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Rated: E · Essay · Personal · #2314437
First encounters with the mystery of the night
It seems odd to me that I have no enduring memories of Summers in their relative entirety until my preadolescent years. Of course, for my brother and me there were no summer camps or vacations or schedules; that may have been part of the reason. But I recall certain bits, disconnected from each other, uncertain in time.

They are bits of summers I remember from when I was Young, and they blink in my mind like the fireflies of those early nights. Let me use these next few pages as my jar and catch these tiny sparks of lightning for a little while. I promise to open the lid when I'm done and let them fly away if they want to...

Sherrif Ed and Deputy Fred

"Everybody loved Ed Earl. 'Specially Ed Earl."

It's one of the opening lines to "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," a racy musical movie starring Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton. It's barely R-rated by today's standards. But when it came out in 1982, it was adults only!

We didn't have any video game systems growing up, like Atari or Nintendo. Nor did we have cable. Money was always too tight, and prioritized elsewhere. Mom told us later that Dad spent it on booze. However, although we didn't have things like HBO and Cinemax--which were revolutionary in '82--we had something called OnTV. OnTV was a one-channel poor-man's cable. There was a box that plugged into the UHF antenna of the TV, and when the switch on the box was turned on, the signal from OnTV replaced the signal from a specified UHF channel--in our case, channel 64. Then one could watch a movie, music videos, or whatever else was playing at the time. The lineup only changed about once a month, and it was NOT very robust. I think I watched Kenny Rogers' film "Six Pack" about 8 times one month.

Eventually, "Best Little Whorehouse" left the theaters and came to cable…and even to OnTV. Very uncharacteristically, Mom and Dad had a group of friends and their kids over to watch the movie and have some drinks. Well…we kids certainly were not welcome to partake of such a racy movie! Likely enough, the grown-ups wanted to enjoy their movie and drinks in relative peace; so instead of having all of the kids play in the upstairs bedrooms, they sent us outside.

Now, somehow, it has become almost universal that children come home and go inside when the streetlights come on. I don't think this was ever broadcast to parents nationwide; yet it seems like 90% of parents seemed to settle on this method of curfew. On this occasion, the streetlights came on very soon after we went outside. But the parents were still watching their movie, so we didn't have to go inside yet. The night got deeper as we played hide and seek, and the later it got, the more exciting it became--we were never out after dark, and CERTAINLY not after our bedtime! We played in the backyard, and began to venture out into the side yard. Once, when winding my way back to "base," I even went as far as the road!

We lived in the suburbs, on a corner lot. So the road was about 40 feet from the backyard, and the backyard was fenced in. We were safe the whole time, and our parents knew it. But for us--for me, anyway--we were staying up past our bedtime, out after dark, defying all manner of mysterious and ill-defined risks!

We chased fireflies and played tag, celebrating the freakish carnival feel of this legendary luxury.

The movie ended after a while, and the guests went home. We went inside and brushed our teeth and went to bed. But I don't remember any of that part. I remember most strongly standing outside the fence, in the side yard, wound up tight with excited freedom, feeling included in the group for a change, and wondering if I should run for base or keep hiding a minute or two more.

Dolly sang to Burt that night "I Will Always Love You;" I think I could have sung the same to that perfect, random summer adventure.

Thanks for the memories, Ed Earl.
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