Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2018 - 11
MILL CREEK STORIES
Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes plot
machinations confounded me even
more, his stories becoming my reading Rubik's cube.
Books became my world, and I
often enacted my favorite scenes.
Once though, I chose poorly. I
mean a truly, how-could-you-be-sostupid, bad decision. I read and reread O. Henry's "The Ransom of Red
Chief." I was 10 years old. I remember it like it was yesterday. Consider
that I grew up in a law enforcement
family where right and wrong were
pretty clearly defined and upheld.
The behavior of Red Chief, a pesky
nine-year-old boy named Johnny,
was completely foreign to me. I was
shocked that Johnny would throw
a brick at adults. I was astounded
that he would try to scalp one of
his kidnappers. I was appalled that
his father told the kidnappers that
if they wanted to return him, it
Books became my world, and I often
enacted my favorite scenes.
would cost them money.
Everything I knew about childhood and family was turned on its
ear. This kid wasn't afraid. He wasn't
threatened by strangers. He was having a grand time, all at the expense
of adults. His family was clearly enjoying his absence and the more I
read, the more I thought it was okay
that he found new playmates, even
though they were technically kidnappers. Johnny Dorset was powerful, even though he was just a kid.
This was heady stuff. What an
exhilarating concept. This kid was
in charge. I wanted to be a leader
too, without a care or consequence.
I wanted adults to do what I wanted.
I wanted to be Red Chief. I was an
Well you can imagine how my
acting like Red Chief did not turn
out to be the life-affirming event I
had planned. I spent the better part
of a day running around the yard,
hollering and whooping and acting
a fool. That night at dinner, just like
Red Chief, I threw a hot potato at
my dad. My father had not read a lot
of O. Henry, and was most certainly
not a fan of the ironic humor in "The
Ransom of Red Chief." While I will
spare you the details, I will close with
a quote from the O. Henry story.
"It looked like a good thing but
wait till I tell you."
May/June 2018 11