I'm in Ohio for a few days, visiting the village that raised me. Many of the actors in that experiment are still here, including my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Kooker.
When I saw him handing out bulletins at church, I thought, "Can it be Mr. Kooker? He looks younger than I would have expected had I expected him." Seeing him reminded me of November 22, 1963. On that day, a boy in our class clapped when we were told that our President had been shot. "That boy always was strange," said Mr. K.
Last night, after supper, we drove to the Dairy Freeze to stimulate the local economy. Then my brother drove south of town, retracing part of the route our school bus had traveled. On Zurflugh Road, we passed the farmhouse where this 5- or 6-year old found a key in the ignition of a John Deere and first felt the thunderous power of gasoline. My father was a sprinter then. In the soft grass of our side yard, Dad eased me onto the seat of a bicycle, gave a gentle push, and ran alongside as I wobbled to and fro. Near the same site, my bare right foot found a hoe someone had forgotten to put away. My tears spilled into a pail of water as it turned bright red. The first time our townie babysitter came to visit, I raced to high-jump a low fence. At the last second, I froze and planted my right hand on an electrified barb. More red for this show-off.
Leaving Zurflugh, we tooled past Strattons' Woods, the site of a Boy Scout Camp-O-Ree I cannot forget. A long line of scouts hiked back to camp from a football game at Harmon Field. As our flashlights lit the road ahead, a drunken driver hit us from behind. Brakes screeched, tires squealed and a boot landed in the cornfield a few feet from me. I can guarantee that the rest of that black night was quieter than you've ever heard a hundred boys. We did not laugh when we visited the frozen latrine the next morning. For psychological care we attended a memorial service and struck camp early to return to our homes and families.
"How sad!" says Virginia.
May you always walk or run against the traffic, plant your hoes with their blades down, avoid barbs, and not become President.
Keeping it simple
5 days ago