Playgrounds? We didn’t need no stickin’ playgrounds. Not when we had my daddy’s barn to play in and on. It could keep you busy for a day, easy.
It was a combination thing. It served as a chicken roost and a cow pen and a place to store hay. The ridgeline was just high enough to play “dare you to jump.” Later, when I was grown, it usually housed a cow and calf, and served as a “repair shop” for my brother and his gang. Cartographers would have labeled it a “multi-purpose structure.”
One spot on the roof was ideal for hiding with a slingshot and firing away at unsuspecting birds. Once, I even got close enough to make one change his flight pattern, but mostly we were harmless.
There was a pig pen attached to it and sometimes baby pigs to play with, assuming their momma wasn’t around. We had a young colt born there, once. I can still remember Daddy waking me up one fall morning to “come see what came last night.” All I could see were legs, legs that looked six-feet long, attached to a tiny body. Her mom let us pet her, pleased with the attention and proud of her accomplishment.
It sure was a simpler life then. We would have marveled at all the wasted space of a soccer field, or the trappings of a “ready-roll” sports complex. When we wanted our own baseball field, we cut some small sweetgum trees and made a backstop with some burlap bags daddy gave us. It worked pretty well, at times.
Of course, we never had enough players for teams, so used a system called “workup.” As long as you made hits, you could stay with the batters. Make an out, and you had to start in the outfield and work your way up to batting again as the other kids made outs. There were no winners and losers, just players trying to advance in life as well as they could.
I suppose pals made as a child are pals forever. Mine were, but they are all gone. Some moved to distant places, sometimes where their race received better treatment than in the American South. I missed them but was happy for them. Some went into the military, returning not as boys, but as men, men who no longer played games. Some have died, one after a tragic life of car wrecks, pain killers and alcohol. I heard he had died one morning a few years ago, but it was too late to make the funeral. I’m not sure I would have gone anyway.
Most likely, I’d have preferred to remember him, not in a coffin, but perched on my daddy’s barn watching Jim Fletcher annoy some baby pigs.