Stories Legends and Other Things: Touch the Moon
By BYRON NELSON JR., TRT Columnist
Losing our childhood is kind of a sad but necessary process for us all. For me, and like so many others, the first stage of maturity came around my eighth birthday. We can all remember just how good it felt playing in our favorite dirt pile with our little roads built into it, and pushing our little cars around and making car sounds. One day it felt really good to do that, but then the next day you realize “only little kids did that.” That happened to me about that time.
Then the next stage, at least for most boys, was cowboys and Indians and army, or war. Looking back, I guess it was true that no one really wanted to be the Indian, because you were taught in school and by the movies, that it was the Indian that always lost or was killed. So we were always the cowboy.
Dressed for the part with cowboy hats, cap pistols and sometimes even chaps, my brothers and cousins usually had names we would give to ourselves. One of my cousins took the name “Sundance Kid,” long before Robert Redford had made his movie. But the one we all feared was “Black Whip,” my sister.
Being somewhat of a tomboy and not having any sisters to play with; she was a welcome addition to our gang. But as I had mentioned, there does come a time when you realize that you might have outgrown a particular stage in your life.
With her, I believe it came one day while she was in the eighth grade. She had staked herself out behind a tree by the back road hoping to ambush one of us. When she heard something on the road, she leaped out with her trusty cap pistols at the ready. There sitting on a horse in the middle of the road looking at her was her heart throb from school. It was on that day that “Black Whip” retired, never to use her guns again.
By the time the 1955 flood rolled around, I had given up playing with my cap pistols. Not feeling a need to go out and play cowboys was not a great thing to lose, but losing something else I felt was.
Since I was very young, my father and sometimes my grandfather would take me with them when they went someplace or out in the woods. No matter where we went, they always had a story about the place we would travel through, stories that would, for the most part, only fit those particular places.
Most were humorous and interesting—they probably had hidden lessons, but they all had one thing in common, which I considered a greater loss than losing the ability to play cowboys.
The fact is these stories become unbelievable after you reach a certain age. I remember the story I was being told when I realized that most of them were probably not true. My grandfather and I were walking through the field down below our house one very dark night. About half way through the field, a full moon started to come up over the ridge in front of us. He began to tell me a story about the moon and then just as it cleared the ridge he said, “…and you can go up on that ridge and reach up and touch the moon.”
When I was very young, and believed the stories to be true, it felt even better than pushing a toy car around in the dirt. It was an adventure, a real experience that took me places in my mind. It bothered me a short time after I realized that they were not true, but I soon learned to appreciate the stories in other ways.
All the stories contained a variety of descriptive imagery that made me think in pictures to understand their meaning. No matter how outlandish the stories might have sounded, they really made me think about things. I believe it is a way to give a young person an active mind.
And, who is to say that those stories are not true? Maybe I could have gone up on that ridge that night, and touched the moon.