One of my 2018 goals is the completion of my book about life-lessons learned
from my influencers and those closest to me. Here’s a sneak preview. Enjoy.
Life was wonderful in grade school. For one, I had teachers who didn’t believe in giving a lot of homework. For two, our house sat right on the edge of Aurora city limits. Aurora was a smaller Denver suburb in those days. Across Chambers Road we could see a practice arena for calf-roping, barrel riding and quarter horse show routines. Mom and Dad rented from John Sanders, an easy-going older gent who let us do things owners would do, which gave us freedom enough to actually live there. Though a rental, it felt like ours.
I especially loved my second story bedroom, the only upstairs room, finished in knotty pine, complete with its own half bath. The 1 ½ car garage was more than adequate since we were a one-car family with plenty of room for the half dozen or so garage sale and hand me down bikes I enjoyed for hours on end. The bikes afforded me freedom so long as mom knew when I’d be home, but my other pastime gave me a sense of power. Control. Even ruler-ship.
The front of the half-acre parcel was lawn with well-placed shrubs and trees. Lilacs, healthy iris, and a wood fence gave the place a this-is-our-domain feeling, even though it was on a through street. The undeveloped back half of the parcel opened onto an alfalfa hay field, and quarter horse corrals shared the south property line. We mowed the rag-weed out back to keep things in control, but it felt like wide-open to me.
I could even dig holes! “Just be careful,” John said one day when he stopped by and saw the beginnings of the fox hole I was working on. “That dirt won’t go anywhere. When you’re done, shovel it in and level it out. Good as … used.” His dry humor always made me smile.
So when I found half a road-sign in the pile of scrap lumber behind the garage I knew right away what that 6-foot by 6-foot sheet would do for me. My fox hole became a bunker, the solid sheet covering ¾ of the opening, leaving just enough room for me and my good friends, light & air to come and go. I hadn’t a clue about military protocol, though, so I dubbed it an underground village, and I was its mayor.
The smell of wet Colorado clay filled my lungs and made me smile because it held its shape when I sculpted benches for me to sit on. My highways & roadways for my matchbox cars —of which I had many— were within easy reach. Ragweed trees down the middle of scraped dirt boulevards resembled the HO scale train sets I saw all the time in the hobby store but this was mine.
My little sister noticed, liked, and wanted in.
I told her no.
She asked again and I answered the same.
She offered to help, but I didn’t need any.
I denied her request to just come see.
Finally, after repeated attempts to play, involve herself somehow in my domain, I told her one last time, “NO!”
There. Go play with your dolls or something. It’s not that I didn’t like her. I did. It’s just that this was my little creation and I was in charge. I didn’t need outside ideas, and didn’t want them. Not even my best buddy next door was invited over, this was Philipsberg.
Satisfied at last, I lived vicariously in my subterranean village: telling who to go where, and how fast. How much to deliver, when to refuel, where the next stop would be. I placed orders, answered questions and solved imaginary problems.
I imagined new projects and scraped them into shape in the Colorado clay, smiling as they came into view and adjusting when part of my highway would fall into my hand, creating a construction issue to overcome. Which I always did.
Life was grand until a tiny stream of dry dust falling into the hole caught my eye. I looked up to see the toes of familiar tennies. White frilly-lace anklets. Knees. A cotton dress. Above, my little sister peered down at me, her thick brown hair pulled back in a low ponytail the way she liked it, a semi-scowl on her pursed lips.
I looked at her standing just outside my mini-metropolis city limits
and took a big brother breath. “What?!”
“Dad wants you.”