Once I Was A Kid – get the whole book!

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. 

Come enjoy with me some fun things I did, and happy days I had, as a child growing up on my grandfather’s farm, in the whole ebook: Once I Was A Kid With the Wild Things On the Farm.

Once I Was A Kid can be purchased at an introductory price of $0.99  wherever ebooks are sold.

Example:  If you have an account with Amazon – go to their website and type in the search bar – “Once I Was A Kid Robert Z Hicks” – to bring up the book.   If you don’t have a Kindle app – you can download their free app and the book will be downloaded to your device (computer, phone, or tablet).

OR  use the link below to all the ebook digital stores where Once I Was A Kid is available.  Click on the digital store of your choice. Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook),  Apple (iBooks) etc.

https://www.books2read.com/RobertZHicks

If you are inspired to write any comments on the site where you got the book, in their “write a review” section, it would be much appreciated.  It will really help get the book listed on the sites sales records.

115. “Hello” Barney

115.  “Hello” Barney

One spring day I rode my sister’s bike a half-mile down the highway to the hunting and fishing shop.  I met a kid there I didn’t know who had found a young crow that had apparently fallen out of the nest and been abandoned.  The kid had clipped the crow’s wings so he couldn’t fly, and tied a string to his leg so he couldn’t get out of his bicycle basket.

The crow was a forlorn sight, with wings drooping and head hanging down.  When the kid said his dad was going to help him slit the crow’s tongue so it could learn to talk, I knew he was really ignorant and had no feelings for the bird.

I traded my old baseball glove for the crow and took him home to show Mom.  I knew what she would say, we’d keep him until his wing feathers grew out, and then let him go.  I also knew that Mom would work her special magic with creatures to nurse the crow back to health, and temporarily at least, I had a pet crow!  I named him Barney.

I must admit, I was surprised when Mom fixed a nest of clean rags for Barney on top of the old refrigerator in the back room in the house.  The room was a small unheated workroom that housed laundry tubs, workbench, pantry shelves, and the old refrigerator.  Barney perked up right away with his high “command” position, good chicken feed, and lots of tender loving petting.  He must have felt safe because he didn’t try to get away or leave his nest.

Mom confirmed that slitting a crow’s tongue was a cruel myth, and wouldn’t make any difference.  In fact, after I said, “Hello” to Barney a few dozen times, he clearly answered, “Hello.”  When my sister tossed a little red rubber ball at Barney, he caught it in his beak!  He dipped his head, and flipped the ball back toward us.  It didn’t go very far, but a crow, playing catch?  Amazing!  Imagine that!

After Barney was better, I took him outside and we ran together up and down the driveway.  His feathers had grown out, but I didn’t know if he could fly or not.  He probably didn’t know either.  I gave him a little toss in the air and he spread his wings and coasted down, that’s all.  Then one day, we heard crows cawing in the tall maple trees by the side road beyond the orchard.  I tossed Barney up, and he flew away in their direction. “Well,” I said, “there he goes, I’ll never see him again!”  However, a short while later, Barney came flying through the orchard and glided down to land at my feet.  He never flew away again.  I don’t know if the wild crows rejected Barney, or if he didn’t recognize them as his relatives.

So Barney lived out his days as a pampered pet, always on the ground, and living in a cool spot on top of the refrigerator in the house.  I guess Barney never knew he was a crow.

BARNEY THE CROW

Barney didn’t know
That he was a crow.
He never perched in a tree.
He just walked with me.

Barney didn’t fly.
We all wondered why.
We all thought he would,
But didn’t know he could.

I tossed him way up high.
I thought that he would fly.
He circled once around,
As he floated to the ground.

“Barney! You’re absurd!
You really are a bird!”
I suppose if he could talk,
He’d say, “I’d rather walk.”

Barney learned to talk,
He didn’t make a squawk.
He really said, “Hello,”
Amazing for a crow!

He finally met a crow!
He flew up to say, “Hello”
Way high up in a tree,
And then flew back to me.

I guess the other crow
Didn’t know, “Hello.”
Barney came back to me
Where he preferred to be.

Barney and I had fun.
We’d walk and talk, and run.
He never lived in a tree;
He lived in the house with me.

Why didn’t he fly away?
He wanted to stay and play,
‘Cuz, Barney didn’t know,
That he really was a crow.

114. Learning From Consequences

114.  Learning From Consequences

I learned to ride my sister’s bicycle in our driveway which was dirt and gravel.  When I made a sharp turn in front of the garage, the tire slid on the gravel, and I fell and put a gash in my knee. After it healed, I rode the bike in the same place, and fell again. I put another gash in my knee. How dumb can a kid get?  Eventually I could ride the bike safely and ventured off the farm.

It was on one of my rare mile-long bike rides down the dirt side road south of the orchard to visit a friend who lived on a neighboring farm, that I learned a valuable lesson.  The lesson was something I should have already known, “Think before you act.”  Looking for something to do or see, we went to the barnyard, hoping to see where the cows were.  The cows were nowhere in sight, but movement in the lane leading from the barn caught our attention.

CONSEQUENCES

I thought it was a weasel.
He thought it was a rat.
When we hit it with a stick,
We found it wasn’t that!

We saw this little critter,
Walking down the lane.
We started chasing after it,
With no reason in our brain.

We caught up with the critter,
And discovered we were sunk.
The black and white critter,
Was a straight-spraying skunk!

A lesson learned the hard way,
It’s not too smart to harm,
The little critters that you meet,
Out back upon the farm.

So remember what we learned that day,
Two boys with childish thinking,
That being inconsiderate,
Can really leave you stinking!

113. Squeaky Drawer in the Attic

113.  Squeaky Drawer in the Attic

How was I inspired to write my book, Mouse in the Manger?  I recalled the mangers in the stalls in the barn where I released two baby mice.  Here’s the whole story.

Halfway down the long spooky dark hall upstairs was a door on the left with a step down into the space under the roof.  There was only one window in the wall at the far end of the attic, so it was always dimly lit because there were no lights.  The chimney from the fireplace below came up through the center, and behind the chimney an unused stairwell led down to the dining room.

The attic had plenty of headroom to walk in the narrow path around the chimney and stairs. The path was narrow because the room was filled with chests and trunks and shelves full of treasures of four generations.  There were trunks of clothes, and linens, and boxes of seashells from Grandma’s time in Florida.  Toys overflowed the shelves on the left — toy guns, a small wooden cart, blocks, Tinker Toys, model planes, comic books and puppets.  A heavy wooden bi-plane emblazoned with “The Spirit of St. Louis” hung from the ceiling by the chimney.

A pile of old mattresses in the corner by the window gave me a place to curl up to read or dream, or listen to the blowflies buzzing by the window.  I was in the attic, lying on the pile of old discarded mattresses in the corner reading a Dick Tracey Big Little Book when I heard a faint squeaking.  I traced the sound to a chest of drawers by the stairwell.  The squeaking stopped when I slowly pulled the bottom drawer way out.  There it was!  Tucked way in the back of the bottom drawer was a wad of shredded paper, wool, and cloth bits fashioned into a perfect rectangle so it exactly fit the space, and looked right in place with the old clothes in front of it.  Was this a mouse nest in our chest of drawers?

I carefully parted one end of the nest, and pulled the top back to see inside.  Wow!  There, nestled in the smooth interior compartment were two tiny pink baby mice.  Their pink skin had no fur, and their eyes were not yet open.  Oh, oh!  We had caught a mouse in a trap in the back room.  Could that have been their mother?  I called Mom to see.  Mom told me that it didn’t matter if mother mouse was gone or not, because now that I had touched the nest, my scent would be there, and she would not return.

Obviously, mice were too destructive to have living in the house.  I could only imagine where all the cloth and wool, and bits of many things had come from to make the nest.  I hoped the shredded paper was not one of my favorite comic books.  But how would we dispose of these tiny helpless newborn mice?  I couldn’t imagine Daddy squishing them under his boot.  Maybe we could flush them down the toilet?  It would be impossible to feed such tiny things, even if we did want to save them.

I didn’t figure on Mom’s incredible compassion for little creatures, and her ingenuity.  My sister had a baby doll with its own little baby bottle that actually worked.  With Mom’s patience and steady hand, she managed to entice the baby mice to drink her milk and honey formula from that little bottle.  Daddy shook his head in disbelief, but Mom nursed and cared for those mice until their eyes were open, and they were trying to climb out of their box.

I let them go in the barn where there were lots of mice.  The barn was the perfect place.  They could do no harm, and there was no one to harm them.  They scampered free to live happily ever after!

MICE ARE NICE

Do you hear sounds around your house,
That you suspect might be a mouse?
Just think about these little mice,
And you’ll agree that mice are nice.

The average mouse is very small;
He hardly eats much food at all.
He rarely makes a squeaking sound,
While he’s sneaking all around.

A Kangaroo mouse is really cute.
He has big ears and feet to boot.
With little itsy bitsy toes,
And whiskers all around his nose.

His shiny eyes can see at night.
His tail is long, and quite a sight.
He likes to sneak around the house,
Because he’s timid as a mouse.

Chocolate is his favorite treat,
But cheese is always good to eat.
I hope imagination will suffice,
For you to think that mice are nice.

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.

110. Summertime Solo Play

110.  Summertime Solo Play

Growing up in the country on Grandpa’s farm, especially when we didn’t do much farming, I had time to play; mostly by myself.  My grandparents had passed on, we had some chickens, but there were no cows to care for, and no TV.  Once in a while, we did put in a crop, or bring in hay from the fields, but Daddy worked in town and we had sharecroppers work the property.  Neighbor kids were not close by, and those my age were doing chores and helping with the farm work, and not available for play.

One activity I could do by myself was archery.  Mom had a wooden bow that was the perfect size for me.  I rolled the big round straw target out of the garage, and first set it up in front of the garage door.  But if I missed the target and hit the door, the arrow cracked.  Not good!  Archery was fun, but with the target in the driveway, I had to go retrieve the arrows both in, and way beyond the target.

I “borrowed” my sister’s tennis racquet and bounced a ball against the side of the house.  That was fun until I broke the side window in my bedroom.  Not good!  One of my favorite activities was shooting.  I set tin cans on the fence posts at the back of the yard by the garden, and plinked them off with my bee bee gun.  But then, I had to go and put the cans back up again to continue. Before I was smart enough to shoot tin cans on the fence posts, I used old light bulbs.  Not good!  Mom made me pick up all the broken glass.

I wanted to find something to do that didn’t have extra “work” or problems.  Finally, throwing the tennis ball up on the roof above the kitchen seemed perfect because it rolled back down to me.  It worked great until I threw the ball too hard and it went over the top of the house and was lost forever somewhere in the rock garden.  Oh well, it was all fun while it lasted!

SOLO BALL GAME

I tossed the ball high in the air,
Expecting I would catch it.
But I almost always missed it,
And I’d have to go and fetch it.
I hit the ball against the house,
It bounced back really good.
But then I broke a window,
So I didn’t think I should.

I threw the ball up on the roof.
It rolled back down to me.
At last I’d found a ball game,
With no problem I could see!

I threw the ball up on the roof.
It rolled clear over the top.
That was the end of the ball game.
‘Cuz then I had to stop.

It wasn’t that I’d done a wrong.
No, it wasn’t that at all.
When I went around the house,
I couldn’t find the ball!

 

109. Bunnies in the Garden

109.  Bunnies in the Garden

Each spring, our neighbor on the farm south of us drove his tractor up to plow a patch for us to plant a garden.  It would be about 100 feet long beyond the back yard from the chicken coop to the field by the old orchard.  I always enjoyed working with Mom and Daddy in the garden because I felt like I was really contributing to the project.

First, we had to rake the dirt to flatten the humps left by the plow.  Then we staked out rows with strings.  I would punch holes in the ground under the strings with a stick, then rake the dirt over the holes after Mom put the seeds in.

It was fascinating to watch the green leaves pop up out of the ground, almost overnight, and that those tiny seeds would soon be bright red radishes or lettuce.  I would hoe the dirt between rows to keep the ground from getting hard.  We had lettuce, carrots, green onions, tomatoes, string beans, and flowers.  Mom loved the flowers.

We planted rows of corn at the south end of the garden.  At the other end by the chicken coop, Daddy always made a mound of dirt and compost to plant a vine crop of cucumbers, watermelons, or pumpkins. Daddy loved the cucumbers, and I would take a big one and make a cucumber boat to float in the lily pool.

It was a challenge to have an open garden plot where wild animals could come.  Occasionally, deer would eat the corn before it was big enough to pick.  The rabbits were the biggest problem.  There was no way to keep them out, and they would nibble on the lettuce and carrot tops.  One summer, I found a picture of a rabbit trap in an old Boy Scout manual, and made a trap out of an apple basket in an attempt to catch them.

BUNNIES IN THE GARDEN

There are bunnies in the garden.
Oh my, what shall we do?
They’ve nibbled on the lettuce,
And on the carrots too.

I’ll get my trusty popgun,
And shoot them all on sight!
But they come way past my bedtime,
In the middle of the night.

The bunnies in the garden,
Are so cuddly and so cute.
With twitchy nose and wiggly ears,
I guess I couldn’t shoot.

I think I’ve got a better plan,
That will surely save the day.
I’ll trap the little bunnies,
And take them far away.

I propped a basket up,
With a carrot set for bait.
I put my trap in the garden,
Then I went to bed to wait.

I dashed out to the garden,
In the morning’s early light.
The trap was sprung, the carrot gone,
But no bunny was in sight.

I set the trap again, and again,
The results were still the same.
All summer long, they ate my bait,
And we played our little game.

The garden was a big success!
That summer was the best.
The bunnies ate their carrots,
And we enjoyed the rest.

Did the bunnies understand the game?
I guess I’ll never know.
But I’m glad I didn’t catch them.
I love tracks across the snow.

108. Smokey

108.  Smokey

When I got home from school one day, Daddy was there, home early from work.  “Let’s go to the barn,” he said, with that twinkle in his eye when he had something special.  Mom and Daddy and I walked to the barn where I was directed to a box stall.  I opened the top door and looked inside.  “A pony! For me?  My very own pony?”  “He’s a Shetland pony,” Mom said. “His name is Smokey, from the gray streaks on his sides.”

Daddy put a small pony saddle on Smokey, and Mom showed me how to thread the cinch strap and tighten it.  I was boosted up, and I was riding! I was thrilled, and scared, but they walked Smokey around the barn entry until I got more comfortable.  Mom told me that I’d be responsible for feeding Smokey, and, to fork the manure out of the stall and put in fresh straw.  I was too excited to take in that part, but it worked out okay.

Eventually, I would saddle up Smokey myself and ride around the farm.  When I mounted up, I was a cowboy!  I was Roy Rogers, Wyatt Earp, and Gene Autry, all rolled into one!  I was a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman!  I was the Sheriff and the fastest draw in the West!  What wonderful times Smokey and I had together!

One day when I was feeling adventurous, I packed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a paper bag, saddled up Smokey and rode across the highway all the way down the lane to the back of the farm.  What an adventurous outing!  I tied Smoky to a small tree, and sat on the grass to eat my lunch, then started riding back to the barn.  When Smokey saw the barn, he took the bit in his mouth and took off running!

My pulling on the reins and shouting had no effect on his rush to get home and get something to eat.  Thank God there were no cars on Michigan Highway 66 as we crossed.  Smokey scraped against the barn door, tearing my blue jeans as he rushed to get to the oat bin.

After my scary ride, I started using the two-wheeled pony cart which I really liked.  I felt safe driving Mom up the lane to the house and back, and with Mom riding “shotgun,” I would have help if Smoky started acting up.

THE COWBOY KID

I’m the Cowboy Kid from way out West,
With fancy boots and buckskin vest.
My six-gun strapped on my waist for show,
Up on my horse and away we go!

Been out punching cows all day long,
“My hands are sore,” the cowpoke’s song.
I’ve been riding the range, rounding up cattle,
I’ve got so many blisters, I’m tall in the saddle.

The big blue sky all day overhead,
The stars at night, and the ground for my bed,
The howl of a coyote in the still of the night,
As he serenades his love in the pale moonlight.

I love my life on the lone prairie,
As free and happy as a man can be.
My horse, the herd, and me on the range,
With a peaceful life that I hope won’t change.