Friday, October 10, 2014
Recently I've been re-reading some favorite books from my childhood, including Rascal, by Sterling North. It's a nostalgic story of the author as an 11-year-old boy and his pet raccoon that he raised from a cub.
Even Sterling North called his book "a memoir of a better era", and the childhood he describes is inconceivable today. There's no pressure, no stress, no success or failure, no being driven from one supervised activity to the next. The only competition is a blueberry-pie eating contest. He has long days to wander with his raccoon. He raises money by growing a garden and selling produce to his neighbors. He builds a canoe out of wood and canvas (how did he learn to do that?) and paddles the canoe along the local streams.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a boy like Sterling North, and have outdoor adventures like the ones he and other fictional boy heroes had. In my desire to be like them, I collected the things they carried in their pockets; a pocketknife, a handkerchief, marbles, a box of matches, a candle stub, a length of string, and probably other stuff that I've forgotten. I tried to pack all these objects into my jeans pockets but it couldn't be done. The adventure that might require these provisions never materialized either.