On my walk today……………..


 

“We interrupt this program to bring you a special presentation………”

On my walk today………..
I saw a stink bug and a butterfly,
which made me think of horny toads and fireflies,
which made me think of childhood days
in a time far away………
young and free,
where I frolicked and played.

When I was a little girl, around 5 or 6 years old, we lived in Houston, TX. My momma was a housewife and mother; my daddy a construction worker for Brown & Root (I think).

We had one car; it was a green Ford Fairlane and my daddy used it to go to work. Sometimes I think he would carpool, but that’s something I can’t really remember. What I do remember is the times my daddy would come home from work wearing his dusty work boots and welding cap and he’d say, “Y’all come ‘ere. I got something for you.”

My sisters and I would run, laughing and giggling to see what he had.

He would be holding a cardboard box or I vaguely remember, sometimes his lunch box; the metal kind with the domed lid.

“What is it? What is it?” We would always ask.

“Well open it and see.” Would always be his reply.

Hesitantly we would open the box and peer inside; crouched in the bottom would be the smallest pre-historic looking creature we had ever seen. It would push up on its front legs and poke its little head up looking all around with its beady little eyes.

It was ugly!!

My daddy would grin at his girls, being so proud; he would reach in and gently take the frighten little thing out of the box, “Here, it’s a “horny” toad. He won’t bite.” Then he’d extend his hand and want us to hold it. I was not very fond of them, but my sister was. I did hold them occasionally; I remember them being surprisingly soft, considering how they looked; with their little horned heads and bumpy backs. Like a little dinosaur.

It was always an exciting day when daddy brought home a “horny” toad. What I don’t remember is what happen to them after the excitement wore off; did my momma quietly let them go out the back door or did she find them hard and withered behind the couch after a crafty escape? I think in the vaguest of me memory, we would go with daddy in the yard and let them go. I bet I could ask my sister and she remembers.

I haven’t seen a horned toad in years; and I don’t know why, but seeing the black and orange stink bug vividly made me think of the “horny” toads my daddy use to bring home for his girls.

My family left Houston and we moved to the Piney Woods of East Texas where my daddy lived as a child and where my grandparents lived. One of my favorite memories is the endless hours I spent in a field of tall wild flowers chasing butterflies and the evenings catching fireflies.

As I walked today, I saw one; and only one, fluttery, black butterfly and wondered what had happened to them all, the orange striped ones, the little yellow ones and the black and blue ones. I never see them anymore……….

Between my grand parents house and their neighbor’s house, there was a small field; in the summer, the field was filled with tall wild flowers and colorful floating butterflies. On Saturday afternoons the adults would sit around on the front porch or out back in the lawn chairs and shuck corn or shell peas that came from my granddaddy’s garden. The kids would run around and play, not allowed to sit around and listen to adult conversations……………..

I would run through the tall flowers in the field and chase butterflies…….for hours.

“PawPaw can I have a minnow net?”

“Whatcha gonna do with a minnow net hun?’

“I’m gonna catch butterflies!”

Shaking his head, “I think I gotta minnow net you can use.”

And he would get me a net from one of the many he had hanging on poles by the old wooden vats that held all the minnows he sold on his bait route.

I would take my net, usually one with an extra long handle and head to the field. From one end of the field to the other, swinging my net back and forth, I would chase the fluttery creatures. Scooping them from the sky as they flew by or carefully capturing them on one of the flowers where it landed. Each one I caught, I would run and gently remove it from my net and show it to my momma.

“Look momma isn’t it pretty?”

“It sure is.”

“Can I keep it?”

“We’ll have to see. But maybe you should let that one go.”

It was always the same, I would run back to the field and gently release it and chase after another one. But sometimes she’d let me take a couple of the colorful jewels home and I would keep them in an old fish bowl with sweet gum leaves and sticks that I careful broke to the right sizes to fit in the bowl. Eventually the time would come and she would make me stop chasing my little treasures; my hair drenched, sweat dripping from my nose, red blotched face and a neck full of granny beads.

“Your to hot, that’s enough.” she’d say; to which I would whine.

“No I’m not. I don’t want to stop!”

“Come on, go give your PawPaw back his net and see if you can swim.”

SWIM??? Ok!!

And off I’d go in hunt of my granddaddy………………………..

“PawPaw, PawPaw; can we swim?”

“Can you swim? I reckon you can. Let me get the minnows outa the way.”

Then my sisters and I would sit on the side of which ever old vat he decided we could swim in that day. We would wait and watch as he gently used a screened divider and slowly worked the minnows to one end of the wooden vat making ready our Olympic size pool (that’s what we thought it was).

I’m not sure what the real purpose of the screened divider was for, but I’m sure it was for something more important than holding the minnows at one of the vat so the grand babies could swim all afternoon, but that’s what we thought it was for.

We’d wait patiently.

There was no jumping allowed in the vats, but you could splash, float, go under water and go from one end to the other end. I remember the old wooden vats having the coolest water; probably because of the aerators he kept running that churned the water with thousand of little bubbles. My sisters and I would always put our hands around the aerators and play with all the little bubbles and watch the minnows scatter around.

We would swim and play until we pruned up like little old ladies and momma called from the back porch……….

“Y’all come on, it’s time to come in!”

My granddaddy would hustle us out over the side of the old vat and wrap us each in towels that mysteriously appeared from some where.

“Go on now, go see your momma.” And down the hill we’d go to the house.

It would always be that time of day between afternoon and dark, when the sun starts to sink behind the trees taking the blistering heat with it. When there’s no shadows on the ground or breeze blowing the leaves; as if the whole world is still………………….

And that’s when you would see them………………..

Blink….blink……blink………………fireflies.

Just on the edge of the woods; one over here, one over there; high and low, their little yellow bodies flashing. We’d get so excited, my sisters and I, and beg my grandmother for a jar. She would always give each of us a Mason jar with the lid and quickly before it got to dark we’d run outside to the edge of the woods and stand real still………..

and wait.

To catch fireflies you have to wait for their little bodies to blink and then quickly but gently cup them in your hands. It took patience and quickness. Sometimes the little bugs would tickle the inside of my hands with their wings and without meaning to, I would squeal and open my hands, and the firefly would quickly get away. I knew it didn’t bite or sting; I had captured many fireflies, but my reaction was always the same. It would take me a couple of captures before I convinced my hands not to automatically open when the little wings tickled me.

Darkness would finally take over the day and momma would call us in one last time. She would begin to gather our things and load our car; brown paper bags of freshly shucked corn on the cobb and black-eyed peas still in their shells or potatoes that still had the dirt on them from digging them fresh from the garden that day.

Then my daddy would say, “Give everybody a hug and a kiss and let’s go.”

We do a lot of huggin’ and kissin’ in Texas, it’s just the way of the southern people; you learn it at any early age. Takes every bit of 10 minutes just to say goodbye.

My sisters and I would collect our jars of treasures and carefully crawl in the back seat of our car. I can still see my grandparents standing under the carport waving and hear their feisty little daschunds barking, as we pulled out of the drive.

Riding home quietly in the back seat, with my jars full of colorful treasures; I thought the world was complete. What more could I want? I had jars full of butterflies and fireflies…………..

On my walk today………….
I saw a stink bug and a butterfly,
which made me think of horny toads and fireflies,
which made me think of childhood days
in a time far away,
young and free,
where I frolicked and played.

 

“We hope you’ve enjoyed this presentation; we now return you to your regularly scheduled programming……………..”

 

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bigdaddywizard
    Jul 24, 2014 @ 22:08:23

    Thanks for the ride back into my childhood memories. When stress or disappointment was simply to stop having fun tonight and come inside shower and sleep ohh and if you didn’t stay out to long you could watch 30 minutes of your choice of 4 channels….repeat tomorrow….
    I miss those simplest of times that fade away with the adulthood of hustle and bustle of bill paying and keeping up with the ???? ……
    Take me back to the paradise city where the grass is green and the girls are pretty. Ohhh won’t you pleassse take me home. Your writing talents keep getting better and better. 🙂

    Like

    Reply

  2. Fearless Leader
    Jul 25, 2014 @ 08:15:06

    Horny toads!!! When I was a little boy in Fort Worth those things lived in my back yard(s) by the hundreds! I loved ’em!

    About the same time (early 60s) we used to go vacation to East Texas, near and around Gilmer. This story allowed me to flash back to those days – using the outhouse, water from Uncle Walter’s well, the Gilmer Yamboree, fishing for crappie in a stock tank….

    Best times of my life.

    Like

    Reply

  3. rainingorchids65
    Jul 26, 2014 @ 21:23:53

    This one needs a “love” button!!

    Like

    Reply

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