This past Sunday, Christmas Eve, we celebrated the birthday of our son, Greg. As is our custom, he and I always like to reminisce about his growing-up days. It has become a ritual.
“Do you remember our Kings Island trip?” Greg would ask, as if on cue.
“You were about seven years old, if I recall,” I began. “You wanted to ride through the Animal Kingdom to see the lions. We hopped on the monorail and started through the gate. As we approached the lions and tigers, you started to growl like a lion and climbed on me like you were going to bite my nose.”
Years later when Greg worked in Security at Kings Island, he would ask if I wanted to take another ride through the wild country.
“Once was enough for me,” I would say, as we both laughed at the fond memory.
Greg loved the Incredible Hulk and always watched Bill Bixby on Friday evenings.
One Friday night, Jack and his wife Nancy came for a visit. Greg was about 6 years old. It didn’t take long for Greg to climb on Jack’s lap just as Bill Bixby said, “Please don’t make me angry, Mr. McGee. You won’t like me when I get angry.”
With that, Greg started growling, climbed up near Jack’s face, and told him he was going to eat him, “bones and all.” “Whoa, Greggy Boy!” Jack said with a laugh. It took a few minutes for the ‘Hulk’ to calm down, but pretty soon all was back to normal and the show went on.
Like any young man, Greg loved super heroes — Superman, Batman, Robin the Boy Wonder, Flash, Aquaman, the Penguin, the Joker, and Wonder Woman. When Greg was a young boy, once a month I would buy him one of his hero figures. He told me he still has them sitting on a shelf in his home in Lexington.
“Dad, who were the super heroes when you were growing-up?” Greg asked me.
“Well, we had all the cowboys back then. There was Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, but the most popular was Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, “ I replied. “Do you remember the time I bought you the coonskin hat and we went squirrel hunting?”
“Oh, yes. How could I forget?” Greg responded with a smile.
More than 40 years ago, I made a trip to southeast Ohio. On my way home, I stopped at Serpent Mound in Adams County. I entered the gift shop to look for a gift for Greg.
I had already purchased a superhero figure, Flash, for him, but wanted to buy something from Serpent Mound as a souvenir. There it was! To my delight I found the perfect gift. It was a coonskin cap just like the one worn by Davy Crockett years ago.
Greg was excited, and so was I, when I handed him his gifts upon my return home. He played with Flash and even took him into the bathtub during his nightly soak. He wore the coonskin cap, too, although the name Davy Crockett had little meaning for him. Greg knew I liked it on him.
A few days later after arriving home early from work, I asked Greg if he would like to ride the moped out to Darbyshire Road to go “hunting” in the woods. Greg was thrilled with the idea. Our hunting was more like walking through the woods pretending we heard wild game, while Greg sported his coonskin hat for the adventure.
We only had been in the woods for a few minutes when something whizzed through the leaves just above our heads. Then another. Then we heard a crack of a rifle. I looked at Greg and immediately knew someone had mistaken Greg’s coonskin cap for a squirrel and was shooting at it! Greg and I hightailed it out of the woods and made a beeline for the moped.
Our squirrel hunting on Darbyshire Road came to an abrupt end; however, it has become a popular topic of conversation for us over the years.
The coonskin hat is retired now, and rests on a hook in our movie room just above a picture of the King of the Wild Frontier himself.
Oh, the stories it could tell.
Pat Haley is a Clinton County Commissioner.