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Reed Kailing in Large Doses

Reed in Waterford, Wisconsin ... In the Beginning

It was on a hot, summer day in Waterford Wisconsin, 1956, that my friend Jim Scarry bumped into me and asked, “Have you heard about Elvis?”

“Who’s that?” I replied.

“Elvis Presley just released Hound Dog. This is hot; it’s gonna be big!” Jim said.

Unknowingly, Jim had planted the seed. I was 9 years old at the time. Nothing much was happening as I spent my days sitting by the banks of the Fox River, catching sunfish, and hearing the bells from St. Thomas Church ring out the passage of every hour. And the nuns at St. Thomas failed to realize how well the sound of voices can travel across water. From time to time, I would eavesdrop on their conversations as they chatted on their private patio.

Yes, it was truly a Huckleberry Finn lifestyle that I was living. Halbeck’s chicken farm, with a huge field, was close to my house. I, the “Little Warrior,” as my mother sometimes referred to me, recall making miniature bows and arrows. I even crafted my own homemade feathers. The self-styled feathers were carefully clipped and painted on the cardboard backings from men’s shirts that my family had sent to Adelman’s dry cleaning establishment. Then, I would terrorize the dirt road that tractors used in order to cross the field. Late one afternoon, a huge bird flew overhead. I recall that, at the time, I felt so small. I yelled to the bird and shot an arrow, missing him of course. “You’ve challenged me; come fight me.”

It was a frustrating time in my young life. Ongoing tension between my parents interfered with performing well in school. And then there was my teacher at St. Thomas School, a stern nun cloaked in black medieval robes. Somehow she maintained absolute control in a hot, overcrowded classroom of 65 kids, during those days long before the comfort of air conditioning. Discipline was maintained at all times with strict punitive policies. I think that even Father Hurdle was afraid of her. I certainly was. She really scared me. I recall having to raise a finger in order to go to bathroom. One time she refused and really embarrassed one of my classmates. After that, I was more afraid of her than ever. I crawled even more deeply into my shell. Afraid to go to school, I constantly stared out the window and dreamed about escaping from my trap. The thought of Huck Finn caught in a cage was an ugly thing for a free bird.








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