‘And I’d find it once again, if I knew how’
There, under a big oak tree, were a couple of young boys, probably 10 or so, not much older, on their bicycles, sort of revving them back and forth, popping a couple of mild wheelies, like kids do.
Big smiles on their faces.
I recognized the look. School had just let out for the summer. Got out at noon, in fact, just a couple of hours before.
They were the “we’re out, this is the first day of summer and it doesn’t get any better than this” looks.
Temperature was about 90 degrees, a warm south breeze was stirring the grass and a dog was loping up the street toward “downtown.”
Summertime in Texas and 10 years old. August is a long time away. What a great feeling.
A nd a long-forgotten song started up in my head.
Singer named Roy Dr usk y wrote it. Was a moderate sized hit in 1970. It was called “Long, Long Texas Road.” Started out with a guy looking at his life and how it turned out, some good, some not so good, about like all of us. Then he looks back:
Now I yearn for childhood days;
Of model planes and lemonade
When the day stretched out before me
Like a long, long Texas road.
Yes, a long, long Texas road
‘Bout a million miles or so,
When you’re just a child, there ain’t no time but now...
Indeed. I went by the t wo boys and tried to recall how it felt when I got out of school in a long ago May, facing a summer of endless possibilities.
Yearning for childhood days? Well, there’s something to be said for them. You’re not worr y ing about mortgages and car payments and relationships and how much the insurance premiums are going up and how did I get another year older without starting all the projects I meant to?
Roy Drusky’s song talks about a summer of “horny toads and comic books and fishing hooks.”
Well, horny toads are just about gone, comic books have turned i nto “g r aph ic novel s”—ver y graphic—and I hope kids still know what fishing hooks are.
(They do in Milam County, anyway. Cameron’s recent Dewberry Fest fishing tourney proved that.)
I’ve got a feeling a lot of kids’ summers are going to be more Facebooks than fishing hooks, more apps than amphibians.
Technology. You can’t stop it and I don’t want to. I’m using a keyboard to write this, not a quill pen and a bottle of ink.
Still, there’s a part of us that idealizes our childhood, especially if we were fortunate enough to have had it in a good neighborhood with lots of friends.
I d id a nd most of what I remember was outside. Wheeling around on our bicycles, just enjoying being a kid, in Texas, in the summer.
Remember the great book and movie “To Kill a Mockingbird?” It was told through the eyes of a couple of southern children, Jem and Jean Louise (Scout) Finch, growing up in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama.
When they made the film, the producers got the outdoor, small town look so perfect, director Robert Mulligan recalled he was deluged with letters from people who recognized the block on which the Finch family lived from their own childhoods.
“Why, you had to have filmed it in my old home town in Indiana or South Carolina or Texas or Kansas or New Hampshire!” they said.
And Mulligan smiled. The Maycomb set was on the back lot of Universal Studios in Hollywood.
But he had a secret. The block where the Finches lived was authentic. It was a section of homes, built in the early 1900s, that had been condemned because a freeway was coming through.
Universal bought the entire street and shipped it to Hollywood. It registered with so many because it existed simultaneously in our dreams, our memories, our hearts and for real.
I’m sure if I’d abandoned my paper route, gone over to the two boys and said something like “hey, guys, you going to catch horny toads? Can I come with you?” they’d have whipped out their smart phones and called 911.
That would have been the appropriate response, of course. We don’t live in Maycomb, or Mayberry, any more.
Roy Drusky’s song is realistic, too. This is how it closes.
Must have left that long, long road
Seven hundred years ago.
And I’d find it once again,
If I knew how.
Me too, Roy.