— By LARRY M. JONES
While the genetics of our ancestors greatly influence our being, we are all significantly shaped and molded by our environment. Every aspect of where we lived, how we lived, and what we did during our time on earth has made an impression on every facet of our being.
As a child living on Route One Millsap during the 1940s, my view of the world around me was extremely narrow. This world was a very small place. The books I read were mainly fairy tales or comic books – funny books as we called them. Television hadn’t been invented, and if you needed information, you looked it up in a reference book if you owned one. As for my family, all we had was a small Webster’s dictionary, although my parents did subscribe to a few magazines from time to time. Both of my parents enjoyed reading "Progressive Farmer," the "Texas Oklahoma Farmer Stockman" or "Capper’s Farmer."
My first real journeys to learn of the world, although vicarious in nature, were my travels through the pages of National Geographic which my Aunt Flossie, a school teacher in Llano County, occasionally gave to me. Through beautiful color photographs on slick paper, I could witness all the exotic and majestic features that the world had to offer. I could ride tough Mongolian ponies across the steppes, shoot the rapids on the Columbia River, capture exotic snakes in the Amazon basin, or learn of the Anasazi cliff dwellers in the desert Southwest U.S. Until the advent of television, this was the only way to learn and marvel at the wonders of worlds so different from mine.
Once I began my formal schooling, I was introduced to new and exciting things. While information taught as part of our learning curriculum was vital to our education, I particularly enjoyed stories told by several of the male teachers, especially tales of their exploits and experiences during military service overseas. Frank Elder, who served as a chief petty officer in the Navy, told of his experiences in the Aleutian Islands, predominantly on Attu. Superintendent Bill Thomas told of his service in the Army toward the end of the European campaign, and his subsequent assignment to German occupation forces. John Brown told stories of his service during the Korean Conflict. All of which we boys soaked up like a sponge.
My first experience into the marvels of the vast unknown world didn’t happen until I began my own travels in the military. My first great adventure was during the latter part of my flight training when I flew into Puerto Rico. Despite being a U.S. territory, it was an exotic paradise full of new and exciting adventures for a naïve farm lad. In the years to follow I experienced sights, sounds, pleasures, and perils that can never be replicated. Some brought great joy, and others exacted a terrible toll, yet each made an indelible mark on who I was to become.
As a rag-tag kid on the “pore farm,” I had a seemingly insatiable thirst for adventure in strange lands. Much of it was satisfied through my naval service, and for that I am grateful for those opportunities. Yet, I hope to have a few more “quests” to contemplate, and a couple more roads to travel.
Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to email@example.com.