Growing Up In Waterford, PA


Tough Guy
by the late Herb Walden

Fort LeBoeuf Class of 1956

I am one tough guy! I may not look tough, but I am! You've never known a tougher guy!

And you talk about being scared --- heck, I ain't a-scairt of nothing (I know that is poor grammar, but that's the way we tough guys talk. We say "heck" and "darn" a lot, too).

Things weren't always that way, though. Way back when I was a little kid, I was actually afraid of a couple of things.

A favorite summertime activity was something called "sleeping out". "Sleeping" is a misleading term since actual sleep was hardly ever involved. In fact, sleeping was not even an option for a lot of us kids. It was too dangerous! If you fell asleep, you might lose your grip on the baseball bat.

Of course, we needed the baseball bat for protection because we were out there surrounded by one of the things we feared the most. Yes, we were afraid of THE DARK!

The Dark itself was bad enough, but we also had to worry about what might be in it. There was always a lot of rustling going on. Nothing ever rustles in the daylight. Only in The Dark. And I never found out what it was, because to do so would have meant leaving the tent. No kid should ever venture outside the tent in The Dark! Unless, of course, he's headed directly for the house! At full speed!

I always imagined the rustling was caused by the furry-thing-that-lives-in-the-bushes, but I don't know for sure. I never saw him. But what I did see occasionally was far scarier!

Of course, I'm referring to the most dreaded of all nighttime creatures! The one that strikes fear into the hearts of little kids all over the world! (Or maybe it was just me in my backyard). If you haven't guessed already, the awful being of which I speak is A MOTH!

You may think that moths are harmless, but that's probably because you've never been attacked by one! Now, I'm not talking about those little one-inch jobs that hang out under the porch light. I'm talking about the great big ones about the size of a crow!

You show me a big, flapping moth and, well, you won't have a chance to show me anything else, because I will have left town!

Big, brown cecropia moths and those extra-ugly sphinx moths are bad enough that I don't care to share the same county with them. But the worst of the lot, the most frightening moth of all is the Tuna moth! And the thing about it that makes it so horrible is that IT IS GREEN!

No life-form that big should be that green, except maybe a cabbage!

It is a well known fact that Luna moths prey on little boys.

Even now, I can see their gaping jaws drooling with saliva, those razor-sharp teeth, and -- wait a minute! That's not A Moth! That's a pterodactyl! No matter. They're about the same thing.

The combination of The Dark and A Moth is the reason I stopped using a sleeping bag when sleeping out. Ever try running full-tilt in a sleeping bag? It can be done, but it's not easy.

See, the problem is the zipper. You may feel all snug and secure in your zipped-up sleeping bag, and then along comes A Moth! Consumed by terror, you can't find the zipper; Heck, if you're like me, you couldn't remember how to operate it even if you could find it! There's no time to figure it out, so you start running, bag and all! Of course, you can't find the opening in the tent even though the stupid moth found it easy enough!

It's always hard to explain to your parents why you're standing in the kitchen wearing a sleeping bag and wrapped up in the tent with ropes and stakes dragging along. You're reluctant to mention A Moth for fear of ridicule, and breathlessly panting, "I wanted a drink of water", just doesn't make it. So you just say, "G'night", and shuffle off to your bedroom as nonchalantly as possible, hoping the tent stakes won't catch on the stairs.

If you must have a sleeping bag, I strongly recommend against the "mummy type". There is just not enough leg room to develop a stride, so you are pretty much forced to make a series of jumps to the house. But the worst thing about mummy bags is THEY LOOK LIKE GIANT COCOONS!

Unfortunately, a lot of things sound like A Moth in The Dark. Like a gentle breeze, a rabbit hopping by, the neighbor's dog, a railroad train, just to name a few. Any one of them is a source of potential panic. Therefore, while some moths are real, many are imaginary. Be that as it may, one is just as alarming as the other, if not more.

From what I've said, you may think that I'm still afraid of moths. Well, I'm not! No sir! I outgrew that! I'm way too tough to be afraid now. However, I do have a phobia about moths. You can have a phobia and still be tough.

A phobia is almost like a fear when it comes to moths, though. Even now, you put me in a zipped-up sleeping bag inside a tent in The Dark with A Moth and you've got yourself a circus!

No doubt you've seen those novelty acts where motorcycle riders ride at high speed around the sides of a barrel-like container. Big deal! I can do that; too! In a tent! In a sleeping bag! And, heck, I don't need no darn motorcycle!

Happily, my fear of The Dark is gone, too. Mostly. Why, just last summer I was sitting out in the backyard one night right in the middle of The Dark, and it didn't bother me a bit. But when I started into the house, I saw an extra-large Luna moth on the screen door!

"Oh, heck", I said, in somewhat of a falsetto. "There's a darn moth!"

I didn't panic! But I did run around the house to the front door. I did run pretty fast. As fast as I could, actually, but I did that on purpose. It's sometimes fun to see if I can remember where all the bushes are in The Dark. I did, too. Almost.

"Oh, heck", I said. "Darn lilacs."

Had there been A Moth on the front door too, I don't know where I would have ended up. However, I was headed in the general direction of Milwaukee. As I was saying, I am one tough guy. And just because I may over-react a little to A Moth sighting doesn't make me a sissy. I have reason to believe that I am the only person in the world who knows that moths are a clear and present danger.

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