Sunday, June 30, 2013

Naked Cowboy

My Joel turned 20 last week. It’s hard to imagine that time has sped by so fast – and yet with Joel everything moves fast. He came into this world so fast I barely made it to the hospital to have him and he’s been moving fast ever since. In fact at this very moment he is somewhere between South Carolina and Massachusetts speeding down some interstate with little regard for speed limit signs. That’s my Joel.

His wit and temper are equally quick. He keeps me on my toes. Recently he informed me that as a teenager it was his job to annoy me. He’s a hard worker and always takes his work seriously. But alas he’s no longer a teenager and he needs to find a new job – annoying me is no longer in his job description. I must remember to send him a memo to that effect.
As is typical for a parent, I find myself reflecting on Joel’s earlier years.  Joel has always loved speed,
motion and freedom. During his first year on this earth he quickly progressed from crawling to climbing. He skipped the walking phase and cruised right into running. In order to sleep at night we had to throw a loosely knit blanket over his crib and clamp it down with vise grips to ensure that he would stay put in his crib and not climb out and wander off. It worked sometimes.

Joel had three favorite things as a toddler – all belonged to his older brother:  a cowboy hat, boots and a red big wheel tricycle. It was his mission in life to steal those three items from Russell.  Joel successfully completed his mission at the age of two – he has the scar to prove it.
On a summer day in the woods of West Virginia, wearing nothing but his brother’s cowboy hat and boots (Joel hated clothes as much as he loved speed), Joel stole his brother’s big wheel tricycle. He carried it off the deck, down our hill and across the dirt road to our neighbor’s steep, paved driveway.
It was always a mystery to me why our neighbors would drive down miles of dirt roads to their home and then pave their driveway. But perhaps that is what D.C. city slickers do when they buy a house in wild, wonderful West Virginia. But I digress . . .  Even at two Joel understood that pavement equaled speed.
Joel started at the top of the hill, shoved off with the oversized cowboy boots and started down the hill. Initially his feet were able to keep up with the pedals but very quickly his boots were sticking straight out parallel to the pavement and the pedals were spinning uncontrollably in front of his feet.  Speed, serious speed! Squeals of delight turned to terror as the tricycle gained speed on the final stretch. Joel tried to slow himself down by grinding the heels of his boots into the driveway. Heels smoking, the smell of burning rubber, cowboy hat flying off his head with the neighbors chasing him down the hill yelling, “JOEL!!” – It was quite a sight to behold. As the big red tricycle hit the dirt road it came to an abrupt stop. Joel did not. He simply went airborne and landed head first on the other side of the road. 18 stitches later, the day was done. Mission complete.
Joel no longer sports a cowboy hat but the cowboy scar remains and he has a great story to tell. He remains the, “Fastest Naked Cowboy in West Virginia”. . . and still hangs out with his brother.

(c) 6.30.2013 Martha Reed Johnson