Mrs. Wilson, Miss Marie as we called her, was a tall thin woman that wore her graying hair in a bun at the back of her head. I remember her husband as a kindly old man that would let me ride his large white work horse. On afternoons when he passed by our duplex I would run out and walk with Mr. Wilson and his fine white steed. Occasionally I would muster up the courage to ask him if I might get on top of that horse and ride. He always said “yes” and as he led that wonder horse, I proudly set atop his back and pretended that we were charging headlong into the old west that I dreamed about.
I owned many horses as I was growing up but all of them were broom sticks in their former lives. Actually I did have a real live horse as an adult. It came much too late to fulfill the fantasies of the younger cowboy. Everyone is a teacher.
Miss Marie became my sixth grade teacher. I don’t remember having a preference when it came to the teachers in the sixth grade. I didn’t really know any of them. It was only later that I found out about my teacher and my plow horse friend.
The Space Age was upon us. The Russians sent Sputnik I into outer space as the first satellite. Sputnik II carried the first living thing–a dog–into orbit. Bobby Thompson’s family named their dog Sputnik after the satellite.
That year classes were divided into what the students called smart, average, and the stupid groups. There were three classes and I was fortunate enough to find myself in the smartest group. It was an experiment that helped students work at different levels and slower pace. I had my first fist fight in the sixth grade and I will never forget it.
I learned how to spin a top. I couldn’t begin to tell you how I figured out the correct way to rap the string around the top, but I did. It was a fad that lots of boys took part in.
Mrs. Yakeman retired as the principle for the first through sixth grades and Mr. Allbritten took over. He fancied himself a sportsman. He formed flag football teams in each sixth grade class. We won the league but only because we didn’t make as many mistakes. I did not make the all star team that played for halftime at the junior high game. I really thought that I was a better player than Harvey but Mr. Allbritten saw things differently.
Harvey went on to become an All-State high school player and made the Arkansas A & M College football team. Harvey later died in a hunting accident that left his wife, Maryland Higginbotham, a widow and his children without a father.
I played center and linebacker on our Critz Hall intermural team at Arkansas Tech. We won two games. Defeat doesn’t hurt very much and victory isn’t as sweet if nothing is invested. There was obviously more to Mr. Allbritten than I thought. If he had chosen me for that team, do you think that I might have been motivated to play high school football? Things happen because of chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, passion, and desire.
I remember many years later, returning home for mother’s funeral and a neighbor commented on my qualifying and running the Boston Marathon. He said, “isn’t it amazing that now you participate in sports and when you were in high school all you did was play in the band”.
I thought about that for some time. Isn’t it strange that I played basketball on the junior high team that finished second in the state, was catcher on the high school team that lost in the state tournament to the eventual class A state champions, and ran the mile on the high school track team and all he remembered was that I didn’t have a sporting life because I did not play football.
Oh yea, I do not walk with a limp and I enjoy playing my horn to this very day. A life based on the opinions of others borders on slavery.
Did I mention that I was the Yo-Yo champion that year? I won a bag of candy eggs for my effort. I didn’t do as well in the contest that involved eating crackers and being the first to whistle. Bobby Fischer became a chess champion. He was also thirteen. Wow, just imagine, Bobby and I were both champions.
Little league baseball had officially arrived in my home town. After practicing for years after school we finally had a chance to compete as real teams with fields, uniforms, and all that stuff. We called ourselves the Braves, after the Milwaukee Braves that had just won the World Series by beating the loved and hated New York Yankees four out of seven games. The name didn’t help us at all. We won some games but not enough to impress anyone.
Sixth grade marked another change for all of us. We moved across the parking lot to the high school. Seventh graders were in the same building with all the students through twelfth grade. It was a small school and everyone knew each other. If there were any bullies I didn’t come in contact with them. That’s another story.
The United States conducted its first underground nuclear test.
I had my first real vacation this summer. My brother, and his new wife Nell, invited Miriam and me to travel with them to California. Mother agreed to let me go and gave Miriam money to pay for my part of the expenses.
Garvis had a new 1957 red Buick Special. We looked good in that car. He thought it was great fun to roll up the windows so that other would think that he had an air conditioner. Only the more affluent could afford to have that extra in their car. We got hot on occasions!
I always stayed in the back with the red Falstaff cooler that my brother thought was as impressive as his car. It was an awesome metal box and served Garvis well until it rusted apart. Garvis gave me that Buick in 1967, after he had painted it blue. It was still fast and very special to me. My friends at Tech called it the “Blue Goose.
We traveled until late at night and on occasion we slept in a motel and on other occasions we slept on the side of the road. It was a great adventure. We visited with Uncle Ruby, my fathers only brother, and his wife Aunt Mary, Aunt Sally, one of my fathers three sisters, and her husband Uncle Fulton. They all lived in California and I loved every minute of that stay.
Uncle Ruby and Aunt Sally had two children, June and Bobbi. They were all-american kids and Uncle Ruby was very proud of them.
Aunt Sally and Uncle Fulton had retired and started working in the National Parks. I remember seeing snow, for the second time in my life as we visited them in Sequoia National Park. When we reached the higher altitude we found the snow that had accumulated on the side of the road. We stopped and made a snow man and threw a few snow balls. We were not the only “mannies” out that day. Life is great when you are eleven.
I remember seeing Hoover Dam and visiting the Golden Nugget In LasVegas. I never remember being so hot before or after. That includes those nights that mother and I made pallets and slept on the screened in front porch at Mrs. Young’s.
I know that we eventually returned home but I do not remember there turn trip. Garvis was a fast driver and he evidently turned that red Buick homeward and let her go. I made that trip two years later with my sister and her room mate. We spent much more time in motels. Now where is the adventure in that?