Just a 1920s Country Boy Series: Episode I

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ONE SUMMER WHEN Billy was riding with the talkative, authoritative, neighbor boy, Steven Warwick, they navigated a new route to the schoolhouse. They rode through open scabrock land and pastures and, for the following school year, it cut the ride to school by a half-mile. Billy did a great deal of his riding with Steven, a boy who lived with his older sister, Beulah Warwick White, as Steven’s dad worked on the White farm during the summers. The White homestead, on the other side of the west hillock, was a half-mile southwest of the Gallaher homestead. Steven would show up in the mornings on his buckskin mount. The boys were the same age, both born in 1916, and they loved to ride their horses around the countryside. Billy on Star, and Steven on Buster, they rode north to Lavista and west as far as Benge. They loved to fish in Green and Rock lakes, as well as Rock Creek.

Steven was a well-read, intelligent young man. He was renowned as the brightest student to attend the Lancaster School. He had a special talent for story-telling, debating, and refuting arguments. However, the young equestrian had one bad habit. He secretly carried a pipe and he enjoyed smoking it while fishing. The Warwick boy seldom had access to tobacco, so he collected various weeds, cheat grass, wild lobelia flowers, birch bark, and dried bearberry leaves to fill his pipe. While fishing at Green Lake one morning in late May, Steven inquired, “Would you happen to care for a smoke Billy?”

Billy asked back, “What are you smoking, that sure smells different from the stuff my grandpa smokes in his pipe?”

Steven cleared his throat and authoritatively responded, “I usually enjoy a fine quality smoke, and my preference is Sir Walter Raleigh pipe tobacco, but occasionally I prefer Indian tobacco or as the Umatilla call it, Kinnikinnick. It’s a secret mixture of various leaves and bark, but the local natives have confided in me and I’m the better for it. Indian tobacco is good for the lungs and your general health, so I recommend it to all my friends.”

“Oh, I didn’t know, in that case I’ll try some.”

“Well you’ll learn a lot from me… here jungle boys dispensary go, just take a deep draw on the pipe, you’ll see.”

“Thanks, that’s swell Steven!”

As instructed, Billy took a long draw from the pipe. His face turned white, then red as he coughed and spit, coughed some more, and while his throat burned, up came his morning oatmeal and cream. Despite that exchange, Billy and Steven caught many fish together, rode many miles and, during that period from the middle of May to harvest, in late July, it was an experience of freedom for the boys. As their friendship grew, their faithful mounts, Buster and Star, provided the two twelve-year-old boys with the freedom to explore the countryside far and wide. Yes, the boys truly experienced liberty.

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