In summer 1960, just as change was about to sweep the South, I spent time following ten-year-old Mike Sneed around Maxton and its countryside. Maxton is a small town halfway between Charlotte and Wilmington on Highway 74, and it provided ample summertime adventures for this active young man. It seemed to me that Mike had the best boyhood one could wish for–it was summertime before the electronic age; it was actual, not virtual. He epitomized to me the character Huck Finn–brave, fearless, fun-loving. He explored a haunted house on the edge of town, jumped off just about anything he thought wouldn’t cause him to break a bone, and examined any critter within his reach.
It was a time when childhood took place largely outdoors in a safe community. There were trees to climb, treasures to dig, turtles to get acquainted with. I liked to think that he felt so much palpable joy inside from excitement at every turn that it bubbled out of him in red freckles.
I later heard that our Huck Finn grew up and served in the Vietnam War. He returned with a wife, and I’ve wondered if Mike’s son would have freckles and the same, real fun in summertime.
Huck Finn and Turtle
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