Saturday, September 10, 2011

Old Cinder

I had to laugh the other day when my seventeen year old son broke the garden rake. He took the head off and was about to toss the handle on the burn pile when I confiscated it. “Why do you want that?”

“I just do.”

“It’s broken. You can’t use it for anything.”

“Yes you can,” I said.

He screwed up his face and walked off, sure I’d lost my mind or become one of those hoarders he’d watched on television.

Often I have people ask, where did I come up with this or that in my story? Yeah I know, my imagination is pretty wild, and I can dream up some doozies, but I do have an explanation.

Actually, I blame Old Cinder.

Who’s Old Cinder?

Well, when I was five years old, I lived on my grandfather’s ranch in the Nebraskan Sandhills. We didn’t have video games, cable or satellite television, nor did we have cell phones. During the summer and on the weekends, my mother kicked us outside when the sun came up, and didn’t we didn’t come in, other than to eat lunch, until that sun set. Every night she read to us. In fact, it didn’t stop when we were little. All through the years, from the time we were knee high until we were teenagers, sitting at the breakfast table listening to Lord of the Rings while we ate, she’d read to us. I have to say, it spawned a vivid imagination. One I’ve used to play, and later as an adult, to write and paint.

From these stories, fantasy worlds were spun and every day, I’d go outside and play in them. The world was my book.

Now as any good cowgirl’s daughter, I’ve been riding since I could walk, but at the age of five, I still needed a little assistance hefting my granddad’s heavy saddle up on the back of an old paint named Sundown, and then when I did get him saddled, I had to share with my siblings. So a lot of time, I was horseless and had to make do in other ways.

Where am I going with this…?

One of those ways was a broken handle from an old shovel. Perfect for galloping around the pastures and through the yard. That old handle and I rode miles and miles. We led the charge on forts, rode through the clouds and across alien worlds. We could fly. We could swim underwater. We were the best of friends, my stick pony and I.

Then one day I caught my grandfather with my pony, stirring a burn pile in the yard. His end was charred and he’d lost a good inch. I screamed and burst into tears. How could he? How could he burn my faithful steed?

“What’s the matter?” granddad asked.

“You’re burning my horse.”

He lifted the stick. “This?”

“Uh huh,” I nodded my head and brushed a tear and snot across my cheek.

“Why, he’s still good.” He ran the end under the garden hose and tapped the end on the heel of his cowboy boot. “We’ll just call him Old Cinder,” he said as he handed him back to me. The adventures continued for many more years and through the years, the stick transformed from a pony to a lance to slay dragons, to what you see in my books.

Well, I have to go. I have my granddaughter for the day and Old Cinder is waiting outside for us to conquer a few worlds.

Have a great Saturday.

D L Jackson


Kate Richards said...

I love that. At five my yard was full of fairies that called me by a cute nickname (and yeah I still believe). And you're passing on the gift of imagination now, your granddaughter is very lucky to have such a cool grandma!

Jessica Subject said...

And your granddaughter will always remember you for that, as you do your grandfather. It's amazing how ones imagination can flourish when it's allowed to.

Have a wonderful day! :)

Sheri Fredricks said...

I'm that little stick-horse girl you described. And now I have my own two stick horse boys that gallop around our barns and herd the livestock. Throwing them outside is the best thing a parent can do. Rip those electronics out of their hands and give them a stick intead. Oh...the places they can go.

In the 4th grade, my son won the creative writing contest at his school.

Great post. Loved it!

D L Jackson said...

It's amazing what a little "real-world" playtime can do for children. Learning how to use the creative part of their brains is so important. I think too often electronics can become a babysitter, a way to keep them entertained, when in fact they really don't need them. It can take something as simple as a stick, or a fairy house, made from bark and moss, to open up a whole different world, stimulating a sadly much-neglected part of their mind.
Thanks for stopping by.