Right from the start of my life I tried to gain freedom in my own way. My parents told me that I was eager to get out into the world and began to walk at 10 months. But even before that, I’d already “run away” from home, crawling off the porch, down the driveway and out into the field where my father was working.
This was followed by other escapes. Shortly after my first birthday, while my mother was doing the dishes, there came a knock on the front door. She hurriedly wiped her hands on the dishtowel and ran to answer it. To her surprise, there I was in the arms of a neighbor, Cliff Williams.
“Is this your boy?” he asked. “I found him sitting in the middle of the road at the top of your driveway!”
My mother blushed, flustered at not having noticed that her boy was missing.
“Oh, thank you for rescuing him,” she stammered. “I was so busy with house work that I didn’t notice he was gone.”
The neighbor smiled, “Well, now that he can walk, you’d better keep a closer eye on him!” He paused and looked up the lane before continuing, “I’ll bet your husband, Max, is working in the fields up there across the road.”
“Yes, I think he is and Steve was probably off to join him!”
“Well if he’s that eager to get to work, he’ll make a good helper, he will,” said the neighbor as he departed.
That evening after my father had finished the milking and sat down to supper, Mom told him how I had run off after him.
My Dad laughed. “Well, he has the first quality necessary to be a good worker: desire! I just hope he lives long enough to be of help to me!”
My own earliest memories were of taking my first steps; this was imprinted in my memory because all the adults watching clapped and cheered as I staggered about carrying a small pumpkin in each little hand.
I also remember from very early on my feelings of insecurity, somehow understanding the uncertainty of life and my inability to deal with it.
So the next bars of my internal prison cell were already in place by my first birthday and there were more to come from a variety of sources. The influence of work, family, school and church all contributed both positives and negatives to my life.
In many ways we had an almost idyllic childhood. My family’s 135 acre farm in the rural town of Canterbury, Connecticut was a great place to grow up.
My grandfather’s grandfather had bought this farm in the early 1870’s, which made us the fifth generation of our family to live there. We were a little community to ourselves, being so far from our neighbors that we couldn’t see them in either direction.
My grandparents lived in the old farmhouse, built before 1740, while we lived in a newer, smaller, two-bedroom house next door. We were five siblings: my older sister Andrea, then three boys–myself, Les and Sam—and finally my little sister.
Along with the ever-present farm work, there was also time to play. We played cowboys and Indians, dug tunnels in the hay in the barn and caught fish in the brook, as well as building forts, tree houses and huts –we even built two actual log cabins.
Summer was a wonderful time. Getting up early, going out into the freshness of the dawn to hoe in the garden, walking down to the little pond in the swamp to catch frogs, having an afternoon game of baseball in the field, swimming in the neighbor’s pond after the heat of haying, playing “kick the can” in the cool of the evening,—these were all great pleasures we experienced in our younger years.
We also enjoyed the interaction with all our animals. Along with the dairy cows there were always lots of cats and a string of dogs that accompanied us through our growing up years. There were also chickens, ducks, pigs, a sheep and even a pet raccoon. It was a good place to be.
Picture: us five kids, I have the pistol