Friday, March 02, 2007

Thug Life, Texas Style

So when I was five years old I lived on a horse and cattle ranch about an hour outside of Seymour, Texas, with my mother, grandparents, and assorted crazy relatives from my grandmother's side of the family. Since my memories of this single year in my life are from a five-year-old's perspective, they are both grand and whimsical and not at all disturbing, although they should be. Maybe.

My favorite memories of Texas:

  1. The ranch, our little home, my grandparents home, and the nicest home of all, mostly left empty because it was reserved for the well-to-do relatives who owned the ranch. I think we went in it once. All I remember was that it smelled old and closed up. I couldn't understand why no one was allowed to live in it, but five-year-olds never understand the politics of greed at that level. I did understand the concept of mine, mine, mine, however, so it could not have been so alien.

  2. I got my tongue stuck on the frost of our freezer once. Every kid does this, right? Mom, being the sadist that she was, pulled me off instead of pouring warm water over it. Thanks, Ma! I still feel the pain when it rains.

  3. Sign of Creativity and/or Sociopathic tendencies? You decide: My only true friends were my hands, created by putting the thumb and pointer together for the mouth and splaying the rest of the fingers like a cockscomb (hello, chicken). I don't remember much about them, although I do know that they advised me on all manner of important things and that each was a distinct individual with sometimes conflicting opinions from the other. Oh, and the two hands put together at the fingertips? God. He told me to run away once. I packed my tiny suitcase, too. But I never followed through.

  4. Kindergarten, where I learned to cause as much trouble as possible. Also where I learned what "paddling" was all about. It was very practiced, with the teacher's thin-lipped grab of my arm and rapid march down to the principal's office, followed by ten licks, if memory serves. Funny, the only paddling I really remember was the one I received for a crime I did not commit. I suppose injustice stings worse. I did not, in fact, hurl a phone at another kid's face. It didn't fit my m.o. at all. I was a stealth brat, at the ready to shock and awe. And I did it a lot, which is probably why I got pinned for the flying phone crime.

  5. My first boyfriends, acquired under threat of pain. Are there better ways?

  6. Other things I did to get paddled: I only remember two. The first: Screw you and your plants, too: I was sitting next to my teacher at recess, and right next to us stood the other kindergarten class' plant project. I don't know what kind of plants, just that they were eye level and easily accessible. I remember contemplating it, the pros, the cons: our class didn't have a plant project (pro), the teacher was sitting right beside me (con), the other kindergarten class only had to stay half-days (pro, and the tipping point). So, I reached over and ripped it to shreds. I got paddled. And shamed in front of both classes. I don't remember feeling all that bad, but maybe I did. All I know is that I did not truly reform until first grade when we were back in Wichita. The second: You are MY Bitch: My best friend (Carrie?) talked to someone I didn't like so I walked up to her when we were lining up for recess, grabbed her arm, twisted it, and ran my nail down the inside from the wrist to the elbow. Then I lined up like usual. I didn't think much of it until the teacher grabbed me and showed me what I'd done. She was bleeding and crying. From my adult point of view, it was awful, but I think I must have been Michael Myers or something back then, because it didn't really register. Don't I look like a nice kid? I am sure there were a legion of people who would have volunteered to drown me. I would have been one of them.

  7. My bus ride to school was and hour each way. One day, the bus driver let me off, but there was nobody home. I somehow managed to get over the cattle guards and all the way to my crazy relatives' house before remembering to watch for rattlesnakes. It was a long trek for a five-year-old, and a nice taste of independence.

  8. My Favorite Brain Injury, Ever: I was prone to head injuries growing up; standing up under things was my specialty. One day, our bus got stuck in the mud. There were only a few of us left; some had parents come pick them up and I was left to stay at some girl's house to wait for my people to claim me. So, I didn't like her. Shocking, right? It's clear I had issues at the time. But I really, really didn't like this girl; she was older than me and had more things that I had--I was still a few years away from understanding rich vs. poor and the crushing sorrow of a poor girl's envy, but I knew this little shit had a tennis court and I most certainly did not. So, we were playing on the tennis court and she was chasing me with one of those shark-head-on-a-stick toys where you squeeze the handle and the shark goes chomp-chomp-chomp. I'm running backwards because, hey, shark on a stick, man, when I trip over the tennis net and land directly on the back of my head. At this point, everything happens in slow motion shutter clicks. The girl asking me if I'm okay, face transforming from teasing goblin to genuinely worried, her mother pulling me off the ground, somehow getting into the house and sitting on the couch while the girl says over and over, "Are you ok? Are you ok?" I can't remember when I snapped out of it, but the knot on the back of my head was enormous. You know how Blow Pops have that ridge across the middle, like a mini candy Saturn? That's what the knot felt like: a big, hard candy-planet with a ring around it. I even presented my injury at show-and-tell to wide acclaim. It was fantastic. I do believe there was brain damage, however, which sucks. I could have been a surgeon, an astronaut, or a smarty marty math professor. We'll just never know.

  9. My grandpa: All memories of my childhood lit with warm light and close comfort invariably include my grandfather. My favorite person then, now, and always. I miss him terribly. We watched The Incredible Hulk together because Lou Ferrigno scarred the hell out of me. He would make sure I was okay whenever the Hulk appeared, and we would yell "ewwwwww" whenever the kissing started. He was my hero and I loved him.

  10. This is the infamous year I threw Farah Fawcett out the window because my mom caught me putting Farah and Ken in a lustful position. We were driving in the car, I was sitting right next to her, but I still got mad about getting caught. And, as the logic goes, I punished my mother by throwing my favorite doll out the window. See? Brain damage.

  11. The horses at the ranch were not particularly ride-able--they were the biting and bucking kind--but they'd let me pick the burrs out of their manes.

  12. My grandparents' picture window genuinely looked like a picture. At least, my memory tells me so.

  13. I got Fonzie for my birthday. Now that I think of it, he may have been the one getting it on with Farah, not Ken. Either Fonzie or Donnie Osmond. I can't remember. Anyway, he had a trigger on his back that you pulled to make his arms go up and down. His fists, you might guess, were in perpetual "thumbs up" motion. Aeyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeee.

  14. The last time I spent any real, one-on-one time with my father was in Texas. He picked me up and took me to some kind of dime store. He bought me the junk that all kids love and parents despise: the cheap crap in plastic sold on the endcaps by the registers. I thought it was pretty alright. I remember not really understanding who he was.

  15. Riding in the truck with my mom, listening to Linda Ronstadt or Dolly Parton, depending on who was winning the war. Mom won ALL THE TIME, so now "Blue Bayou" is forever tattooed in my damaged brain. Thanks, Ma!

I'll admit that some of these memories are a bit thuggish. I get it, violence is wrong. But part of intrigue is how foreign it all is to me now. I haven't been violent, destructive, or sociopathic since I was five. Mostly. And Texas is, now and forever, a psychedelic mind-trip from somebody else's dream. Now that's a postcard.


Blogger ymathew said...

You were totally Scout Finch! But cuter.

That little bitch in line deserved it; you showed uncommon restraint and class to only scratch one of her arms.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Flushy McBucketpants said...

i would've been scared of you in kindergarten. though i had my moments of violence too. like the time i--allegedly unprovoked, but i'm sure something set me off--whacked some kid in the chest with a baseball bat. or when i punched another kid in the face, which was an accident as i meant to hit the red rubber ball out of his hands, but he was chubby and his large cheeks got in the way of the ball. generally though, i was a well behaved kid.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Shiny said...

FYI, had to look up Scout Finch as I have a MASTERZ in English and yet have never read that there book. T'was a compliment, I reckon?

FYI Flushy, you would have indeed been living in terror of me. I was a wee bit aggressive. But I don't believe your haughty CLAIM of innocence. Remember that I KNOW YOU, kitten.

9:40 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

i would've been scared of you in kindergarten.

Dude, I'm scared of you now. But in the most affectionate manner.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Flushy McBucketpants said...

Shiny doesn't scare me now. I am the defiant one after all. Y'know what scares me now? "Behind the Scenes with Nick Lachey."

7:39 PM  

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