I shot frogs in mud puddles with a BB gun. I sat on the ground in the woods across from my brother as we said our first curse words. I slept on a mound of moss with my dogs at night. I regularly bathed in the green bayou. I baked sweet potatoes in tin foil on the coals of a fire on cold days.
I generally was a wild man. In fact, that was my nickname given by the other boys of Indigo Bayou.
But what I really wanted was to be Superman, Man of Steel. To fly and rescue troubled females from the evil clutches of villains, that’s what I wanted.
That summer, when I was 5, was Superman summer. I stole (actually, mom knew but was too sweet to say) Mom’s fluffy Cannon bath towel. It made a great cape.
Each morning I would go to the backyard and safety pin it around my neck, stretch my arms out and give it the old up, up and away. Gravity, as you probably already guessed, won and these events always ended up with me dusting my front off.
Maybe, I thought, I needed more height. Superman could do the up, up and away, but he had super speed.
So early one morning — I was always up hours before anyone else — this theory was put to the test.
The old board wall around the hog pen would do for a launching pad. It was high enough and easy to climb, as I was a great climber.
The special smell of rotten corn and manure ground into wet mud didn’t bother me any more than the old boar’s aggressive charging and head butting the wall. These were wild pigs caught in the swamp.
I got to the top and surveyed a potential flight path. I’d glide over the hogs toward the house then gracefully soar straight up the side of the gigantic live oak and over Indigo to search for anyone in need of a flying superhero.
Of course at 5, I had never heard about the best-laid plans of mice and men. I stood proud and erect balancing on the 2-inch-thick top board, a good 10 feet high, lifted both arms straight up and jumped.
“The earth spins and creates gravity,” my brother told me later.
The fall into the hog pen was broken as the tip of my cape caught on a 16-penny nail, and I hung there, choking as the towel tightened its grip around my throat and I fought to breathe.
There was no calling for help. It was all I could do to breathe and kick at the boar jumping up angrily trying to get me for his breakfast. Eventually, Pa came to the rescue, alerted by the sounds of hogs squealing.
I’m sure he and his friends had many a good laugh telling this story. He would skin catfish on the pier after running the nets. As the other fishermen passed in their boats, they often docked up and gossip.
They always talked French so us kids couldn’t know what they were saying. I just know that whenever I came into their view that summer, they would point and laugh as the indiscernible chatter grew into near hysteria.
Fortunately, no superhero services were needed that summer.
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