When I was two, after a time when I visited, and perhaps also stayed briefly, with my paternal grandparents, Mama Pearl and Papa Frank, who then lived in Jonesboro, AR (See photo at left, taken in about 1944, age one. This shows me at their place. The little board barrier was put up by Papa Frank to keep me from falling off the porch. Here I am modeling the latest in Fruit of the Loom fashion.), we moved to a place in New Jersey where we were so close to the beach that Mommy used to walk over there with me daily. I remember heaping sand on her when she was sunbathing, the great ocean, an overturned fishing boat, and an awesome storm coming in off the water. We only stayed there a few months. Later, while I was still quite small, we moved to a townhouse in Georgetown, a "better" section of Washington, D.C. I remember only a few things there, including a terrapin, that I had for a little while in the tiny backyard, and a mass of maggots (that fell out of a garbage can being brought from the back to the front, through the residence), that got into the weave of the carpet, to my wonder and Daddy and Mommy's disgust. They went after them with a broom, to little effect. We were there also for only a short while.
Next, we went, when I was three, to Albany, GA. We moved into a place that was, as near as I recall, at the end of a short row of houses and just up from a big swamp. Of course, at age three it does not take much of anything to seem pretty large. I imagined lots of mean, nasty things over there, snakes, large, flesh-eating fish, eager for the tenderness of wandering children, and alligators. By day the swamp stayed pretty tame, at least until the rains came; but at night, the sounds from that nearby waterlogged region would reach out and grab the imagination of a young lad at the end of a row of houses neighboring on a fetid bog. Then the monsters would come out and roam at will. I understood that a small, local army had once, briefly, been called in to try to control these night demons, and never was heard from again.
However, this tranquil state of affairs came to an abrupt end in the spring when, for, it seemed, "forty days and forty nights," the skies opened and released a few trillion, trillion tons of liquid upon our pastoral little Georgia community.
Of course, it was assumed, while the dark clouds rolled over us by both day and night, that the swamp would expand and its creatures would slither and slide in a repulsive, swamp-creature manner out beyond their previous safe bounds. We surely knew that, so long as the skies remained open, it was not wise to venture forth outside the house. I admired my father seldom less than then when, morning after morning, he set off into that wet wilderness, despite all the obvious hazards, and returned safely each night, after who knew what gruesome adventures out there?
At length, the sun did come out and the waters receded. I had my first post-storm outing; and, there, in the front yard, a bit of the swamp remained, a great, murky, though now land-locked pond, in which, sure enough, were trapped myriad small swamp creatures, swimming happily about in search of food. I tore back into the house to tell Mommy; and she came out and saw them too and pronounced them "tadpoles."
And so, I acquired my first, ever so precious pets. Mommy said in time they would develop legs and turn into frogs or toads. What? Those squiggly, wriggling things frogs? We put a bunch of them into a big jar and later into a shallow bowl with rocks and things so they could swim or crawl up out of the water after they got lungs. We fed them cheerios and such and they did, in fact, grow into little half-frog creatures with tiny legs, first one here, then another there, etc. I watched and watched them, long after the pond in the front yard had completely dried up. And then, before all of them could have time to grow into little frogs and toads and go away and live on their own, one morning, while I was out playing and Mommy was cleaning their bowl and replacing their water, she accidentally poured them all down the drain. Later, out in the back, from behind a pile of bricks, a huge toad jumped out. And I knew it had grown from one of my tadpoles, that it had somehow escaped from the drain, under the house. But I didn't rush in to tell Mommy.
Not long after this, my folks bought some rabbits. Two were big and white and one was small and black, with red eyes, so that, after Daddy gave her to me to keep for my own, I called her "Cherry." Daddy made hutch houses for the rabbits; and I fed Cherry on rabbit food pellets and lettuce leaves. She seemed the most beautiful, wonderful thing to me in all of Georgia. One day the white rabbits were killed, cut up, and fried for supper. I did not want to eat any. Cherry, at least, was still alright. We soon moved again. Before we left GA, I had to give her away.