I hate like the dickens even to bring this up but i'm old enough to remember when radio was the big deal...no one had even heard of a TV in our neck of the woods. Except when the radio serials were on in late afternoon...like I love a Mystery, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Buck Rogers, The Armstrong Boys, and the like, we entertained ourselves by rounding up our buddies (no girls allowed, thank you very much) and playing softball, going fishing, playing marbles, or even jumping off stuff...almost anything would do. I remember one day we decided to see how long we could walk along the top board of a wooden fence; that quickly moved into jumping off the fence, and finally to jumping off the garage roof onto the lawn, about a 10-foot drop. Crazy as that sounds we did it for about an hour or so...lemme tell ya, I was darned sore the next day, from my feet to my ankles, to my knees, to my hips, to my shoulders, well you get the idea, my eyeballs even hurt. This poor body was wracked with pain for a couple days. Course none of us would readily admit how sore we really were...no sissies in this crowd, no sirree.
We went fishing at Triangle Lake in North Portland. It was where the great Vanport flood of 1948 took place. Over 20.000 people literally ran for their lives, including our family ('cept when we stopped to pick up my spilled marble collection)...but that's another story to come. I sure don't wanta lose track of my real story here today...kid's stuff. Where was I...oh, yes, we wuz really lucky to have Triangle Lake so nearby...only about a 2 mile ride on our bikes. Some brave soul had tied about a 30-foot rope to a tree limb and we would swing out from a 10-foot high ledge and drop off into the lake....now I'm sure you can 'preciate how much fun that wuz...heck, we took along our lunches so's we could play all day there if we wanted. Sometimes one of the gang would bring his kid sister along cuz he was watching over her that day...but it was several years more before we 'preciated the wonder of having a girl in our midst. Nope, I ain't goin' off in that direction now either...just be patient, you'll see there's lots more to come on that score!
Anyway, one day we discovered some wild blackberries had ripened so we took to working our way through the patch gettin' he good ones. After filling our bellies and notin' as to how our hands were now deep purple from the berries, of course we had to get back to the swimming hole to clean off. We wuz fine until the next day when we learned something certain that we had indeed walked into a nest of nettles gettin' them blackberries. You haven't lived until you've tangled with nettles. Nettles are sneaky little light green vines just oozing with stickers that have a nasty poison in them...sorta like poison oak or poison ivy, but maybe even worse. Needless to say, we didn't go blackberry picking in that spot again for awhile...well, until we couldn't resist them blackberries no more, so we got some long planks we found nearby to tramp down the bushes so as to avoid them nettles.
As a boy I entered every art contest I could and won just enough to keep me interested...usually getting exciting prizes such as a drawing book, new brushes, a small pastel set, or if I was really lucky, a baseball cap or a new pen. My pals and I mostly spent our summers happily biking around North Portland and Sauvies Island where we went fishing and swimming. There was a creek that in early summer was so coooooollllldddd that we could only stand to splash around in it for a few minutes, then away we went seeking another adventure, such a swiping fruit from "Mr. Sourpuss," a neighbor who always growled menacingly at us if we came anywhere near his yard...he was a tempting target for a bunch of 8-10 year olds.
One time we decided to relieve him of some of his juicy peaches just hanging there (doing nothing constructive) on the tree in his front yard. This caper naturally attracted half the neighborhood who wanted in on the action. We got the logistics worked out...and had "cased the joint" by walking by his house several times that day. We never even considered he mighta been watching us parade back and forth....sheesh! He had a wire fence around his prized possession...so naturally we decided the best time to pull off this heist was after dark. Where was I...oh yes, about 9pm all 15 or so of us snuck up "as quietly as we could" and proceeded to climb his wire fence. Now my best friend Jerry and I were naturally the ringleaders, the Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn of this motley group, so natch we had to show our daring by going first up the fence....it was one of those jobs that had "square" links you could put your foot in like a stirrup. It couldn't have been more than three feet high but at the time seemed twice that. I don't know 'bout the others, but my heart was pounding a mile a minute, mainly because we knew once we got into his yard, there was no easy escape, and besides, I was the slowest thing on two feet, which worried me considerable. Why it never occurred to any of us to simply open the gate and walk in I don't know. Of course it wouldn't have been half the adventure it was by scaling the fence.
Well, the little ones behind us got a little impatient to get this caper over and done with and had crowded in something fearful behind us and by now Jerry and I were on the top of the fence and about to climb over when Mr. Sourpuss roared out from behind a bush hollering "I've got you now!" and Oh my god I 'bout wet my pants trying to get outa there so I tried to leap off the fence but my foot got caught in the "stirrup" and besides those little squirts behind me got in my way and then Mr. Sourpuss grabbed my arm and I did wet my pants but frankly in my sad state I didn't even notice but took a fearful ribbing for it later by those damnedable little squirts who couldn't move fast enough for me but at this particular moment in time I had more important things on my mind such as Mr. Sourpuss with his beefy arm trying to pull me back into his yard and me scared enough to aggravate just wetting my pants into maybe havin' a heart attack and...where was I?...oh yes, at that minute I screamed bloody murder which musta scared even Mr. Sourpuss cuz he loosened his grip on me just enough for me to leap clear of the fence and light outa there and before I knew it I had blown by those little ones like they wuz standin' still. Later I wondered as how I did that but attributed it to me wantin' to get as far from Mr. Sourpuss's beefy arm as fast as I could. Once we realized he wasn't chasin' after us we stopped to get our breath and could hear him laughin' his fool head off. The good-for-nuthin' toad had been laying for us all along. Needless to say we gained powerful respect for Mr. Sourpuss...and went outa our way to avoid his house the rest of that summer.
Art has been a part of my life since I was a boy in Portland, Oregon, an area reknown for its devotion to nature's blessings. I find the experience of creating something with my own hands, my imagination, my heart, to be both exhilarating and challenging. We all need challenges in our lives, and the challenge of the journey is always so much more important than the goal itself. During this journey we hopefully learn something more about ourselves and, in my case, the subjects I'm painting. In future posts I'll tell you the story of how my paintings came to be, their life story if you will.
I hope you will join me in this journey. Please feel free to respond with your thoughts and your questions.