Saturday, September 12, 2015

Yes, I Built That

Memory Lane
As a boy, at least in my teens, anyway, I used to bump around the yard trying to build things out of stuff I found lying around. Once I built a wheelbarrow out of some old lumber, mostly two-by-sixes, and was determined to use it that winter for lumping the firewood from the woodpile to the front porch (instead of the perfectly good metal one from the hardware store). I built it big, so as to hold a lot of wood, and it was sturdy. And heavy. So heavy, in fact, that pushing it empty took a fair amount of effort, but I was determined to use it because it was "better" than the store-bought version. Better, no doubt, because I built it.

I used my custom-built wheelbarrow despite the added work it tacked onto a chore I hated doing. In reality, it probably didn't hold a stick more than the store-bought one, but in my mind it could move mountains.

We don't get much snow in my part of Mississippi, but one day we did, and it covered the ground enough to make things good and slick. As I did every day, I dragged myself out to the woodpile in the back yard and loaded my wheelbarrow. I threw on a couple extra sticks so I wouldn't have to make so many trips. It was cold, and I wanted to get the thing over with as quickly as possible.

Loaded, I wrapped my hands around the handles -- handles I had shaped with my own hands -- and jerked upward. Something unexpected happened at that point: my feet slipped in the snow. When you're pulling upward against something solid, and you lose your footing, there's only one direction to go. Down. I didn't fall far, though, because a stick of firewood caught me -- right in the mouth. Everything hurts worse when it's cold, and that busted lip hurt pretty bad.

So there I stood. Punched in the mouth by my own creation. Lesson learned. I chopped the darned thing up into kindling that very day.

Despite the setback, I never stopped wanting to create things. Now, all these years later, I create with words. I build places and people and plots. There's more work in creating a story than in building a wooden wheelbarrow, but the rewards are greater.

I've built four novels and have a fifth under construction as I type this. I hope you'll do me the favor of checking them out if you haven't already, in which case I'd appreciate a nod in my direction to someone who may not have heard of me. And if you've read this all the way to the end, I thank you for that, too. We writers, you see, suffer from this insatiable need to be read. And read, and read, and read.

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