98. Once I Was a Kid – The Farm

98.  Once I Was a Kid – The Farm

It was 1942.  Pearl Harbor was attacked the previous December, and the United States was at war.  For a seven year old boy, a move from “Big City Detroit” to my grandparent’s farm in the country near Ionia Michigan, was like moving almost to heaven.

The farm was a wonderful place to be seven.  “One hundred sixty acres,” Mom said.  The house, barn and buildings were on forty acres west of Michigan Highway 66 that ran north and south dividing the property.  East of the highway was 120 acres of fields divided by a lane that stretched to distant trees.

The house was a big old, two-story farmhouse my grandfather built at the turn of the twentieth century, finishing about 1903.  Mom said that Grandpa had somehow used work horses to combine three houses to make the house.

The bigger part of the house had three bedrooms upstairs, three bedrooms downstairs, and a living room with a front door that was rarely used.  The smaller part housed the kitchen, dining room, and an unheated work room we called the “back room,” which had a back door and porch.  There was an attic over the kitchen.  The kitchen door was our main entrance.

Two tall pines stood guard on the front lawn; and two more at the northeast corner of the house next to the rock garden that spilled down from the north porch.  When we turned in the dirt driveway, there was a waist high trellis on the left where vines grew up each summer and gave us juicy blue grapes.

The driveway curved behind the back porch and by the front of Grandpa’s big shop building.   It went almost one hundred yards; past the windmill and a big sweet cherry tree, to the granary and the barn, where it turned back out to the highway.

The garage was attached to the side of the shop, and a tiny brick chicken coop sat in the shade of a tall mulberry tree behind the garage.  Daddy later built a big chicken coop connecting the back of the garage to the brick coop.

Big maple trees by the driveway and behind the house framed the picture-postcard view of the grassy field to the West, with the green lawn of the backyard in the foreground.  A huge old weeping willow tree was the centerpiece and backdrop for the view from the kitchen window.  The branch on the side toward the house had been cut off to provide an unobstructed view.

It was in this setting that I had more delightful experiences while growing up than a small boy could ever imagine.

97. Once I Was a Kid – Introduction

Blog 97.  Once I Was A Kid – Introduction

Hello Blog followers:  I am turning back the clock to my childhood to share events in my life from age seven to about twelve or so, when we lived on my grandparent’s farm.  I’ll be sharing the episodes that comprise my unpublished book, Once I Was A Kid, With the Wild Things On Grandpa’s Farm.

Here is what my editor wrote about the book for the back cover:

In “Once I Was a Kid,” Robert Z. Hicks shares stories from his childhood adventures growing up on a farm in Michigan during the ’40’s.  Whether or not you lived in that era, and whether or not you lived on a farm, you will love the warm and humorous stories from Bob’s memories.  Bob’s encounters with cows, bees, birds, raccoons, skunks, and many more of God’s creatures will entertain both children and adults.  His sometimes hilarious encounters with God’s creatures will stir your imagination.

In between the stories, Bob treats us with his gift for rhyme with humorous, poignant, and delightful rhyming stories written as he relished the memories from his childhood.  Step back in time and imagine when life was sweet and innocent, and sometimes spiced with a bit of mischief here and there.

Imagine too, the lessons Bob learned from Mom and his experiences, that imagination and empathy are key skills for good relationships and communication, and that God’s creatures are born to be free.

It all began when…

I raised my foot to stomp on the ants on the big rock by the house, when Mom grabbed my arm and said, “Wait!  How would you feel if you looked up to see that giant shoe coming down on you?”  I squinted my eyes shut as I looked up into the bright summer sky, and imagined the bottom of my tennis shoe gradually filling the sky above me. Scary!

Mom and I got down on our hands and knees and watched the ants going back and forth.  She asked, “What do you suppose those ants are doing?   Look at that one, he’s carrying something.  Maybe it’s food for the queen.  Imagine how important you would feel if you were carrying food for the queen!”

Yes!  Imagine!  Imagine, indeed!  My lifelong journey with imagination, and empathy for God’s living things had begun.

Ode to the Toads

It all started a couple of weeks ago when a toad showed up in our shower. Betty had a wild time chasing him around the shower with a paper cup in order to evict him.  Next night — and the next, there was a toad again in the shower.  Then Betty found one in the toilet, and one jumped down from the wall.  Betty evicted them all, out the front door.  We may never know how they got in the bathroom.

Now, when it gets dark, and coincidently, when we sit down for dinner, five toads gather on the window by the dining table to catch insects attracted by the light.  We, especially Betty, delight in watching them wait motionless, and suddenly jump to grab something.  Are they the same five toads that were in the bathroom?  No way to know; but, at least they are outside.

                                       ODE TO THE TOADS






Five toads on our window,
What did they do?
They tried to catch bugs and millers to chew.
And sometimes they caught a mosquito or two.

They joined us for dinner, and to have dinner too.
We watched them eat; did they watch us too?
They hung upright, sideways, and inverted askew.
Whatever it took, to be where bugs flew.

Our time was up, and dinner was through,
We left the table, and the toads left too.
The toads left the window; maybe they knew,
Dinnertime was over, no more bugs to pursue.

Five toads on our window,
What did they do?
They entertained us for dinner; that much we knew.
Why they leave when we do, we don’t have a clue.


96. Looking Back

96.  Looking Back

Betty and I lived in Hawaii twenty-four years where I taught at the University of Hawaii, first at the Hilo Campus, then two years at the main campus on Oahu, and then seventeen years at the Windward Community College in Kaneohe.  Here are some of the things we experienced that stand out in my memory.

We stood on the rim of an erupting volcano — at midnight!  We boarded a WWII pocket submarine in Hilo Bay to give the sailors some pineapples.  The Lord’s provision for housing was free house-sitting on Halai Hill overlooking the town, and at the end, very cheap housing in a condemned building right on Hilo Bay next to the hotels on Banyan Drive.

On Oahu, we snorkeled in the warm waters of Waikiki, and above a giant manta ray bigger than I am at Hanauma Bay.  I watched a giant humpback whale breach just offshore of Sea Life Park on the south end of Oahu.  We sailed in our small boat alongside dolphins off Waikiki.  We ate lunch at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, and danced to the live music of Trummy Young at the top floor nightclub at the Ala Moana Hotel.  The Lord provided us elegant free house-sitting in a mansion at the top of Tantalus Mountain, overlooking Honolulu and Pearl Harbor.

Betty and I helped found and manage Christian Vision, the music ministry of Randy and Gay Hongo.  Christian Vision has supported them to travel around the world singing and spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, and making many recordings of their music.  Being connected with Randy and Gay gave us the fun of meeting Waikiki entertainers, and having breakfast with Billy Graham.

Our doctor introduced us to the industry of network marketing which opened the way for a world of adventures we never would have imagined.  Amway gave us an opportunity for personal growth, meeting uplifting positive people, and fun trips such as to a resort on Orcas Island.

Sunrider provided opportunities to travel and to earn extra perks.  We qualified for a trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong.  We climbed the Great Wall of China!  We walked where the emperors of China walked in Forbidden City.  We watched as a typhoon buffeted Hong Kong, and savored exotic cuisine aboard the Jumbo Floating Restaurant in Aberdeen Harbor.

The owners of Sunrider loved cruises for leadership conferences.  We earned the requirements for five cruises.  We cruised the Caribbean aboard ships to Cozumel, Grand Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Belize, Costa Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands where we chartered a sailboat to sail and snorkel at St. John.  We had two cruises down the Mexican Riviera, from Cabo San Lucas to Puerto Vallarta.  Finally, we got to see both the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean in the same day by transiting the Panama Canal.

Everyone who does a network marketing business hopes to make a lot of money, but we learned that the real secret of network marketing is the experience:  the journey, and building relationships with positive ambitious people – not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Betty and I continue to enjoy the relationships we’ve made, and are making, with the company we are with now.  Good health is our passion, and we gravitate to companies that make nutritional products from the plants that God has provided.

God has provided, protected, and pushed us through a lifetime of amazing experiences!

Looking Back:  The last time we went back to Hawaii, we stood at the edge of the cliff looking down into Haunama Bay, our favorite snorkeling spot, enjoying the vista of the half-moon beach, and the gentle waves spilling over the reef.  We spotted the channel where we swam through the reef to visit the schools of flashing fish that hovered and fed above the coral heads outside the reef wall.

Just a few feet from our faces, a couple of Brazilian Cardinals hung tenaciously to a swaying branch in a bush buffeted by the strong ocean breeze.  As I pointed my camera, they turned their bright red heads to the sea, and their backs to me.  That picture will remind me, that to hang on, we must face the buffeting forces of life, because ahead of us is where we’ll live, not behind us.  Treasured memories are the “pictures” looking back – but life is lived to the fullest facing into the winds of today and tomorrows!

God has provided, protected, and pushed us through a lifetime of amazing experiences, and I know He will continue to do so as we face the winds of tomorrows!