We are the captives of where we came from.
I wrote that sentence and stared at it a while to decide if it was true. I’ve decided that it’s not, but it goes near enough to the truth than I can establish a base camp there and send out search parties for the truth.
We’ve got Google Maps and Google Earth these days to find places, but somehow they are too good. You lose the feel of remoteness. To get a feel for where I came from, for example, you need to get out an old-fashioned Rand-McNally map. Find Oklahoma City with your finger; that should be easy to do. Then slide your finger along I-40 until you find Highway 99 going north and south. Slide it south until you find Ada. That is not where I am from; it is a town about the size of Pittsburg. From there, keep sliding your finger south until you find Fittstown. That is still not where I am from either, but you are almost there.
There ought to be a little road going out east of Fittstown. It will connect with a dot marked Harden City. You are still not there, but that is what I claim. Go on just shy of a mile on east. There is not a road on the map, but there is on the ground. When you see it on the ground, you will understand why Rand-McNally left it off. (By the way, any GPS you use will tell you that you are going on “unverified roads” when you go there, but this is true for so much of Oklahoma.)
There is a ridge to the north that is just tall enough to keep your TV from picking up any channels from Oklahoma City on most days, but not tall enough to take the edge off the north wind.
It is kind of a wild place. We found snakes in the yard and bugs in the house. The Junebugs in particular were plentiful and there was hardly a night that went by without a Junebug pushing its way in through the screen door and flying around the light. Occasionally we would have to kill a snake in the yard, but only if it was poisonous. Snakes eat bugs; the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
There was an oil well in the back yard that made noise all the time, especially at night. There were others in the distance that Dad called “poppin’ Johnnies.” They ran themselves off of the natural gas that was a byproduct of the oil they produced. They made a distinctive sound when they ran, hence the name. A train whistle in the night doesn’t bother me.
That was the first twenty years of my life. I have moved from there; I am clearly not captive in the strict literal sense, but it is still a part of me. It provides a lens through which I view almost everything. It provides color, to be sure, but there are times when I have to ask myself if my view is being distorted.
For example, I am not particularly afraid of spiders. They eat other bugs. (I am terrified of praying mantises; they also eat other bugs, but my big brother was very fond of putting them down my back. He didn’t do this with spiders because he wasn’t a psychopath; this distinction might be the only thing that separates big brothers from psychopaths, but I digress.) In any case, I don’t particularly notice when a brown recluse is spotted on the wall of my house: they eat bugs. My daughters don’t appreciate this.
The lens I look through makes me see things differently.
Over the years, I’ve had different experiences; I’ve picked up different lenses I can use. Sometimes one is useful, sometimes another. That first one is always there; it is always handy. I sometimes use it when I oughtn't to. It happens when I am tired. It happens when I am relaxed. It happens when I am around those I trust. A glass of wine will bring it out too.
And it’s not always a bad thing. But it is easy to forget that others have their own lenses from their own origins, and their lenses will color you just as yours colors them. We are all just who we are.
As Paul wrote, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.”
— Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. He invites you to “like” the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook.