Sometimes happiness costs very little

Published 7:03 pm Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My neighbor’s daughter yelled out my name as I was walking Little Bit for his last little business of the day.

“Mr. Lynn, come and see my swing.”

I had my flashlight with Little Bit and me so I shined it toward her yard. I could barely make out her joy, but it seemed like I saw an old tire tied to some kind of strap and it was hanging from a big limb. If you are my age, you might have seen such an outdoor apparatus at some time.

I walked over and, sure enough, she was swinging on a big, ole tire that was hung from the tree. She was beaming from ear to ear as if she was an adult who had just won the Powerball Lottery. In her case it was even better. She would not have known what to do with $50 million dollars, but I think it would have taken every cent of it to get her off that tire.

She is always very polite to me and I wanted to make her feel even better than she already did, if that were possible.

“That is the best tire swing I have ever seen,” I said. I poured it on even deeper and continued, “You have the best swing in town!” She believed me with all her heart and I meant every word.

Her Dad had really done a good job. The tire looked clean, although she had a towel on it to probably keep her from getting all black and dirty. Plus, the straps that held the tire were tied securely and looked a lot different from the old wire cables that I remembered.

Her Dad and I laughed about how inexpensive this contraption that brought so much joy to his daughter actually cost. It’s like those great Christmas mornings when all the presents are unwrapped and there are 14 times too many, and yet the greatest joy seems to be found in the big pasteboard box that is taken outside and a fort is made.

Sometimes happiness costs very little. It takes just a little effort and time from Daddy and Momma. My little friend, not only enjoyed her tire swing late into the night, but when I walked Little Bit around the next day, she was out there again swinging on her tire.

I don’t think I ever had a swinging tire put up in our yard, but I sure had lots of fun doing things that didn’t cost too much money, if it cost even a dime.

For instance, I loved baseball and I must have played “Home Run Derby” for hours at the time all by my lonesome. I didn’t need anyone else. I didn’t even need a baseball, a glove, or a bat. In fact, all I needed was a hog pen. Need an explanation?

First of all Home Run Derby was a simple television show that featured the sluggers of my day. Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle; you’ve heard of them. But how about Rocky Colavito, Richie “Call me Dick” Allen, or Harmon Killebrew?

The sluggers batted against a pitcher who threw them easy-hitting balls and the winner was the one who hit the most home-runs.

I played Home Run Derby in the hog pen. In those days, hogs ate ear corn that was thrown out of the corn crib. Most of the time, the corn cobs were broken in half, mixed with mud and hog slobber and made excellent-hitting pretend baseballs. For a bat, I would use a wooden slat that was, at one time, part of the hog pen.

No need for a pitcher, just throw the corn cob up and swing away, just like it was the World Series, except it was my version of Home-run Derby. The stadium was the hog pen, and I assure you that it did not remind you of peanuts and Cracker Jacks! My daddy always said it smelled like money, but my momma had another thought.

The fence was about 100 feet away and anything over the fence in the air was a home run. I would talk to myself and play that game all afternoon. Sometimes, happiness costs very little.

Home Run Derby was just one of the games that I created to entertain myself. That’s what we learned to do “way out in the country.” We rode the bus home from school and the last thing we wanted to do when we got home was go inside and watch television. That was too boring.

My how the times have changed. I say the times have changed, but probably not the human nature of children. I could see that in the demeanor of my neighborhood friend. She’s got plenty of toys. She is blessed with a Daddy and Mother who look after her with a great amount of love and care.

But, what caught her fancy? Was it the tire that swung from the tree? I guess that could have been a unique sort of plaything. I would imagine, though, that more importantly it was that her Daddy had made her something to play with and, then, hung out with her as she enjoyed it.

Sometimes, happiness doesn’t cost all that much. Just a little time and effort.