Rick Houser: A gift I had to ask for

Clermont County's Rick Houser has released a second book, this one titled "Memories from the Heart."

Probably the following statement is the most over used one being said these days. “That is things just aren’t like they used to be”. I am certain we would all say well no kidding. For example now that the weather has warmed up so we can enjoy the outdoors I see that the children of today have so much that is offered to them to play with that they can’t hardly decide which toy to ask for first. Of course you are going to hear the following. It wasn’t that way when I was little.

Now being the youngest in the family I got more things than my sister and brother combined got as they were growing up and I know this because they reminded me of this fact constantly. A large part of this is probably so and based on the years I’m speaking of it wasn’t too hard to have gotten more. The 50’s and 60’s were baby boomer years and we reaped the benefits. By the time I was six I had a swing set that was store bought and not a swing with the ropes tied to a tree limb. No buddy. Mine was made of metal and came assembly required. Just like in the big cities.

After the two swings one glider swing set was put together dad and Brother Ben carried it out to be by our apple tree. It was the furthest from the house as it could be and still be in the yard. Maybe that was planned?) So the next spring when I was seven I ask my dad if it were possible for me to have a sand box. At first he didn’t seem too keen about this but after I pestered him for a while he began to listen to my request and as was my dads’ way a plan was brewing in his head.

Finally he said yes I could have a sand box but we were going to have to build it ourselves. When he first presented the idea I was thrilled as I not only got the dearly wanted sand box but we were going to use tools and I would maybe get to help in the construction. To this he agreed. (The thing was I didn’t yet know what my role was to be.) The next morning dad and I went in the truck to Felicity and went to J.W. Smith Lumber. There dad bought five eight foot long one by twelve pine boards. He also purchased a couple of pounds of eight penny nails and a pound of screws along with a gallon of a dark green paint. Dad kept telling Melvin Swope the materials were for my sand box and Mr. Swope kept telling me just how lucky I was to have a dad who would do this. The truth is folks I already knew this and what I was hearing only convinced me even more.

When we got back home dad said it was time for lunch and headed towards the house. I told him that this wasn’t right. We should start the construction now! Here is where I just about shot myself in the foot so to speak. He assured me we would start after lunch and we would build it nice, strong and proper. I calmed down and changed my approach to my dad immediately. I guess I had gotten too much too fast and it went to my head.

After lunch was over and dad even took a short nap we began the construction. He pulled the truck out into the yard and up by that apple tree. Here he explained that he would build the sandbox by framing in the apple tree. Then he would install a seat in each corner so I had places to sit. Also he planned to nail a few boards up in the tree so I could climb up there if I wanted to. Wow this was going to be a special sandbox for sure. That afternoon he measured and squared the boards so as to make a perfect square. He and Brother Ben did most of the work but dad did let me drive a couple of nails and carry the boards for him.

When he had the frame completed I thought we were ready for the sand that was when dad pulled out the gallon of paint and said it needed painted first. This would help the boards from rotting. So he opened the can and handed me a brush and he and I painted the boards. When we had covered it all we stood back and admired our work. He then looked at me and began to laugh. When I ask why he explained that I had more paint on me than was on the sandbox. I didn’t mind that too much as I was looking at a new sandbox. Then it hit me. Where was the sand?

I ask dad where we were going to get the sand at and he told me we would go down on Maple Creek in the morning and get a load of sand out of the creek. This made sense to me as on the lower end of Maple Creek Road was a place a truck could pull down to the creek and get sand. As I have said my dad was a Washington Township Trustee and here was where the township maintenance man would get sand and creek gravel to mend and repair the township roads. In those days township roads were constructed with creek gravel for the most part and places that washed out would be refilled with sane. I had seen Tinker Lucas load may loads from the spot in Maple Creek and knew I wouldn’t have a problem finding enough sand.

When we got to where a truck could pull in dad stopped the truck and turned to me and said. Now this part of the creek belongs to Fred Forbes. He allows us to use what we need but we always ask him first. Back away from the road sat Mr. Forbes’ house. I said well ok I guess it is only right to ask. That was when dad pointed to me and said this is your sandbox we are filling so you must go up and ask him. (Say what?) Dad said just knock on the front door. So I slowly walked up this driveway. I am seven years old and have to ask the man I always thought was the mayor of Maple Creek if I could have a truck load of his sand. When he came to the door my knees were knocking. After I ask him he said well son you have said the right word to get my sand and that was please. So you and your pa go get all you need and tell Ralph I said hi.

It felt like a load had been lifted off of me. We loaded the truck and filled the sandbox and leveled it out. I am here to tell you it was the best looking sandbox ever made! At least in my eyes it was. After helping and all that stress my brother still said I was spoiled. You know what? I didn’t care what he said that day.

Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at houser734@yahoo.com.