Forts, John Wayne and fond memories

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We grew up exploring the woods and the valleys in the open spaces of farmland, and on rainy days with any free time granted, the big old barns provided a stage for vivid imaginary play.

A bale of straw made an awesome barricade from the bad guys, and our imaginary finger-and-thumb guns kept them at bay.

Looking back

My hubby grew up with lots of brothers and boy cousins, and it has always interested me to hear his childhood stories. He remembers sneaking out from under his grandmother’s watchful eye when he was not far beyond toddler age, hiking across the back of the farm to join his father and grandfather working in the field.

His grandmother Sutherland was not too happy with him, but his dad’s smile let him know it probably made his day. He got a stern talking-to and likely a tail-feather swat.

He wasn’t very old when his father taught him to respect and use a gun. He was put to work shooting down aggravating birds and wild animals which cost a farmer money when there was not one cent to spare.

Surrounded by brothers and cousins, the boys set off with their rifles and BB guns slung across a shoulder while the adults enjoyed a game of pinochle.After the war. In the decade following World War II, it was a wonderful time to be a farm kid.

“We would be gone for hours, just walking from one farm to the next, seeing who could shoot the most pigeons, chasing groundhogs down, watching for an arrowhead to appear in the fields as we hiked.

”No one worried over the boys; they had been raised with discipline and respect and a deep love for one another which made the older boys walk with a sense of responsibility.

My husband recalls at age 10 shooting his first shotgun, a 12-guage single-shot, like it was yesterday. The kick got his attention, and he learned a healthy respect for the power it conveyed.

One thing we all seemed to have in common in that era was the desire to be a cowboy.

Much credit can be given to John Wayne who started out as a ranch hand on his father’s Mojave Desert land. The family lost the ranch, but the work had strengthened Marion Morrison in to an impressive football player.

While playing at USC, Tom Mix got him a summer job as a prop man in exchange for football tickets. He was given bit parts since he was on set anyway, and it didn’t take long for The Duke to be noticed and cast in to bigger roles.

Movie memories

Dozens of cheaply-made cowboy movies shaped our world of dreams and the nature of our play, and John Wayne’s persona remains larger than life.

I laughed out loud when a friend recently sent me John Wayne’s statements on life: Money cannot buy happiness but it’s more comfortable to cry in a Mercedes than on a bicycle.

Forgive your enemy but remember his name.Help someone when they are in trouble and they will remember you when they’re in trouble again.

Many people are alive only because it’s illegal to shoot them. Alcohol does not solve any problems, but then again, neither does milk.

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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