During those seven years spent growing up at 110 Flamingo Street, I learned a lot about life. And many of life’s lessons were packed into just one summer. Coming not from a person or a place, but from a thing.
Early one Saturday, we watched from our front porch as five huge dump trucks passed our house before descending the steep hill to the cul-de-sac. Had we known just how long and hard the summer ahead of us was to be, perhaps my brothers and I wouldn’t have raced down the street to see what was being delivered and I’d never have learned the life lessons I still carry with me today.
Out of breath from the long run down the hill, we reached the only house in the cul-de-sac. Our third-grade teacher Old Mrs. Crabtree lived in that house, but the delivery wasn’t for her. It was for the vacant lot next door.
The last dump truck slowly pulled away, leaving behind the dream of every boy who lived on Flamingo. For a moment, my brothers and I exchanged looks of disbelief combined with pure joy. What now lay before us, not twenty feet away, was a mountain of red dirt! And infinite possibilities.
Racing over, I reached the base of Red Mountain and started climbing with only one thought. How could I beat my other brothers to the top? Crawling past Mark halfway up, I was right behind Big Brother James when he slipped. Sliding past me, he collided with an unsuspecting Mark, causing both to tumble down before coming to a rest at the foot of the mountain in a cloud of red dust. The race was now between me and Older Brother Richard. Or so I thought.
Life Lesson #1: Might makes right. Making it first, Richard stood victoriously on top of Red Mountain. Giving up, I slid down right into James and Mark, sending all of us tumbling back to the bottom. Too busy laughing at us, Richard didn’t see who was climbing up the far side behind him.
It seems we weren’t the only ones who noticed the parade of dump trucks lumbering down Flamingo. Before any of us could shout a warning, Down the Street Bully Brad reached up and pulled Richard off his perch.
Life Lesson #2: Might makes right, but only for a little while. No matter how big and strong someone is, there is always someone bigger and stronger standing just behind to take their place.
Using dirt clods, Brad defended the high ground. One by one, each of us climbed up to the top trying to unseat him, and one by one, we all failed. After hurling dirt clods and insults our way for the better part of an hour, he started to laugh as we all gave up, turned, and started to walk away.
His laughter quickly turned into a frantic yell. We turned just in time to see Bully Brad being tossed like a sack of potatoes. He tumbled down the mountain. A new king had been anointed. Standing where Bully Brad had stood just moments before was the biggest kid who ever lived on Flamingo — Bubba Hanks.
With a smile of satisfaction, Bubba watched as Bully Brad came to a rest at the bottom of his mountain. Again, and again Bully Brad tried to regain his seat at the top, but each try ended with a tumbling scream and roll to the bottom.
Life Lesson #3: Power is fleeting. The following Saturday, Bully Brad was finally successful in unseating Bubba — kinda. Bubba and family left for a month’s vacation. For the next three weeks, we all tried to topple Brad. Each time we failed. With only a few days left before Bubba’s return, my brothers and I finally found a way to topple the bully of Red Mountain.
Life Lesson #4: A group can accomplish what an individual can’t – there’s strength in numbers. Encircling the bottom, we started to climb together. Mounting an assault so overwhelming, Bully Brad didn’t return to Red Mountain, but the following week, Bubba did.
As we told him of our adventure, we asked him if he had worried about us while he was gone. With a smile and a shrug of his massive shoulders, he replied, “Naw. Figured y’all would work it out somehow.”
Life Lesson #5: Fun is fleeting. A few weeks later, Red Mountain had been flattened by the builder and we had to find another place to play. It was so long ago I’d almost forgotten. That is, until last weekend.
Life Lesson #6: Some lessons never end. While riding the golf cart last week, Little One, Sweet Caroline, and I watched as five huge dump trucks went by. We followed them to the end of our subdivision – a cul-de-sac. They had dumped a huge mountain of red dirt.
The girls didn’t even have to ask. I told them to go play. Jumping off the golf cart, they asked as they ran, “Papa, did you ever see such a huge mountain of dirt?”
As they started to climb, I smiled and shouted after them, “Yes. I have a story to tell from when your Big Papa was about your age — and a pile of dirt we called Red Mountain.”
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]