Monday, July 27, 2009

Willams Park and The First Boy in Space

The entry into Pawhuska's Williams Park is of classic beauty. Pillars of sandstone silently guard the entry way, standing like sentinels on each side of the road. They have been there for as long as I can remember, so at least sixty years for as small boys, my friends and I would climb them, easily done for there are step like structures that lead to the plateau at the top. It was especially rewarding if we had just come from a movie where we had seen a fort and a raging battle for our imaginations took hold and the movie became our real life as we fought, first to gain the high ground, and then to protect it from those dastardly pretenders trying to dislodge us. We had imaginary rifles, bows and arrows, grenades, and dynamite; whatever the movie had suggested. Inside of the park itself were lush green carpets of thick grass that allowed us to run free, play some kind of a ball game, and I suppose it offered some protection for those times we fell from a swing or off of one of the merry-go-rounds there. A graveled road ran around the perimeter of the park and just outside of the perimeter, especially on the north side, were slopes that let our adventures go further. The slope on the north side was steep, rocky and in the bottom was a small stream where we could watch tadpoles, frogs and small fish. We saw snakes there that challenged our manhood but I know now that they were harmless snakes, seeking only to feed themselves on small rodents and nuisances. Then, all snakes were poisonous and dangerous, to be feared, and we escaped, barely of course, with our lives.

We took Williams Park for granted but when I go there now, I simultaneously go to two places. I go the quiet place where nature is at its best and I can relax and breath in the freshness of the park. I also go back in time fifty to sixty years and see boys I knew, having fun, laughing, being the best of friends to each other and making silent vows to each other that they would always be there for each other.

I remember the big swing sets and how we boys tried to outdo each other as we went higher and higher and Bobby Hughes went so high that the tether of the swing set was almost parallel to the ground. Boys on the ground were shouting to him, "Jump! Jump! Jump" and laughing so hard that they almost fell down, and then Bobby moved forward, left the seat and the tether behind and went sailing out into space, the greatest leap to which I was ever witness. I can still see him suspended in air, for a moment, as he laughed and then the wide grin on his face slowly turned to fear. He seemed to sail forever as his arc went above the plane of the swing and then began to level out, and then to sink. He shrieked as the ground moved upward to meet his re-entry to earth and then there was the thud. No sounds came from him as we ran to him, for he had knocked all the air from his lungs. We thought he was dead at first, but he soon began to gather color, and then breath, and then he was on his feet, no harm done, and a smile began to spread on his lips, and for a moment he was our hero, the boy who had gone further, higher, and faster than any of the rest of us.

"Do it again!" said one of the boys.

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