Of course, that’s not entirely true but at an early age we certainly gain the basis of lessons learned and how to apply them throughout a lifetime.
One such event in my early years served up several lessons for a younger brother and me.
Brother No. 3, Clydell, was just short of his second birthday at the time. I was perhaps 9 or 10. We’d moved from the farm-ranch “into town” (Teague: population 3,300) little more than a year earlier.
One next door neighbor was an older retired couple, D.O. and Myrtle Horn. D.O. had heart disease and diabetes.
Clydell’s outside activities were somewhat limited since our front yard was unfenced and the street was easily accessible. So, he stood on baseboards and placed his elbows on the window sill, moving from window to window, thus maintaing contact with his older brothers and soon with D.O. Horn. D.O. was tickled pink that this toddler paid attention and called to him from the windows as our neighbor’s slow walks around the two homes was the absolute allowable for his health conditions.
“Hey, Horn!” Clydell would shout from the window when our neighbor appeared. (“Mister Horn” was too big a mouthful for a toddler. Besides “Horn” loved it.)
D.O.’s fondness for Clydell gave the toddler more “outside time,” particularly when Horn was out.
That toddler-elder relationship also produced benefits for Myrtle Horn. When Horn was walking with Clydell in the yard, Myrtle knew that his two older brothers were watchful and, that in all likelihood, our mother would peer out frequently from the household chores to not only check on her offspring but on our kindly neighbor Horn. When we were “looking after” Horn, Myrtle would use that opportunity to go horseback riding on her black mare, Silver. Yeah, Myrtle had a sense of humor.
ON ONE such daily outing, Clydell and our elderly neighbor were in Horn’s yard. Our adventuresome brother discovered a baby blue jay that had fallen from the nest while Mama Jay was hunting bugs and worms to feed her young. Clydell immediately scooped up the young jay and clasped it securely in both hands, knowing not to squeeze too hard but, believing he had a prize pet, headed toward our front door.
Mama Jay apparently heard her screeching youngster, captive to this “mean” enemy of avians, and came swooping down between the two houses, shrieking and dive-bombing and rapidly pecking on Clydell’s head. The toddler managed to maintain an almost death-like grip on the baby jay for what seemed like an eternity.
Clydell’s two older brothers were trying to figure out how to rescue the toddler and the baby bird without incurring scarred noggins themselves. Meanwhile, Horn was laughing himself silly.
Mother came scrambling out of the house and saw to it that Clydell released the baby bird so Mama Jay could rescue it and carry it back to the relative sanctity of the nest. Clydell’s head had no serious injury but Mama Jay’s pecks probably stung long enough to remind him of something he already knew about his mother but could now apply to mothers in general: Don’t mess with their babies or they’ll hurt you.
THERE WAS, of course, a secondary lesson to be learned although it didn’t dawn on me until many years later.
At the time of this event, the late 1940s, there was little known about treating diabetes, heart disease and heart attacks except to eliminate stress.
However, I’m convinced that D.O. Horn’s life was extended by the relationship he developed with our toddler brother. Horn was absolutely ecstatic that a toddler paid attention to him and loved him. Plus, laughing had to take stress away.
His smile and obvious joy when he heard “Horn!” from one of our windows was tonic for his weakened heart. And, Horn was wise enough to know that his young next door neighbors were learning about one of the most important facets of life — there’s nothing stronger than a mother’s love.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.