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On the road with Mowgli

Driving home this evening I was watching Disney’s “Jungle Book”.

Yeah. I know. There’s something horribly wrong with that statement.

The kids in the van in front of me were watching it on one of those built-in, overhead screens. A series of stoplights afforded me the opportunity to check out the movie.

Flashback to the mid ’60’s:

My sister and I are in the back seat of the 1962 Dodge Dart (the one with the pushbutton transmission on the left side of the steering wheel) on the way to or from or between either of our grandparents’ farms. (If it was Friday night we were on the way to see the paternal grandparents. If it was Saturday evening we were on the way from there to see the maternal grandparents. If it was Sunday evening we were coming home.)

We played two games in the car. First was counting cows. I counted the ones outside my window, she counted the ones on her side. Whoever got the most won. Depending on which way the wind was blowing that was pretty much a toss-up as to who would win unless I could sucker her into playing on the Saturday evening leg, in which case I would make sure to sit behind my Mother on the passenger side of the back seat. (There was a feedlot on the west side of the road near Yates Center that was good for a couple hundred boost to the total. That worked pretty well for a while, until my Mother figured out what I was doing and made me switch sides.)

Second, we “collected letters”. Basically you had to find a sign with the letter “a” on it, then you moved on the the letter “b”. This was a bit more even. It was also a bit tricky. If you lost concentration and didn’t get far enough along in the alphabet you couldn’t get to “z” by the time we got to grandma’s house. There were only two places to get a “q”. One was a road sign for the town of Quincy and the other was an antique store. If you weren’t up to “q” by the time we got to the antique store you might as well give up, because there wasn’t another one.

We would probably have enjoyed watching movies on these trips. We would probably have spent hours glued to the TV in the car.

But, we would have missed all those hawks sitting on telephone poles, meadowlarks singing from wooden fence posts, great blue herons hunting fish in farm ponds, freshly mowed alfalfa, combines during wheat harvest, horses and cows and coyotes and deer and wildflowers and milkweed plants and persimmon trees and sumac thickets and old cottonwood trees and most of the rest of the best parts of Kansas.

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