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The Rolfe Cocoon
Bob Ranney
Fairfield Bay, Arkansas
Rolfe High School Class of 1961

I started many of my days in Rolfe in the hollow of our lilac bush listening to the first stirrings of Iowaís birds. The soft coos of the turtle doves were my favorite. I learned to imitate them - got them to talk back in their gentle way of the peace and security of life in the comforting calm of dawn-tinged air.

That sense of safety wasnít there only at dawn. We were surrounded constantly by a peace that seems unattainable in todayís raging culture. It was manifest in our daily lives by the care our parents and their friends took to see that our needs were more than met.

I felt it on every one of those lilac mornings when, after the sun had gone from cool peach light to dew burning warmth, I heard the creak of the screen door and then my motherís voice -- the same every day -- calling me to breakfast. Iíd feel it again later in the day when, coming home from school for lunch or in from a ball game Sid Beckord had organized between the Jets and the Sneakiní Injuns or back from skating on Thompsonís pond, I would be greeted at the door by aromatic hugs of blueberry pie or apple brown betty.

It wasnít just at home, either. There was never any reason to feel exposed to any real danger or even deep discomfort. Nowhere in Rolfe could a kid get away from the sweet cocoon of care that every adult in town helped to weave and maintain. Of course, there were a few rough characters around, and we used to hear stories now and then of their roguishness. But even a brush-up with one of them would generally bruise nothing more than pride.

Growing up is hard no matter where or when you do it. Kids push and pull and tear at one another everywhere and in all times and all places, and each of us has to find and form himself in that unchanging gauntlet. It was made easier in Rolfe, though, by the presence of so many adults who were always ready with praise, advice and either tenderness or maybe even a carefully roughened shove in the right direction when needed.

I spent a lot of carefree hours fishing, hunting or just walking out along the banks of Pilot Creek as a guest of every landowner between Rolfe and Plover. I was never told I was unwelcome. Nor did I ever think to tear down a fence or walk down a row of crops. We had a relationship, those landowners and me. It wasnít a symbiosis. It was a one sided gift of the freedom for me to take from them at no cost to either of us. It gave me room to roam and to grow up feeling that I was welcome even though I had nothing to offer in return for the years of pleasure their generosity afforded me.

The same feeling came across in other ways, too. At the golf course or the churches, families gathered regularly to share the provender of summer in potluck dinners. At the hardware store Arnie Wold or Brownie Rickard would take the time to show a kid how to put something together or take it apart. At Webbís Drug Store, we spent hours on end reading, but not often buying, the comic books they kept on the rack for us in the back room. At Greater Rolfe Days, the men from the Lionís Club or the VFW handed out ice cold watermelon with smiles that left no doubt that their gift made them as happy as it did us.

I doubt that Rolfe was totally unique in this way, but I do know from sharing my descriptions of life there in the forties and fifties with many friends from other places, that they donít feel the same way about their home towns. Iím sure, too, that some people who grew up in Rolfe in those days didnít experience the same quality of life that I did. Iím not saying that everything was sweetness and light, but when the sweetness went bitter and all the light seemed to give way to hateful darkness, there was always somebody close at hand to show that they cared and that the light would come again.

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