I was born on a faraway planet called Oklahoma in the fifties. Stranger still, I grew up an only child on a farm three miles outside the nearest town, and that town had a population of 121 people. Actually, that probably counted the surrounding countryside. I was never sure.
We had no plumbing for the first seven years of my life, and a salt water well that produced only a trickle until I was in my teens, but this wasn’t poverty. This was normal life at the edge of the world on the edge of the modern era.
Don’t get me wrong; this is not a “my pitiful childhood” story. I loved life on the farm.
I learned to read from Little Golden Books. They were cheap, available at the local dry goods store (local means twenty miles away), and Dr Seuss wasn’t writing yet. When I was about ten, my grandfather sent me a copy of Tom Swift Jr. and his Outpost in Space for my birthday. I was instantly hooked.
We lived midway between three towns, and we went to one of them at least once a week. If you farmed in the fifties, you spent half your time farming and half your time fixing broken machinery. That takes parts, and that means a trip to town.
Every time we went to town, my great-grandfather would give me a quarter. Tom Swift Jr., the Hardy Boys mysteries, and Rick Brant adventure books all cost a dollar each. I bought a book every fourth trip.
When I was about twelve my mother dropped my father off at the John Deere dealer, drove to the other end of Claremore (about eight blocks), and took me to the county library. I had never seen a library and was barely aware that they existed. I almost fell out of my work boots. It was a big room with tables down one side, and ten double shelves of books down the other.
I had found heaven. More next post.