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Barefoot Boy

Memory fragments from a writer's attic.

by Everett Wilson
October 27, 2008

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Barefoot Boy

Donna and I blended two pioneer families; her grandparents on both sides were among the first settlers of Boyd County, Nebraska, in the early 1890's. My mother's grandparents had been early settlers of Platte County in the same state a generation earlier.

My father's father, after the last of his nine children (my father) was born, left Kansas on a quest to find sufficient land for his grown sons. It ended in the not-very-promising farmland of northwest South Dakota around 1910.

My mother was a rural school teacher and my father a hired farmhand when they met in in the early 1920's. I was born in 1936, the fifth of six sons, no daughters. Except for a brief interlude in Seattle when I was a baby, my parents mainly made their home in eastern Nebraska, but did not own a house of their own for the first thirty years of their marriage. I have lived longer in each of our five parsonages than I ever lived in a childhood home.

I was a barefoot boy in Nebraska until I was fourteen. We moved from the country into the village of Giltner, where the high school was located. All of Giltner's streets were gravel, as were the roads leading to it; even so, a classmate lectured me when he caught me going barefoot "downtown." I thought, but I didn't know how to say it at the time, that an unpaved village street and an unpaved country road was a distinction without a difference. I started to wear shoes downtown, though.

There was nothing to keep us in the village very long. In Giltner, Dad had been earning our living as a custom hauler of grain and livestock, but it was too much for him physically, so he sold his business.

I became a city boy when we moved to Hastings, Nebraska, in time to start senior high. (By city, I mean it had traffic lights and parks, and we didn't know everybody in town.) Much later Dad recalled the reason for our move at that time was to get me into a better school. The thousand students of Hastings High School put it in a different universe from the high school of fifty where I had spent ninth grade.

I went to both high school and College in Hastings, where the Presbyterians have an excellent liberal arts college. I was a member of the class of 1957.

Nebraska was my home for twenty-two years before I left for theological seminary. When I was thirty, Donna and I returned to Nebraska, where our children were to spend ten of their formative years in a village parsonage

Now I am retiring from full-time ministry. We have put down a rental deposit on a duplex three blocks up the hill from that parsonage, where we will be living after January 1. Maybe you can't go home again, but you can come close!

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Real Things
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Published January 2, 2008
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Real Things first appeared in serialized form on the Partial Observer in 2001. It is now available in print for the first time.

Over thirty years after a senseless crash redefined his life, Greg Thompson and his family finally learn why.

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