Once upon a time there was a little boy who lived on a farm surrounded by cows and horses and pigs and chickens. The little boy had no playmates and no one to play with. So, the little boy set out one day on an adventure. He made a bologna sandwich with Miracle Whip and mustard and poured some sweet tea into a thermos. He put them all in a canvas bag and slung the bag over his back.
His first obstacle was Babe, the one horned heifer. Babe was the meanest of the cows and had broken one of her horns in a tussle with another cow. She had incredible hearing and at the first sound of a little boy climbing through the barbed wire fence around the pasture, she would come running on cow’s hooves so swift, the little boy often called her Babe the Flash! Babe wanted an apple or an ear of corn before she would let the little boy pass.
The little boy stood just inside the barbed wire fence as Babe huffed and snorted and pawed the earth, wiggling her one horned head in menace. But, the little boy was clever. He had taken not one, but three apples from his mother’s table. Now, he held one out with trembling hands, pressing down his fear into the deep, dark corners of his stomach. Babe stopped snorting and pawing and moved toward him, her dark eyes glistening and her nostrils flaring and just before she could snatch the apple from the little boy’s hand, he threw it over her deep into the pasture. Babe glanced over her shoulder and then looked back at the little boy with a gleam in her eye. But, the little boy was brave and he drew forth another apple and threw it. And, then another. Now, Babe had a choice to make. Stay and terrorize the little boy or go after THREE apples. She bolted off into the pasture on her swift, swift hooves and the little boy ran deep into the woods along the barbed wire fence.
Here, the sunlight was like dappled yellow pools of warmth through the high arching trees. And, a red cardinal flew from branch to branch as the little boy stood at the beginning of the Path. The Path was ever tantalizing him with its secrets and its temptations. He had seen the Path many times in his life as his father drove down the rutted dirt road that led deep into the pasture to the pond. Always, his heart yearned to know what lay down that Path. What secrets were hidden at the end of that Path? Why was it there? Who had made the Path? But, his father had always warned the little boy about the deep, dark dangers of the woods that surrounded the Path.
Now, the little boy was ten. He had passed through his first decade and was on the cusp of manhood. He had to KNOW! He had to face the dangers of these woods on the PATH! He took one step onto the Path in his dusty, dirty Converse high rise shoes and then another and then another. Deep in the woods, he heard the howling cries of the wild dogs that roamed the woods. The little boy’s brother was a taxidermist and he would take the bones and flesh of the animals he had mounted and dump them somewhere in the depths of the woods. Had he used the Path?
The wild dogs lived in the woods, bounding from one pile of pithy bones and rotting sinew to another. Maybe some of the dogs were more than animals! Maybe they were werewolves like the Wolfman the little boy had seen on the 3:30 Dialing For Dollars Movie just the afternoon before. Or, maybe the dogs were the “children of the night” whose chilling howls and yodels had pleased the ears of Dracula, the movie of the afternoon before last.
All of these thoughts chilled the little boy’s heart. It raced with fear and almost, almost he stepped off the Path. But, the cardinal whistled and landed on a bush not two feet away. It’s bright red chest fluffed with bravery and it regarded the little boy with its tiny eyes. It flew off down the Path. It was brave. Could the little boy be any less brave?
He swallowed his fear and set off down the Path. The afternoon wore on and the Path led deeper and deeper into the woods and suddenly took a turn through a tunnel of tightly woven blackberry brambles. He swallowed and once again sought for bravery. What lived inside that dark tunnel of thorny vines? What would he face on the other side? The little boy drew a deep breath and plunged into the tunnel. Briars and brambles snatched at his shirt and his hair and scratched his skin leaving little trails of blood. But, he did not faint. He did not retreat. He was determined to see what was at the end of the Path.
He emerged from the blackberry bramble covered in leaves and trailing vines and thorns and he stood on the downslope of a great creek filled with rushing, clear water. A huge tree whose trunk was as big as a car had fallen across the creek and led into a vast expanse of towering hardwoods. The ground was covered with a carpet of dead leaves and bright green moss. The fragrance of honeysuckle filled the still air. It was magical! Here was a land he had never imagined could exist. He hopped upon the huge tree and made his way across the creek into the depths of this land. Vines as thick as his wrist hung down from the canopy. It was like some primeval jungle filled with promise, with threats, with hope, with a blank page for the little boy’s imagination. He sat down on that huge tree trunk and pulled out his bologna sandwich and his thermos and smiled.
“I will call you the Jungle.”
And so, it all began!
Where did you first experience the awesome possibility of your own imagination? Was it a place? A person? A book? A movie? What prompted you to sit down and let the story in your mind begin to unfold? Where did it all begin for you?