One of the three categories for my blog is, “When I was a kid.” I’ve written relatively few things that fall in this category, so I thought you might enjoy a story that goes far back in the history of mankind. Back to the early ‘50s, back when I was a kid.
This story was taken from my book, “The Huckleberry Days of the ‘50s.” If you’ve read that book this will be a repeat, but if not, you may enjoy a tale of fort-building and a prank perpetrated on my poor brother by my good friend, Dick Whitaker and me back when we were kids. Most, or “some” of this is true, but I’ll admit that I sometimes exaggerate a little bit. It’s called, “artistic license.”
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Dick and I had a fort at one end of a large field behind my house and my brother Tom, seeking to emulate his older brother, built a fort at the opposite corner of the large open field. I have to admit that Tom was a better builder of forts than either Dick or I were and Tom also had the advantage of having a girlfriend with whom to share his hidden castle. He hadn’t yet grasped the concept that forts were for boys only. In fact, he hadn’t even grasped the concept that girls weren’t boys.
|Tom smiling at our pet duck, Donald,|
who fooled us by laying an egg.
Girls should not be allowed in a boy’s fort. Everyone knew that. But my little brother was actually a step ahead, despite the three-year age difference between us. He had a girlfriend, although he didn’t know it. But ignorance of the law is no excuse.
Neither Dick nor I were particularly pleased with that development. We didn’t have girl friends and we knew they were different from boys. We may not have been clear on exactly what the difference was, but we knew there was a difference. All we knew was that we didn’t want them hanging around our forts.
This was long before the hormones kicked in and boys just didn’t play with girls...yet. But Tom thought the neighbor girl was just another boy with long hair and a high voice who giggled and ran funny. I think he figured it all out in his third year of college, but by then his fort was gone and the little neighborhood girl had married a guy who built bomb shelters.
So to express our displeasure with Tom and his girlfriend, Dick and I lit Tom’s fort on fire while he and the little girl were inside playing doctor. I never thought to ask him what they were doing in there, because it was just too much fun watching them clambering out of the smoke into the sunlight and fresh air, coughing, spitting and blinking their eyes.
Tom tripped over his stethoscope while stumbling out. That was a dead give-away. If we had given him another ten minutes to complete his exam, he may have resolved some of the questions that haunted him for so many years.
Tom gave Dick his stethoscope and gave up on the idea of becoming a doctor when he failed to bring his pet turtle back to life. The fact that the turtle had been buried for three weeks may have been a factor in Tom’s failure to resuscitate the unfortunate critter.
Meanwhile Dick proudly wore the stethoscope around his neck until his senior year in high school. Dick’s medical practice seemed to gain traction after he learned to precede his exams by stating reassuringly, “It’s okay. I’m a doctor.”
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I want to add that the kid staring happily at the duck gave up fort-building to become a highly respected airline Captain with TWA. I’m obviously very proud of my brother. (But don’t believe the stethoscope stuff.)