Growing up on a farm, poor as dirt, with a lot of cousins is a smelting pot for a lot of homemade fun. More than once a prank has been pulled which turned out to be dangerous, life changing, and even life threatening.
But when you either have to make your own toys or have to imagine you're a cowboy, you tend to let your imagination run wild, and sometimes wild things happen.
I remember getting cold-cocked on the back of the head once when one of the cousins who actually had a toy gun attempted to emulate one of the 'knock-out' moves he'd seen on a popular cowboy show.
And there was seldom a playtime when there wasn't a tussle on who was going to be the good guy or the bad guy, or The Lone Ranger and Tonto, or Pancho or Cisco . . .
More than once there's been scraps which resulted in a bloody nose or someone running crying to Grandma Shelton. Good ol' Grandma! I've never known her to slap or hit any of the kids, including her own. She was the kindest person I've ever met in my life.
The foundation which I'm takin so long to build is the simple fact that cousins, with imaginations such as I've experienced, can do some awful things. Such as the story I'm a fixin' to tell.
One time, when I was a little boy in Arkansas . . . I was stopped recently by my youngest son, who is nearly thirty, when I started to tell one of my 'Little Boy In Arkansas Stories without that very beginning. He said "Dad, you're not telling it right . . ."
And every time I'd start, he stop me again. Finally, I figured out what the problem was and I began correctly: "When I was a little boy in Arkansas . . .," and he let me continue.
One time, when I was a little boy in Arkansas, my cousins and I were always laughing, cuttin' up, fussin', fightin', did a little cussin' too . . . and generally doing things that cousins do on the farm when all the adults are out working in the fields. Fussin' and fightin' you could generally get away with, but, cussin' and fightin' usually brought 'rithmatic . . . several swats of some kind of paddle, hand, or switch.
Well, one of em saw me head to the outhouse to answer the call of nature, and hatched up the scheme to lock me in the outhouse. Now the latch was merely a button latch. It was only a short piece of wood with a screw or a nail in the middle. You'd just turn that little piece of wood until it held the door shut. One on the outside and one on the inside.
And they wouldn't hold much. Certainly wouldn't hold a determined eight or nine year old who wanted out of that smelly environment! So, they got 'em a big ol' stick, poked it into the ground and wedged it against the door. And there I was. Stuck in the outhouse!
It didn't matter what I did, I couldn't get out. I cried, I yelled, I threatened, I screamed, I hollered, (expletives weren't allowed cuz I'd get a good dose of cotton stalk tea . . .), but all they'd do was laugh.
And yeah, it was kinda funny, but you'd better not do it them! Until Stevie came along, I was always the smallest, but his Daddy was a Shelton, and I couldn't do things to him like they would do to me! And that made me mad, and got me into more fights with Byron, my Uncle who was only two years older than me, than anything else I guess.
But now, here I was stuck in the outhouse. But there was one thing none of us knew. There was a storm coming. And suddenly too! It started getting dark, and the wind was picking up, and the thunder could be heard rolling from a distance. Then the lightening was getting closer, and stronger, and everybody knew lightening ALWAYS hits the outhouse!
Well, or so the legend went. The legend was that if you were in an outhouse, it would always get struck. Not only that, but the hole below would blow up, and you'd get the contents of it in your pores of your skin, and you'd stink the rest of your life.
So much for legends . . . But, at the time, the legend was VERY real sounding, and I was the one what was a fixin' to get struck by lightening and stink like howdy-doodie the rest of my life. And I was mad. Good and MAD! I dared any of them to take the stick down and I'd whip everyone of them.
Including Grandpa! But, in a short lapse of my intrepid cacophony of threats, insults, screams and yells, I realized there was no one there any longer having fun at my expense. Heck no! They had all been herded to the storm shelter where it was safe!
Do you think they'd remember me? Nooooooo! Do you think they'd tell Grandpa about me? Same answer: "they forgot . . ."
Here I am, at deaths door, fixin' to get fried with electrical lightening, about to be in an explosion where I'd be physically altered for the rest of my life, and they forgot?
I could hear the wind howling around the house and through the cracks of the outhouse. Although the biggest part of nauseous gasses were blown away, I was still in the stinkiest place on the farm! And I was about to die there!
We'd all heard the stories reiterated time and again how the lightening struck the house. It (residual electricity), was even in the door knob enough to knock Grandpa to the ground. And I could just see them finding me after the storm, laying there on the small floor, fried . . .
We'd all heard the stories of how Uncle Burl and Aunt Ermaree's house got hit numerous times, and even blowed the telephone and wiring off the wall. And all these stories were going through my mind as I sat huddled up in the corner, just waiting for the strike that would end my life.
I would, (according to another kid legend), be ushered by the angels to that great outhouse in the sky to spend eternity in the heavenly outhouse . . . Who wanted to go to heaven if you were going to spend eternity in an outhouse?!?!?
The legend was that however you died, you'd go to heaven to spend eternity like that. Suppose you were driving a tractor? Or milking a cow? Or driving a car . . . Foolish, yes, but to an eight year old who'd just been told by his senior by two years Uncle . . . hey, it was the gospel truth!
Well, that old outhouse rattled and shook, creaked and groaned, swayed and leaned in the fierce wind, but held. So did the stick holding the door. Of that I was thankful! But then I'd remember why I was here in the first place, and I'd get mad all over again.
Then, the rain hit. You ain't never seen rain like it does in Arkansas! (I'm tellin' this from an eight year old's perspective . . .). They come down big, hard, fast and furious. And most of everything on that farm leaked. Specially, that old outhouse! It was raining so hard inside I looked up several times to see if the roof was still on.
Then, almost as suddenly as it came, the storm was over. The sun was coming out, the birds were twittering in the trees, the eaves of the house and smokehouse were giving up their last bits of rain, the steam was rising out of the fields, the air was clean and sparklely, the cousins were coming round the corner.
One of the saw the stick still in the door of the outhouse, and they all busted out laughing. Byron, the oldest and toughest of the bunch, stood there laughing and was going to let me out, but Grandpa Shelton stepped out the back door, and they scattered.
Mad again! When stick was kicked loose and the door opened, I was ready! I was gonna whip WHOEVER opened the door. But Grandpa just acted so surprised when he saw me, that I just couldn't whip him! Besides, when he started laughing, it took what little bit of anger left clean out of me.
So I started laughing too. He then asked, "Porgie Earl, have you been in here all this time?" Like he didn't know.
But, I was sure glad lightening didn't strike that outhouse, cuz I sure didn't want to stink the rest of my life!