Jim could no longer tolerate what could only be described as severe mistreatment. First, they had made him wear a hideous powder blue suit featuring a bow tie and topped by a fedora, complete with a feather. He looked like a miniature version of Dean Martin. He didn’t like going to church in the first place, but the indignity of having to wear that suit was almost more than he could bear. Then, they had yelled at him for surreptitiously eating a chocolate egg before dinner. And now, they were telling him that he would have to go to bed at his regular time, even though there was no school the next day. Always analytical, Jim began to contemplate the recourses that were available to him.
Crying was out. It had never proven particularly effective and he was not particularly good at it. He could try logic, but as he was only 7 years old, he reasoned that his father could probably counter any argument that he might make. Not that his father understood anything. How could this man know so little about what his life was like? He was always saying things to Jim that made little sense. For example, one morning while Jim was watching his father shave, Jim said,
“I wish I could shave.”
“You’ll change your mind about that once you have to do it every day.”
What nonsense! Jim couldn’t wait for the day when he would brush on the soapy lather and scrape the whiskers from his cheeks. True, he was not yet tall enough to see himself in the bathroom mirror, but based on how his mother complained about how fast he was outgrowing his clothes, he expected to be around 6’2″ in another three weeks. He was quite sure that those thre weeks would last forever.
Jim went to his room, lay on his bed, and stared at an 8″ x 10″ photo of Davy Crockett. What would Davy Crockett do if he were forced to don a short-pantsed suit for Easter? And a powder blue one at that? Perhaps, more accurately, Jim should have asked himself “What would Fess Parker do?” since it was he who portrayed the famous frontiersman in the The Adventures of Davy Crockett. It was indeed Fess Parker who smiled at Jim from beneath the frame, but it was in fact the spirit of Davy Crockett who spoke to him. Like Davy, swinging ole Betsy at the nefarious Mexican soldiers who clambored over the ramparts of the Alamo, he needed to make a gesture, both dramatic and grand, that no one would ever forget and that would earn such respect and admiration from his parents that they would gladly feed him chocolate eggs for breakfast and bid him attend church, even Easter Sunday, in his play clothes . . . Suddenly, Jim knew just what to do.
As soon as the Wonderful World of Disney ended, he ascended the stairs and grabbed the bundle of important possessions that he had wrapped neatly in his Davy Crockett neckerchief and slid the dowel rod from a pennant through the knot. He wasn’t sure why he should wrap them in a bundle and place the bundle on a stick, but he knew from books and television that this was the proper protocol. He descended the stairs and entered the living room where his parents were still watching TV.
“I’m running away from home.”
“How long you going to be gone?”
“I’m not sure. Forever, probably. I love you. Good-bye.”
“Good-bye,” said his father motioning to Jim’s mother, who had started to rise, to sit back down. Jim did not notice this subtle gesture.
His bundle over his shoulder, Jim strode through the house and exited out the back door. He would enter the world through the alley that ran behind their house. Halfway up the alley, Jim turned to look back at his house. His father was not scanning the neighborhood with binoculars trying desperately to locate him. His mother was not standing on the little back porch calling his name plaintively. Furthermore, he hadn’t plotted his course any further than the end of the alley. He could walk all the way to his elementary school, but that would be kind of scary in the dark.
As he stood at the end of the alley, he realized that a gesture didn’t necessarily have to be grand or dramatic, as long as the point was made. He turned the corner and the next and marched down the street to his house, where, creeping low and noiselessly, he sat himself under the bay window on the little front porch. His parents would have to come looking for him sooner or later and in the meantime, he would save himself the trouble of actually running away.
After about 10 minutes of waiting under the bay window, Jim heard his mother say, “I guess we better go looking for Jim.” This was a declaration of surrender if there ever was one. His mother walked out onto the front porch at which time, Jim announced his presence. She gathered him into her arms. His father, who hadn’t even had time to go out the back door, heard what was going on out front and joined his wife and son.
“You didn’t get very far.”
At this point, however, Jim realized another potential flaw in his plan. Running away just may be considered a punishable offense. Nevertheless, he was determined to go down fighting.
“Well, I knew that you would miss me too much.”
Jim’s father contemplated this for a moment.
“It’s past your bedtime, but since you don’t have school tomorrow, how about we go upstairs and I’ll read you some more Adventures of Davy Crockett; then you can go to bed.”
Jim ran upstairs, brushed his teeth, and hopped into bed. His father got as far as Davy trying to “grin a barr to death” before he noticed Jim getting drowsy, said “good-night” and left. He was asleep by the time his mother kissed him.
From his 8″ x 10″ frame, Fess Parker, that is to say Davy Crockett, looked down on Jim and grinned proudly.