I had a coonskin cap (a somewhat disparaging term even by today’s standards) when I was eight years old and would proudly claim the role of Davy Crockett whenever I played ‘cowboys and indians’ with my friend Deg.
I wanted to be the bold and courageous pioneer holding my omnipresent
musket (BB gun) as I surveyed the wild landscape of my backyard, my own personal Kentucky.
Since Deg didn’t have a coonskin cap he assumed the role of the quintessential Indian.
Back then, we’d yet to hear about political correctness and racial bias, concepts we could care less about—I was paleface and he was Tonto.
Even though we both knew Tonto was the Lone Ranger’s sidekick we needed
identity—it was just that simple.
We would play in the woods near my house traipsing through the forest and brush in search of God knows what with me shooting my musket at anything that moved followed by a whining Tonto complaining about always being the Indian.
“How come you always get to be Crockett?”
“Because I own ‘the hat’, that’s why, you baby.”
“Well, it’s not fair.”
“Could be worse, you could be a stupid squaw.”
One day while hunting down an invisible (and non-existent) enemy, I stepped on a log.
My foot sank deep into the soft and rotting wood rousing a large nest of yellowjackets. Angry bees flew everywhere.
They were up our shirts and inside our pants making us look like a couple of dancing fools.
Tonto was fine but pioneers like me didn’t take kindly to multiple bee stings.
It wasn’t long before Tonto looked at me and said, “Kemo Sabe don’t look so good.”
I felt hot and puffy and could feel my eyes beginning to swell shut.
Boys at play know nothing about anaphylactic shock, a condition I was currently about to experience, but I knew enough to go home.
It was the frightened look on my mother’s face that got me to thinking, “This can’t be good.”
She was chalk white but calmly said, “Get in the car.”
She said nothing on the ride to the doctor’s but I could see her lips moving; she was praying and I assumed I was going to die. Niiiice.
Forty years ago, the world had yet to be seized and manipulated by the Goliath-like HMO’s of today—it was much simpler than that.
A simple exclamation upon entering the doctor’s office such as, “My kid is dying! Get the goddamned doctor!” worked like a charm.
I’m a bit foggy as to what happened at the office. I assume that my sorry ass was pumped full of epinephrine (adrenaline), a hormone that basically shut down my immune system and enabled me to keep breathing.
Living things like to breathe.
I received a record 437 hugs that day from my mother who seriously thought she would be burying a son. A week later I would begin ‘desensitizing therapy’ in the hopes of offsetting my severe reaction to bee stings.
In some ways, a small door closed for me that day because contrary to what I thought, I was no Superman and certainly no bold and courageous pioneer.
I also understood that the days of Crockett and Tonto were numbered and my coonskin cap was soon to be retired.