I have lived and worked all over the U.S. and even halfway around the world as an ESL teacher in Northeast China. I've lived in big cities and podunk towns and many places in between. I was born in upstate New York but my parents are from the Deep South. My childhood was shaped by our constant moves with my Navy Dad, adrift in a sea of neighborhoods and schools. At one time I counted over 30 different houses we had lived in and I know I attended 19 schools in my 18 years of lower education. This constant upheaval was anchored by seasonal trips to visit various grandparents. At least those houses never changed, though the number of grandparents fluctuated as both of my parents worked their way through three marriages EACH.
I have stories you wouldn't believe, stories that would make you laugh, make you cry and some that would even make you cringe.
How about a funny one?
Now Grandaddy(my paternal grandfather) raised cattle in his retirement and had a rather large farm on which he did this. One section was called the Beasley Farm, I guess because he bought it from the Beasleys. This place had pastures, ponds, and a large pecan orchard-all of which were fenced off. Everything that is except the old homestead. Grandaddy, being a frugal man, saw no need to fence an area not often used for cattle grazing. However, being a frugal man, he saw no need to go through the trouble of occasionally mowing or bush hogging that old place since he had some perfectly good cows that would eat all the pesky brush growing up. A seeming conundrum wouldn't you think?
My Grandaddy, being the resourceful and frugal person he was, had a solution. Wait for it.
He had had many years in which to perfect his plan of attack. His cattle had been accustomed to the presence of electric fencing in their regular pastures. He was a firm believer in the use of BB guns to deter critters from trespassing in various locations on the farm. And slowly but surely over the years he had acquired many grandchildren, not to mention folding chairs.
So what was Grandaddy's plan?
Well first he strung one strand of electric fence across the Beasley homestead, bordering the dirt road. Not electrified mind you, just loosely stretched from one fence post to another at least 200 ft away.
Second he gathered up all of his folding chairs and set them up spaced evenly down the middle of the dirt road facing the new "fence".
Third, he gathered up all available grandchildren which at that time consisted of me and my five siblings ranging in age from about 14 on down to 8ish.
How does this plan come together?
We six kids were each given a BB gun and a small bucket of BBs and careful instructions on the proper usage of said gun in "The Art of Preventing Cows From Going Through the Fence" which can be summed up here by a simple "Shoot the cow in the butt if it touches the non-electrified single strand of fencing with any part of its body. Oh, and don't shoot each other."
My Grandaddy figured cows are so stupid they wouldn't know where the sting of the BB was coming from and assume it was the fence "biting" them.
So there we were, strung out like beads, sitting in our lawn chairs with guns in our laps and our only task to shoot cows butts- like Pavlov's bells, teaching cows just how far they could go in their task of clearing the Beasley place of unwanted growth.
Looking back on that long ago hot summer I remember how I hated sitting there with no shade, and the boredom of watching those cows- who it turns out learned pretty quick for being such dumb beasts. Even so, none of us used our BB gun inappropriately, on the cows or on each other. None of us abandoned our posts as the day dragged on and weariness set in.
I guess this story isn't a side splitter really, just a little picture of one or two days in my life that have taught me to be still, that a little sting now is better than getting hit by a truck later like you would if you don't learn your boundaries and that sometimes kids won't shoot their eye out when given a BB gun.