ERROL CASTENS: Youthful enthusiasm: Gift for the ages

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

At 6 months of age, my cousin Carl was crawling on our living room floor and discovered a mess of rattlesnake beans, fresh from the garden, spread in a large box to cool.
He was instantly delighted with his find – and so was every adult in the house. He’d pick up as many of the maroon-streaked green beans as he could grasp and shake them. Despite their lack of response, Carl reacted to each fistful as though it were yet another new and fascinating toy.
For a good 20 minutes he entertained himself and us thus. Just as we thought the novelty of his newfound playthings might be wearing off, he looked to his right and found – wonder of wonders! – another, identical box of beans and proceeded to repeat the entire performance.

Good biscuits
As he got a little older, Carl learned the benefits of biscuits. He never actually ate one of the golden-brown pastries so much as he wore it out. Hand him a buttered biscuit and he’d immediately dismantle it, lick the cow-salve off both halves and then hold them out for refills, embodying the saying, “For little kids, cuteness is a survival skill.”

Snow at three
About the time Carl turned 3, we had one of those rare central Mississippi snows. When my mama offered to have the housebound toddler “help” check on the cows, his again-pregnant mama was more than grateful for the chance to take a nap while securing a cure for the boy’s cabin fever.
Mama and Carl took off on foot through the snow in search of Angus and Charolais. Mama stayed on the ridge, opting for the easiest walking and the widest perspective, while Carl and two or three dogs chased after every rabbit and bird around.
Back in those days deer were still almost as rare as significant snowfalls, but Mama spied one and quickly called Carl to come look. By the time the three-foot-high boy got to the ridgetop, the whitetail was long gone, but that proved a mere technicality.
Carl’s excitement built. After finding the cows cold but well, he and my mother went back to his house, where he burst through the door shouting, “Mama! Mama! We saw a deer – but I was looking that-a-way!”
Carl instinctively knew at an early age what most of us as adults forget: Things as mundane as beans and buttered biscuits can be memorable. And no matter how much we try to cram every opportunity, pleasure and even good work into our lives, some things will happen – yet be no less wondrous – when we are “looking that-a-way.”

Contact Daily Journal Oxford reporter Errol Castens at (662) 281-1069 or

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