July 4, 2022
By Henry Dumas
The assignment: If each decade of your life was represented by a pop song, what would each one be? And why?
Nineteen forty-nine to nineteen sixty. Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys by Waylon Jennings. Life was always an adventure playing cowboys and Indians with my next-door neighbor and nephew, Tim. An old tree grew up the side of their garage at the back of their yard. We thought we were invincible supermen, because we could climb the tree, get on the roof and our mothers couldn’t climb up the tree or make us get down when it was time for lunch or baths.
One afternoon Aunt Billy, Tim’s mom, shouted, “Tim it’s bath time.”
“You can’t get us,” we replied. As we climbed the tree to the roof.
Aunt Billy hooked up a garden hose and started squirting us. We were stuck on the roof and couldn’t get away from the water. Timmy started crying, and I jumped off the roof into my backyard. No bones broke and the only thing hurting was my pride.
At the end of the street, there were several rows of train tracks I crossed on my way to school. I ran up the street and across the tracks before a train arrived. I was fearful if the train arrived first, I would be late to school and pay the penalty for being tardy. I didn’t know what the penalty was, and I never found out because I always crossed the tracks before the train.
One morning, I was late getting ready for school and the sound of the train whistle caught my attention.
“Oh crap,” I thought as I raced up the street, crossed in front of the train and heard the train brakes screech.
I looked over my shoulder and watched one hundred train cars come to a sliding stop. I found out at a school the next day the problem I caused when a police officer and the train engineer showed up trying to identify the student that was almost run over by a train. Thank goodness all the kids looked alike to the train engineer and he couldn’t identify me. I continued to race trains on the way to school, and even now I still race trains.
Nineteen sixty to nineteen seventy. Purple haze by Jimi Hendrix. In nineteen sixty-two, I met my best friend, Robert. We were in the same fifth-grade class. He sat at the back of the room for the first half of the year and we never spoke. After Christmas, the teacher moved the desks around and we ended up next to each other. We became instant friends and spent the sixties reluctantly going to the Mormon church so we could be boy scouts and dated the Mormon girls that were called laurels, Mia Maids and Beehives. We spent Saturdays at the Burke theater watching movies and shooting spit wads at the unsuspecting moviegoers. Somehow, we both survived the sixties, graduated from high School and went off to college. Fortunately, we did not get drafted and sent to Vietnam. Robert was a sole surviving son from a war veteran and my draft lottery number was three hundred and eleven, which kept me out of the selective service department. In nineteen sixty-seven I bought my first motorcycle and added racing in the desert to racing trains. I am so glad the statute of limitations on most of the things we did ran out.
Nineteen seventy to nineteen eighty. All for the love of a girl by Johnny Horton. In the seventies, I married the love of my life, at least for some of my life. I spent most of the days and nights raising two boys. There was so much to do and not enough time to do it. Baseball, basketball, band practice, boy scouts and school assignments took up most of the time. We spent summer weekends fishing and camping. Ten years flew by like the blink of an eye.
Nineteen ninety to two thousand. It’s the end of the world as we know it, by R.E.O. Everyone was waiting for the end of the new century and the end of the world. Most people waited for the clocks to strike twelve, thinking cars would stop running and our computers would crash, sending emails into cyberspace and deleting our bank accounts. Or worse, all of our electronic gadgets and watches would catch on fire, explode and the world would end. I never believed it would happen. I went to bed early and woke up the next morning to the same old world.
Two thousand to two thousand and ten. Breaking up is hard to do, by Neil Sedaka. These were trying times with children grown and leaving the nest. Slowing down, getting older and hopefully wiser. Noticing new gray hairs and wrinkles that seem to appear without warning, and looking in the mirror and wondering who is that old person. It was also time to think about retirement and how to keep busy. It surprised me how easily I slid into retirement and wondered how I was going to have the time to get everything done. I could take a nap anytime and didn’t need to go to bed early because of a 5:30 wake up and get ready for work alarm. I wish I could say life was simpler. It was not.
Which takes me from two thousand eleven to the present. Staying alive, by the Bee Gees. We have all lost friends, family and loved ones. It is just part of growing old. On the bright side, a whole new world has opened up for me. I am doing things and going places I never would have believed when I was younger. I no longer care about politics or religion. I will leave that to a younger generation. I don’t care what people think or say about me. It’s their problem, not mine. Maybe this is the best time of my life. But that’s what I thought at all the times of my life.