The first thing that I remember is a day in the summer sitting on the granite stone steps outside our formal entrance to our home. I was sitting playing with a jack-knife my father had given me. My father and mother and sister were standing talking, about what I don’t remember. What I do remember is that I felt proud that my father trusted me enough to give me a knife. I decided to practice throwing the knife into ground, you know grab knife by blade and flip it so it ends up sticking in ground. I was around six years old. I had not done this before but was confidant I could. Well this was a mistake as my father immediately went ballistic. Telling me how dangerous and harmful to the knife this was as well as telling me how ungrateful I was. It’s funny how a single event can become so powerful in a person’s life. This was an event that would not have mattered at all had my father reacted differently. You see at this point I idolized my father and anything he said was gospel.
This may need a bit of explaining. Up until the time I started school I had no interaction with people outside my family. We lived far from other families and apparently my parents had no friends. We only saw relatives once a year for holidays and we were told to behave very well during these brief encounters. We did not develop any real relationship with the extended family. So it was only the six of us and I was the youngest. I now believe that our seclusion may have been partly due to my brother’s condition. You see he was born with epilepsy and was severely mentally retarded. This may well have limited my parent’s interaction with outsiders. Of course I did not see anything wrong with my brother this is how he always was. But my parents latter did talk about his being a draw on family resources and a detriment to the other children.
I remember a Christmas, holidays seem to be the prominent memories, and this was very special because I got a piece of construction equipment, odd I cannot remember what, Tonka anyway. And we always were able to open one present on xmass eve. So I picked the biggest, naturally, and like on cue it started to snow these big flakes and before long there was a foot of snow on the ground. I was allowed to go out and play with new toy, after I begged sufficiently and it became one of my best memories ever. Just moving snow with my new loader or whatever it was. I don’t know how old I was but it could have been before 6 years old certainly not after. The next day a picture of my sister Jody shoveling 3 feet of snow off the path to the front door, was taken.
Another Christmas we got a train set, this was a present for all us children because of expense. We had a lot of fun playing with it till I put coke in steam engine. It was supposed to make smoke, ok?
Snow was always a great time in Paxton. With the jeep my father used to plow and sliding on sleds. We had a lot of fun as a family during this period. My father had a weapons-carrier that he brought home after the war. This is how my mother got to town and any other place she wanted to go. You see the road to the house was a mud pit for a half mile. My father spent years hauling stone and putting it in road just to watch it disappear in mud. Eventually he won the battle and by the time I was born the road was useable year round.
I remember about 10 years old picking stones from the 8 acre field we had because a neighbor wanted to plant potatoes. I spent a couple of weeks picking stones, maybe 10 or 12 pickup loads full.
I remember digging a trench 80 feet long and 4 feet deep so I could replace the kitchen drain pipe that stopped working because a tree root damaged it. I was about 7 years old at this time. Dad told me I could eat dinner when I finished it.
I remember one time I was afraid of the dark, dad told me I shouldn’t be, and made me stand outside in dark for a few hours till I was not afraid anymore. I pounded on the door for a while then cried for a while then eventually embraced the darkness.
I remember pulling down the old barn we had, we used an old convertible and a long chain to do the job. The next year 1961 we built a three car garage. This was great fun for me as I got to ask so many questions of the carpenter my father hired. I learned how to hammer nails and what different parts of a building were called as well as their function, and paint that was my responsibility.
The following year dad bought a 1951 ford 8N tractor to replace the jeep for plowing snow and other jobs. I learned how to drive on this at 8 years old. It became my job to plow the half mile road and to also plow neighbors in coming years. It was also my job to plow and harrow the 8 acre field every spring as well as remove the latest crop of rocks. I had my first experience with causing death with this tractor. My father had rented our cottage out to a family with 6 boys. The older two were my age and we became friends. One year when we were using the tractor to remove rocks from the field my dog had decided to sleep under the wagon wheel when we were loading the trailer. We were in a hurry to finish so after we finished with the pile we were working on I jumped on the tractor and took off. No one noticed that the dog was under wheel. This was very painful for me. Fortunately for the dog it was a quick death.
When we were young every summer we would take the old 1947 jeep we had and travel downhill to the reservoir to go swimming. The whole family would enjoy the ride as much as the swim. We had roads cut all over the mountain we lived on. It was only maybe a ¼ mile to the water but in first gear it would take a while and was fun to duck under low hanging branches.
When we were babies mom would put us on a blanket in back yard and let the dog watch us. There was no danger of people only maybe a animal. And the Irish setter we had named Terry would sit right there and not let us off the blanket. When we were older we were allowed to roam on our own. I learned to be friends with animals and nature long before I even met any other children. I would watch squirrels and birds and fish and frogs and bats and groundhogs live for hours. I learned to respect all life forms. We had dogs and sheep. I watched animals being conceived and born at an early age. All of this combined in me to give me a sense of how I should live and a sense of right. I hadn’t yet seen wrong, other than on TV, On TV the bad guys wore black hats. I have to say we did not have a TV till I was maybe 5 and we did not watch much till later when we got a color TV. We watched shows like Lassie and Rawhide.
One summer my father hired a one-armed logger with a bulldozer to log our land. This was a great memory for me because I could ride on the bulldozer and help hook logs. This man was simply amazing the way he could run that dozer with one arm. I learned from him that you can do anything you put your mind to. Although I didn’t like the tracks and damage the dozer did. I loved the land the way it was and didn’t want anything to change it. I think this is where the money came from to build the garage.
One day I was walking back from the reservoir and I stepped on a rotten log that housed a bee’s nest. I had stepped on this log many times before and had no idea there were bees inside. I was wearing cut off shorts a tee-shirt and sneakers. I was about 100 yards from the house. The bees started stinging me right away and continued to sting me all the way to the house. I had over 100 stings by the time it was over. I ran right out of my sneakers and didn’t stop running till I got to the house. They actually followed me all the way. This gave me my fear of insects, At least the ones faster than me. A year later wasps built a nest in the wall to my bedroom, I had to check my bed every time before I went to bed. If I forgot I soon was reminded. The nest was there till I moved out years later. Me and Frankie and John Hatstat got even when we burned a wasp nest a couple of years later, sorta. During this episode I managed to step on a nail that came out the top of my foot. This is the first time I can remember being purposefully mean. And every time I have tried this it always comes back on me, immediate karma balancing. Thankfully I have not tried this much because I learned early it is not free, there is always a price to pay.
I remember a time that I was maybe three or maybe even two years old. I was even with my mother’s skirt bottom. Anyway she was washing dishes and I found the trash bag. This was a cool place, Couse it had many neat things in it. I managed to find a lid off a tin can and was playing with it when I fell down and pushed the can lid through my hand between thumb and index finger. I started bleeding pretty good and thought this requires mother’s attention so I started pulling or yanking on her dress. I didn’t get immediate attention so I pulled harder finally she looked down and saw me. Her face turned white and she through me in sink and started washing me off to see where blood was coming from. This scared her much more than me. I had never seen blood before and thought it was quite interesting. I still can see this scar, a little reminder to not play with sharp objects.