Thursday, June 12, 2008

Life in a Sandbox II

May I suggest that you read part one first.


While growing up in our family, we were always fortunate enough to have a four-legged friend around the house. We always had a dog. Never, never a cat. My father disliked cats and I too can live without them. The smell of cat poop has the same effect on me as, well, see elephant reference in part one.
The neighborhood felines loved to hang out at our place because of our sandbox which was located in front of our swing set in the backyard. Nothing like running your hands through the sand in your play area, imitating the effects of a large explosion and ending up with a cat turd (land mine) between your fingers. Most fathers would have likely told their kids to deal with it. I can’t recall my dad ever running his hands through our sandbox, but the sight of his only son gagging must have been more than he could bear.
What a surprise it was to find an indoor sandbox in our basement one day. It was big and deep and it rolled on wheels. This was to be one of the greatest innovations in play history. It sat next to a huge American Flyer train set my dad had built a few years before. The train set was on a big table with little ranch-style houses, tunnels and roadways. My imagination was allowed to run free in that basement like no other kid in town. Without knowing it, I began to live my life out in that sandbox and on that train layout, incorporating the two together. What a deal. I started to collect Matchbox cars and trucks with the money I made from returning Coke bottles to the mom-and-pop grocery store for the deposit. It was a wonderful collection of cars, trucks, tractors and trailers and of course the American Flyer train set.
As time went on, I became more innovative. I would paint my cars and trucks to match my interest at the time. I started out with royal blue because I enjoyed the idea of being in the Air Force. That may have come from my younger days when I would play in my pedal Jeep which was Air Force blue and sported the Air Force logo on the side. As a side note, an 8mm film exists of me pulling a Radio Flyer wagon down our side walk with this Jeep. The Jeep and wagon were tied together with a piece of scrap rope I found in my Dad’s shop. Seated proudly on a wooden stool mounted in the wagon, was the same girl next door mentioned in chapter one. She was adorned in a cape and crown and we appear to be having our own little parade. I think this parade was when I decided that I looked like an idiot, blinking my eyes asking others pull to the right and stop. What the hell was I thinking?
The blue cars and trucks gave way to Forest Service green cars and trucks. I even had a wooden tower that I would place in the sand box and use as a Forest Service lookout. Always looking for realism in my play, I remember deciding that having a tower was no good unless I had a fire to spot. Placing about fifty wooden matches in the sand upright and lighting them was as close as I could get. It was great until the basement filled with smoke. It is truly amazing how much smoke fifty small wooden matches can make. My mother was not impressed nor was my father. The forest was clear-cut from my sandbox never to return. I had to settle for patrolling an imaginary forest with my little green trucks.
The third coat of paint to adorn these Matchbox toys consisted of black and white. I spent hours in that basement with a few select friends patrolling the city streets of the train set and to the country roads of the sandbox.
As it turned out, the three paint job phases I went through with these little cars was more than just play. It really was practice for reality as it pertained to my adulthood. When I graduated from Libby High in 1973, I joined the Air Force. When I got out four years later, I ended up in Washington State. In the spring of 1980, I went to work for the Forest Service. I got to drive one of those green trucks I so admired and played with in my sandbox.
Working in the Colville National Forest was such an opportunity. It was so beautiful and I had the chance to learn how to operate equipment of all shapes and sizes. I was given the option of staying on with the Forest Service as a full-time employee. On the same day as this offer was made by the Forest Service, an ad appeared in the local newspaper. The Colville Police Department was hiring a police officer. At the time, the decision was easy. I needed to follow my boyhood goal of becoming a law enforcement officer. The Colville Police Department was a small agency. Counting the chief and sergeant, it was a 9-man department. As small as it was, it was and still is considered to be a very good police agency. It was a great opportunity for me to start my career as a police officer.
In September of 1980, along with a number of other candidates, I tested for the one position offered. Physically, I was in the best shape of my life thanks to the job I had with the Forest Service. I walked at least seven miles a day in the mountains of the Colville National Forest, carrying hand tools as I went. The physical portion of the test was a breeze. The surprising thing about the process was the ease in which I was able to complete the written exam. My scores were very high. This was strange considering I was a real dumb ass in school. The only explanation seemed to be some type of divine intervention. Something wanted me to be a cop real bad to pull that off. It kind of reminds me of the book, “The Secret.” Maybe that stuff does work and I didn’t have to put down $20.00 for the privilege.

6 comments:

BizyLizy said...

You had me giggling out loud with the first part of this post.

My son recently got himself not one, not two, but THREE kittens to help furnish his new apartment. He felt sorry for all three, and took them in.

Fast forward a few weeks later, and he is in kitty poop hell. He called me recently and said his life now revolves around kitty box cleanings.

Great post, RJ!

Jane said...

This is a great post! I too remember the lingering cat turds that lurked in my sandbox, as well as my Radio Flyer wagon.

Sigh.....

Jane

The Giraffe Head Tree said...

Coolness! My best buddy growing up, Edward Satterfield, had a train track with all the trimmin's in his family's basement. It had bridges and trees and water features and roadways and this metal train with a gazillion cars. If our parents ever missed us, that's where we'd be. Us kids thought Edward had it made. He also had a huge iron piggy bank. So big you could sit on it, and it was filled. I was going to marry Edward and we planned to have a horse farm. They moved away so my dream of Edward and the horse farm came to a grinding halt. At least your plans came to fruition, and without that book! Thanks for bringing up all these wonderful childhood memories, Randy! How fun!

judypatooote said...

I love your "life in a sandbox" stories....do kids still have sandbox's? or do kids' have imaginations these day's....not many....and young love (8 to 12year old) was so special and so innocent when i was that age.... Yep life has sure changed.... I say life was simple back then, but when you think of all the advantages we have to make life simple now....hummmmm Great Post Randy..... judy

Doug Kueffler said...

I've subscribed to Random Stone via Google Reader for quite some time now and today I really enjoyed your reminiscing. I love the way you think and the way you express yourself.

Fellow Aquarian
Doug

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