My brother always had (and still has) a great sense of adventure. His imagination always allowed him to believe that he could be an agent of change ...
... I mean, he could seamlessly change into a different life. As a youngster in California, he was often a cowboy or a homeless hobo waiting for the next train through town. In Argentina, he lived his train riding dreams. In India, he got to be a "man from U.N.C.L.E." agent. And now? He is working towards the cowboy life again.
Our parents bought their first home in southern California in the 1950s. The house was about 900 sq. feet... slightly small for our family but perfect none the less. Our neighbors were the Ericksons - good Swedes. They were older than my folks, so that made them almost grandparent material. Anne was a part time clerk at a store and Swede was an electrician or plumber or something of the sort. Every evening I would wait for Swede to come home from work so he and I could sit on the porch and talk about our day. I was five... he was 55. I called him "Weeds". Close enough to Swede, right?
I'd see Weeds pull up in his jalopy about 4 p.m. I knew he needed about 5 minutes to kiss Anne hello and to change his clothes to a sloppy undershirt and his plaid bermuda shorts. He'd meet me on his porch with a can of beer in his hand and a 'hooter' for me. Hooter? It is a shot's worth of beer in a little dixie cup. We'd sit on his porch, facing the street to watch the traffic (there was none), and drink our beer/hooter and talk. Soon I'd hear my father's whistle, meaning 'come home now! It's dinner time!' And I'd thank Weeds for the hooter and I'd skip home.
But my brother - totally different head. Totally.
He was about 7 years old. Middle of a summer day, he'd walk into the kitchen where my mom would be starting dinner and he'd announce to her "Well, ma'am, it has been mighty kind of you to have me here today. But it's time I get back on the rails. My friends, they're going to be missing me soon. So if I can get my knapsack, I'll be on my way."
Mom knew that meant that today my sweet brother was a hobo, getting ready to walk down the street to the railroad track to hop a train to somewhere. His knapsack consisted of her broom handle with a red bandana tied to the end of the handle. Brother would put a small collection of his possessions in the bandana before tying it on to broom handle - usually his collection of sowbugs, dirt, and maybe a magnifying glass.
Mom knew how to delay his leaving. "Sir, I have enjoyed your companionship. I'd love to fix you some food for the road - I know how long between meals you might have to go. Trouble is, I need to boil the raisins and then soak them all night. So I can't bake your bread until tomorrow morning... I'm sorry. You might as well stay a bit longer."
My brother would ponder this. Hmmmm.... the homemade raisin bread was always too good to pass up. It was an odd recipe, almost like a gingerbread with raisins. And true, the raisins had to soak all night.... Hmm, mighty tempting offer to stay until the bread was done... The recipe made three loaves, so taking one wrapped tightly in his knapsack would help ward off any hunger for a day or two or three...
Brother would drop his red bandana on the kitchen table, untie it and open it up. He'd collect the sowbugs and put them in his right pants pocket. The dirt would go in his left pants pocket. The magnifying class would be folded back into the bandana so it wouldn't break. And the broom handle would go back on the broom.
Mom would get the big pan out of the cupboard, the big box of raisins out of the pantry, and put the water on to boil. The hobo was 'settin' still' for another night. Tomorrow there would be fresh 'Hobo bread' for us all.
And tomorrow Brother would be a cowboy, usually the sheriff. He'd have bad guys to round up and march into jail, or worse yet, kill and bury in the garden. He'd have horses to ride (broom handle came in handy for that, too) and posses to round up. The hobo in his mind would be long gone.
And I'd go have another hooter with Weeds.