My Life

DadMomMy LifeMy home was in a small town near the confluence of the Platte and Missouri Rivers. A farm town, a manufacturing town, and a river town, it was laid out in a valley surrounded on three sides by steep, three-hundred-feet high rocky hills called bluffs.

Siblings My LifeDuring summer vacation in those days, kids were turned out to play and told when to be back. We knew our boundaries—in every sense. And as we grew, so did they.

Storefront My LifeFrom the block, to the neighborhood to the edges of town and then, at about age ten, to wherever we could go and get back by dinner.

Pup My lifeWe had a lot of kids my age in our “gang” back then, but my one constant companion was my beloved springer spaniel, Jinx. She was always “there” when we hiked or biked somewhere:

Larry and Pup My lifeup to the park; down to the banks of the Missouri; out the railroad tracks to the bridges over the river; to the watershed pond in a copse of trees known as Fiery Glenn; to the timber-laden cow pasture we called “The Dark Woods.”

We shot our BB guns, raced, wrestled, camped, skinny dipped and just languished on the lush pasture grass.

Path Bench my life Bridge my life Shady River my life Shady leafy path my life

Boy Pup 2 my lifeJinx was our protector, our scout, our pack mule, our villian, our cavalry and our guide back home if we strayed too far.

Framed River my lifeWhen I attended grade school some two blocks south of our house, Jinx would walk me up to the corner, sit without command, wait till I was out of sight, then go back home. At noon or the end of the day when I got back to that corner she’d be sitting there, waiting, stubby tail wagging, her right lip curled into what she apparently perceived as a human smile.

There was one other point of interest in those years. One we saw often, but never from closer than a hundred yards:

Bluff my lifeThe bluffs—the string of mini-mountains that run parallel to the Missouri River from South Dakota to Missouri. Some of their steepest peaks are three-hundred feet high. Dirt paths are the only way in, up or out and those were just rocky, narrow flat spots on the clay. We saw tire and wagon tracks, so we were sure people lived up there.

Bluff slope my lifeBut we, our bunch at least, never saw anyone going in or out. What we did see—or thought we saw—were little ragamuffins darting about in and out of the crevices, spying on us. But we never got a long enough look to be absolutely certain what they were… or if they were. Our parents said they were figments of our imaginations. Who knows?

We never really tried to find the truth. The mystery of it all was just too deliciously fascinating to spoil. So we considered the “hill people”yet another pack of bogeymen stalking us in the wild just like the escaped Nazis hiding under the railroad bridge, the 200 pound catfish at the bottom of Fiery Glenn pond, the werewolves lurking in “The Dark Woods”—all of them infesting our dreams after a day of visiting one port of call or the other.
Larry Dogs my life
That kind of enchantment with make-believe, that delight in imaginary adventure, is where I find my stories today.

“In the begining was the character, then the word, and from the character’s words is brought forth action.” ~ Sol Stein