Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Almighty Hammer-Stick: Jonesborough 1968

I think it was during the long long drive from Washington State to Tennessee--via California/Texas etc--that we kids discovered the world of comic books and superheros. I guess Mother bought a handful of comics to keep us occupied--all five of us young kids--in the car during the long drive south into southern California and then across to Tennessee. They were DC Comics at first (Atom Man was my favorite, and Hawkman), but we must have bought more along the way, because by the time we reached our new "southern home", we'd found Marvel Comics, which were much superior in style and content than DC. And when we first got to northeastern Tennessee, we rented a house in the little strange town of Jonesborough. And it was in Jonesborough that I found my all powerful Hammer-Stick.
I was into the comic Thor--based on the Norse god of thunder, of course--and walking in the woods behind the house, I came across a crooked stick that had a nice size, weight and shape to it. The stick was bent, like a lowercase "r", and it soon became magical to me and was of great use for my superhero playacting.
I was very attached to that stick.
Often I was by myself, roaming around that area of town or in the woods--it wasn't really town, it was more outside-of-town: a string of old houses along a highway/road with fields and acreages and woods. So I wandered, lost in my own mind and fantasy (much as I am today), being a superhero with great strength and nobility, which was all brought to me through my Hammer-Stick. I can't recall the particulars, but I know I used the stick to take out weeds and plow through vines (like a machete), I used the stick in imaginary battles with evil forces and to hit rocks with and to smash it down upon big rocks in a show of force. Man, that was some stick! I would also throw it: enemies at a distance were not safe, as my Hammer-Stick could be hurled with great force, knock them down, and then it would magically return to me (like a boomerang or, maybe, a good dog). (In fact, I loved the stick like I would a dog, in many ways it was my best friend and had a personality traits that I attributed to it.) But this hurling of the Hammer-Stick is also how I lost it.
Or, almost lost it.
I was in a field of flowering weeds, across the street near Judge's house (yes, we knew a boy named Judge [it was Tennessee]), and I was playing my lonely fantasy game with my stick and I hurled it at the fantasy bad guy and the stick--which really could not magically return to me--sank down into the thick weeds and disappeared. This was a big field and my stick was gone. Lost. A runaway dog. I was very upset.
Sure, I was willing to go look for it--not an impossible task--but right where it had sunk down into the flowering weeds there was a huge fat black/yellow bumblebee. Man, I hated bumblebees the most. (I recall in Vancouver, I'd picked a bunch of flowers for my mom--iris' mostly--and was carrying them home, when a big bumblebee came zooming right after me and I dropped the flowers and ran in fear of my little-kid life.) And this fat bee was going nowhere--was lazily doing its bumblebee things right over the spot where the Mighty Hammer-Stick had disappeared. So--like any kid--I asked god to get rid of it: "Please god, make the bee go away so I can get my friend the stick."
But the bee did not move.
So, I asked again, adding a qualifier, maybe not so kid-like: "If the bee goes away, then I will believe in you, god."
And, lo and behold, the bee did go away. And I waded into the blooming brush and did find my stick--happy again.
But, did I believe in god?
Yes, even at a very young age, I had serious doubts. And though this event with the Hammer-Stick should have been a proof-is-in-the-pudding moment, I still was not convinced. Sorry, god. You could argue that he kept up his end of the bargain and I didn't follow through, or, you could see it as I came to--coincidence. Bees and sticks didn't make up too much of a miracle.
I've always gone back and forth on the matter--still do--but also don't worry about it too much. I have faith, simply, in that no one knows and will never know. Religions are best kept to spiritual matters, not ones of dogma or sin, and I don't want to wallow in the subject which usually just comes to trite foolishness. Believe and you shall believe, is about all I can say. Though, a life with god is probably much more interesting that one without, as long as it's not used to manipulate you. But--again--a healthy dose of skepticism is just that, healthy . . . Anyway, I got my stick back, was happy for it, and went about playing my games with it for quite a while after. (I think I lost the stick when we moved to Johnson City later that year.)
Yet, you can see the dilemma, was it god or was it the bee needing to be somewhere else? And I can still think of it, at this late age, and still be undecided--though I tend to side with the bee. I mean, really, if god's going to go about granting prayers, then keep my stick and answer someone's prayer for a sick loved one. Or even a lost dog.

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