There’s a certain point in time, when you’re a kid, that you think you are such a player.

Nobody confirms this. Why you believe it with such certainty is beyond me. Except that around eight years old, you haven’t usually been knocked around too much in small town Ohio. At least, not in the 1960’s.

You could ride just about anywhere on your bike. The world was your oyster.

You were flying high with confidence on two wheels. So were your friends. We roamed, like the Little Rascals, but cooler. Beach Blanket Bingo was swinging. Surfer music was just coming into style. Rock and Roll detractors, who frowned on Elvis’ pelvic thrusting (this phrase was a gem for an eight-year-old, thank you, grandma) had no idea what to do with kids who listened to Steppenwolf’s Born to Be Wild.

I still remember the first dirty joke I learned from the Andrews kids next door:

It’s this boy’s birthday (he’s probably eight) and he gets a full cowboy costume as a gift (cowboy movies were also big, at least on rerun at this time). He suits up and heads on over to get himself a birthday ice cream sundae.

He walks up to place his order with the girl (no P.C. language those days) at the window. She runs down the list of items:

“Vanilla or chocolate?”


“Chocolate or cherry topping?”


“Whipped cream?”


“Do you want your nuts crushed?”

(With cocking gun motion and clicking trigger sound), “Do you want your boobs blown off?”

Insert eight to ten pre-teen children, busting apart with laughter. Sorry if I’ve offended, but this joke still draws laughs in some crowds.

At any rate, you were a player, until you were shrunk down to size, usually in a family setting. In mine, this was at Jim Beach, on the northern Ohio border, every summer. My entire family on my Dad’s side, which included six cousins, would assemble for baby oil, grilling, skee ball, and summer fun.

The cottage we rented had a player piano.  Here, over scrolls of famous music which I don’t recall, Debbie, Kim, Kelly, my brother and I would pump the poor thing for all it was worth, just to listen to That’s My Weakness Now.

“She’s got gold-tipped butts.
I never liked those gold-tipped butts.
But she’s got gold-tipped butts
and that’s my weakness now.”

I always knew, because I was good with vocabulary, that the butt in the song wasn’t my gluteous maximus, but it didn’t matter. Anything with the b-word was good enough for us. Insert more giggling and laughter.

uncle johns orchards 8.23.2014 1
Uncle John’s Orchards (owned by the same family for over 100 years), just outside St. Johns, MI.

Today, on our way back from moving Anne into her new apartment, we stopped at Uncle John’s Cider Mill, just outside of St. Johns. If you go upstairs for the donuts, which was our particular purpose (sugar cinnamon), there’s a player piano you can instigate for a quarter.

This is the best deal around for a time machine, especially when it’s played by skeletons (they’re decorated for Halloween hoots and hollers).  Inside the rollicking instrument, a tiny tambourine and cymbal go off on cue. The barn smell is redolent of memories-gone-by, ancient wood, old straw, and sunshine. But the piano, oh, the piano. I wish, no matter how far away, you could come and hear it.

You’d be a player.