Excerpt used by permission from Howard Books, Simon and Schuster. Purchase Si-cology 1 through the A&E online store or get the audio book.
Chapter 1: Birthday Suit
Like every other human on earth, I came into this world in the buff. According to my brothers and sisters, I stayed that way throughout much of my early childhood. For whatever reason, I never liked to wear clothes when I was a boy, so I ran around our farm buck nekkid. I guess I figured since God brought me into this world in my birthday suit, I might as well wear it. Hey, some people have it, and some people don't. I've always had it, Jack!
When I was born on April 27, 1948, my parents, Merritt and James Robertson, were living in a log cabin outside of Vivian, Louisiana. The cabin was really rustic; we used an outhouse and didn't even have hot water to take baths. I was the youngest of five sons: Jimmy Frank was the oldest boy, followed by Harold, Tommy, and Phil. I had an older sister, Judy, and then my younger sister, Jan, came along a few years after I was born.
Our log cabin sat on top of a hill and was surrounded by about four hundred acres. Marvin and Irene Hobbs, Momma's sister, lived at the bottom of the hill. They had several kids: Billy, Mack, Sally, and Darrell, who were our first cousins. When Momma and Daddy played dominoes at the Hobbses' house, Jimmy Frank was put in charge of the younger kids. Our cabin became a prison, and Jimmy Frank was the warden. He'd walk outside the cabin, as if on patrol, making sure none of the younger kids escaped, so we always called him the warden! We younger kids wanted to go to the Hobbses' house to play with our cousins, but Jimmy Frank was under strict orders to keep us inside.
There were only two windows in the cabin, and they were our routes of escape. As the warden marched around the log cabin, one of us captives would watch him through the cracks in the walls. When he made his way around the right corner, we'd all jump through the window and run down to the Hobbses' house. At least there weren't any sirens when we made our getaway!
My daddy started working in the oil industry when he was young, first as a roughneck, then as a driller and tool pusher, and eventually he became a drilling superintendent. It was really hard work, but I never heard him complain about it. It was an honest living, and even though we never had a lot of money, we always had enough food to eat, which mostly came from the fields and gardens on our farm. And with so many kids around, we were never bored and always seemed to find something to keep us busy.
When I was a little bit older, we left the log cabin and moved to Dixie, Louisiana, which is about fourteen miles north of Shreveport. We made the move because Momma suffered a nervous breakdown and was diagnosed as manic-depressive. Living in Dixie made it easier for her to get the treatment she needed; she spent a lot of time in hospitals and the state mental institution. I loved my momma dearly, and my brothers and sisters always say I was her favorite child. Hey, what can I say? I've always had that effect on women!
A lot of my fondest childhood memories occurred in Dixie. I can still remember the day we drove to our house for the first time. We unloaded out of a 1957 Chevrolet and a couple of kids from the neighborhood walked up. We introduced ourselves to the boys, and the only way I can describe them is, well, they were geeks. We wandered around the yard, exploring the place, and noticed a big patch of woods about two miles from the railroad tracks in front of our house. We asked the boys, "Hey, what's over there?"
"We have no idea," they told us.
"What do you mean you have no idea?" I asked them. "Have you not been over there?"
"No, we've never been over there," one of them said.
The next thing they knew, Tommy, Phil, and I were racing across the railroad tracks and into the woods. We drove the farmers around our house slap insane by hunting on their land without permission. One of the farmers loved to chase us out of the woods in his pickup truck. Every time we heard his pickup coming, we'd take off running like deer through the woods. We hid behind logs and in underbrush, looking for his truck at the top of a hill or in the pecan orchard. It was like Wile E. Coyote chasing the Road Runner. He never did catch us.
Years later, we found out that chasing us was one of the farmer's favorite things to do. Momma sold Avon cosmetics for a while, and one day she was at the farmer's house selling products to his wife. Momma apologized to the farmer for our hunting on his land, but he told her we were allowed to hunt on any of his property. Momma thanked him and was getting ready to walk out the door.
"Hey, wait a minute," he said, "Don't tell them."
"Well, you gave them permission," she said.
"Oh, yeah, they can hunt on all of my land whenever they want," he said. "But don't tell them I gave them permission. If they know they have my permission, they won't run from me."
That farmer loved the chase. We ran from him for about fifteen years and didn't even have to!
Phil, Tommy, and I were always hunting or fishing. One of the best things we did happened when the sun went down. When Phil was ten years old, he got an air rifle for Christmas. I was eight and got a Daisy BB gun. We spent every day going around the neighborhood, shooting anything we could kill. When the sun went down, we got our flashlights and shined them under the awnings over the windows of our neighbors' houses. Birds loved to fly up there and go to sleep. Guess what? We loved to shine our flashlights on the birds and shoot them! Every night, our neighbors would be awakened by the clank! clank! clank! sounds.
Imagine their surprise when they opened the curtains and saw a bare-bottomed gunman!