At 9, I was a free spirit. My hair was long, wild and bleached by the sun. They called me toe-headed, which I never understood until I was an adult. That wild hair was naturally curly, therefore, usually always a tangled mess. I didn’t care though; I was outside, running the trails.
I didn’t have many friends, but usually all of us neighborhood kids came together to build a fort in the woods or just climb trees. One time I climbed a tree halfway up before realizing I couldn’t get down unless I fell. Instead of falling, I slid down. This caused my tshirt to come up, exposing my young skin to the roughness of the tree bark. I was still built like a boy at this age. I was scraped up pretty good. I don’t remember much more than showing Daddy. He was usually the one who took care of anything that could be considered too bloody. Mom wasn’t a big fan of blood and could overreact, at times, to something that really wasn’t as bad as she perceived.
As a kid growing up in southern Arkansas during summer, it was hot! Many times, you could find us with faces blood red from heat, hair drenched in sweat and bodies grimy with dirt. Play clothes were always well worn with different stains and a few holes. Shoes were always optional.
Climbing trees, making forts and running trails wasn’t the only fun we had. Those hot, Arkansas summers required playing in the water. The closest thing we ever came to a pool was the plastic kiddie pool from WalMart, but why bother with that when you could just play with the water hose? Mom or Dad would shoot it at us or hold it while we ran through. Of course, you get thirsty and the water hose was always the go to for a nice swig. This is also where we washed off our hands, faces and feet during these awesome days outside.
If you were lucky, you lived close to a creek or bayou, but we only had ditches. If it had rained enough for the ditches to hold water, you could find us playing in those ditches. Sometimes, we’d all grab buckets, scoop up as much mud as we could from those filled ditches, throw the contents of the bucket up on the road and watch the craw dads run back to the ditch. That was always a favorite!
Saturday was always Mom’s cleaning day. We’d have breakfast and watch Saturday morning cartoons, then outside we went. At some point, Mom was going to mop the kitchen floor so she’d lock the door to make sure we didn’t run in on her clean, wet floor. We’d have to use the back door to come in, if we needed in for any reason. Most everything we did could be taken care of outside, but there was always the occasion of needing inside.
To this day, my favorite part of the day is twilight. I always loved that moment that the sun went down just enough to no longer beam down it’s harsh rays and the air became a few degrees cooler. You could look up and enjoy the beautiful blue sky, peppered with white, cottony clouds. You could see the trails left behind by the airplanes. You could even see the shadow of the moon. This was the time of day that let us know it was almost time to head home. If we had ridden far from home on our bikes or trekked down a new trail and may or may not be lost, we needed to start heading back.
Most of the time, we made it home by dark and in time for supper. I do remember the few times that we missed supper and were too far away to hear Momma hollering for us to come home. Those were the not so fun times. No matter what, those were awesome times. I wouldn’t trade an Arkansas summer for anything.