September 1, 2023 at 7:15 a.m.


By Larry Perkinson

Somedays we just need to dig deep for courage, and somedays we find just enough to get us through until our next worry. We definitely have enough monsters in the world to keep us reaching, don’t we? When I was ten, I made a vow at my grandparents’ home not to be afraid of any of them again. I may have wasted my breath.

Grandpa’s farm was not hidden, but it was isolated. On a clear night, the moon and stars sparkled above it, but the lights of neighboring homes were blocked by hills and woods.

During the day there was a clear view of the corn crib and storage buildings. An iron kettle sat just beyond a summer kitchen that had not been used in years. Pigs were fenced in a lot beyond the field behind the outhouse. All across the yard hens and roosters scratched the earth. On the other side of the gravel road the horse and cow grazed near the creek that ran through the pasture.

At Grandpa‘s, entertainment did not have a price tag, but it required legwork. We often walked the railroad tracks to the Underwood store and explored the adjacent woods as if no one had gone before us. Sometimes we fished or made our own bows and arrows and slingshots. Occasionally we grabbed a bar of soap and washed in the bend of the creek where the water was waist deep. Cleanliness might be next to godliness, but our baths were over if a snake poked his head above the waterline.

When the sun faded, my cousins and I read comic books, played Rook with Aunt Nell, or watched the small black and white television. The picture was a little fuzzy, but the sound was good. I sat in front of it one weekend and watched Clayton Moore in the origin story of the Lone Ranger. All in all, it was a balanced-enough world. There were good guys and bad guys. That might explain why I also saw evil incarnate gazing straight at me from the same screen that introduced me to Tonto and Scout and Silver.

One summer evening, I sat with a dozen comic books on my lap. My cousins and grandpa watched television with me as a show introduced a horrible witch whose heart was darker than her wardrobe. Her voice was unpleasant and her hair unkempt. She did not shout, “I’ll get you my pretty,” like Dorothy’s nemesis, but she might as well have. Instead, she stared at me. I glanced down to avoid the glare; but when I looked up again, her eyes still pierced into mine.

Outside the bird dog, roared fiercely as she fended off a nocturnal intruder, and I could’ve sworn that a twig snapped outside the window behind me. Too afraid to turn around, I checked the room to see if anyone else was concerned, but they were already under the influence of the same witch who terrified me.

It was too much. I raised the comic book in front of my face and blocked the monster. As a commercial started, I lowered the book, but kept it ready. She would not steal my soul. The Two-Gun Kid would not let her.

The fates were crueler than I could ever have expected that night. Even though the old hag did not harm me, Grandpa caught me hiding from her. As I lowered the western, he grinned. Not a word was said, but he knew I was afraid. I appreciated the courtesy but would’ve given anything to have kept my fears from him.

The next day I made a promise that I have not always been able to keep. I vowed never to be afraid of anything again. Although I do not shiver at dusk or think the boogeyman lives in shadows, I still have my fears, even though I don’t believe in monsters as much as I once did and try not to create them as often. After all, making monsters is a dangerous business. Once the label is applied, someone feels obligated to get rid of the designated evil. It’s far too easy to hate whatever makes us uncomfortable.

There are still times when I catch myself playing the blame game to explain the bad things, sometimes even nightmarish events, any of us might face. However, I no longer sit with the stories of Kid Colt or one of his compadres clutched in my hand. I try not to close my eyes or hide behind a book. Just in case Grandpa’s watching, I don’t want to get caught cowering from the moments that bother me. Hopefully, I’ll have the strength to be a straight shooter and face the battle at hand.

Grandpa might grin at that too.

(Adapted from “Monsters” in Nudge Me Gently)