Ever since I was 8 years old, the day after school let out for the summer, my mother would take me to the Greyhound Bus Depot in downtown Minneapolis, after ensuring that I had clothes for the summer, an ample sack lunch packed, and a couple of dollars in my pocket, and send me off to Charles City in north-central Iowa, where I would spend 2 glorious months on the farm with my grandparents, at my Uncle Ralph’s farm working my tail off (as I experienced it) in the fields, with my Grandma Hamilton and Uncle Wayne in “town,” and usually spending a week with my Aunt Mae and cousin Janice in Vinton, Iowa.
I was the oldest of 11 cousins in four families. So except for Janice who was only 2 years younger, I watched come into the world (and sometimes babysat) my Aunt Thelma’s four boys and my Uncle Ralph’s 5 kids. As I was the oldest, this gave me certain “rights.” I could organize my cousins into a baseball or a football team depending on the season. And of course I got to be the star quarterback as well as coach and manager. That is, until my Uncle Pete, observing one day, decided to enter into the “scrimmage” in which I was demonstrating my prowess, and take me out with a cross body block. Another lesson learned in growing up with my cousins.