112. Red and the Puppet Shows

112.  RED AND THE PUPPET SHOWS

When I was eight years old, my aunt Viva helped me make a puppet.  To be honest, when Red was done, I’d have to say I helped Viva and Mom make a puppet.  Viva was the artist in the family, and was constructing a marionette show with the intention of doing shows professionally.  Red was a marionette with the same head and parts as one of Viva’s puppets.

Viva sculpted the head of soft clay, and helped me make a Plastic Wood replica.  She painted his face, and we glued on red doll hair.  I cut out wood body parts and shoes, and we connected them with leather joints.  Viva carved realistic-looking hands of wood.  Strings were fastened to Red with screw-eyes, then up to the control bars.  Mom sewed the small slacks and shirt, and Red was born.  Red stood about eighteen inches tall and could walk realistically, and skate to the Skater’s Waltz.

We made a clown, and Viva made a Bugs Bunny for me.  Alan, my neighbor friend who was in high school, liked the idea and made an Elmer Fudd to go with Bugs, and a fabulous tramp, and a character who was Master of Ceremonies.  Viva had made furniture to scale for her professional show, so we had a sofa, chair, and a grand piano.

We created a simple, ingenious stage.  Two big dowels in Christmas tree stands held the front curtains.  Two card tables on their sides with a cloth draped over were the back of the stage.  Two floodlights up front and a bulb with a color wheel gave us theater lighting, and we were in show business!

Alan and I created variety shows with skits, jokes, singing, and Red doing the Skater’s Waltz wearing aluminum foil skates.  Mom played the music on the piano at home which we recorded and played during the show.  My sister Jan sang with a young lady marionette from Viva’s cast.  Red was the star of the show.

We did shows at elementary schools, a few churches, and the local farmer’s Grange Hall.  I think we sometimes charged ten dollars, but one church took up a collection of fifty dollars from the audience.  We were delighted!  The show business ended when Alan graduated and left for college.

Viva took me to a national puppeteer’s convention in Chicago.  I was amazed at the variety of puppets by the professionals.  There were many Punch and Judy style hand puppets, and puppets on rods, and shadow puppets, but very few marionettes.  Viva arranged for me to do a little pantomime skit from our show with the clown and a jack-in-the-box.  The clown tried to walk up a plank to the top of the box, but the top kept rising up a little and tipping him off.  Finally, the top pops up with the jack-in-the-box clown head, and our clown marionette fell down in surprise!  It was cute, and always got a laugh.

PUPPET ON A STRING

When he was done, it could be said,
“There’s no one who is quite like Red.”
His name was from his flame-red hair.
He faced the world without a care.

It didn’t matter where we’d go.
When Red went on he stole the show.
He could play piano, dance and sing.
He could tell a joke, and act, and swing.

But, he was a puppet on a string.

Red could do a lot of things,
At the whim of him who pulled the strings.
His painted smile was fixed in place.
No emotion ever stirred his face.

His wooden mouth didn’t have a voice.
His empty head could make no choice.
Live your life! Do your thing!
Use the talents you can bring!

Don’t be a puppet on a string.

Once I Was A Kid

Once I Was A Kid – With the Wild Things On the Farm

Big news!  My memoir book, Once I Was A Kid, With the Wild Things On the Farm, has been launched into the world of ebooks!

The cover of the book is a portrait of me, age eight, drawn by professional artist Ashley Otis, from a photograph taken in 1943.

Ashley added the crow on my shoulder, and the raccoon, to show two of my favorite pets of that time, Barney the crow, and Bandit the ‘coon.

Crystal Bowman, best-selling Christian children’s author, wrote the following about the book:

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 poems 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.”      

Bob writes: “Enjoy with me some fun things I did, and happy days I had, as a child growing up on my grandfather’s farm.  

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

Come reminisce, and imagine along with me.”

Once I Was A Kid has been launched at an introductory price of $0.99 for a limited time.  It will be available wherever ebooks can be purchased.  You don’t need to buy an ebook reader.

If you have an account with Barnes & Noble or Amazon – go to their website and type in the search bar – Once I Was A Kid Robert Z Hicks – to bring up the book.
OR  use the link below to all the ebook digital stores where “Once I Was A Kid” is available:(Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, Scribd, etc.)
https://www.books2read.com/RobertZHicks

This is my first ebook, so any feedback you give, and any review you would write, would be much appreciated.

 

111. School Bells and Cow Bells

111.  School Bells and Cow Bells

Summer ended, and I had to go to school.  I attended Hall School, a one-room country school down a side road about a mile from home.  At age seven, I was in second grade.  There were about fifteen students in a small building set by itself on an acre, with two paths out the back to the outhouses.  Our teacher, Miss Tanner, cooked noodle soup on a kerosene stove to augment the sandwich we brought from home.

We carried water in a bucket from a hand pump in the front yard for drinking and for washing dishes at the small sink.  In the winter, Miss Tanner built a fire in a small pot-bellied stove to keep the room warm.  We started each day with the pledge of allegiance to the flag.

A special memory was my developing a love of reading.  Miss Tanner had arranged with Bantam Books to get pocket paperbacks for twenty-five cents, and had an incentive for us to read as many as possible.  For each book report we turned in, we got a star on our chart, and after so many stars we got to choose a pencil or soap eraser.  I collected soap erasers to stack up.  I remember reading Frank Buck’s Bring Em Back Alive about capturing animals for zoos.

I usually walked to school, but one day I rode Smokey to school.  Smokey was the big attraction of the day!  All the kids wanted to ride the pony, pet the pony, or feed the pony!  During class they were looking out the window to see what Smokey was doing.  Recess was chaos!  The teacher and I agreed that Smokey was too much of a distraction for me to ride to school.  From then on, I walked to school.

As I walked home from school toward the highway one day, it occurred to me it would be shorter to cut across the pasture, instead of walking all the way to the corner.  So I climbed the fence and started across.  About half way, I realized I was not alone in the field.  There was a herd of cows off in one corner.  Afraid, I started running.

COWS IN THE PASTURE

The cows in the pasture, what do they do?
They graze, and gaze, and sometimes they moo.
The cows in the pasture, what do they see?
A little boy running; the little boy was me!

The little boy is running, what should we do?
To see why he’s running, we’d better run too.
The cows in the pasture, running to see,
Why I was running; they were running toward me!

Little boy running, what do I see?
A whole herd of cows, running toward me!
All of us running, was their intent to pursue?
I ran on scared, as any boy would do.

I ran to the fence, and climbed over fast.
I jumped off the fence, to a safe place at last.
The cows ran to the fence, then what did they do?
They stopped, and looked, and one cow said, “Moo.”

I didn’t stop running, I ran home to say,
“Hey folks, guess what, cows chased me today!”
My aunt was amused, “Cows wouldn’t chase you.”
To see who was running, they came running too.”

Little boy walking, what did I do?
I walked home the long way, wouldn’t you too?
The cows in the pasture, what did they do?
They grazed, they gazed, and sometimes they moo.