The Night Begins; The Summer of ’62, Episode 19

Sammy Tuttle, Don Hastings, Larry Coleman, Chip Hawk, Butch Hawk and Rich bailed twenty-six hundred and sixty bails of hay in a day and a half for Chet Winters.

Chet was a Dough Boy from the First World War. When back from Europe he immediately purchased one hundred and twenty acres of worthless marshland for back taxes and found a way to divert two creeks that ran through it. The land dried off and three years later he had the most productive farm around Slabtown. In time his one hundred and twenty acres swelled to twelve hundred and thirty-five.

Chet was not stingy with wages. He paid the boys $25.00 each.

The meals prepared by his wife, Claire, were enough pay. She was a fantastic cook and if you worked for the Winters, you ate well and you ate a lot.

The summer of ’62 Chet’s daughter, Gwen, prepared the meals because Claire died of a heart attack shortly after the final cut the past summer.

Sammy Tuttle, Don Hastings, and Rich, while bailing for Chet Winters, made plans to camp out in Sammy’s backyard on Friday. Sammy had the tent, Don brought the food and Rich brought the pop.

I’m leaving the back door unlocked,” Mr. Tuttle said as he pulled back the flap of the tent. “I wantcha coming inside. I don’t want anybody peein’ in the yard.”

The boys all agreed and Mr. Tuttle added, “You guys stay in the tent. Don’t go runnin’ around the neighborhood and gettin’ in trouble, peekin’ in windows or some other sort of mischief.”

They all agreed and Mr. Tuttle walked the short distance back to the house.

Sammy and Don looked at each other. Sammy said, “Widow peeking, like the Johnson’s.”

Whoa, baby!” Don said.

As nightfall was well along, the three boys reclined around the low yellow flame of a kerosene lantern. They sipped their pop, munched on potato chips and marshmallow pies. They talked of girls, love, sports, teachers, the future, and life. These are times a young man can for the first time articulate thoughts to others without reproach of a scolding parent or know-it-all teachers. It’s a testing of ideas and concepts that will shape a boy’s future. It trains how to interact with a world that will soon change from boyish aspirations and idealism to adult realities and brutal disappointments. A cruel and unforgiving world awaits just beyond the flap of that tent. They did not know that then.

They spoke of making right choices in life, what will guide them, who will influence them, and what code they will live by?


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