My First Big Dream
It all started with a determined dog. Our beagles, Dep (AKA Deputy Dog) and Mike (no idea where this came from) wanted to do what they were born to do – chase rabbits.
Our house on Sunny Lane Drive (Yes, Lane Drive) backed up to a huge meadow that stretched the size of ten football fields to a distant creek and woods beyond.
To the neighborhood kids this endless sea of grass became a football field, baseball diamond, battlefield, pirate island and blank canvas for endless imaginary adventures.
It Smelled Like Adventure
To our dogs it was a rabbit paradise so close they could smell it. They excelled in plotting escapes and we often came home from school to the sound of distant baying and an empty yard.
This led to an ongoing battle of wits and fence experiments by my dad. One of these was a five-foot-tall roll of two inch redwood pickets, wired together and pointed at the top. It smelled like adventure.
Dad, ever the instigator, gave the leftover piece to my brother and I and he soon discovered a way to pull out the wooden slats. They made enviable pirate swords and Roman spears and quickly became the weapons of choice in any pre-revolutionary imaginary battles.
But they were rough cut and few things annoy a pirate or gladiator like having to stop a battle and get his mother to tweeze splinters out of a manly hand. Eventually we came to see the advantages of games with splinter-less guns or death rays and the fence slats were stacked and forgotten.
Until One Day
I don’t remember what boredom or book inspired me to try and build something out of the discarded wood. Dad gave us access to his hand tools and I began nailing the rough redwood slats together to see what I could make.
Starting with three, then two then one, I found I could make a fifteen foot tall flagpole that was fairly sturdy. But there were three more slats left. After some thinking, an idea sparked and an image popped into my head.
I Had A Vision
The three pieces could fit into the bottom of the flagpole and suddenly I had a yardarm, a crosspiece for a sail. I had it finished in no time and couldn’t believe how sturdy it was. I wondered if it would hold a sail?
By this time my obviously indulgent Mom was home and I excitedly talked her out of a bed sheet. Folded into a triangle, it just fit. I couldn’t believe that I now had a fifteen foot tall mast and sail!
I was out of slats. I had no boat and was landlocked in my backyard. The nearest water was a muddy creek across the field. I was done.
But I had this great, amazing thing. Would it really hold wind? Inspired, I experimented.
With a long rope to the top of the mast and another rope to the end of the yardarm, I found that I could stand the mast, hold it up with one rope and adjust the angle with the other.
If only I had some wind. But sadly the house and trees of the backyard blocked the breeze. The sheet just sagged.
Curiosity drove me. The back field was high grass at that point. I ran for the front yard and discovered a slight downdraft from gathering clouds. Could it work?
It would be a public spectacle. People driving by and my friends could see my crazy experiment. If it feel apart, ridicule was likely.
But this thing was the biggest, most beautiful thing I’d ever made. I had to try.
The sun went behind a cloud and it looked like rain. So, I drafted, cajoled, nagged my big brother into helping me carry it through the gate and around the house.
I found my spot. I gauged the wind and hauled to. The mast rose into the gathering wind from the storm clouds. The wind filled the sail. It billowed – then quickly pulled me flat!
The force was staggering. But it worked!
I gathered myself and tried again. I’d have to lean back farther and wrap the rope around my forearms. I lifted . . .
Music played. Crowds roared. Fireworks blazed. The sail swelled and I held it up. The ropes popped tight and the sheet snapped in the wind.
My backyard scraps became a ship driven before the storm on tossing seas. I adjusted the angle and felt the force change. I was actually controlling it.
It was quite a spectacle for our little street. Cars slowed. Mouths gaped. Kids pointed. But no one, no one laughed.
The mast never gave way. The ropes held. The sheet didn’t slip. I sailed my private schooner into the afternoon. I joined the ranks of sailing men with salt in my veins. As ship’s captain, no one outranked me.
Until my Mommy called. It was starting to rain. She wanted us safe from lightning. She wanted her sheet. Landlubbers never understand.
- Dreams must be given safe harbor.
- They must be nurtured and encouraged. Newborn dreams are easily crushed.
- You need the tools to experiment.
- I could make a sailboat out of scraps but I needed hammer, nails and a borrowed bed sheet.
- You need the courage to try.
- Moving a dream into reality makes it public. Failure is a real possibility.
- Dreaming isn’t for wimps.
I’d like to say I bought my own boat and sailed to the Caribbean. I have friends who have raced and used their sailboats as a tax write-off and second home. My musical pursuits took me indoors and farther from the coast.
I never, ever forgot the day I became a sailor. The salt gets in your blood.