When my brother and I were in preschool our teacher was, Miss Harris, an older gray haired woman that we heard whispered, "was never married." At four-years-old, that meant nothing to me except no one told her what to do. She had us hammer in some nails in a board one day. I assume it was the country version of hand-eye coordination exercises. She said, "Now, go home and get your daddy's hammer and show him what you learned." My brother was five. He said, "My daddy told me if I touched his tools, he'd beat the shit out of me." Needless to say, the teacher met my mother at the car that day. It was one of many days. We were not good kids.
We were raised properly, knew right from wrong, and feared the belt of our father, who was greeted nearly every day as he stepped through the door, with, "Guess what your children did today?" We were born 10 1/2 months apart. I was the younger one, born two weeks late. No, we weren't twins, we were worse. My parents were saddled with two kids who were very intelligent and had no fear, a nearly lethal, at times, combination. We lived in the country. No other kids for miles. We had a couple of horses, a big barn, sitting among fields and a deep green forest. This is the home of my first memories, ages 2-6, most involving the moments that shape us for good or bad... on a tiny little crossroads, called Inez, NC.
They didn't have the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder diagnosis back then. We were just "bad" kids. My mother used to tell us we were going to drive her into the state mental hospital. She would say, "They're going to put me in Cherry Hill, and you'll have to come peek at me through the bars on Sunday." I mean, what was she supposed to do with two kids, who outsmarted the baby sitter, snuck out of the house, found daddy's paint, and preceded to paint every tree of the ancient oak grove in the front yard bright white, as high as we could reach. Keep in mind we were not much more than toddlers. Our logic. We saw some trees painted like that and thought they were pretty. It was forcefully explained to us that those trees were marked as diseased so the forestry guys could cut them down. Okay, lesson learned, move on to the next.
My brother has a very high, genius IQ. He figured out what was going on the moment they brought me home. After a few weeks, when he learned to get around a bit better, my mother caught him trying to open the front door. He had me by the ankle, dragging me behind him. Mom says, I was giggling. Oblivious as usual, when he drug me into one mess or another. Mom asked him what he was doing. He looked up at her and said, "Baby go bye, bye." I am convinced that he has never lost that sentiment, as evidenced by the numerous times he almost did away with me. He once fed me an entire giant bottle of orange flavored baby aspirin. He had to get his stomach pumped too, because he couldn't tell them how many he "tasted." Poetic justice in my opinion.
There was the time he said, "Here, dip this rag in that bucket of gasoline and then run over there and throw it on the garbage pile. (Yes, we burned our garbage back then, and you know a redneck story that starts out like this is going to make you laugh.) The pile was smoldering, the rag went away in a poof, and then the flame that trailed back to the barn and the 5 gallon bucket of gas went by in slow motion, followed by an explosion. The front of the barn went up in flames along with all my dad's horse saddles and tack. The barn survived, barely. It needed extensive repairs. So did the firehouse doors, because they were padlocked with the firetruck stuck inside. The all volunteer force showed up, all except the one with the key. So the ol' boys fired up the truck and crashed through, splintered the big doors, arriving just after my mom, and the lady who used to look after us put out the flames with buckets of water and the garden hose. I don't remember the lady's name. None of them lasted very long. We were bad kids.
Let's see, I chopped my brother's ear off with a hoe, because he didn't move fast enough. We were digging a hole to China in the front yard, because we thought we could. I said move, no malice intended, but alas, he was not quick enough. Relax, they sewed it back on. We went into the woods one morning, got lost, and appeared just before sunset a couple of miles down the road to find sheriffs' cars and an entire community had been searching for us for hours. When I was 2, we thought the little ducks we got for Easter were thirsty, so we filled them up with water from the hose. Ooops, dead ducks shortly there after. We were denied access to any further Easter fowl. I plugged a wire my dad cut off a lamp into the wall socket and blew up the fuse box. We were known for our ability to escape the compound of the preschool and go visit our parents at the high school next door, where they worked.. The preschool's back fence overlooked the football field, where my dad would be coaching. No matter how many times we were spanked, we always had a good reason for climbing that tree and going "over the wall." In fact, at the time, I think we convinced ourselves that we had a good reason for everything we did. The difficulty was in getting adults to see things our way.
I will never forget my mother yelling at us, "I hope you have six just like you." I spent my early childhood vowing to never get married and have kids, because of that statement. I didn't want kids like us, anymore than she did. My brother and I went our separate ways after those early years. We were never the terrible duo after that, but I know we gave our parents fits in our own unique ways. Those first years must have been hell on them, though. I am convinced that somewhere in a dictionary, beside the word "Hellion," is a picture of two kids, heads of nearly white hair, holding hammers, wearing mischievous grins.