By Joe Rector
Dark always crept up on us, especially when the winner of an intense game of football was being decided in the lower lot of our yard. One by one, the boys in the neighborhood set out for home. Some traveled with a slow pace brought on by hard tackles and a low reservoir of energy. Others hopped on their bikes and zipped down the road. Unlike now, where Ball Camp Pike is a constant line of traffic, bike riders had little concern for cars; one might pass them before they reached home. A bigger concern was always a dog lying in wait to give chase or to bite a rider.
The weather had a nip to it that kept fingers cold and noses running. Jim and I would make our way to the house and enter the hallway that passed the kitchen. We were hungry but knew supper would be on the table soon. Mother divided her time between the stove to stir something and the kitchen table where she perched on her yellow step stool and either graded papers or talked on the phone. If the phone was at her ear, a piece of paper covered with doodles that she drew while in conversation laid in front of her.
The warmth of the house wasn’t pleasant after having played outside for so long. Beads of sweat dripped down from our buzzed heads and tickled our faces. The change in temperature always caused bare skin to itch from all the contact with the grass during the game.
After supper, Mother ordered us to our room to complete any homework. The English exercises were the easiest. The social studies were the most boring, and the math problems were illogical and frustrating. Even with Mother’s help, I never did understand what the heck base 2 or base 10 was. I was proficient in simple math functions and could recite my “times tables” with ease. The language of this new math stuff simply confused me.
After homework, we argued whose turn it was to take a bath first. As soon as we heard the quick, heavy footsteps coming down the hall, one of us gave in and made his way to the tub. On some nights, a bath consisted of a good washing of body and head. At other times, the tub was filled, but the boy sat on the floor and agitated the water as if he were really scrubbing himself.
We gathered in the living room to watch just a bit of television. “Andy Griffith,” “Wagon Train,” “Highway Patrol,” and “Red Skelton” were a few of our favorites. When the clock hit 9:00 p.m., we were sent to bed. No amount of arguing and pleading for extra television time was allowed, Our beds were cold at first since the coal furnace hadn’t been fired up yet, but the heat from our bodies and the quilts that Mamaw Balch and Mother had made kept us warm through the night. I was always shocked how that woman who ran the house knew we were tired. It took no more than about ten minutes for two twin boys who’d had full days to slip into a deep sleep.
Fall is here now, and that’s the way I remember it as a boy. I’m not a fan of it or that awful season that follows. For the most part, I venture outside to rake leaves or complete some other project, but by the time the sun has set, I have been in the house for a long time. At night, if I can sleep, I’ll dream of spring flowers, summer sun, Daylight Saving Time.