During the year of 1950 and for most of the rest of my childhood I lived at 400 North Park Avenue in Dothan Alabama. It was at that time a pleasant green lined street that contained a mix of nice upper middle class houses sitting elbow to elbow with inexpensive white framed houses. Huge pine trees stood like sentinels perfuming the air with their fragrance in the yards surrounding the houses looming high above them. Several of these houses were rental properties and the families came and went with frequent regularity. The children that came with these families often became friends during the usually brief period that they lived in our neighborhood. Of course the more affluent families lived in the larger nicer homes and there were many of them. It has always been a bit of a conundrum that houses of such diversity all lined the same street.
Next door to us lived a family that we were related to and they had a daughter named Starr. She and I were best friends growing up and were often together. It was great having a playmate living right next door. Not that we didn’t fight and fall out with each other because we often did. But we were friends and all ways got back together probably because there were few children that were our age and as convenient in proximity. Starr had a tangled mane of blond hair that flowed out behind her when she ran and we ran everywhere. Hanging out together most every day we usually managed to get into some small bits of childish trouble. She was smart, mischievous and witty for a child of so few years and was terrific in school. Our favorite pass time during the sweltering heat of the Alabama summers was to take our bicycles and petal them a few blocks away to a small brick store poised on the edge of what was then a bad neighborhood. We really didn’t know what that meant but were cautioned not to go any further that “just to the store.” The brick building had an enormous Coca Cola sign painted on the side that faced the street and was one long room filled with edible treasures. They sold groceries, candy and Popsicles. Freezing cold drinks rested in water filled coolers where we loved to thrust our hands and arms. We were there for the popsicles and the candy not the groceries needless to say. During the summer months when there was no school Starr and I would take our bikes to the store and buy as much of the brightly colored plastic wrapped tantalizing candies as we could afford and always an icy Popsicle to eat on the way back home. We pushed our bikes eating as fast as we could because we could not drive our bikes and eat the icy treat at the same time. Invariably the Popsicle melted and ran down our arms dripping off our elbows onto the sidewalk. We reached home with dyed rings around our mouths and long brightly colored sticky stripes of dried sugar and colored water tracing down our arms. Starr and I spent much of our time wandering the neighborhood secretly exploring and looking for that perfect “hide out.” We were in a continuous search for that secret garden where we could feel concealed and have a clandestine spot that no one else knew about. We loved to hide and watch the goings on from a private spot in the shrubbery where we were silent, objective nonparticipants in our imaginary miniature world. We watched the comings and goings of others, innocent voyeurs in a pretend kingdom of misunderstood mysteries that was somehow exciting and illicit.
One afternoon Starr and I were playing in the side yard of her house when we heard the back door of the house next door open and close. New people had rented the house and we knew nothing of them. A small boy dawdled from the back door and wandered out beneath a fragrant mimosa tree where he promptly bent over and pulled his pants down completely to his ankles. He arched his back, clenched his naked shining white buttocks and sent a yellow stream of urine high into the air. It shot well above his head leveled out and then gently returned to earth. It was an impressive golden perfect half circle. This phenomenon was no news to me as I too had done the same thing in the back yard of my house. Having three older brothers and a father who intrinsically knew that the entire world was our bathroom I learned by seeing.
Starr apparently was unfamiliar with the perverse behaviors of little boys and had probably never seen a penis. She was an only child with much older half brothers. Watched over and protected we were both innocents and knew nothing much about anything. We did however speculate on most things unknown and prevaricated wild stories to explain what we did not understand. Starr and I raced off giggling after the spectacle we had witnessed. Nearing the street Starr abruptly stopped and turned to me with sparkling eyes and blurted out, “I‘ll bet his name is Pierre!” She then burst into laughter.
I am very sure that was not the little boy's name after all we were living in south Alabama but for Starr and me he would forever be known as Pierre.