When I was a young lad, I lived in a wonderful world that was filled to the brim with mostly happy experiences. It was a good time. It was a simple time. And my world was small.

I’d wake up in the morning with the anticipation of what the new day was going to bring to me in a whole new world of play. It was an exciting time. I felt joy when contemplating my new gift of the day and how I was going to receive it.

I recall times while lying on my back in the summer sun on our front yard for hours on end, being totally immersed in gazing into the blue skies and searching the billowy white majestic clouds for faces and other pictures that would appear. I would identify various creations of figures and faces and a moment later I could see them being magically transformed by the gentle breeze into yet another picture.

The sky was mine. It would change every few moments and I was there to behold it.

I still do that from time to time, however I don’t lie down in the grass anymore as I would need a lot of help getting up. But I still gaze at the images formed by the clouds and watch them shift to new formations by the breezes. It takes me back to those wonderful days when I was a young boy, laying in the bright sunshine and everything was peaceful and joyous and fun.

I can also recall the endless hours I would spend on our lawn playing “farm.” I had a myriad of toy farm pieces; tractor, cattle, farm house, hay wagon, silo, water tank, and chickens along with a variety of other pieces. I would pull up grass to make little hay stacks and place the little cows around them. I’d play there for hours. My farm was my whole world. I enjoyed every exciting minute of it.

Those memories became realities when I would stay at my cousin’s farm down in Iowa for a few days. It was my dream come true and I enjoyed every minute of living there on a real farm. I still have fond favorable memories of those days whenever I pass by a farm.

I also collected wonderful memories while simply sitting on our front steps just gazing off into the blue sky, day dreaming about pleasant things and getting completely lost in my thoughts and I still do it. Often times my concentration was interrupted by and drawn to the distant sound of a small airplane. As I would catch sight of it, the little plane seemed to be coming closer and closer and when it appeared directly above me, I watched it slowly fade into the distant horizon. It was remarkable. I often wondered how thrilling it would be to fly over trees and farms and fields and cities. It must be a wonderful feeling of freedom to glide through the air.

As I grew older, I discovered a poem penned by John Gillespie Magee Jr. entitled “High Flight.” As I read this exhilarating experience of a pilot while in-flight, it was as if he had written my thoughts so mysteriously from my youth. Each time I read it, it draws me back to those warm sunny days of my youth, as I gazed into the blue summer skies and life was so simple. It is my favorite poem.

And then there were those wonderful exhilarating dreams of flying like Superman. Flying, soaring, gliding, twisting and turning, diving, climbing and cruising unaided through the air. Free like an eagle. It was magnificent. When I woke up I desperately tried to fall asleep to pick up where the dream left off. But to no avail. I would lie in my bed and savor the moment and desperately tried to recall the feelings I experienced. I still have those dreams of flying, but not nearly as often as when I was a child. Perhaps it was because I was more innocent back then…that’s probably why.

As a young lad about six years old, I started to draw with a pencil. I had no idea at the time that I loved to draw and it opened up an entire new world for me. I would sit in my room at my desk in front of the window and I would spend endless hours drawing with a pencil and I felt a connection with each picture I drew.

I would draw everything because everything was a subject. I would draw fish, deer, all sorts of wild animals, cars, boats, airplanes, tractors, hot rods, cartoons, war scenes. I loved to draw with a pencil.

A couple years ago, I drew a portrait of a friend of mine and as I was creating that drawing, I unknowingly resurrected the love that I have for pencil drawing since I was about sixteen. In about a 14 month period, I drew about eighty poster sized pencil drawings. During each drawing, in my mind I could still see that excited young boy sitting at his desk in front of the window in his room drawing pictures with a pencil. And even yet, to this day, I still feel that excitement as I begin each new drawing. I trust those wonderful feelings will always be there.

My grandfather was a big man. The family says that I take after him. I was his only grandson and he always called me “Allan boy” and I can still feel his large arm around me. My grandpa would pick me up every Saturday morning and we would go hunting. We hunted everything; squirrel, rabbit, pheasant, duck, anything. It didn’t matter if it was in season or not. It was great just being with him. He taught me stuff like the safe and proper way to carry a gun and how to shoot. He taught me well as over the years and with my military experience, I was and still am an extremely accurate sharpshooter. I had never missed a shot in all of my years of hunting. Each time I shot a deer, antelope or moose, I would kneel alongside the downed game, say a little prayer of thanksgiving and talk with my grandpa. I can still hear him saying, “ya did good Allan boy”. I miss my grandpa. He was a great man and he loved me. And I still recall memories of him and his love for me.

And so why am I telling you these stories about my life? It’s because I believe that in our day-in-and-day-out life, we have a tendency to forget about all the wonderful times we had in our lives and we all caught up in worrying about stuff. We forget about the good stuff and we focus on the bad stuff and as a result, we just don’t have fun anymore.

In his book “The Sermon on the Mount” author Emmet Fox simply states,”whatever you set your mind to and focus on, you will attract to yourself.” One of the most important things in life to remember is to “always guard your thoughts.” Think happy, be happy. Think crabby, be crabby. It’s your choice what kind of a life you want.

Al Smith of Owatonna is a retired adman. Reach him at goldenboy2245@gmail.com.

Jeffrey Jackson is the managing editor of the Owatonna People's Press. He can be reached at 507-444-2371 or via email at jjackson@owatonna.com

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