11:Eleven — Peace

Michael, the Early Years

I don't know that my childhood was all that different from others in most respects but hey, everybody's experience is unique to some extent. Mom and my biological father were divorced not so long after I was born and in time she met a great guy who I'd come to know as "Dad" for life. Sure, he was a bit stubborn and sometimes a little stern but he was a great guy; a loving father and even though we were very different we would later discover we had a lot of interests.

Most of my childhood was spent in New Mexico (I was born in Carlsbad in 1963). My soon-to-be dad moved to Long Beach, California around 1966; Mom and I followed shortly thereafter and that's where they were married.

Photo of parakeet giving me kissesI've a number of memories of California, mostly good. We lived in a small apartment on the second floor and I had a small parakeet. Sometimes I'd take him out of his cage but I remember once he got out and was flying from one end of the apartment to the other, perching way out of reach on the curtain rods and being a total dweeb. (Uncle Bill and Aunt Raye had a much tamer parakeet. He'd perch on my finger and give me "kissies.") California was also where I got my little blue Radio Flyer wagon. "Santa" brought it one Christmas and filled it with candy, nuts and what-have-you (but I wasn't spoiled mind you!) *wink-wink*

There's one memory I have from California when we were driving down the highway. I was looking out of the back window on the driver's side and another car passed with a clown driving it. He reminded me of Ronald McDonald! "Let's go get fries Daddy!!" That's stuck with me all these years - as has the memory of when I almost drowned in the pool at the apartment complex. The way Mom tells it, she'd asked some guy who was at the pool to watch me while she ran back upstairs for a minute to get something. I don't think I was actually supposed to be IN the pool while she was away but kids being kids, in I went. I didn't know how to swim and he definitely WASN'T paying attention. She reached me about the time I was just about to go under for the second or third time (but I still love the water today, surprisingly).

Photo of Radio Flyer wagon at ChristmasCalifornia has many other memories for me as well; like going to the seashore to collect seashells or watching the water swishing from side to side and out of the pool ("BAD pool!") when we were experiencing an earthquake. I remember playing in my favorite place outside, located just underneath the stairs on the opposite side of the complex. And while I don't remember it happening Mom swears up and down that on two different occasions I turned the water on in my aunt and uncle's (Bill and Raye) place, leaving it to overflow and run down the stairs and chandelier underneath. I guess you could say I've always been a bit ornery. :D

Mom also inadvertantly drove us through Watts outside of Los Angeles just before the riots broke out. To her credit she didn't know what was happening but she did wonder why it was so deathly quiet at the time we drove through (kinda' like when you're in the eye of a hurricane I suppose). Dad wasn't so happy about it when he'd heard where we had just been. LOL!! Oh well, we survived. All in all I was probably too young to have really enjoyed California as much then as I would have if I'd been a little older. In some ways I kind of wish we'd stayed there. It would have been a great place to have grown up I think (for me anyway).

You can see from the picture in the sidebar that my leg was broken. This too happened in Cali; I had tied a rope from the upstairs balcony of our apartment in Long Beach so that I could swing from it. Obviously I didn't do such a grand job of tying the rope because it came loose and I landed on my leg, breaking it. (I've broken lots of bones over the years, what can I say...)

I Have a Brother!!!

Photo of myself, brother and puppyMaybe it didn't go down quite like that. It was more like, "Oh, great. First I have to share mom with a new guy and now I've got a snotty lil' brother who's going to be getting into my toys too!" *sigh* LOL!!!

Yeah, my brother and I didn't always get along growing up. I was a bit of a stingy kid, not wanting anyone breaking or getting into my toys unless it was my own idea. My brother represented the "uncontrollable" (and the "noisy" cause he cried when he didn't get his way). *grins* He was born while we still lived in Roswell, New Mexico whereupon we moved back to Carlsbad shortly thereafter. Here he is shown holding one of Brownie's puppies (from her second litter - my dog was a bit of a ho).

But for all our faults growing up; him knocking my teeth out with a rock and me slamming him into and through our bedroom wall with a ginormous "cloth medicine ball" (twice! no less)... we grew closer as we transitioned into adulthood. He's a great brother and I think he might have even forgiven me for the time when my friend Johnnie and I put clothespins on his ears. :D

Time has a way of helping us see what's right there in front of us; family that matters and family that cares. My brother does have his own life back home, 500 miles away and married to a wonderful lady, the two of them raising two beautiful children but we still find time to talk on the phone several times a week (in most cases). Not only do I love my brother but I'm really quite proud of him. He's grown into an admirable man who is even a reservist police officer (not something I was crazy about in the beginning because I was worried about his safety).

He's the kind of guy who doesn't sit still but chooses instead to help make a positive change in the world about him. My brother is not part of the problem; he's part of the solution. :)

Homemade Ice Cream, Barbeque and Venison (oh my!)

We all have our favorite memories of childhood. Some of mine are when, as a family, we would get together for a barbeque. There's nothing better than grilled burgers and steaks except for maybe homemade ice cream! When family was over for a grillout it went without question we kids would be turnin' the crank on the old ice cream freezer; we actually fought for the honor of doing so (not something I'd make any effort to do today .. LOL!)

(I've long since replaced the old hand-crank model with an electric "in-kitchen" model that I don't have to expend any personal sweat and energy on.)

Another pastime that would arrive at least once a year were the hunting trips. Mom, Dad and Uncle Bill (along with most of the family on Dad's side) were avid hunters. I wasn't much of a hunter myself but I did enjoy target shooting and I was pretty good at it back then. Even if I wasn't much into the process of hunting however, I certainly enjoyed the success of a good hunt (venison). Some people aren't so fond of deer meat because of its gaminess but I always enjoyed it. Also, it represented "living off the land" in its purest form.

So when I hear the proponents of gun control talking their talk today the hairs on the back of my neck stand straight up. Here's why...

Cousins, Aunts and Uncles...

I've lots of cousins but my cousin Rodney and I were the two who hung out the most growing up. It wasn't until we both got into High School that we sort of grew apart. When we were younger we'd ride our bikes out at the flumes; we attended grade school together, got into trouble together during lunchtime. It was Rodney (and his friend and next door neighbor, Paul) who got me to try chewing tobacco the first time (AND the reason I never tried it again!). LOL!! Rodney slapped me on the back while I was chewing the crap and I swallowed the juice. Yuck! ...and I got sick. Anyway, you name something kids do growing up and Rodney and I probably did it. LOL!

Today Rodney is married and has a family of his own. Sadly, we aren't as close as we once were (cause I haven't heard hide nor hair from him since I think he found out I'm gay). You can choose your friends, not your family - so if family disappoints, you just have to find a way to live with it and move on.

Coming from three sets of families (biological father and mother, as well as my stepfather/Dad's) I've a lot of extended family. I think I'm probably closest to my Dad's side of the family though. Perhaps that wasn't always the case but it seems to be so today. They're the ones that've stuck by me the most besides my cousin Tonya (who I'm very close to). It's funny but I don't know that I could even name all my cousins without leaving somebody out accidentally -- but I'll try. There's Tonya, Billy Don, Don, John, Becky, Shawn, Heather, Kevin, Rodney, Ray, Tammy, Misty, Tommy, Ronnie, Debbie, Terri, Steven, Aunt Margie's kids (I think their names are Doug and Jerry but it's been so very long since I have seen or heard anything about them I'm just not sure anymore ... I know, that seems frightfully sad). There are also Freddy, Danny and Crystal. *Whew!*Photo of mine and Dad's motorcycles

You can imagine how many aunts and uncles I must have! LOL!! Most of 'em were pleasant to be around; some were ... well, ORNERY! I've got two uncles in particular who always liked to pull pranks when I was growing up. They'd constantly tease me about the little red-headed girl whose grandparents lived next door to my great aunt Faye. I was just a very young child and her name was Margaret; she was a sweet girl and had a serious crush on me but hey, that just wasn't where my interests were.

Another thing they were notorious for was scaring the crap out of me during our family trips to Lake Bonita every summer. I was really into motorcycle riding and we'd all go camping at the lake, riding up into the back trails while there.

Photo of aunt Ginger and uncle JuniorI remember one summer when I was reading a book about this huge grizzly bear that was a man-eater. Sitting around the campfire one night, I was reading and everyone else was talking. Becoming bored and tired of reading I got up to head to the camper and go to sleep. That's when my uncle Junior scared the @@@@ out of me. (Unbeknownst to me he had quietly slipped away from the fire and snuck into the camper before I got there. Sitting off to the side and out of sight, I didn't see him when I opened the door and stepped inside. As I walked in he reached out, grabbed me by both sides of my midsection and GROWLED!! It must have seemed like I'd jumped out of my skin! I screamed and quickly yanked the door open, jumped out and ran! ..till I heard him and uncle Don laughing their butts off. (Picture to the left is of my sweet aunt Ginger and my ... well, uncle Junior.)

Then there was the time (same trip) when we were riding the motorcycles through the back country and uncle Don rode up ahead of the rest of us, out of sight. Next thing I know I'm riding along and he comes running out of the woods with his brown suede jacket pulled up over his head and growling loudly, straight for me. I don't know how I kept from wrecking my bike; I throttled up and sped off down the trail. Yeah, it's kind of funny to read about now but back then all I could think was, "Holy crap! There's a BEAR bearing down on me!!!" I'm so glad I was able to be such a source of entertainment for the bio-paternal side of my family (and people wonder why I feel the way that I do about some of them). That said, my aunts on the Marshall side of the family are nice and I love them dearly. It's a shame that my uncles on that side of the family can't take some pointers from them but alas, they'll be true rednecks to their dieing days.

Thank God for my step-family and my mother... I've a lot more respect for them (simply because they "know" that family is something to be cherished).

Hobbies & Interests During The Early Years

Photo of myself and uncle Leonard collecting rocks in desertI've already talked about how I enjoyed riding a motorcycle but that didn't happen till I was old enough (15) to own and operate a motorcycle legally. Before that I was always riding my bicycle, mostly up and down the irrigation canal behind our house when it was empty. My cousin Rodney and I would spend hours riding there, first down one side and into the canal, then up the opposite side up onto the road. Sometimes we'd ride out to the flumes where the canal waters were carried via a concrete bridge across the head of the river in town.

Rodney and I also developed an interest in racquetball at the courts down by the river (we called it "the beach"), as would my brother eventually when he was old enough. While we were pretty good there were the times when our aim wasn't so great and we'd end up hitting the other with the ball full-force smack in the middle of the back, thighs, calves or (once) in the groin. Oh yeah, Rodney smacked me with the ball in the left eye once too. (NEVER AGAIN did I turn around in the court during the middle of a play. Jeesh, that stung!) Racquetball was my only game; I wasn't really interested in tennis nor was I any good at any of the other sports such as basketball or baseball.

Another hobby as a kid was raising pigeons. I had "roller pigeons" (or tumblers as they were also called). They tumble in mid-air. I also raised fantails and chinese pigeons. My brother raised a breed called "helmuts" (they have a colored cap on top of their head with a crest of feathers spraying out beneath the cap and to the back). It was always interesting when the male/cocks and the female/hens would perform their mating ritual. The ritual always ended with the male standing on top of the hen. My brother would run into the house to inform mom that the birds "were doing their trick again." Good thing my brother never swarmed into the bedroom when mom and dad were doing their own version of the trick. LOL!!

I also enjoyed reading back then; probably more so than I do today. Today my preference is audio books or watching something on television. I'm certain there were any number of passing fancies that held my interest for a short while as well, such as rock collecting (see photo of uncle Leonard and I at left; he was an avid rockhound).

My Best Friend, Then...

I've always loved dogs, probably from the time I was just a wee little tyke! The first dog I can recall having was when we lived in Happy Valley (I think his name was Skipper). Unfortunately, he took off into the desert Photo of Browniebehind our home one night and was never seen again. Dad and I walked the hills looking for him but ultimately he was nowhere to be found. It was thought that the coyotes might have gotten hold of him. (Another words, he was a "meal.")

Then along came Brownie! Brownie was thought to have been a mixed breed but an uncle later claimed she looked like a purebred of some kind (can't remember the name of the breed). She was a great dog; always there to keep a watch over me and patient to a fault ... except when I was kicking and cursing in my sleep in bed one night. She didn't cotton so much to that! Brownie was also smart. She had two litters of pups and both times she acted the part of a good "mama" till it came time for those pups to be on their way. That's when she went to work teaching them how to get out of the yard -- and out they were, into the cold, cruel world. (Perhaps, like me, she just didn't want to share her original family with "too many" of those outside influences. LOL!!) She did, however, tolerate Fluffy. (Fluffy was supposed to be my brother's dog but I think she was more Dad's than Wayne's. She was a good dog; just not too intelligent when it came to electric cords.)

My red-headed, four-legged girl with the white chest plate lived to be about fourteen or fifteen before her body began to give out and she had to be put to sleep. I cried for weeks.