I grew up watching TV Westerns. My father just couldn’t get enough of them. I watched them all, curled up on the floor, laying beside him, eyes glued to the legendary adventures of those larger than life heroes. More than anything, I wanted to be a cowboy. I wanted to ride into town on my horse, gun at my side, just wanting a drink to wash down the trail dust.
When I was about 5 or 6, my father bought me a cowboy set; holster, gun, hat, and Sheriff’s badge. I couldn’t wait to strap on the holster, drop in the gun, and, donning my way cool cowboy hat, practice my quick draw. “You forgot to put on the badge.”, my father pointed out. “Do you need some help?”.
“No. I don’t want to wear the badge.”, I told him.
“So, you want to be the bad guy?”, he asked. After thinking about it, all I could muster was “Uh huh.” And so began my foray into a life as a desperado.
One afternoon, while looking for adventure, I found my mother in the kitchen, baking cookies. With her back towards me, I crept up to her, gun drawn, and sticking it in her back, shouted “Put your hands up, and move away from the cookies”! She screamed, and dropped the tray of cookies on the floor. I gathered as many as I could, and got out of Dodge. No posse followed. This was so easy!
That evening, the sheriff, who had heard about the robbery, came looking for me. He found me with the cookies and told me to never do that to my mother again. I tried to explain, and he reminded me that he was still sheriff, and I would obey the law or find myself in jail, or worse.
Unable to continue on this path to a life of crime, as temporary as it was, I was led into the world of Superheroes. With a towel as a cape, I climbed the antenna to the roof of the house, and stood there, looking out over the city, and my brothers playing in the backyard. The fluttering of my cape in the wind must have distracted me, as I lost my balance and fell down to the ground. My brother ran to get my father, who standing over me, asked if I was alright. I checked, and everything seemed to be working fine. “Of course”, I informed him, I’m a Superhero. I can’t be hurt”.
“There will be no more flying around here.”, He said. “No more Superheroes. Do you understand”
Dejected, all I could mutter was “Yes sir.”
With the train robber and Superhero no longer wanted, I sought out a life as a prankster, much like The Joker or The Riddler, on Batman. Teaming with my childhood friend, Howie, we set out on an exciting adventure. Howie’s older brother had purchased firecrackers, and we had access to them. The question now was, what to do with them?
An idea formed, as if by fate. The Ericson’s, who lived directly across the road from my house, had an amazing array of roses growing at the front of their house. The plan was to plant the firecrackers amid the flowers, light them, and watch the resulting spectacle of color. Stealthily, we moved across the street, and as quickly as possible, strategically placed the weapons of floral destruction. We lit them, and ran back across the road. Just as we turned back to view our work, the site exploded, shooting petals and plants everywhere. The Ericson’s came out of their house, too late to see the event, but stared in disbelief at the resulting destruction. Mrs. Ericson saw Howie and I standing on the sidewalk, laughing with delight at our handiwork. “You rotten little brats.”, she shouted at us. The commotion and the shouting caused others to come out of their homes, including my parents.
Scanning the carnage, my father turned to me and asked, “Did you do it?”
“It was an accident.”, Was the only thing I could conjur up. He took me by the shirt collar, and walked me across the road to stand face to face with The Ericsons.
“Do you have something to say to Mr. and Mrs. Ericson?”, he asked.
I appologized as sincerely as I could, begging forgiveness, claiming it was an accident, feigning concern, and then was led back across the road by the man who had somehow been promoted from sheriff to judge. I was sentenced to clean the mess followed by 1 week of solitary confinement, and hard labor. Howie was sent home by my father, and had to deal with his own parents. He gave up the life of excitement and danger, and went on to be an accountant. To this day, he does my taxes. As for me, well, I continued to live on the edge of danger. I was often in trouble in school, for questioning the rules, challenging authority, and refusing to participate in what I had informed the Vice Principal, was insanely asinine. I was suspended on a few occasions, and had a semester long dalliance with my grade 10 French teacher, Mademoiselle Sherman, all of which helped pave the road I travelled in adulthood. My children have learnt to be free thinkers, and to have their own ideas, ideals, and opinions, and they have always made me proud.
I no longer have the desire to rob stagecoaches, or fight crime, or even to engage in wanton destruction. I have put away my gun, and discarded my cape. Cookies are baked for me whenever I request them, and I realized that I don’t need to climb up to the roof to see clearly. I do, however, miss the excitement of blowing up the Ericson’s flower garden. That was a good time.