Another month or so, kids will be out of school for the summer. I can still remember the excitement of that last day, but I’m quite sure the city maintenance folks hated to see it for a trail of torn paper, ripped notebooks, and broken pencils followed everyone of us home.

For me in my little town, summer was a time of magic.

 Saturday afternoons were usually occupied by the Three Musketeers or Gene Autry westerns at the local picture show. Sometimes family would show up and instead of the usual afternoon movie, we’d all set out on a fishing trip to one of the creeks around our small community.

Now when I say family, I mean family.

We lived next door to my aunt, mother’s sister. A couple times a month in the spring and summer, two or three uncles and their families from Amarillo to the west and Guymon to the north would come down to visit and fish.

Those were the weekends to which I most looked forward, for after a few hours on the creek, we returned home, cleaned the fish, and ate. And then because it was a family gathering, and most of the fathers were feeling the charity brought on by half-a-dozen beers and a couple hits off the hidden pint of whiskey, they permitted all of us cousins to go to the evening feature at the picture show, a treat in itself.

But, back to the fishing trip.

Usually fifteen to twenty of us would make our way out to the banks of Sweetwater Creek where the men set up cane poles on either side of a washtub filled with iced-down home brew. A couple uncles kept pints of whiskey under the seat of their cars.

The women sat around on blankets and gossiped about the men while all of us cousins ran through the trees and underbrush like wild Indians, completely oblivious to our mothers’ shouts of warning.

Now, mother had three sisters and four brothers. One of the strange peculiarities of our family was that none of their children were girls. (one did come along, but it was much later) You can begin to imagine the wild horseplay that ensued when two or three families got together and six or eight boys were turned loose.

That day, there were three older cousins; I was in the middle with another cousin, Ed; and after us came two younger cousins.

Down the creek, we discovered a grapevine draped over the creek. We quickly set about ripping it loose from the ground so we could play Tarzan and swing out over the creek.

Naturally, the older boys took over the grapevine, leaving the rest of us to our own resources. We couldn’t fight them because they’d beat us up. And if we hit them with a club, our parents would whale the daylights out of us, but Ed and I figured a way to get even.

Before long, our older cousins tired of playing Tarzan. When they left, we grabbed the vine, sliced it three quarters of the way through about two feet from the end, then wrapped electric tape about it from the cut to the end.

Then we started swinging, holding above the cut. Now I don’t know if you’ve ever swung out over a pond on a rope, but the lower you hold, the greater distance you can swing.

Well, our cousins returned. From the glitter in their eyes, we figured they had swiped a couple home brews and chugged them down. Anyway, Dooley, who took great delight in instigating our discomfort, took the vine from us and sneered. “You little jerks don’t know how to do that. Let me show you.” And he proceeded to grab the very end, take a running start and swing halfway out across the creek until his feet were almost sticking straight out.

And, that’s when the vine broke.

Now, Ed and I didn’t see him hit. We were already slashing through the underbrush, but we heard his terrified scream followed moments later by a splash. Ed laughed so hard, he ran into a tree.

Needless to say, we stayed hidden out until the folks called us in to leave.

But, the law of Cousin Retribution was not to be denied. That night as Ed and I walked home from the picture show, our three cousins caught us by a creek and threw us in.

I tell you, folks. Kids just don’t have fun like that any more.