My Industrial Education vs My Feral Years
"feral 'fɛrəl' ...of an animal in a wild state, especially after escape from captivity"
I was in Mr. Baker's 5th grade. He was the first adult that ever impressed me by sharing my interests and the first teacher I ever had positive interactions with. One day Mr.Baker was explaining the spectrum produced by light to me and he said, "Remember it spells Roy G Biv" I said, "Dad said it spells Vibgyor." And he couldn't help but laugh in my face. I still list 'violet' first in my mind. I guess dad was teaching me to look at things from the other direction. Either that or this has got to be one of the longest running gags ever. But Baker also painfully exposed that I could not read a clock. I knew no shame up to that point. Thank God he choked back the laughter on that one! One day Mrs Irvine came into Bakers class and told me, "I specifically asked for you to be in my class so you better get ready." I wish I would've told her the same. It was the start to a good three year run. Mr.Baker, Mrs Irvine and then Mr. Finley help set me on a course.
I made Mrs Irvine cry once because she baked Christmas ornaments with our names on them. After she passed them out I accidentally knocked mine off the desk and broke a corner off the star. I was so sad that I picked it up and through it on the floor. Irvine saw that and shouted, "Mark! Get out of here!" I went to my usual spot and waited. Mrs. Irvine came out and stood there and through her gritted teeth I couldn't understand what she said but I vividly remember her chin trembling and the tears running down her face. I was the last pupil Mrs Irvine ever noticed and spent extras hours with before she was murdered that summer. I think Mrs Irvine loved me but I could never be sure. The first day of Mr Finley's 7th grade everyone found out Mrs Irvine's adopted son murdered her at the breakfast table. I remember Regina Hendrickson practically falling on the floor crying and I only remember thinking that's a bit extreme.
Later that year Finley was passing out papers and saw Jim Morrisons bio on my desk. He really froze and asked, "Are you reading that?" I said, "Yeah it's pretty cool." His eyes blinked three times really fast and he stuttered, "That's the best book I ever read." He was an English major mind you and I earned B's in his class from then on. These experiences fostered my love of the public library and saved my life. So OK, I guess Andrew Carnegie deserves some thanks too...
Before learning about clocks I just used the sun. When the woods got dark it was time to go home. I guess that's why I never really feared the dark. I noticed it added to the serenity and made me want to breathe gently and tip toe even more. Even today if I walk outback in the dark I unconsciously start shallow breathing through my mouth and listening intently. I remember endless summers of hearing noises coming out of the woods that would immediately draw me in. Id follow the call of a woodpecker or something for hours until I discovered the source.
My older brother paved the way for me in high school by being a total flunky dickhead. That's why VP Caldwell and convicted chomo guidance Counselor Mitch Miracle patted each other on the back and joked my freshman year, "There goes D.O. number two." Later that year I got caught with a crumb of reefer and a pipe my Father helped me make on a lathe in the shop, so Sheriff "Buffy the Dope Slayer" Seevers taught me a lesson and led me out in handcuffs in front of a school assembly. Like that saying, "When all you have is a hammer, everything's a nail." I never mentally returned. My formal education ended.
They may or may not have known I had access to an armory of weapons and a child's mind but that wasn't even a consideration with their strong arm tactics and still isn't. They treated me like a murderer even though shooting a school up or at least Caldwell never entered my mind. I could have blown the school up with what I had access to. The only thing that saved me was the beatings I learned to take. Wimpy adults have always singled me out but no student ever crossed the line. ALL THIS seemed like conditioning for that in retrospect. I learned I wouldn't survive without learning to endure. When the time came I proved I was game. I think this is the reason for all the school shootings today. No one's game anymore. They need a return to the wild.
The conditioning continued. Later VP Caldwell saw me slam a door and made up an accusation to have me expelled. He screamed in my face I was a danger to this school and everyone in it...cause I slammed a door and had a fuck you attitude. Apparently the little man over reached cause they didn't expel me. Another time he threw me out because a kid passed me a dirty limerick. I thought it so stupid and childish and immediately threw it in the trash. After class the insecure teacher had to see it and after seeing it wasn't about her gave it to Caldwell who called us to the office. I was floored. I said, "I had nothing to do with this." He yelled at the other kid so much in my presence that I had to tell him to shut the fuck up.
That's when he went hysterical and called my Mom and then lied straight to her face. What I learned from my industrial education was that I was a prisoner. As a final 'fuck you' a month before graduation, where they were going to "give" me a diploma I did not earn, I dropped out. School needs a diploma from me, not the other way around. I stand by that. Current events prove that opinion right. I later realized the connection i made with those three teachers was likely because they also had a feral streak.
Outside of these attempts at my Industrial education a memory that will give the Aurora Borealis a run for its money was of the giant milkweed patch just outback of my house. They were fat and milky and mysterious. They had a strange odor that I've nearly forgotten. More than one summer I walked outback to discover thousands and thousands of Monarch butterflies swarming those things. I remember standing in the swarm and not having a care in the world. Like all children, after having taken it for granted I had the realization years later they never came back. Decades later I would build a cabin I called Thoreauvia on that spot. And the spot continued to produce the greatest memories of my life.
Speaking of Thoreau, the first time I sauntered away from the house seems like my earliest memory. Me and my brother both acknowledged the Call of the Wild and decided to run away from home together. He was still my hero at this point. We walked away from the house and down into the sheep field and into the woods. All the way to the creek in the valley. I remember the creek full of crayfish was like something I had never seen before. I so enjoyed wading through it. I remember it coming up to my knees. I didn't even have shoes on. But we crossed the creek several times as I recall. We enjoyed it so much in fact, we decided to climb the other side of the valley.
I remember seeing dogwood flowers and the strangest thing I ever saw at this point, sumac trees with their big red cones. We picked wild raspberries too. We had left the reservation. In a short time I was familiar with everything in that valley by name. We eventually made it up the other side. But at some point I must have got tired because I got stuck and couldn't climb any higher. I remember it was almost straight up and down. My brother panicked like he was prone to do and ran off to get help. I remember I was not afraid to be alone. That was as far as I made it the first time I "officially" ran away.
He found a neighbors house and the lady came down to see what the problem was. I remember her walking up to me with a very concerned look on her face. She reached down and introduced herself as Barb. She alerted my Mother and she turned out to be my first lifelong friend. Mom loved retelling about the time i ran away and my diaper got snagged on the multi flora rose bush and how Barbara had to come and save the baby. What can I say? Papa was a rolling stone. Over the next few years this same valley would fill with the largest flock of starlings and cowbirds likely ever recorded. There had to be 50,000 birds there.
A few years later I sneaked all the way across the property because I thought I heard ducks but they were just frogs croaking in the bottom and before I found them it was after dark. I remember I felt stupid. But as I made my way back to the house I noticed the black jagged tree line against the gray sky. It reminded me of an old black and white horror movie that terrified me called "Night of the Sorceress". After that the movie just reminded me of that walk in the woods.
If I could catch a 6 foot black snake I never failed to show Mom. She was beyond terrified of snakes. But at 9 I was fearless and foolish. I couldn't guess how many of those I brought to the house over the years. I will never forget the last time. It was dark and Dad was burning some things near the house. Mom was on the other side on the porch. Having a cup of coffee and staring into the dark woods.
I was helping Dad and I found an old helmet that had a black piece of rubber like a hose that I detached from it before throwing the helmet in the fire. I remember Dad saying, kind of impatiently, "Put that shit in the fire too." I walked away swinging it like I was in "Clockwork Orange." I crept up behind my poor Mother rest her soul and threw that hose down beside her on the patio and made a hissing sound. She went fucking historical (auto correct was right)! It scared the shit out of me. She screamed an ear splitting scream at the same time as she threw her cup at the concrete and went flying out of the lawn chair. She did not stop until she was 30 feet away in the shadows sobbing loudly, she may have even peed her pants.
No exaggeration, Dad was on me like a man possessed. He grabbed that rubber hose and layed it on me. No one objected...well besides me but even I knew I completely deserved it. I did make him chase me to a dead end first but I don't think I ever molested another black snake. That's why Principle Swatzle's "electric" paddle, which I enjoyed once a month for years, had no effect. I was conditioned with a rubber hose.
My feral years weren't all about running through the woods and getting beaten. Sometimes it was just running to the house as quick as I could to avoid a beating. I'm sure like every red blooded boy I occupied myself with breaking into Father's armory and stealing kegs of powder for explosives and cannons. My experiments taught me if you want an explosion you need black powder. Me and my brother got really proficient at it too. We could circumvent the security. And because it was the early 80s there was no security. The door wasn't even shut half the time.
I blew up every model I ever made be it Corvette or B52. You definitely didn't want to be one of the abandoned cars on the farm. They looked like extras from "Bonnie and Clide." I shot AT my brother at least once "playing." I don't recall him ever returning fire. I ALWAYS got the drop on him. Believe it or not this all culminated in a very near fatal accident I will not burden you with. I'm kidding it's no burden.
I made a cannon out of conduit pipe and a paint can filled with cement. I built it in the shop right beside Dad while he tinkered. He never asked. Much later when I confessed Dad said he thought I was going to use it weight lifting or something. My plan went flawlessly until I involved my brother. When we were t-minus detonation I handed my brother the keg of smokeless powder and said you do the honors. I didn't mean fill the conduit with powder but that's what he did. I remember being like, "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Haven't you ever paid attention to Dad loading shells?" It doesn't take a whole cup.
I'll never forget the flash of light that froze our running silhouettes on the mud bank permanently in my mind! Accompanied by a sound like Little Boy being detonated behind us. Neighbors miles away mentioned it to Dad but he told me years later he never made the connection. As it turns out conduit pipe doesn't have the tensile strength for modern ballistics. But it was a simpler time, How could anyone possibly know without exhaustive testing. From the blast pattern recorded on my brothers back I calculated he shielded me by taking the brunt of the explosion. If I am being honest that is why I insisted he light it. So once again I got the drop on him. From this experiment I learned how truly exciting smokeless gun powder could be. It was decades before I would accuse my Father of dangerous parenting.
Another time I may have injured my brother was on our dirt bikes. We were riding parallel and I remember looking to my left away from him and BAM! We ran into each other. I stood up like hahaha and my brother stood up with the end of his thumb hanging off because it went into the back sprocket of my motorcycle. You think we ever went to the doctor? Fuck yeah that time we did.
I wasn't always out to kill him. One time Mom said "Hop in the back of the truck and we will go round up some sheep on the ridge." when we got to the ridge Mom was backing up and my brother thought it was time to jump out. He fell down. We were small. I was looking down at him as he went out of sight. I demonstrated proper hysteria and ran to the front screaming and banging on the cab to get her attention. She didn't stop immediately. It was the mid 70's she was probably worried about her cigarette. But after what seemed excessive she stopped. I couldn't even explain in words I was so upset. Finally Mom realized there was only one of us in the truck. So she ran around the back and jumped down to look. She could only reach the hood on his jacket but she pulled him out. He was not uninjured. As he went under the truck he put one leg against the axle to push and it went over the axle and she kept going far enough it broke his leg.
We had a baby sitter once I barely remember. There was something weird about her. I think she may have been mildly religious. She had an older son who would come out and play. He was bigger than me but fragile and definitely retarded from the same condition. She insisted on taking me and my brother to Sunday school once. But like all the other industrial educational experiences i could not abide. Because I also remember hitting her son in the face with a seat cushion as hard as I could and she never came back.
But he was not the first I strategically made cry. That very unlucky guy was my first best friend and international fugitive Sean Sloder. I am the first to have busted him in the nose. It was an easy target you might say. If you know Sean you remember he had the long running reputation of being a bleeder. I like to think I gave him that. It was Kindergarten and I had warned him several times to quit fucking with my rug. I was trying to sleep. So now they say sleeps a matter of life or death so...
I think that hints at what I call "my feral upbringing". Many years later I remember reading "Nature" (that's where that quote on my page came from). Emerson wrote "Nature" at the same age I read it and I wondered why it took him so long to gain that incite. Then I learned he lived many years in a debilitating state as a student at Harvard Divinity. But I never felt sorry for him. Because it proves it doesn't matter how you get there, as long as we all keep learning we will get there.
As a side note upon completion of this I noticed it was March 1st today, so I looked up the significance of 3&1 and it said, " If you see this it means your angels allowed you to be the unconscious witness of their attempts to guide you."