Coming of age (age 5) memoir about life and first friendships fifty-five years ago.
In the beginning there would be me and then I met Mike and Moose, and things would never be the same again.
Five years old doesn’t seem very old to make your first great friends, but that’s how old I was when I first met Mike, and a few months later Moose. For the next few years we labored through Central Elementary School, Cub Scouts and a variety of other challenges, and throughout it all, or despite it all remained best friends. We were in trouble often and held to special secrets by each other much of the time. We usually were more worried about our next adventure than we were by the trouble we were in at home or school. The three of us would experience much growing up the next few years in a small Nebraska town of six thousand in the early nineteen fifties.
Mike and I should have know the first day we met of what was to come; because on that day and in that first meeting, and only five years old, we chose to make up names, and we both did it. We must have thought we had already done something that would get us in trouble. In only a few years that might be the case, but that’s another story.
“Hi, my names Keith, what’s yours,” I said, through the weather-beaten green screen door at our new home on E street. Our new house was really something, great big and white with a small white garage and a green shed in the back. And this was moving day, and my dad and the movers were bringing in the last of our stuff from the farm in a big red grain truck.
The kid standing on the other side of the door, who was about my size, quickly answered, “I’m Vernon,” I live in the house just down the street and my mom said not to come up here to see what was going on. What’s going on, are you goanna live here?” And that was the first meeting of Mike and me.
“Can you come out and play, down at my house,” Mike asked.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to leave, as I was more than a little unsure of myself and my new surroundings, but I asked my mom and she told me I could go out, “for a little while, but don’t cross the street.”
We were off on our first adventure, and since neither of us knew how long a little while was we spent the rest of the afternoon together. I liked Mike right away, he was taller than I was, with a crew cut, really big feet, and funny ears, he was a little on the pudgy side and ran really slow. But when it came to ideas, he had a jillion of them, and most of them were bad. Me, I was really skinny with that typical, Nebraska farm boy of the fifties, bowl haircut and I could out run Mike anytime. And this fact saved me from harm on more than one occasion.
Mike always wore a white t-shirt, something I had never seen before. I always dressed in a short-sleeved shirt with buttons down the front. We both wore blue jeans and hard leather shoes, shoes that we had a tough time keeping track of because both of us preferred to be without socks and barefooted.
When we got to Mikes house his mother introduced herself as “Mikes Mother,” not Vernon’s mother, and asked who I was, to which I replied in, a very small voice,
“Hi, my name is Neil Waring and we live on the corner, we just moved here.”
So the first of our little jokes on each other was already over and from now on it was me and Mike, best buddies. As for the rest of the jokes, gags and tricks that we tried to play on each other over the years they mostly never worked either.
On the first day I met Mike we spent the afternoon looking around. They had things I’d never seen before like: a phone upstairs (great for prank calls), a laundry shoot (for sliding, or falling down), and a shower in the basement (great for drowning grasshoppers and washing toads), and a Basketball goal with a concrete court in the backyard (sometimes actually used for basketball). It had been a memorable day; I ran home!
Several weeks later we met Moose. Moose lived on the, across the street, corner and was taller and heaver than Mike or me. His name was Phillip but we just didn’t think that was a good name for a big old guy like him, he was bigger, heaver and stronger than us, we thought he must be as big as a bear or a moose, and from that day on Moose he was. Moose never liked his nickname but to Mike and me he would forever be Moose. So here we were, three five year olds, Moose lived on one corner and me, I lived on the other corner, and Mike lived in between.
I told them my dad built stuff like houses and cabinets, Mike said his dad did something called the F.B.I.; none of us knew what that was. Moose didn’t say much when we were talking about our dads. He lived with his mom and his grandparents and his granddad was an engineer on the Rock Island Railroad, what a great job. Mike and me knew what an engineer did and then Moose told us he got to ride on the train sometimes, we asked Moose if he thought we could ride too and he said he would find out, but I don’t think he ever really asked. I wasn’t sure what Mike meant about his dads job, but I thought it must be important, and I would try to remember to ask someone just what F.B.I. was. Mike’s dad was gone some times; something that often was to spell trouble for all of us.
In the next few months we would pour grape soda on their new gray carpet to see if it really would never come out like Mike’s mom said. We stuck our tongues on the bottom of the metal ice tray to see if they would really stick. We jammed keys into electrical outlets, drank catsup from the bottle and crawled out the upstairs window onto the roof. We built playhouse caves in the basement of Mike’s house and used the green shed in my yard as our hideout. We became cowboys and Indians, soldier’s, crooks and cops.
And after every new adventure, or every time we got in trouble, which was nearly every new adventure, I ran home.
© 2007 N.A. Waring