My husband, Bryan, had two close-in-age brothers: Rod and Duane. These three boys generated an abundance of stories that were retold at family gatherings and re-laughed by everyone. When Bryan died, I didn’t want my children to lose these memories, so I turned the oral tales into a written history in The Three Boys.
One Sunday, on the country road home from church, ominous blackness shrouded the car. The three boys, ages three, five, and seven, were terrified of these dust storms that plagued Western Kansas in the ‘50s. The storms could be seen on the horizon, and as they moved closer, they darkened the sky at midday, roared around outside, seeped into the house, and clogged the air. On this occasion, the boys couldn’t imagine how Dad could see to drive. They looked at each other, wide-eyed and speechless; then crowded together in the backseat and shut their eyes tightly. They knew they’d never see home again.
It seemed Dad derived some strange enjoyment from teasing the boys about the “Rollers,” as they were referred to. Dad would say, “Ahh, those dust rollers! Kids go in and never come out!”
Dad had a stock tank in which the boys learned to swim. The tank was situated across the yard, and had a fence through it so the cattle could drink on one side and the boys could swim on the other. Cow slobber mingled about and the bottom was so slippery from green slime-stuff that it was impossible to stand up. Of course the three boys tried, and naturally this was a source of amusement to watch one another fall and splash about. Besides the fascinating flora of green slime, there were occasional glimpses of cow faces beneath the water.
Now, between the tank and the house lay a sticker patch. Although the three boys were tough farm kids and constantly ran around barefooted, this sticker patch was to be avoided at all costs.
On this particularly afternoon, Bryan and Rod deviously devised a plot against their unsuspecting, younger, and gullible, brother. At the decided moment, the older boys looked to the west, in the direction of the dust storms, and Bryan yelled loudly, “Oh! Look! It’s a roller!”
Duane, popped up out of the water, tried to gain footing on the mossy tank, and screamed in fright. In a flash, he bolted over the tank edge, and headed straight for the house – not in the safe and circuitous pathway, but right through the sticker patch! Pain was added to his mental anguish. Shrieking, he stumbled into the house. Bryan and Rod laughed and laughed, then merrily claimed the tank for themselves.
When Mom questioned Duane as to the source of his wild panic, he was unable to articulate the harassment of his brothers. Consequently, with no punishment and with much hilarious gratification, the two older brothers continued to taunt their little brother throughout the summer. They took no care that someday he’d grow up, become more articulate, less gullible, and ready for payback. They were only kids. Their thoughts were of the moment.
- What are your summertime memories of childhood?
- What pranks did you play on your siblings?
- What consequences did you experience?
This was first printed in “The Country Register” (Kansas), June/July 2015.)