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
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
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.