COUNTY AGENT GUY
Our youngest son has worn numerous nicknames over the years including Annoying Boy, College Boy, Laundry Boy, Hawaii Boy, Vegas Boy and, most recently, The Kansas City Kid.
His position as a construction engineer for a large company has now taken him to the West Coast, so we’ll have to start calling him California Boy.
This ain’t his first rodeo and he’s excited about moving to the megalopolis that contains Hollywood and Rodeo Drive. His mother and I know he’ll do fine as this isn’t his first trip to Los Angeles; but he probably doesn’t recall much of that initial visit since he was only four years old at the time.
During the summer of 1988, I had a close brush with death in a manure pit accident. My wife and I interpreted this event as a sign and a reminder of life’s unpredictability. We decided to take a break from our dairy farming duties and spend some quality time with our two boys, aged 4 and 6.
And what do kids like better than anything? Disneyland. I assured my wife that our sons would also enjoy the Magic Kingdom.
Fortunately, Doris and Jim, my wife’s aunt and uncle, lived in San Luis Obispo at that time and graciously volunteered to squire us about during our Golden State odyssey. They met us at LAX and our little entourage was soon trundling across the parking lot and into their motor home.
Jim expertly navigated their motor home along the snarled LA freeways. Our knuckles turned white, but Jim remained unperturbed. His driving skills seemed nothing less than miraculous, akin to maneuvering a Greyhound bus unscathed through a bustling bumper kart park.
And should we become a little bit lost, Jim would observe cheerfully, “Well, at least we’re making smaller circles.”
We arrived at Disneyland and proceeded to wring the stuffing out of the joint. We hit Dumbo, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, all the highlights.
The Matterhorn stands out for me. This isn’t just because it was my first bobsled rollercoaster that whipped through an artificial mountain, but also because of the snow-colored animatronic sasquatch that bellowed at us as we hurled past. Our youngest boy later remarked, “I didn’t like that bottomless snowman.”
Jim was videoing, so we have the tape to prove it.
The Pirates of the Caribbean was fun, even though there was no animatronic Johnny Depp. For several days thereafter our boys would spontaneously begin to chant, “Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me!”
California proved to be a strange place. It was February and the weather had turned “chilly.”
At 55 degrees, Angelinos were cursing the cold, while we marveled at the shirtsleeve heat.
We strolled down Rodeo Drive and my wife paused with her hand on the door of the Gucci store. Just getting that close caused her credit card to smolder.
Having had enough of LA, we repaired to the relatively quiet environs of San Luis Obispo. Our little family bivouacked in Doris and Jim’s motor home, which was parked in the wilderness of a residential street. We were a bit cramped, but you can’t beat free.
In the middle of our first night of camping, my wife was awakened by a sudden “Oof!” in the darkness. She thought I was having a heart attack and so did I.
The abrupt pain and pressure in my chest was caused by our oldest son rolling out of his bunk and landing on me. I reinstalled the still-sleeping child in his bunk only to be awakened minutes later when he dropped in again.
“Enough! Let’s just leave him here!” I said, rubbing my sore sternum.
When the boy awoke in the morning, he wondered why he was between Mom and Dad. We told him that he’d fallen – twice – onto his paterfamilias, but he didn’t believe us. If only Jim had been there to tape it.
We went on a winery tour and discovered that they give away wine. It was only the amount you would receive at Communion, but still. We were so touched by this unexpected hospitality that we bought several bottles at each winery.
Doris and Jim had a lemon tree and an orange tree, giving us our first opportunity to see citrus fruit that didn’t come from a plastic bag. We went to the beach, giving our boys and my wife and I our first taste of the ocean. We dug holes in the sand and waded in tidal pools.
I pointed out a certain rock to my wife. “Look! It’s covered with anemones!”
“You’re so paranoid!” she replied. “You even think those little polyps are your foes!”
I’m sure California Boy won’t recall much of this. But we have the tape.
Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.