I was fortunate to spend my childhood in a small town where my imagination was sparked by whatever I might encounter day by day. My friends and I would build dirt forts and re-enact great battles we imagined from the last war.
I would wonder at the spontaneous generation of tadpoles from winter runoff into what had been a dry hollow the previous fall. Red-winged Blackbirds would call from atop a swaying forest of cattails towering over my head.
I smoked my first cigarettes, furiously consuming a pack of Pall Malls with a friend, trying to fathom this insane adult habit.
There seemed to be scrap lumber always available so tree forts were my introduction to both wielding a hammer and also how to fall from a height without breaking my skull.
I lost count of the number of nails that I stepped on. Tetanus shots were an annual affair. In time they became just an annoying interruption to whatever project was currently at hand. Neither the nails nor the shots inhibited me.
Once after a cloudburst I was inspired with a spontaneous project. The rain had mainly passed so being outside was not an invitation for a lightning strike. It was damp but not dangerous. The smell of wet grass filled the air.
No one was around, this was purely for my own enjoyment.
The strong but brief rain left a multitude of thin waterfalls streaming from our roof. I guess the rain gutters hadn’t been cleared since fall, because water was finding its way off the roof in every way but the down spout. Each source dripped in its own staccato rhythm.
I raided the kitchen cupboards for pots and aluminum tins of various size. They were always saved, just in case, but never used until now. I placed a tin or tub beneath each stream, amplifying them and ending up with a watery percussion orchestra. It was a glorious cacophony!
My dog Sam was always interested in my projects and followed me closely, always ready should I need assistance of some sort. It was good to have an uncritical audience always at my side.
An occasional squall would add to the source and create a rising crescendo.
Eventually, my ever patient mother called from inside and asked me to cut the racket. It just wasn’t lyrical enough for her taste. Aluminum doesn’t allow for much tuning for pitch. I was mainly capturing the varied rhythms. Sheesh!
Avant Guarde composers Harry Partch and John Cage would have been impressed with my found music but I did not hear of them or their work for another decade. This was original with me, nothing derivative about it. A one-time performance. My own tin pan alley.
The memory of this brief event passed almost as quickly as the storm that initiated it. Now, decades later, it affords me a glimpse of my sensibilities before entering middle school. I now can share this fresh memory with my readers who might find such an account sparks similar memories for them.
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