As I stated in his first post, once weekly I plan to feature a guest writer, my husband. He has been painstakingly writing down the stories of his childhood to share them with his 9 year old niece. I wanted her to know what kind of childhood her beloved Uncle was able to enjoy. While enjoying them myself I thought these are so much fun to read, why not share them? So here are the short missives of his memories of growing up in wilds of Florida during the 1950's and 1960's. They're packed with misadventures, romance, and all the confusing things that can happen in our youth. Even though his hometown of Jacksonville is a big city with over a million residents now, during his childhood it was several small communities surrounded by countryside.
This is his story.
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I'm A Cowboy
by Steven R. Hudson
On a summer day a truck pulling a small horse trailer parked on our street.
The driver got out and began knocking on doors. This was not at all unusual in those days for door to door salesmen were common. Very few mothers worked outside the home and selling vacuum cleaners, encyclopedias, Bibles and even cleaning brushes could be a lucrative enterprise for a man with a gift for gab. When the man arrived at our door we learned that he was a photographer and in the trailer was a pony and cowboy costumes. For a small fee you could put on the cowboy garb and get your picture taken on the pony. I was so excited when Mom said yes to my pleas. When the man helped me into the saddle I was ready to ride off with Roy Rogers, all I needed was a pair of six-shooters and a rifle in the saddle scabbard.
The creek became a favorite spot for us boys. We would cross Beach Blvd and follow a narrow muddy path along it's banks. Usually we were there to hunt frogs which dove into the creek by the hundreds as we disturbed them from their hiding places along the bank. Frog gigs were fashioned from Maple limbs, sharpened with a pocket knife and then hardened in a fire. Sometimes we would gig a few unlucky frogs but we tired of this when we could not convince any of our moms to fry up the legs for us. Baloney sandwiches would have to do for lunch. The creek was a truly beautiful place. The water ran clear when it hadn't been muddied by heavy rain. The banks were lined with huge old trees. Their roots were exposed along the foot path and formed a maze that we had to step over as we walked. Moss grew heavily upon overhanging limbs forming a drapery that hinted of danger and mystery in our young minds. Bees and butterflies swarmed on the purple flowers of Pickerel Weed that grew thick in the shallows and the buzz of Katydids and Cicadas filled the air, heavy with summer humidity. We walked along barefoot, a pair of shorts or cut offs and sometimes a T-shirt, our feet calloused and hard and our skinny bodies brown as bugs. A scene right out of "Lord of the Flies".
My first encounter with a venomous snake happened while on a minnow and crawfish hunt with friend Peanut. There was a pair of fancy brick gates on Huffman Blvd that marked the entrance to Center Park and a large pool of water at the culvert here that always held big crawfish. As we neared the gates we could see a large banded and heavy bodied snake at the base of one gate. It was a Canebreak (coastal Timber) Rattlesnake. As we approached it started rattling a loud buzz like escaping steam and reared it's head defensively, warning us to come no closer. We didn't. We were awe struck at the size and power of this beautiful reptile. Peanut climbed up on the gate so he could get a better look. I stood where I was and after a while the snake crawled away. We talked about that snake for days and it grew bigger and more fearsome with every telling.