It can be a scary time in the big world out there. I found that out when I was 10.
The students at Flowery Branch School got the opportunity in the fall to go to the huge Southeastern Fair at Lakewood Park in Atlanta.
My mother was dead set against letting me go. From her description, Atlanta was a place where something dreadful could happen to me.
I’m not sure she had ever been to Atlanta, except when her mother was sick with cancer at Georgia Baptist Hospital. I never knew my grandmother.
So like any kid, I proceeded to badger Mama and wheedle and whine until I wore her down.
“Go ask your Daddy.” I wasn’t so sure about that. I was a little afraid of him.
I knew, as well, that whining and wheedling would not work with him. When he said “no”, that is precisely what he meant. End of discussion.
However, he did not say “no,” to my amazement, even though he did take the time to explain to me that going to the fair was a complete waste of time and money.
What he said was, “Go ask your Mama. If she wants to let you go, OK.”
I rushed to Mama and gave her the short version: “Daddy said I could go.”
They were good at child psychology, but I was better at kid baloney.
We boarded the school bus and headed out, in time to get there before dusk. Riding through the city was an adventure worth taking the trip.
Some of the boys on our bus let down the windows and started yelling at the city slickers, who promptly responded with obscene gestures and all the latest profanities.
I thought it first before Rodney King became famous: “Why can’t we all just get along?”
But I didn’t speak up, because I was one of the youngest along, and I really did want to get to the fair alive.
There must have been school buses there from every county in Georgia. Students came tumbling out of them and advancing on the fairgrounds like an invasion. So now, we were faced with enmity from the boys from every county except Hall.
It was our turn to see how fast we could disappear into the midway — pretty fast, I discovered.
Innocent little me wanted to use the modest cash I had to play games and try to win a prize. I wanted to take it home to Mama to show her I had been to the city and survived.
It was not to be. The boys I was with did not stop at the games, but went running like someone was after them. I suspect they were headed for the tents where the dancing girls were performing to see if they could wheedle their way in.
Lakewood is a big venue, and the midway stretched all over the place. I was in a panic.
Although I had just gotten there, I knew I had to get back to where all the school buses were parked; otherwise I would never get back home. I might starve, or become a city boy.
God watches over lost boys. I wandered around for a couple of hours and accidently caught sight of the yellow buses. I saw one boy from a South Georgia county stabbing his classmate. Turns out he was only playing, but I didn’t know that.
The miracle of my rescue was completed when I saw my friend Eli, an upperclassman, and he showed me to our bus.
Dave Casper is a lifelong Hall County resident and an occasional columnist.