Like Tom Sawyer, I had years while growing up when life was an adventure. Some adventures were real, some were imaginary, and some were real with an imaginary plot. Some were innocent, some bordered on the illegal. But one comparison to Tom Sawyer was the year my father had me paint the inside of the backyard fence of our house in Wichita Falls to make money for our vacation that summer.

Our back fence was considerably larger than the fence Tom Sawyer purportedly had to paint. With the fence surrounding the backyard – and not along the street – the chances of talking any friend into helping me were slim. Especially when they learned I was getting paid for it. It was summer in Texas and very little of the fence was in the shade.

The color I was painting the fence was the shade of red that all backyard picnic tables were painted for many years – a little lighter, actually. I do not remember how long it took me to paint the fence – probably about a week. It seemed to take forever. I remember taking fairly frequent breaks for refreshment.

Despite my best efforts, all of the paint did not reach the fence. My jeans and shirt jockeyed for drops of paint falling off of the paintbrush. Numerous blades of grass were painted red. Some due to drops of paint, but others painted simply under the pretext that it was not only fun (who gets to paint grass?), but painted grass can be mowed. Which would have had more  credence – and acceptance by my father – had I not decided one time to mow my name in the backyard.

When I finished painting the fence, I received fifteen dollars for my efforts, to spend on vacation. Dad still feels bad about underpaying me for the job. However, I did not have a frame of reference with which to know that fifteen dollars was not enough for painting the fence. It was not like I had a lot of other things to do, what with friends going on vacations and being involved in summer activities. Fifteen dollars went a lot farther then than it does now. And mom usually   helped my brother, Dennis, and I out if we really wanted a souvenir and did not have enough money.

Tom Sawyer did not go on vacations, unless you count the trip with Huck Finn down the Mississippi. And I did not have any friends to try to persuade to help me. Nor would I have been willing to give up any of my money. I also am not completely certain that Tom was able to pawn the entire task off on other children. Take it from me, painting a fence is nothing to envy. That  was the first, but not the last fence I would paint.

Be that as it may, Tom Sawyer and I both had to paint a fence. Neither of us looked  forward to it. One way or the other, we both got the fence painted. In both instances, paint was dispersed that did not find the intended target. So having to paint the fence is one thing I have in common with Tom Sawyer.

Peace be with you.

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