Do you ever think about how your childhood, teen years, and high school experiences shaped the person you are today? After attending my husband Frank’s class reunion and hearing stories about his younger years, it’s easy to see how he became the man he is today.
While in elementary school, a group of older bullies once held Frank down and were going to “cut off his leg.” His mother rescued him in time, but growing up, Frank had to use his wits and strength more than once to defend himself. Those skills proved useful later when encountering thugs at the go-cart track he managed one summer and again while playing high school football.
He showed an early interest in mechanics and enjoyed fixing things. Frank was nine years old when he and a buddy explored a neighborhood ravine used as a dump and found a broken BB gun. Frank’s parents wouldn’t allow him to have one, so he fixed the one he found. He secretly bought ammunition and realized he could get the gun to work if he cocked it, then dropped a BB down the barrel. He had a great time shooting at pieces of glass and tin cans. But dropping one BB at a time was slow, so he got the idea to put several in his mouth at one time. He’d cock the gun and spit BBs down one by one, which was much quicker.
One day he was spitting a BB down the barrel when the gun went off. A BB lodged in the roof of his mouth. He could feel the hole with his tongue, but he was smart enough to know he'd be in big trouble if he told his parents. He kept the secret from his parents and still has a BB in the roof of his mouth today.
If Frank dared bring the BB gun home, I have no doubt he could have fixed it. For his ninth birthday, he got his first new bike and soon after, took it all apart. His father arrived home after work to find the driveway filled with scattered pieces of the bike: wheels, fork, frame, handlebars, gears, and more. Frank’s father yelled, but Frank simply said, “I can put it back together.” And by nightfall, he had.
Frank’s classmates reminisced about how he could pick up stray crates or pieces of wood and construct something useful. Frank continues to be good at repurposing and people marvel at how he can use odd pieces of wood or electrical parts or stray motors saved from half-broken appliances to get things working again.
Frank’s class reunion was a great chance to share some of these stories and recall funny escapades. He and his buddy chuckled over some of the horses they rode, including an especially clever mare who, in an attempt to scrape Frank off her back, headed for the elevated six-foot high track with the barn cleaning manure bucket. The mare could duck her head under the track, but there wasn't room for Frank. He jumped off into the soupy barnyard, much to the delight of his buddy. Frank learned from this incident and eventually figured out how to outsmart the horse.
I had heard the story of the back-breaking, twelve-hour-a-day job he held forking pea vines into a separating machine, but the reunion allowed me to meet the friend who worked alongside him and helped him pass the time. Frank still enjoys completing involved projects with a buddy.
I also heard stories about all the football games the high school team lost until their many practices finally paid off and they began to win. All important lessons in life.
Examine your past and you’ll see how it shaped who you are today. We learn from the mistakes we made, or we hope we do. If Frank brings home a half-broken BB gun, I’m going to stay clear.