By Bill Shepard
This is March and I have not seen the first kite sailing in the blue skies overhead! March is half over and I have not seen the first marble game in progress!
Ah, if I could be a boy again! I pity the boy who has never had the experience of standing at the edge of an open field, bracing himself against the cold March wind, while holding tightly to the roll of twine in his hand.
The tug on the end of the line sends a thrill through his lean body that is fighting hard to stand upright. Far out and over the cypress trees that grow inside the dense swamp, the boy can feel the tugging of his paper bird, the kite’s way of saying, “I want to climb higher and farther.”
The boy is not alone! There could be as many as a dozen boys all having the same experience. I lived the above experience as regularly as March came when I was a boy.
As March began to fade, one could count several of the paper birds fighting against the still-strong wind. It was a losing fight. On into the approaching summer, the homemade paper birds could still be seen, fighting for their freedom. They were tattered and frayed, and the battle was almost over!
This writer lived the above experience many times as a boy. As the spring gave way to the warm summer days, I would venture into the cypress swamp to fish for the perch and the redfin pike that were in abundance in the shallow waters of the lazy stream that was on its way to somewhere.
Yes, I pity the boy who never took advantage of the winds of March and sailed his kite into the blue skies overhead. I did, and because I did, now that I am an old man, I can be a boy again in my memories.
I can even make a kite just as I once did. A few dried fennels from the pasture for the frame and an old page of newspaper, if available. If not, a large brown grocery bag would do. Some paste made by mixing water and flour, and I am in the kite-making business.
We not only made the kites we sailed in March, we also made some of the marbles we played with! I used red clay dug from the railroad embankment near where I lived. I would dampen the clay and roll it into the shape it was to be, then wait for it to dry into a hard form.
I could hasten the drying time by placing them inside the oven on Mama’s stove! After the drying process, the marbles were ready for color. Broken pieces of crayon were easy to come by. I kept an eye open for them at school and wherever I saw one.
The waxed crayon made a perfect covering for my clay marbles. Colored and waxed at the same time! I would place the broken crayons in a container, then place them over a fire and melt them. The colored crayons made a beautiful cover for any marbles!
It was hard to tell a difference between mine and those purchased at the Dime Store downtown. Of course, a seasoned marble shooter would know the difference!
Just as I have not seen anybody sailing a kite, I have not seen anyone shooting marbles. No boys shooting slingshots, no boys sailing a kite, and not a marble game to be seen, and I don’t expect to see anyone with a cane fishing pole and a can of freshly dug earthworms on their way to a fishing hole! As one who engaged in all those pastimes, I have to ask, “What is happening to our youth?”
In my book, “Mill Village Boy,” I wrote of all the things I did as a boy and how they impacted my life for good. Growing up in the 1930s, I found fun, joys and entertainment in the world that surrounded me. When I became a dad, I introduced as much of that life to my own children as I could.
It gives me pride today when I hear my own son say he remembers when he was a boy and how he would often say, “Dad, let’s go for a walk in the woods and the fields.” I would take him by the hand and away we would go. Ah, what memories! You see I am at it again … beautiful childhood memories!
Make all you can and store them along the back roads of your mind. They will come again, and you will be glad!