Saturdays were made for the kid in us. I know that most of us have turned Saturdays into nothing other than mowing grass and washing cars and doing chores around the house. Trying to keep up with adult stuff before we get buried under a pile of domestic laundry the size of Mr. Rushmore. Chores that we dread but that we know has to be done.
Right now, there are a whole lot of folks shut up in their houses who don’t even know what day it is any more. We’ve lost our bearings in this pandemic house arrest. For a while every day felt like a Saturday. Now every day feels like we are peeping out through a cell window wondering if the world will ever come back to us as we knew it. If you didn’t have a smart phone to look at, you wouldn’t have a clue what day it is.
Saturdays used to be freedom. I had chores like most kids in my day. Garden rows a mile long that had to be hoed. Calves that needed to be fed. But I learned a long time ago that if you take care of the “need to” and get it out of the way, then you have a whole lot of “like to” that comes to you like a cool breeze under the shade of a backyard Pecan tree on a hot June afternoon.
I saw an episode of the Lone Ranger the other morning. I’ll usually watch a little TV while I drink my coffee before work. ESPN has lost their mind if they think I’m gonna watch reruns of the NFL draft. The local weather girl drives me nuts with how much she loves to talk about tornadoes. The news is like a broken record stuck on Corona, Corona, Corona.
So, I got up in the upper channels and found “Hi-Oh Silver. Away.” The acting was stiff. The sets were incredibly cheesy. Live horse chases in the real desert that end up in the studio with fake rocks and plastic bushes. The tight pants were creepy. The hair was really slick, especially on Tonto. He looked like he just came from the hair salon. And I had a terrific time.
Enrico (the victim): My grandfather’s hacienda is being stolen by the same man that shot and killed my father 10 years ago.”
LR: No American deserves to be cheated out of what is rightfully his.”
Enrico: “This man claims to be a tax collector, but he is a murderer and a thief.”
Tonto: “Me think we should do something about this.”
LR: “You’re right Tonto. We cannot stand by while honest citizens are being threatened and run off their own land.”
Tonto: “What we do, Kemosabe?”
I used to live for the Lone Ranger on Saturday mornings. Cisco Kid. Tarzan. The best Tarzan ever was Johnny Weissmuller. Saturday morning TV was designed by God for kids as the perfect gift. My Friend Flicka. Sky King. All of them in B&W and with a clear-cut line between the good guys and the bad guys.
Those shows were the reason we played outside so much. We fought Indians and saved the stagecoach a hundred times. We blew up the old mine shaft and helped the Widow Jones save her ranch. We didn’t have horses, but we had cap pistols and BB guns. Our imaginations had no limit.
A buddy of mine and I spent most of a Saturday building a fort down behind the lake. We borrowed an axe out of the smoke house. Bailing twine out of the barn. And we worked up a sweat cutting down small Pine trees and lashing up some walls and a roof. This was our line shack out on the trail to Santa Fe. We went back to it the next Saturday so we could save the day again. Turns out it wasn’t the Santa Fe Trail, but a cow path where they crossed the creek. The cows had pushed our fort to the ground.
But a kid can figure out what to do with a Saturday. Skipping rocks across the lake could fill up hours. Billy Hearn had a golden arm for throwing baseballs and for skipping rocks. You dig around the creek with a bucket for the perfect rocks and then go down to the lake to make the magic happen. Sometimes we went for the record number of skips. Sometimes we aimed for a stick floating out in the water to see who could hit it first. It was competitive.
Billy busted me in the back on my head one time with a rock. I leaned over to get a rock out of the bucket. He drew back to fling one. I stood up about the time he released. When we got to the house, Mama thought I’d been shot. Blood running all down my shirt. The barber had to work my flat top around the scab for weeks.
I found out recently that the folks on Mackinac Island, Michigan have been holding a Stone Skipping Tournament for the last 51 years. I never knew there was such a thing. Maxwell Steiner of Las Vegas is a champion rock skipper. He set the world record in 2013 with a 65-skip toss across the Allegheny River.
“It gets pretty intense,” he says. “People do take it seriously.” What a great way to spend a Saturday.
Me and my lever action Daisy BB gun, AKA the choice of The Rifleman, could kill an entire Saturday just wondering the woods and fields. I probably had 500 little dark green rubber Army men with tanks and trucks and jeeps. We could spend hours setting up camp against a red dirt bank behind the lake and hours lying on our bellies taking BB shots at the Bazooka guy down on one knee.
I feel a little foolish to be in my 60s and thinking about this stuff. I have some serious adulting to take care of and some serious concerns about my business and serious responsibilities with my family. But remembering these Saturdays in my head is in some way necessary, I think.
Life can be heavy. Hospitals and funerals and bills and showing up for work can make a man old before his time. Somewhere inside all of us is that kid who used to live for the freedom of Saturdays. We cannot live in these memories, but it make sense to visit them every now and then, if for no other reason than to smile for a moment and to feel your heart lift a little bit from the weight of whatever seems to be hanging around your neck.
My advice during the lock down. Find you a creek somewhere and take your shoes off and walk around in the water. Forget for a moment that Mr. Corona ever came into our world. Let the neighbors talk bad about how you should have cut the grass this weekend. About how you really need to pressure wash the house and act like somebody.
Be a kid this Saturday. You can thank me later.