Remember how cold it was last weekend? Maybe for you folks who moved here from the North Country are saying to yourselves “you call that cold?”
Say what you will, because for this slender frame it kept me inside twiddling my thumbs. Just when I thought I might go stark raving mad being so cooped up, I opened a closet in my bedroom and it looked like a drop box at the Salvation Army.
There were piles of this and that, and just from what I could see I realized most of it hadn’t been touched in years. I think what took me over the edge was a pair of bell bottoms from my high school days. So like a mad man, I began pulling everything out of that time capsule until I had a stack of junk nearly as tall as myself.
I’ll admit that I am a fairly neat and organized person but only to a point. For the most part, I am a procrastinator, especially with projects of this magnitude.
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On the other hand, my wife Karen is a clean freak. She tackles gray areas of the house with a gusto that is almost disturbing. So when she walked in and saw what I had done, she praised me like I might praise my dog. “I am so proud of you for doing this, good boy!” she said, and I swear had she had a Milk Bone dog biscuit that would have been my lunch that day.
With that said, I have a motto of sorts, and that is if I haven’t used something in the past eight months, into the trash it goes. The trouble is Karen doesn’t always agree with my choice of what to keep and what to throw away.
As my trash pile got larger, I turned around and she was sorting through the trash like you might see a dumpster diver in the inner city. I am not criticizing her but simply stating we have different ways of looking at what is worth saving and what’s not. I’m sure any of you couples out there can relate to that, right?
Anyway, about halfway through the closet I came across box after box of old photographs and mementos. It was then that my feverous pitch came to standstill as I began looking through my history one box at a time.
From old newspapers heralding Alan Sheppard and John Glenn going into space to a picture of high school girlfriend, I felt as if I had stumbled across a time capsule.
When I showed Karen the picture of my high school honey, she actually got jealous quickly snatching the photo and throwing it into the trash pile. I found it kind of humorous considering that photo was taken over 45 years ago. But when I started finding photos from my early days on Hilton Head it brought back memories that had been hidden away in some far away place in my brain.
Some even had me questioning if it was really me in the photo. “I did what? I don’t remember any of that!”
Since Karen has worked with folks with dementia-related illnesses at Memory Matters on Hilton Head since its inception, she always tests me to see if my gray matter is heading into a gray zone. So far so good, but some of my mementos drew a real blank while others brought out long-lost events in my life with such clarity they could have happened a day ago. It was so awesome.
One picture showed me standing behind an old pickup truck as two gentlemen were loading a large alligator into the truck bed. I think the photo was taken in the late ’60s, way before Sea Pines became well known.
Gators were a constant nuisance, and believe me when I say they were absolutely everywhere. When one became too aggressive I would take a large fishing hook, bait it with wad of bacon and using a strong rope, tie the whole thing to a tree next to a lagoon. Since the bacon would float, it didn’t take long for the gator to find it at which point I would drag it in and whack it on the head with the back of an ax.
Tom Barnwell Sr., the undertaker, would come and take the gator off for skinning and pay me $10. Imagine if a 10-year-old did that these days, it would surely make headline news. But hey, back then it wasn’t easy for a kid to make money.
About that same time I would go rattlesnake hunting with nothing but a green palm frond stick. How I wish kids today could do some of the things I did growing up. Maybe not gator or rattlesnake hunting, but just having the freedom to do anything especially in the great outdoors.
History has always been a passion of mine, and even though I ditched the bell bottoms last weekend, I am so thankful that I was able to keep so many mementos from my life. One day when I am long gone, my kids will look through those very same boxes and hopefully say, “Boy dad sure had a cool life!” Yep, history sure is the greatest teacher ever!