In Springville,
the rural Alabama town where I mostly grew up,
the unwritten rule was that, from May 1 until the end of the school year,
we were allowed to come to school without wearing shoes.

Another unwritten rule was that, if we did that,
we should be careful not to step in cow poo.

: The house my family lived in
during most of the 1950s.

After I saw the movie Them, I suspected
that there were nests of giant ants living in our garage.

My older brother Allan and I got on well.
We played board games and wrote radio plays together
and listened to Cincinnati's Big Jon and Sparky radio show
on our Philco console radio.

Above left: A photo of all the Cruses
when I was but a wee tot in Mama's lap.

Above right: A photo my dad took
of my diminutive first-grade teacher
leading one of her classes.
"Miss Margaret," a former stage actress,
was only a few inches taller than her students.
I thought that every school teacher
was gonna have a piano to play in their classrooms!

Above: Anyone interested can go YouTube and check out
the only home-movie footage of my family that was ever shot.
Nobody had digital camcorders in those days, y'know.
but one of Dad's friends loaned us his 16mm movie camera for the afternoon.

Allan's and my neighborhood playmates
were invited to pitch in on the fun.
(The clip ends abruptly
because Dad kept shooting for a while
without realizing that he had run out of film.)

Above left: Who could have known what life had in store for the Cruse boys?

Above right: I wasn't immune to the lure of superheros.

Miss Margaret encouraged me in all of my early literary efforts,
like the stories I drew featuring Landie Lucker, the super elf.
It's phenominal how swiftly my talents matured!
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