We all come from somewhere, I come from the sagebrush and wind. When I was a single digit age child I would blow up to my Great Grandma’s house. I usually had rounds I would make looking for something to do. It would start saturday morning with cartoons at Grandma’s. I would never miss an episode of Sid and Marty Kroft’s Land of the Lost. It was a mix of time travel, dinosaurs, cavemen and mysterious cities that ignited my imagination. I would spill out of the house and head up to my Great Grandma’s trailer. At the time she lived in the trailer park outside of Coulee City that my Grandparents owned and where I spent many summer days. I would usually stop by and visit my Grandpa on the way. He would be doing some sort of choirs, he always was working. My Great Grandma was usually busy too, she would slip me a dollar and send me on my way. I think I was 8.
I would slip down to the shore of Banks Lake. I usually carried a stick to fight pirates and sometimes found a raft to get out onto the lake with. There wasn’t very many deer around Coulee City in the 1970s, at least in the part I lived in so I would follow rabbit trails down to the water’s edge. Sometimes I would make my way down the rocks on the shore, headed towards town. I suppose it must have looked odd if anyone saw me, or paid attention. I must have looked like a little child’s head popping up and down behind sagebrush way out in the middle of nowhere. I never felt more alive; I could smell the slightly fishy smell of the lake, feel the wind on my face, blowing through my hair, surrounded by nature, away from everyone, I was free. And I continued on down the shore until the trees got too thick and I would have to cut through a weeping willow under which was a spot of old road I could follow into the City Park. I never felt safe going into the shaded area of the willow tree so I skirted way around it in the sagebrush until I could safely get on the road. Then, cut through the park, cross the highway and up into the city center. My goal was Neihart Drugs. Paul Neihart had comic books. As soon as I entered his drug store I would sink to my knees in front of the comic books trying to read all the covers all at once. It was always a sensory overload that left me dazed for a moment. About that time Paul Neihart would come and greet me. I really remember him mostly only from the knees down because I was always so distracted by the latest adventures of Spider-man or the X-Men. And what was the Hulk doing? Paul would see this and usually leave me to my own pretty quick. After making my selection of two comic books, I would head to the back of the drug store where the counter was. Usually on the way I would get a soda pop and a candy bar. Everything costs 25 cents apiece, and there was no tax. I’m not sure how that worked, but what a great time to be a kid. So, I would backtrack through town, usually I would walk down to the post office and then turn headed past the church and my old elementary school, then down into the park where I could once more get on the old road through the willow tree. I was for sure thinking about snakes, but on the return I would always follow the road into the shade of the willow. I would always go slow, with every step feeling like static electricity, listening and watching. Inside the shade of the willow tree was surreal, the branches lilted all the way down to the broken asphalt road below, creating a canopy where the sun shone through in stripes. Inside, the colors all seemed to change too, tinted yellow and green; dead leaves laid on the blacktop blown by the wind into dunes. Tuned for danger, listening for snakes my hearing was sharper, everything was crisper looking through fresh child eyes. It was a short cut though, and I was ready for that soda and candy bar. I really had a thing for Green River and Milky Way. Once I emerged from the willow tree I always felt like I had accomplished something, and would let my guard down. The rest of the trip would be easy, and the short cut lead to where a basalt boulder sat at the edge of the lake. It was easily 14 feet high, and when you are 8 years old that is pretty tall. I would climb up with my booty, up and away from the snakes, and sagebrush, away from the cheatgrass and alkali. On top of the rock I would sit and enjoy my time reading Marvel Comics and enjoying snacks. Sometimes I Would just sit there and think. Sometime during those summers I named it Comic Book Rock, and it still is there all these years later.
the willow tree is gone…
Comic Book Rock 2018