We begin todays blog in 1966 where I was added to the bottom of the batting line-up as Richard Matthew Ripley, the third and youngest son of Charlie and Marcie Ripley….Davenport Iowa.
I moved from the city to the country at the tender age of two (not for political, religious nor financial reasons) to just outside historic New Liberty Iowa…a town that had exactly one bank, one library, one volunteer fire station and two bars with a handful of faithful Christians sprinkled in for good measure. I brought my parents and brothers with me at the time as I felt it’d be unfair to leave them to fend for themselves in the city. Nothing of consequence happened until first grade when I set our barn on fire. You read that correctly…I set a barn on fire. I blame the school system for not teaching us practical, if not life-altering, stuff such as “don’t play with matches in a barn full of straw since straw burns almost as fast as rocket fuel” or “you shouldn’t pee on an electric fence, it’ll emotionally and mentally scar you for life” or “how to shoot a BB gun without hitting window glass.” THAT kind of information would have been INVALUABLE to a kid like yours truly who had LOADS of time on his hands. I found out about this time that humor could potentially save me from a good old fashioned spanking. I was across my Mother’s lap, butt up, clinching for the punishment that I deserved to get as her hand was descending upon me when I started shouting “THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT!!” My brothers fell off their chairs laughing as I continued with my defense and Mom started laughing too…so much in fact that she couldn’t finish whipping me. We all had a good laugh and I made a mental note to have a one-liner handy for most occasions AND that I doubt that I’d get that same leniency twice in one lifetime from a deserved spanking.
I included the photo below if for no other reason that its the only photograph of me without a bald spot. Just look at it! Soft brown hair. Straight and smooth….just like the man writing this crap.
My circles of influence ran like this:
- Family & dog
- Friends at school
Here’s the Ripley clan in 1975. I’m arm in arm with my cousin Doug (before he became known as Dirty Doug of Mercer County Illinois). Doug got me into a lot of trouble, but nothing that killed either one of us…but there’s still time.
Here’s why I don’t ride motorcycles. I rode Craig “Coonie” Conrad’s Honda minibike directly into the side of school lunch lady (Gladys Lynch’s) grass green Pontiac LeMans in the spring of 1977. Fourteen stitches later I didn’t have the same “need for speed” as just an hour before. Go figure.
Here’s a fun fact for all of you Ripley Minions out there. How many kids did I graduate with in the class of 1984 from Bennett Community High School? Twenty-four. Just twenty-four kids. Twelve boys. Twelve girls. Most of us had been together since Kindergarten, while others had been added to the mix along the way…and by the fall of 1983 we were pretty much sick of seeing each other. I was an average student and average athlete. The girls in our class either dated guys from other schools or guys that had already graduated (looking back our guys didn’t really give the girls a deep gene pool to draw from…honestly) while the guys in my class casually dated the lower grades or out of town as well. I remember wanting to get the hell out of Bennett so badly that I didn’t really say goodbye to anyone. I got my diploma and left. I wasn’t mad…just ready for a new scene with different people. I can’t speak for my classmates…but I think that the feeling was mutual.
It wasn’t all bad. I worked detasseling corn for three summers as well as baling hay and straw. I got a job working at a truck stop restaurant my senior year where I found out quickly that I didn’t care for working over a steam table nor fryers. I moved to Cedar Rapids, about an hour away from New Liberty, for college. I’d make it back to Bennett and New Liberty through the years, but only to visit my parents, occasionally running into former classmates with polite conversations.
It really didn’t happen that way…or did it? Regardless I’ve made it back to Bennett for several class reunions and had a blast. Flat out…my former classmates are just good people. I wish that I could be around them more. They entertain me. They remind me of what was, stories either not heard or forgotten. They’re doing well and I’m happy to see them when I do. Truth be told…its kinda hard for a group of balding, heavy-set middle-aged men who grew up in our school to be pompous and our female counterparts are looking good with solid careers and good kids.
College was just like high school but with more beer and a lot more idle time. I met a guy in the fall of ’84 who would become my best friend…hell…he’s like a brother to me. We’ve been drunk together, gotten in trouble together (those two most often go hand in hand) gone to rock concerts, been in each others weddings, watched as each has raised their families, worked with each other (I hired Dave one time, and he got me to sell used cars with him for five months…so we’re even) shared concerns over our parents, drank more beer and conversed about plans for possible world domination, etc, etc. As I scanned through the photos from this period of my life I chuckled at how many photos included Dave. A quick but not complete summary.
I graduated from college in May of 1986 at age 19. During this time I had joined a company that hired me and would transfer me to Mason City Iowa, roughly four hours from my family, my friends and all the fun that I had grown used to. I was to be alone, working 70-80 hours week in a place that I didn’t like, with people who were ANCIENT (they were in their late 30’s and early forties). It was terrible and probably the best thing for me at that stage of my life…getting me out of my comfort zone and making a career. I was miserable. I was lonely. That was 1986-1987. In the fall of 1987 things started to get better. Mason City had become my home. I was 21 and things weren’t as bad as they were. I was coming into my own. 1988 started like ’87 ended…quietly and without anything going on…then “she” came into my life wearing baggy sweatpants and puffy winter parka and life as I knew it would be forever changed.
I’ve been blessed to be born into the family that I’m in. I’ve been blessed with good health, stunning good looks, a quick wit and a humbleness unrivaled. She…wouldn’t buy any of it. Tune in next week.