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The Names Have Been Left the Same
by John R. Taylor

You often read stories or see movies that tell you the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Well this story has no innocents. I know all the characters and they are none of them even close to innocent. Now I am telling this tail for the truth, though I can’t really testify that I actually remember the events themselves, but I do remember telling the story many times. In the telling over the years some of the facts have gotten fuzzy around the edges and some more have been completely lost, and I think maybe I have made up a few to take their place.

             My yarn I have for you is from a time long ago, a time some say was ignorant, intolerant and backward, but I remember as good, clean and peaceful. It was a time when young children and teens said “yes Sir and no Mam,” to their elders.

It was a time when not every family had a television and those who did had only one and usually got only one channel. The programs were of the type, The Andy Griffin Show, Bonanza and the Wonderful World of Color. Genie was the raciest thing on. Right and wrong were black and white and not shades of gray. Summers were long and hot and we children could not fathom the meaning of the word bored. Our imaginations were boundless as we were kings, knights, cowboys, Indians and superheros. The magical phrase, pretend like, instantly transformed us into whatever or whoever our young minds could conceive. A scrawny twelve year old boy could become an Indian chief. An old abandon tobacco harvester became a Martian spaceship. We had used the phrase so often we shortened it to one word, “tenlike”, although we never noticed that we had. “Tenlike you’re a cowboy and that stick is your gun.” Poof! I was a dashing and daring cowboy and a stick from a pecan tree was a Colt Peacemaker.

In this time of unbound imagination it is not altogether surprising that we got into no small amount of trouble. Boys will be boys, and we were rowdier than most. I spent the summers form first grade until the fifth with my cousins, James and Buie. Uncle Ellie and Aunt Angie Mae actually had a very large family. They had twelve children, six boys and six girls. Two had died as infants. Of the five surviving boys the oldest was already grown and married and the next oldest was in the army. Dewey, the middle boy still lived at home but he was much older than us and occupied his time with cars and girls and seldom even noticed that we existed. Which was just fine with us because when he did notice us he was apt to hang us by the fingertips from the eve of the porch or hold us down and give us a red belly.

James was a year older than me and Buie a couple of years older than him. One of our favorite activities was to make an expedition to the trash pile. About three miles down the dirt road from their house was a two path lane leading off from the road.

Down this lane people would dump trash. There was some garbage, but mostly it was old appliances, furniture, jars and discarded old lumber. It was from this goldmine that we secured the supplies to build pigeon pens, forts, catapults, (that almost worked), stilts, and any number of other great inventions that our young minds conjured up.

On one particular trip, as we plundered under piles of old shingles we found something we had never seen before. Although I was the youngest, I lived part-time in what to us was the big city of Birmingham Alabama, and so my older cousins gave a little deference to my more worldly experience. “What is it,” they asked. “I don’t know,” I answered.

We pulled and flung shingles until we had it completely uncovered. There it was. Like nothing we had even seen before. The object which had us so perplexed is more than common now; in the 60's it was not common. What today is an ordinary building material that even the most unhandy person would recognize as a 4x8 sheet of plywood, was some thing of amazement to us then.

“Are we gone’ get it,” Buie asked. “Ya, we’er gone’ get it!” James answered. “What we gone’ do with it?” Buie wanted to know. “I don’t know, but we’er gone’ get,” James yelled back.

And we got it. It was quite a chore. We tried several different ways of carrying the unwieldy panel and finally worked out to put on top of our heads. Buie was the tallest, so he was in front. I was in the middle and James was in the back. It was not easy. My arms got so heavy I thought they would fall off. I got so tired I had to carry most of the weight on my head and this made my head hurt. Every now and then a car would come down the narrow dirt road and we would have to walk almost in the ditch, with the sand falling under our feet. After more than two hours and a few rests brakes we made it back to their house. We hurried into the barn with our prize lest Dewey see it and take it away.

For many days we hid this wonderful thing we had discovered and had lengthy meetings as to what to do with our “board”. One of us would have an idea but invariably the other two would over rule the suggestion. We could not waste this unusual possession on something ordinary. Then on night we were watching TV. I think it was the Wonderful World of Color, but I had never seen a color TV, so it was the Wonderful World of Grayscale to me. The show was about this Greek mythological character whose name at present escapes me. He made himself some wings out of wax and feathers. He got airborne alright, but he flew too close to the sun and the wax melted and he fell to his death. Of this last part we should have paid more attention. I looked over at James and said, “That’s it! We’ll make some wings!”

Late into the night we talked and planed how we would make our wings. The next morning James and I were up before the sun. Even on this most important of days, Buie, as was his custom, sleep until near noon.

We made our way to the barn through the predawn fog. On our way we collected our ancillary parts and tools, a length of rope, a handsaw, a yardstick and a brace & bit style hand drill. After much deliberation and thoughtful planning we marked a line eighteen inches from the end across the four foot width of the panel. With the handsaw we cut along the line. After that we made a freehand V on the end and cut it so that the outside end of the wing would have a point. Using the first wing as a pattern we cut the second wing. We then took the brace and bit drill and bored two holes about one inch in diameter near the square end of each wing. Through these holes a rope was ran that could be tied under the arm of the flyer that would hold the wing fast to the top of his arm. All that was need then was two handles that the flyer could put his hands in to flap the wings. We searched all about but could not find suitable handles. We decided to wait until Buie got up. He might have an idea.

Buie returned to the world of the living just in time to eat the noonday meal we called dinner and is called lunch in most other places. After filling our bellies with Aunt Angie Mae’s collard greens, purple-hull peas and fried mullet fish with fried potatoes and syrup for desert, we lead Buie out to the barn and explained our dilemma. He said, “wait here,” and turned and purposefully walked toward the house. In less than five minutes he was back with two perfect handles in his hand. I don’t think their screen doors even had handles again, but our wings did.

After attaching the handles Buie insisted he try first. We put the wings on top of his arms and he held to the handles. We tied the ropes under his arms.

“Try a few practice flaps,” I instructed. He flapped his wings. “Feel the lift?” “Yeah! I’m gettin’ lighter!” He ran and flapped the wings. Then he ran and flapped some more. After three or four passes he came back and angrily said, “They Don’t work!”

In defense of my invention I yell back, “You didn’t run fast enough!” Following much yelling and a few threats it was decided that we could not run fast enough to get into the air. We needed to jump from someplace high.

We reconvened our human flight project in the loft of the barn. For some reason Buie was no longer insistent on going first. Now I was to go first and he would go second. Being older, bigger and generally meaner, Buie was somewhat of a bully. He and I stood in the doorway of the loft looking out over the fields and surrounding woods. He pointed to a twenty acre field and said, “Now you can fly around the edge of that field, but don’t you go over them there woods. You fly around the field one time, then you come back and its my turn.” I assured him I would fly around the field only once and not over the woods. Then there was nothing left to do but fly. I readied myself in the doorway of the loft. Looking down the ground looked much farther down than I remembered it. I took a deep breath and leaped into the air. And I flew. I am not sure how far I flew. How high is a barn loft? Twelve feet or so? Well that’s how far I flew. It was vertical flight, not horizontal.

As I saw the earth racing up to me I very naturally reached out with my hands to catch myself, but my hands were in the handles and the wings reached a good foot past my hands. The tips of the wings rammed into the ground causing the other end to ram into my neck and almost decapitate me.

The skin and meat was rolled up on my neck from my shoulder to my ears. The bottom of each earlobe was turn loose. The wing tips went deep into the ground and had me supported by my neck. I moaned for James and Buie to come help me but they had became magicians and disappeared. In a few minutes Aunt Angie Mae came outside to hang out the laundry and saw me. She freed me and doctored my wounds with the red stuff that doesn’t burn.



Copyright © 2005 - 2006, John R. Taylor  ---  Alternative News & Editorials


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