By John C. Glass
Growing up on a farm and ranch along the Colorado River below Austin in the 50’s and 60’s a young boy could only described it as a true never-never land. My Mom had come from a family of 5 girls, no boys, in Pennsylvania only to come to Texas and give my Father 6 boys, no girls. Dad use to say “Didn’t have any real need for girls on a Ranch.”
Even though he repeated that many times, I have no doubt that if one would have “happened to come along”, she would have found her place in the scheme of things with the certainty of never having to worry for anything.
Life was not boring on our ranch, all one had to do was let your imagination go and use the many natural resources that a Texas summer offered. There along the banks of the river, in the shadows of the large Pecan, Cottonwood and Sycamore trees and down the long rows of cotton and corn, it was our farm and ranch itself that offered to keep us entertained.
You have to remember the time frame. Back then, there were no, PCs, cell phones, quads or even mp3 players. The telephone was a party line where at least 3 other families shared the same line. And television, television consisted of three channels starting at 6am and shutting down with the Star Spangled Banner at midnight.
There were very few store bought games, or plastic guns emitting the rat-tat-tat sounds of those found in the city. Your gun was a stick and the sound effects came from deep within a boy’s throat and his imagination. We didn’t have sidewalks to ride a skateboard on even if you had made one. But there were other sports that had been passed down or made up that could be used to keep us happy.
The Tractor Tire 500
Stuff two, possibly three boys, depending on their size, into the innards of a tractor tire at the top of a hill. Straps consisted of usually everyone’s T shirt or an old sheet that had been snuck out of the house and ripped into strips.
In most cases the “test participants” were usually the youngest kids available but only after being chased down kicking and screaming, while they were stuffed and tied into the tire and sent down the hill before they could escape. These trips lasted usually less than 30 seconds with the large tire finally wobbling in a large circle and settling on its side in a cloud of dust with the riders scrambling out now screaming to do it again. In defense for the game, we only hit the barbed wire fence at the bottom of the hill once.
The Hay Barn Tunnel of Terror
To design and build a tunnel along a 200 foot long and 20 foot high stack of hay bales. Then dare your friends, cousins and neighbors to try to best your best through the tunnel of total darkness.
Now picture this, a completely dark tunnel, a boy trying to complete the timed trip not knowing if there are turns, pitfalls or other “things” in there with you, which there all were.
It was only at that first touch of something furry and that banshee scream that you remembered someone mentioning that there had been a skunk found in the tunnel before. I don’t know which was scared more the participant or the cat, which had been dropped into the tunnel ahead of you after you went in. But we did have one city cousin who never came to spend the summer with us after that.
River Camp Out
For at least five boys to camp out on the banks of the river for no less than one week without outside sources. This included hunting, fishing and trapping all food supplies. Except of course for any marshmallows, graham crackers, bread and bologna and other odd snacks that were found sitting in a box once every other day or so, along the fence line leading into river bottom (Thanks Mom).
Upon completion of the trip, Mom did have certain stipulations regarding being able to return into our house.
Step 1: Take bath, using soap, in river within one hour before returning home.
Step 2: Take water hose shower, with soap, prior to entering back door of house.
Step 3: Go directly to bathroom, take indoor shower, again with soap and now adding shampoo to hair.
Step 4: Report to Mom for inspection with the strong possibility of repeating Step 3.
Years later we found out that Mom and Dad had their own name for this game which was “Mom and Dad’s Summer Vacation”.
There were many other games such as Nighttime Jack Rabbit Hunting out of the back of a moving truck, Chinaberry Fights, War, Kick the Can, Playing baseball with a Crocket Ball, (I will never be the pitcher again and maybe that’s why I am the way I am.) Aluminum Sled Rides and of course, 50 gallon drum swimming parties. But, those are all stories in themselves.
For years these country boy games continued until the hormones started kicking in and the lure for the hunt for girls took their place. Boys grew into teenagers then into men and the games are no longer played, at least not physically. But get my brothers, cousins and old friends together and the games start all over again, only now, sitting in someone’s living room reliving the past.
This post was submitted by John C. Glass.