Surely the folks who published Superman Comic Books wouldn’t lie to us, would they? There they were, right next to Charles Atlas—the strongest man in the world who didn’t allow any big bully to kick sand in his face in front of pretty women on the beach. Kangaroo Jumping Shoes would give an eight-year old the power to outrun any kid in town and leap tall buildings if need be.
They cost seven dollars, plus COD. I had saved more than that working for Uncle Big Buddy in the alfalfa fields. I certainly deserved these remarkable shoes, but I had to convince Mother of their worth. “Well, it’s your money. You earned it, so I guess you can spend it foolishly if you want to” she finally relented. She helped me fill in the order form and send it in with a money order to the clever people who designed and engineered the marvelous shoes.
Mom, Dad, Mike, (my Panda Bear-toting four-year-old brother) and I lived on Pine Street in West Monroe, Louisiana. The sisters Jane and Estelle lived across the street. Another family with two boys named Tommy and Bobby lived down the block from them. The Bullies, T.M. Hinton and Troy Counts, lived in the next block. The Bullies usually worked as a team when they came to beat us up. Either one of them could easily do the job by himself. One, or both of them, would wrestle me to the ground then demand, “Say calf rope”.
They would not free me until I uttered the magic passwords “calf rope”. What I remember most about T.M. was his bad breath. When he would get on top of me and pin me to the ground, he would breathe right into my face. His breath smelled of everything he had eaten in the last month. I don’t think this kid ever heard of a toothbrush.
The four kids in our block were fun playmates, especially Jane. She wanted to be a nurse when she grew up and practiced on me until mother caught us. Mother instructed me and Jane’s mother that I would to get no more physicals from Jane. That was too bad, because the physicals were just beginning to feel real good. And my turn to examine Jane was coming up soon.
When the magical shoes arrived, I invited the kids in our block to help me test them. T.M. and Troy were not included. Opening the box, I found the shoes to truly be a feat of modern engineering. Two strong springs about five inches long– kind of like bed springs– were sandwiched between two flat pieces of metal with thin rubber mats on the outside. The fantastic shoes strapped on the feet with strong leather straps at the ankle and toe. The whole assembly was painted bright red. The picture of a Kangaroo on the heel portion made them quite handsome–well worth the seven dollars plus COD.
The neighbor kids helped me attach the awkward contraptions to my feet. At first, I could not even walk with the wonder shoes. “Not to worry, I just have to get used to them”, I thought, then I would be running as fast as the wind and hopping like a Kangaroo. It took some time just to learn to walk in the clumsy things and I never did get to Kangaroo status. My faith remained intact though some of my playmates had their doubts. Attempts to run caused my ankles to twist resulting in skinned-up knees, but I kept saying to myself, “I’m getting better. It’‘ll just take a little time before the true power of the wonderful shoes will become apparent.”
After a couple of weeks, my playmates became even more doubtful of the value of my high tech shoes. They began to question my judgment for buying them. I concluded that, before they started to make fun of me and my ingenious shoes, I must do something to restore their confidence. Jumping off a tall–well not too tall–building would do the trick. Tommy and Bobby had a shed next to their garage that was about eight feet from the ground to its flat roof. It would be perfect for my demonstration.
I invited all the neighborhood kids, even T.M. and Troy, especially T.M. and Troy. I kept hoping to myself, “If I convince them that my magical shoes had transform me into a superboy, maybe they will stop beating me up.”
Finally, a day and time was set. My uncle Warren, who was a sergeant in the Army stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia had sent me some paratrooper boots. I put the boots on, laced them up tightly, and strapped the Kangaroo Jumping shoes to the shiny, supportive boots. It took a little doing to climb up the homemade ladder we constructed to get to the top of the shed. Once there, it looked awful high. I really just wanted to crawl back down. But, there they were, T.M. and Troy, staring and snickering at me. Nurse Jane expected me to do wonderful things. Honor, stupidity and the desire to impress a female demanded nothing less than a jump.
I jumped. Thank God for the paratrooper boots. If it were not for them, I would have broken both ankles and maybe more. When I hit, one ankle turned inward and the other outward and I sprawled out like a new born colt. Because I was a skinny kid, subsisting mostly on vanilla wafers and milk, the damage was not as severe as it could have been. The laughter of T.M. and Troy hurt the worst.
Nurse Jane quickly summoned my mother. Mother’s alarm quickly turned into a hissy-fit when she determined I had not actually broken a bone. My badly twisted ankles did require a visit to old Doctor Joe Brown. Both mother and I dreaded that prospect, because we knew both of us would get a good cussing from the crusty doctor. If Dr. Joe’s medical training had included bed-side manner, he had discarded it from his medical practice early on.
This visit to Doctor Brown was no different. The first words out of his mouth were “Damn Genevieve, (Dr. Joe used mother’s real name when he was really mad) what the hell did you let the little bastard do this time?” Mother explained what had happened. Dr. Joe bandaged me up and sent me home.
This would be my first experience with truth in advertising. You would have thought this lesson should have been good for a lifetime. It wasn’t.
Catalogues arrive daily at our house, advertising all manner of products. According to my wife, I get sold on far too much stuff. I have to admit she is right.
But, some of it actually works like it should…some of the time.