Rewind to the 40s and 50s, and life is good along Sandefur Road, which at that time was a dusty, unnamed dirt road. Two families (the Griffins and the Woods) lived on Sandefur between Lake Joy Road, which was also dirt, and U.S. 41.
The farm where I grew up bordered the Griffin farm at the eastern boundary of what is now Cardinal Ridge subdivision.
My best friend in those days was Neil Griffin (nickname Hic or Hick, I dont know which or why). Where he went, I went. We played cowboys and Indians and cops and robbers. We hunted, and we fished along Beulah Branch and farther south, probably into Mossy Creek. We did some crazy things, and we shared many good times.
Mr. Griffin had a huge barn where he kept corn and hay. The barn also had stalls for his mules. We shelled the corn and kept the cobs for corn cob fights. Hic, in his infinite wisdom (being older than me), discovered if the corn cobs were soaked in water, they hurt a whole lot more when someone was hit with them. I think he should have been an infantry field general.
One of my favorite memories of our childhood and the barn is that one year, one of the Perry merchants flew a small airplane over the Perry Grammar School grounds and dropped prizes (maybe candy and that sort of thing) by small parachutes to the students. I did not retrieve any of the prizes or parachutes, but Hic ended up with at least one parachute, maybe two.
My engineer friend Hic and I decided if the parachutes worked for dropping candy slowly, then maybe one of us could jump out of Mr. Griffins barn loft with a parachute tied to our back and float to the ground without too much chance for injury.
Luckily, we had the foresight to put a pile of hay at the anticipated contact area before one of us tried this daring stunt. After more serious planning, but never once considering weight and the minute size of that parachute, we somehow decided Hic would receive the benefits of this experiment.
So we tied one parachute around his shoulders and back, and he confidently approached the barn loft door some 15 to 20 feet above the ground. I think his confidence wavered somewhat as he looked down at the little pile of hay we had placed in the jump zone.
He stood there for what seemed like an eternity, then mustered his courage, yelled something like Geronimo! and bailed out. Everything seemed like slow motion, taking him forever to reach the ground. I dont think he landed on the pile of hay, and the parachute never opened. Miraculously, he survived with nary an injury, but we did abandon that experiment and never made another jump.
All was not play, however, as we had to help the older folks harvest pecans. Hic and I would climb the pecan trees and jump on the limbs, or pound them with mauls made by Mr. Griffin, in an attempt to shake the pecans from the trees. I guess we must have succeeded, because Mr. Griffin and my father carried lots of pecans to market. I also remember Hic and some of his siblings working at Mr. John Howards farm pulling the tassels from his hybrid corn.
As we grew older, Hic turned his attention to a young lady who lived in Macon. The last thing I remember us doing together was taking an animal cage to the young ladys father in the back of Mr. Griffins old Dodge pickup. Our paths soon parted as Hic graduated from high school, got a job and devoted his attention to the young lady, Dean, who became his wife.
I dont remember seeing him again until a few years ago when my wife and I were invited to the annual Griffin family reunion. The time span had to be nearly 42 years, and we did have an emotional reunion. Good friendships never end. They just get renewed. Heres to you and your siblings, Ray Neil Griffin, my dear friend of long standing and to all those childhood adventures that we shared that are far too numerous to mention here.
Walton Wood lives in Kathleen. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.