     “I said, that was not nice of you, telling my brother to get his butt back on the court!”   Everyone fell silent. The coach raised up, red faced. One or two of the coache's buddies laughed quietly momentarily, but they were quickly silenced by a red-faced glare.
     At the next practice, the coach stated to a group of parents, “Well, I've never been dressed down like that by anyone that small! Then he laughed.

    Then, everybody laughed.
CONTINUED NEXT MONDAY.   Thanks for reading!