Back when I was just a kid without much common sense and even fewer neurons whizzing through my brain, I always looked forward to spending time at my maternal grandparents’ farm out by Lubbock on that vast expanse of geography my uncles called the Great Plains. That was just another name for the Staked Plains or Llano Estacado.

The plains were called Staked Plains, so the story goes because they were flat and treeless – treeless and flat. Either way you said it, there was nothing growing on that vast expanse of Texas to point a hapless explorer back to the spot from which he had departed earlier that morning.

But there were those inventive yahoos who had an “eureka” moment and drove stakes in the hard ground, i.e., Staked Plains, as a means to assist their return to their “however so humble” abode that night.

It’s an eerie feeling, whether it be land or water; to quickly scan the empty vastness surrounding you and see nothing except your canteen and your pony (boat), neither I’m sorry to say, would offer much of a starting point for your trek back to your camp.

Now, I lived in Wheeler, some 250 miles from my grandparents; my older cousin, Dooley, 17, and his older brothers lived in Amarillo, a hundred miles closer to our grandparents. That branch of the family being right on the way, we always stopped in Amarillo and some of the family accompanied us on to the plains.
Dooley was five or six years older than me or Ed; consequently, as cousins do, he always picked on us. If you had older cousins, farm cousins, you know what I mean. They could be merciless in their taunting, but this time, Ed and I had already plotted our revenge before he could act. Heh, heh, heh.

Outside of the corrals and pigpens was a large water tank, fed by a windmill. Giant cottonwoods surrounded the tank, and naturally, like all boys, we’d strung up ropes in the limbs so we could play Tarzan.

Trust me, this plot had been thought out over a few month’a time, so we had a pretty god idea how it was going down.

The rope was about three-quarters of an inch thick, and we’d cut a little over half-way through it about a foot from the end, then used black electrical tape to wrap it. When Dooley sneered at us for holding above the tape, we said it was because we didn’t want our hands to slip. Heh, heh, heh. The dumb nut.

Now, it was a heap of fun to swing way out, then skim back in barely missing the water, but that’s not how Ed and I did it. Grabbing above the tape, we could only swing out a few feet, then tribble back in.

Dooley would yell at us. SDummies! Now watch this. This is how you chickens ought to do it,D and then he’d grab the very bottom of the rope and go whizzing out over the tank, almost parallel to the water. He sneered at us.

He called us chicken-livered, and a lot of worse. We just grinned at each other, hoping he’d hurry up and take the fall. He’d make all kinds of fun at us.

And then it happened.

Boy, that would sure have been a picture. He seemed to freeze in mid-air, his eyes bulging, his mouth gaping, and the scream stuck on his lips.

By the time he hit the water, we’d hit the hardpan road for our neighbor’s a quarter mile away.

If you know anything about cow tanks, you know just how that fine, dark black mud can penetrate everything, stain everything, and stink up everything.

Naturally, he caught us and worked us over; perversely we even enjoyed it, even the cow patties in the middle of the back, and other such touches of rural revenge.

We all headed back home the next day, but not before Ed and I started planning our revenge on Dooley, and the day that we would start gathering eggs. Heh, heh, heh.

That was in the early fifties; Dooley enlisted in the Army and was sent to Korea a few months later just after he turned eighteen. He went out on patrol and never returned. He is listed as MIA.

I still get teary-eyed thinking about Dooley. I feel sorry for those guys who never had a cousin like him. He was mean to us, but we loved the heck out of that guy.