Terry Thomas

The Cotton Wood Tree

The Cotton Wood Tree:


Times to play were few and far in between during the week. It seemed like I was always on the go as daddy was always busy either fixing some ones automobile or their refrigerator. I can not remember being left alone even at the age of twelve it just did not happen.


I mean sometimes my parents would go to the store or to get gas or to get heating oil but those were fifteen to thirty minutes trips, never can I remember being home alone for anytime longer than what I mentioned above.


We were however always home in time to throw a little ball of have a game of marbles or mumble peg with my neighbor hood friends.


It was a lazy summer day in the city of Nashville warm and humid. The big field was a horse shoe shaped field that had to have been several hundred yards long and at least that many yards deep. The outer edges of the shoe were lined with cotton wood trees; I’m talking real trees that seemed to a young boy to reach into the heavens. It was in this beautiful green grass field that we met every Saturday morning during the summer, if we could.


The routine was the same, first I would hit the corner store on Delta Avenue and purchase one Doctor Pepper and I would buy one bag of those little white powder donuts. It took a lot of mental strength to walk what was about two long blocks to reach the big field and not open that soda and the treats. Once I rounded the corner at the big field I could hear Buddy yelling at me to hurry up. I could see both Buddy and Larry were already in the tree and patiently waiting for me. Holding there sodas high and complaining about me being late.


Once I reached the tree of choice for this weekend it was soda in one pocket, donuts in the other and then up the tree I went. We generally sat on the limbs that were about fifteen to twenty feet above the ground and once everyone was comfortable it was time.


Now the height of the limbs were somewhat important to use as when it was time to climb down the big game was called dropping. We would hang from the limb with our hands and with are feet pointed towards earth we would let go. If everybody dropped from the same limb all was good, however if one of us chickened out well now that was something else. Lost of membership, disbarment, the punishment could be brutal.


With soda pops open and donut wrappers falling to the ground under the light breeze we began our journey into the world of fantasy. I can not cover all of the great things we talked about, what we would be when we grew up. From fighter pilots to combat heroes we covered all the possibilities. As we stretched out on those big tree limbs we were in a world that seemed no larger than the three or four of us and we felt like kings as we gazed down onto our servants.


Although my childhood times did not make me the leader of the free world I would not have traded those days for any amount of money. We were just young boys talking about things that would never be and things that might someday be. After all plans for the rest of the weekend needed to be discussed and set into motion.


Saturday evening and into the night it was Army. God how we loved to play that game. American soldiers versus the Nazi. We all had at least one play burp gun whose rat tat tat sound would fill the night time air at least one night per week if not more. The housing projects where we lived were full of shrubs, fences and stairs one could hide behind and make his stalk on the enemy. The sound of children laughing and playing, the smell of smoke from the neighbors who would sit out on their porches in the evening and have their tobacco and once in awhile the lights from a vehicle would pass by and its shinning beams would sometimes give away the location of the enemy.


Sunday morning would be the Woo Full ball in what was called the little field. Woo full ball was baseball except the ball and bat were plastic and the ball also had holes in. Home base was under a big cotton wood and the field was lined with the huge trees also. When that Woo Full ball was hit well it would land high into the tree tops and you had to really be on your game to catch that thing as it bounced down through the tree limbs. The swaying limbs from the wind were constantly moving the ball in any and all directions.


But with eyes like that of a Hawk fixed on the ball, your Jim Dandy baseball mitt in hand you were ready. Most of the time the batter would round home plate before the ball was caught or missed if the batter had a well place hit. Now throwing someone out with that Woo Full ball was another story. No matter how hard and accurately you threw the ball it had a mind of its own. When it flew the way you wanted it to you were at least for the day in the Major Leagues and praised by your team mates.


After lunch it was flag football in the big field and this was when the older boys would come to play. It was always a great time and even though we were littler we were never treated that away. Everyone was equal and everyone got to play regardless of your ability. It was mostly just young boys and big brothers out having the time of there life.


Now I was fast on my feet and I mean fast. I also had a pretty good set of hands and as a receiver I was serious trouble to the opposing side. Now until the day I buried my brother he still swore it was not intentional but I still have my doubts.


The plan was on the snap I would fake left a few yards and then cut right and head deep for the big pass. Well I did my part and by the time I had cut right no one stood a chance of ever catching me. Running full throttle and looking back at the quarter back I seen the leather skin leave his hand and it was headed to me. With great speed and agility I maneuvered left and right never taking my eye off the ball. I had to adjust my position for I was dealing with a quarter back that had only mediocre skills. I watched as my brother used his hands to signal for me to keep running deeper into enemy territory. The pass was however after my adjustments picture perfect as I reached out as far as I could and watched as the ball landed in my finger tips. As I clutched the ball in close and turned my head for what was to be the line of trees that was the end zone marker I came face to face with a cotton wood tree. Yep full throttle smack into that tree.


Now I have no idea how long I was sleeping, when I woke up all I could see was lots of people looking over with the fear of God on their face. Once they realized I was going to be okay that look of fear turned into laughter. And laugh they did. Maybe it was funny I can not say for sure all I know is football was over for me that day. My face would ware the design of tree bark for several days there after.


But by Sunday evening I was ready as we usual ending another glorious weekend shooting marble and playing mumble peg.


So what is this moral of this story you ask and I hope I can help you out.


If you can not leave your educated mind, your adult mentality behind you at any given point in time then shame on you.


If you can not remember the tall grass pushing through the toes of your bare feet as you run with all your might with your bath towel pinned around your neck like some supper hero who is about to save a damsel in distress then shame on you.


If you can not remember using an old mayonnaise gar to catch honey bees or lighting bugs then shame on you.


If you can not remember your fishing bobber bouncing up and down in the water as you lay back with a piece of grass in your mouth while discussing philosophy with one of your friends then shame on you.


If you can not remember laughing so loud and so hard that your insides felt like they were going to explode then shame on you.


As my Grand Children begin their journey through life I have begun to remember what I thought I had forgotten.


Remember the time and relive it when you see the children sitting and talking and or playing and you find yourself wondering what is going on in those little minds.


It is called life, and we should all learn to remember it.


Terry Thomas


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