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In the fifth grade, the popular thing to do after returning home from school was to go straight to the bedroom and turn on the Disney channel, maybe eat cookies with milk while lost in the daze of the television’s glow of dancing colors until dinner.
Not me. Instead of plopping on the sofa with soda and remote in hand, my sister and I did our homework like the angels we were asked to be. When we finished, there was no Nickelodeon or Lizzie McGuire waiting for us. Instead, we had to burrow our way through the fuzz as we adjusted the antenna to get a 13-inch picture on the only working television our family owned.
There was no such thing as a hundred channels. We were lucky to pick up five, one of which was in some unintelligible language we later learned was called Spanish.
On the weekends, there was plenty of entertainment besides television. But on more than one occasion, a friend would ask to watch TV, until she saw the scary long antennae sitting on top of a box smaller than the family microwave and would say, “Let’s just go play with the Pound Puppies instead.”
Today, if someone were to show up and snicker at the undersized screen, I’d recommend sitting outside on the porch for some truly fresh country air and something foreign to much of this generation — conversation.
Growing up in a small town of about 3,000 people had its pros and cons. But life in the country had rewards well worth the few bug and snake scares. Have city folk ever seen the stars? It may surprise a few people, but there are more than a dozen up there.
Have urban dwellers ever been able to stand in the yard and not see a single other house than their own? And the country sunsets — not even Belton’s can beat those. I’ve seen deer, rattle snakes, opossums, scorpions, hawks, baby vultures (they’re actually cute), blue martins, a crawdad, turtles, wild bunnies, roadrunners, wild hogs (including a blind one) and even a bobcat. Yes, I’ve seen the destruction a raccoon wreaked in our garage … and when we first planted trees in our front yard the neighbor’s goats nearly knocked some over.
Once when a friend was over, several goats had just started partying in the front yard. The male goats were rubbing their horns on the thin tree trunks, scratching them and then eating the leaves. We put on our tennis shoes. My friend had a special treat that day as we chased the goats. It was quite fun.
The males thought they were macho and tried to get in between the female goats and us. Facing us with fierceness in their eyes, they stood tall, but only for a moment. My friend and I dodged and chased, never getting close enough to touch their greasy fur, but just enough to get inside their bubble of safety, causing them to run in all directions.
Chasing “Billy” and his furry friends brought laughter that lasted longer than any cable show would have. However, if my parents had bought cable and a normal-sized TV, we may have been so entranced by Mr. Walt Disney that we could have missed the exercise and good time of goat chasing. It is a memory we would not trade for anything.