In this debut memoir, a songwriter and performer recalls a year of his childhood when friendship, imagination, and adventure combined perfectly, leaving an indelible impression on the author’s soul.
In 1977, Elliott was 10 years old. His family had just moved to Starmount Drive in Tallahassee, Florida, where his father was studying for his Ph.D. Jim Maples, who lived up the embankment next door, became the author’s instant best friend. Within that first week, the “herd” had formed: “Jim and John Maples; Matt, Tommy, and Timmy Stege; Matt Bourgeois; Joey Fearnside; and I.” Their ages ranged from 8 to 10, and they were held together by a love of fishing, the freedom to explore their swampy surroundings, and total loyalty to one another: “We regularly confided in one another with a litany of unproven truths wrapped in heartfelt sincerity. When you are ten, you can speak of Bigfoot, aliens, magic, falling stars, and forever friendship without the worry of ridicule, judgment, or even a hint of disbelief.” Their favorite fishing hole was Alligator Pond, complete with two resident gators and a variety of poisonous snakes. Summer days and year-round weekends were devoted to trekking through the woods, building rickety rafts, riding an assortment of pedal-propelled vehicles, playing backyard football, and getting into all manner of trouble bordering on danger that young boys can conjure when they are just out of range of parental supervision. Elliott’s graceful prose is filled with the philosophical musings that come with the passage of four decades: “My life on Starmount is still my best evidence that to be a truly protective and nurturing parent, you must be able to let go, and to do so beyond the high walls and latched doors.” And the joyful book is permeated with gentle humor that brings to life the exuberance of youth: “Let me tell you, you haven’t heard a true Big Fish tale until you’ve heard triumphant ten-years-olds talk about the alligator that got away.” But readers who are terrified of snakes may want to skip a few paragraphs here and there; the slithering critters appear a bit frequently.
Cheerful, more thoughtful than most reminiscences, and quite enjoyable.