Viewing entries tagged
imagination

Wild Peach boys do it in the middle of nowhere.

Growing up in Wild Peach, Texas, gives one a certain perspective. True, that perspective will inevitably involve an appreciation for the taste of squirrel, a longing to drive a go-cart with no roll cage at high speeds through a field used for grass farming (the divots are bone rattling), and a deeply ingrained Southern accent that, even though you've overcome it, still crops up when you're tired. I live in a suburb now, and work in one of the largest cities in the world, and I make my living by tapping keys and making letters appear on a mystical screen I could only have dreamt of as a child. And still, Wild Peach is there, right at the root of it all.

Wild Peach boys are famous. Locally. They're the bunch that tends to get into "Dukes of Hazard" level trouble. They drive fast cars and date fast women. They drink late into the night at the end of barely paved roads that butt against and drop into the San Bernard River. They wouldn't know a shoe if it was stuck to the bottom of their foot.

Or, at least, that was the kind of reputation Wild Peach boys seemed to have when I was growing up. It may be tame today, which is too bad. Because if you're going to grow up in a place called "Wild Peach," you'd better have an edge to you. You'd better skew toward the "wild" and away from the "peach."

I was more peach than wild. 

I never was much for drinking, especially late into the night at the brush-lined end of a gravel-and-tar road, with a dark and gator-filled river looming below. My car—a teal green '83 Ford LTD handed down to my me by my grandmother—wasn't particularly fast, either, even though it was a pretty decent V8. And I didn't date many fast women. To my youthful dismay.

Any wildness I showed came earlier, during that go-cart phase, when I would run barefoot through the woods, camp knife in my pocket, a coil of clothesline I thought of as my "bullwhip" hanging from a loop of my cut-offs. I climbed trees and onto the corrugated roofs of rusty old sheds, dancing from bare foot to bare foot on the sun-broiled aluminum.  I built things from equal parts spare junk and vivid imagination, and never seemed to notice that they didn't work. I ran and climbed and jumped and crawled, covered in dirt and grime and and stink, an never noticing. I was OK with sweat, way back then.

My Summer days were well spent. I might find myself in a clearing in the woods, using the waterproof matches from a survival knife to start a small fire in a piece of rotted log. The smoke made me feel funny. I've never tried pot, but I imagine it's a similar feeling, light-headed and slightly dizzy, faintly hungry, maybe a little nauseated, and entertained by the ants that crawled over my legs like I was just part of the landscape.  

Oh yeah, pot. That's another of those Wild Peach things that I never got around to. Somehow it was never offered to me, or I was too naive to know what all the subtle hinting was about. Probably the latter, because I know there was pot galore floating around. 

I'd say a large portion of my writing career was seeded in those woods behind my house, in the backroads covered in loose gravel or gobs of scalding tar, in tree-lined fields and ditches, in the rivers and ponds and mud puddles of Wild Peach. A lot of what I did as a kid was about imagining a world outside and away and far-far, never realizing I'd spend a large part of my time as an adult trying to figure out a way to get the "Wild Peach experience" without actually living in the middle of nowhere.  

I have a million stories about Wild Peach, and my childhood there. And all of them more or less start with me trying something. Usually something stupid. Sometimes with friends in tow. But more often, all by myself, in a clearing in the woods, with the wind kicking up and the leaves rustling around me in a constant white noise so that I eventually felt like I was in a very large room, safe and sound where no one could reach me. 


 


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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
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figment newtons

I totally stole this from Seth Godin. But since he is a figment of my imagination, it's totally OK.


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Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
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Have you seen my Karate magazines?

Growing up in Wild Peach, Texas, was a little like growing up in a third-world country. I have only my wife's descriptions of childhood in Indonesia to go by, but I have noticed a resemblance. Despite an abundance of fresh dairy products and the absence of stilt houses, the experiences were pretty similar.

You know how people will say, "We were poor, but we never knew it?" I've always liked comedian John Pinette's line: "We were poor, and I was sure of it. And I didn't like it." But the truth was, we were "sort of" poor in my house. We got by on a fairly meager income earned by my stepfather, as an insulator with Dow Chemical. But we never went hungry, never went without clothes or school supplies, and had plenty of trips to the dentist. So I guess we weren't "poor." Just "modest."

And by this, of course, I mean to say we did not have cable.

I remember getting up on Saturday mornings around 5 a.m. and rushing to my station in front of the TV. The Saturday-morning cartoon block began with NBC, and only transitioned to other networks as the morning wore on and the fare became scarce. These channel changes necessitated a shifting of the rabbit ears on top of the TV, resulting in a slightly less fuzzy and static-filled picture. I pressed on. No cartoon shall go unwatched.

By noon, most anything of interest was over, and I would stumble out into the "beginning" of the day, bleary-eyed and frightened of the giant fiery orb in the sky.

I don't remember eating as a child. I have vague memories of frozen Flava-ice and generic-brand soda, but not really much in the food department. I'm sure I must have eaten both breakfast and lunch. I remember cereal ... lots of cereal. Or were those just cereal commercials? Bless me Lucky Charms, I just can't remember.

Anyway, at noon-ish I would stumble out into the world and go wander into the woods behind my house, where there was a clearing filled with the Wonders of the Universe.

Here is an inventory of the Wonders of the Universe:

  • One rusty but usable boat winch, which would someday result in a catapult that would fling a young friend to his near death
  • Several large pieces of plywood and some long, nail-filled two-by-fours in the shape of what might be called a tree house (if one were feeling generous)
  • Miles of rope, much of which formed the basis of a swing system built precisely for the purpose of Spider-man practice
  • Various electronic doodads and thingamabobs, all of unexplained origin and purpose, which served as instrument panels for various spaceships and time travel devices
  • One or two porn magazines, pilfered from the older kids down the street and hidden discreetly in a garbage bag buried under a fallen tree
  • Several karate magazines, hidden (for some reason) in the same garbage bag
  • Four unsharpened throwing stars
  • A pair of nunchuckus (sensing a theme here?)
  • Pipes, wires, tubes, and other outlets of imagination

I know there was more. There felt like more. But you know how these kid havens work. I may not have had much more than a Slinky and some action figures, but it seemed like a vast booty to me.

One thing I did have plenty of was imagination. And I'm now convinced, as I sit in front of the titanium casing of a MacBook Pro and tap word-candy into the brains of readers, that I had more opportunity for creativity and "big ideas" while rooting around in those woods and tinkering with all that junk than I have ever had in even the most productive brainstorming session or all-night, coffee-fueled writing binge. I think a lot of the stories I've written over the years have come from those days bouncing around in the woods behind my house. It's really too bad TV has killed my capacity to ... something.

Now that I'm all growed up and have a house of my own, a yard of my own, and a neighborhood of my own, I find myself looking back wistfully on those moments in my Cave of Wonders, and contemplating how to get back there. Is it possible, as a grown man with responsibilities and bills and a slight weight problem, to slip back into the stream of carefree fun and creativity that I once swam in? Is there a way to be more child-like without being childish?

Dammit, I intend to find out. And I plan on finding those lost porno and karate magazines in the process.

To be continued ...





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____________________________________________________________
Kevin Tumlinson is the author of numerous novels, novellas, and non-fiction books, and the host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Try three of his best books for free when you download his starter library at kevintumlinson.com/starterlibrary.
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