Notes From The Cactus Patch

Tall tales from Texas about characters I know and have known. Who knows, you might be one of them.

Archive for the tag “kids”

Hey Kids! It’s Fun Being Sick


By Phil Strawn

Kids are an intelligent species. They know far more about human interaction and theatrical interpretation than their parents suspect. I can’t put a date on when this anomaly was discovered, but people with fancy degrees first noticed this behavior in the early 1950s. My neighborhood may have been ground zero for their study.

As a bunch, the kids in my neighborhood were healthy. We ate mouthfuls of dirt, sucked on pebbles, and ingested every foodstuff imaginable without washing our hands. This was perfectly acceptable to our mothers. Our young immune system was that of a caveman: we laughed at germs.

The only malady that affected us, kids, as a species, was the Monday morning tummy-throat-aching body-virus. This malady usually broke-out in early October, after a month of school and a thirty-day incubation period. It spread like wildfire through our four-block coterie, mostly affecting boys, but the girls were losing their immunity at an alarming rate.

On the second Monday in October, most of our first-grade class was infected. The symptoms were: headache, stomach ache, sore throat, and body aches. When our mothers asked how we felt, we would point at the affected area and groan, eliciting additional sympathy.

The first morning was the worst, then by noon we recovered enough to watch cartoons and eat some ice-cream, then after supper, the symptoms worsened, and mom made the call for us to stay home another day. Sleeping in was mandatory, and if we were recovered by lunchtime, we could go outside for some fresh air. This bug was known to not last more than 36 hours, tops.

Six-year-olds can’t grasp the enormity of a situation the way their parents can. As a group, we were unaware that our symptoms matched those of the dreaded Polio Virus. Our kindly school nurse, fearing the worse, calls the health department for back-up.

Two blocks away at George C. Clark Elementry, our diligent principal cancels all classes and has the entire building sanitized by a nuclear cleanup team from Carswell Air Force Base. The newspapers are on this like white on rice.

Lounging in bed eating Jell-O, and watching cartoons, my cohorts and I am unaware of our neighborhood pandemic.

Tuesday, mid-morning, a contingent of doctors and nurses from the health department, arrive to access the outbreak. They plan to visit every affected home and test every sick child. Large syringes and footlong throat swab are required.

Skipper, my stalwart best buddy, was the first to break. With two syringes sucking blood from his boney little kid arms, he sobbed and said he was faking it. Roger Glen ran screaming from his house when he saw the size of the needles, and Annie gave a signed confession. The pandemic was over.

Most of us couldn’t comfortably sit for a few days, but we were all healthy until the next school year. That’s when the Chinese Bird, Cat, and Rat Flu got us.

The Great Pumpkin Made Me Do it


I did something last night that surprised myself, and that’s always a good thing these days. I watched ” Its The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” the preverbeal 1960s Halloween show.

It was comforting to see the old Peanuts gang looking so healthy and young. Pig Pen and Linus are still my favorites. Charlie Brown has a defeatist attitude, so I never got into him. I told my wife, Maureen, while watching that program, it rejuvenated my interest in Halloween and trick-or-treating. Things are going to be different this year I declared.

As a child, I fondly remember the anticipation of Halloween. When October 1st came around, the kids in my neighborhood counted the days until the 31st. Back in the day ( 1950s), we celebrated Halloween on the actual date and did our begging on that evening, in the dark and even if it was a school night. We were tough kids back in those days, staying up late and actually going to school the next day. We didn’t need a weekend to recover and didn’t know what a safe room was. Trick-or-treating was damn serious stuff for us, and we were good at it.

In a fit of nostalgia, I announced to my wife that I will go trick-or-treating this year. For now, she is going along with the idea as if I am joking. I tell her, I am not, and she can hide and watch. As for a costume, I will wear a black t-shirt, a black jacket, jeans and sneakers and possibly a Texas Rangers ballcap if the weather is inclement. I will not carry a glow stick or a flashlight, that’s for babies. If for some reason, I cant find a group of kids to walk with, I will trudge on by myself. I am determined to experience one last Halloween before that tall, robe wearing dude with a sickle knocks on my door. This has evolved into a bucket list thing and I must see it through.

I have given this some thought and have worked out the perfect plan that will be accepted in todays society. When I ring the first doorbell and a smiling man or woman answers, holding their bowel of candy, I will say trick-or-treat. Their first reaction will be to say, “where’s your grandkid, or what the hell is this.” Either one I’m ready. I will look them straight in their parental eye and say, ” I identify as a 6 year old.” I will either come home with a full bag of goodies or be bonding out of jail. Its going to be a good Halloween this year.

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