Remember when you and your little friend sat in the soft dirt under that big cottonwood tree shading the back yard, poured a little water over some fresh dirt, stirred it with a stick, dropped in a few rocks for pecans and made a great mud pie? If you don’t remember that you each took a bite, just to carry the make believe a little bit further, then it’s been too long!
Remember how it was to go outside to play and the only thing you had to play with was your imagination? I had a few toys when I was a kid. In fact, I still have most of them but they would never be counted as worth much on Antiques Road show. The old toys that are worth thousands of dollars in the estimation of the experts on television are all in mint, or near-mint condition. My toys were all played with - hard. My fire truck is missing one tire and the red paint has flaked off in several places. That little green sedan that I ran repeatedly through the sand hills of west Texas on miniature roads and bridges is missing all four wheels and the right headlight is bent. Still, when I pick up one of those battered toys, those roads that I traveled 75 years ago become clear in my mind.
On rainy days or days that were too cold to play outside, I liked to turn over two rocking chairs, throw one of Mama’s quilts over the backs that were facing each other and make a playhouse. That was the time to take my doll Josephine and pretend that I was a grownup mother living in a cabin with wild Indians advancing in an ever tightening circle while my husband was away hunting in the forest. At the very last minute, right before the flaming arrows destroyed our house and Josephine was torn from my arms and carried away like Cynthia Ann Parker, the cavalry arrived and scared them all away.
There were many Indian raids and rescues from the cabin when it was raining outside and Mama usually had tea cakes and grape juice for me after such an ordeal.
When I started school at a two-room plank building three miles from the house, there was a merry-go-round and four rope swings in the yard but my favorite games were made up on the playground such as Red Rover, Three Deep, Pop the Whip and London Bridge. None of these required anything other than boys and girls and the ability to run. Incidentally I don’t remember anybody being fat in those days, either children or adults. It must have had something to do with sitting together at the family table; eating food that was grown on the farm with nothing added, and using up any extra calories by working and playing hard.
Books were a big part of childhood with nursery rhymes, Anderson and Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and chapters from the King James Version of the Bible. Part of almost every afternoon was devoted to an hour when mother read and children listened. Sometimes until they all fell asleep.
Listening to stories read from books or told by adults fuels the imagination as nothing else can.
An old automobile tire hanging by a rope from the limb of a giant oak tree can become the passage from jungle to island or an escape from the pirates closing in and don’t forget the Indians that are always hiding in the willows down by the creek.
The other day I packed up some items to give away and on the very top shelf of a closet, my fingers discovered that little stuffed pig that my oldest sister made for me when I was three. I took it down with care. His button eyes were loose from the thread that held them on either side of his snout, but were still there although not as fine as they once were.
Like my other toys, the little pig that I had loved so long ago was in a very much “used-up” condition. There were a few stitches holding the legs onto the body and there was a small patch here and there where he had been repaired. I had to grin thinking how much his physical condition resembled my own, then I put him back on the shelf.
“He’s not ready to go yet,” I said to the dogs. “He’s got a little more time left.”