This isn't about Andy, Aunt Bea and Opie as I'll always hang on to the images of my Mom and Dad, Grandma Andrews and my siblings while growing up in Janesville. Rather, this is about a setting in life which each of us always holds close to our hearts. It's a time of innocence when we understood the world around us (or at least we thought we did), and people seemed genuine in their everyday conversations. Our neighborhood was always safe and people felt secure in their homes at any time of day. No one violated the privacy of another home, much less even walked in uninvited.
I still remember the summer of '65 when our family experienced the land around Wild Rose for the first time. My folks had gone to the Milwaukee Sports Show in late-winter, and they wanted the family to spend some quality time in a local campground. They purchased a Winnebago truck camper, the kind which mounted to the top of a pickup truck, and off we went on a two-hour jaunt to Waushara County. The guys went trout fishing in the morning, returning to camp with their limits, then snoozing in the afternoon before enjoying a roaring campfire at night. It was a great time to be alive and I can't remember a negative experience on any of our journeys. I'm sure there were days when it rained and we grumbled about the six of us being stuck inside the camper, waiting for the weather to clear. There were times when the mosquitoes made their way into our living quarters, only to wreck havoc on unprotected skin. And the minuscule bathroom facilities inside the camper's closet made for a quick exit by the rest of us whenever one of my brothers had the urge. Yet, as the years progressed our world changed in ways which I did not deem important at the time. Suddenly my oldest brother didn't make the weekend trips because of a job at home, then my other brother seemed to enjoy the company of other guys that were closer to his age. That left me with my younger sister, and I'm willing to bet I wasn't that much fun for someone seven years older, much less the opposite sex.
While I still locate the places where my memories were etched, those friendly surroundings have all changed in ways which few would recognize. The small campsite is now inhabited by another family, and a roaring fire is often left to no one's enjoyment. The kitchen table within the camper is no longer filled with hungry youngsters and bowls of hot cereal, but left empty and unkept when kids take their boxes of dry cereal to bed along with their ipods and tablets. Mom has custody of the kids this weekend, and dad will get use of the place in a couple of weeks with his girlfriend and her children.
Main Street in today's Wild Rose looks so much different than it did 40+ years ago and I accept it for what it is. No doubt someone living in 1912 would hardly recognize my neighborhood in 1965 either, and settlers in 1840 wouldn't understand the benefits of paved roads and telephone poles. We are what we are today, and the world is constantly undergoing the evolution of change. I miss those days for what they were...a time of great simplicity and anticipation for the fun our family would have on next weekend's camping trip. Things happen to each of us for reasons we often can't explain, and life remains a progression of events which determines the cultural surroundings of tomorrow's Mayberry.
A few weeks ago I found peace and solitude on the Pine River one early morning while trout fishing with my son. It was another one of those "Andy & Opie" moments when I thought of a simpler time with my Dad and brothers, but it was one which may never happen again due to the constraints of time and semblance of life. However, it happened for a reason....if not for my recollection, then for that of my son when he looks back on his seasons of life.