You’ll see in the picture above, Cousin Wayne at the wheel, and my friend Bob Nash and me manning the rear seat in Wayne’s Mule, getting ready to visit, for one last time, my favorite place on this earth—the Sherwood Forest of my youth.
I spent dozens of happy hours on this Wisconsin farm outside of Ridgeway during my growing-up days. It became my second home. The woods that you see down in the hollow was my playground. It’s larger than it looks from afar. It had a spring-fed stream, rock outcroppings, and trees of all sizes and shapes, with vines hanging from some—a setting ripe for stimulating a young boy’s imagination.
As Tarzan, I swung through the trees, screeching a resonant howl while searching for Jane. Then, as Prince Valiant, I sword-fought the Saracens across the bluffs and steep crags, and as Robin Hood, I waited, with my Merry Men alongside me, to ambush King John’s legions as they approached unaware of our presence. And when the outlaws attacked the stage as it rumbled through the hollow below, I rode down to save that beautiful damsel in distress.
And in late summer, when the berries hung crimson-black on the vine, I picked them for my evening meal.
What a restorative life for a ten-year-old boy who’d just lost his father through divorce—a life made possible by Wayne’s parents, Uncle Earl and Aunt Anne Fitzsimons-Paull.
Like the rest of my Fitzsimons aunts, uncles, and cousins, they propelled this young boy toward the positive things in life. I can never honor them enough for their loving care and guidance that has influenced me forever after.
I tell much about their early lives in my book series, The O’Shaughnessy Chronicles.