By Julie Carter
It was about now, late into a long hot summer, that I would start to miss school. Not school for the education, but school for the friends and the activities.
Rural living for me was defined by isolation at the ranch tucked away in the shadows of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. No one “went to town” once school was out in May, except maybe Mom who made her once a month trek to the grocery store. Our return to civilization didn’t happen until after Labor Day when the school bell once again rang.
The decade of the 60s took me from 8 to 18 and was jammed with life lessons and foundational principles. All the things I had but didn’t know were important would not become apparent to me until I was old enough to mourn their loss, value their existence, and understand the lessons that came with them.
This was before we knew sugar wasn’t good for us and Kool-Aid was our year-round beverage of choice either in the liquid form or frozen into popsicles in the summer. The alternative was the gallons of fresh raw milk that completely filled the top shelf of our refrigerator.
Summer days ran together in an endless manner that changed only in the way I changed. As a pre-teen, I began each day with figuring out what to do to keep me busy so the chore list from mom wasn’t increased. Saying “I’m bored” was a sure way to win half a day of weeding the gigantic garden, cleaning stalls or something similarly unfun.
Hay meadows and a nearby cold, mountain creek provided an enchanted play world for all of us — three brothers, two summer resident kids and the occasional visiting cousin or two. When I reached the age that I knew boys didn’t really have cooties and that being a teenager made everyone else so very hard to communicate with, I was still in isolation.
I found solace in spending the days wandering the hills on my horse, talking to my faithful Australian-shepherd sidekick and daydreaming of a more romantic world that had no real definition. I spent hours reading books and writing long letters, both of which took me to an outside world I didn’t really know.
I’d only heard about the “hippies” and all that went with what most people recall of that decade. Vietnam was on the news and a world away. A stamp was five cents and so was a Hershey bar. I am vague on where I was when the Beatles hit the scene, but I remember where I was when JFK was shot.
Civilization in the form of the nearest town of a few hundred people offered lessons in what it was to be draggin’ main and the finer details of a snipe hunt. An icy Coca-Cola and a basket of French fries in town was the height of delight.
Duck tail haircuts, beehive hair, hip-hugger pants and mini-skirts were about as “with it” as any of us at school got. Go-go boots and shoulder-length hair with that perfect flip made you “cool.” The way-out kids wore Nero-collared shirts and sported peace sign necklaces.
“Gunsmoke” and “Rawhide” (yes, in black and white) were favorites but we didn’t get that channel and had to settle for “Wagon Train” and “Bonanza” on the one we did receive. “Big Valley” made its debut mid-decade, as did “Days of our Lives” back when a half-hour sufficed for soap opera drama.
There isn’t a 60s memory that doesn’t include late night radio from Oklahoma City. KOMA brought the latest and greatest in the world of Rock and Roll to every country kid in several states between OKC and the Rocky Mountains. The Beach Boys, Righteous Brothers, Mamas and Papas, the Supremes, Simon and Garfunkel and so many more. And, of course a few slow dances with Bobby Vinton.
The window to a world I was yet to know was as simple as a nine-volt battery in a transistor radio.
Julie, looking at the world through a computer monitor, can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.