I spent the first years of my life in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and most of what I remember about that time involves me playing in the dirt like a hen taking a dust bath—digging in my mom’s vegetable garden, rolling around in the driveway, and stuffing gravel and clumps of soil into my baby brother’s cloth diaper, which was already sadly, er…full. I have photographs to corroborate some of my filth-related memories, though not, thankfully, of that last one, which requires no visual reminders, as the incident is seared into my brain on account of the spanking the deed earned me.
We were dirt poor, so I guess it made sense that dirt was my preferred medium. Plus, we lived in the middle of nowhere. Dirt was plentiful; friends, not so much. Fortunately, there was Lisa: She was around my age and lived close enough to join me in mudpie-making and puddle-jumping. Our other nearest neighbors were a houseful of rough and rowdy boys. They liked to boast, bray, swear, and swagger, and (similar to my brother’s diaper that one afternoon) they were full of shit, lying readily, frequently, and extravagantly.
One of their tall tales became legendary in my family. I don’t know much about the story, only that it had to do with a chicken farm (an enterprise my family, later, in private, agreed probably never existed). What I do know, however, is, not long after sharing their chicken farm story, the boys told another tale, but this one didn’t mesh with the details of the earlier account. When my parents called them out on the discrepancy, one of the brothers hesitated, then said, “Well, that was before the chicken farm.”