Saturday, March 14, 2009
My Review: Side Yard Superhero
The Side-Yard Superhero is an "automythography" written by the President of The University of the Ozarks. Rick Niece grew up in the small town of DeGraff Ohio, where he had a paper route for about nine years. On that paper route he met many interesting people including a woman whose fiancee never came home from WWI, a woman whose usual topware, instead of being a shirt, blouse or dress, was simply a brassiere, and most importantly, Bernie, a boy his own age who was confined to a wheelchair because of cerebral palsy. Based on clues in the book, I'd guess it was set in the late 1950's-mind 1960's. Because of Bernie's handicap he did not go to school, though he longed to do so. Every evening when Niece delivered the paper, the two of them would read Dick Tracy together. Even though Bernie could not do most things typical to a boy of that era and town, Niece befriended him. The book details how Bernie went with Niece collecting one Saturday. It tells of their trip to the town carnival and how Bernie got to ride the spinning teacups (I despise that ride). The title comes from the fact that Bernie was usually in his side yard and from the fact that one year he dressed as Superman for Halloween, when the two of them helped the old lady whose fiancee had died in WWI hand out pumpkin bread for Halloween.
As Niece described his town, I could see the town in which my mom grew up in my mind's eye. When he spoke of everyone knowing you, I recalled the advice my siblings and I were given as young children--if you ever get lost in Durand, tell someone "My grandpa's name is Tom W______ Sr.". When he spoke of Bernie not getting to go to school because of his handicap, I gave thanks that times have changed. This is a special story about friendship between two special young men and I enjoyed it. It is also the story of a different era and place than where my kids are living. It is the story of the unsupervised swimming hole, of kids having paper routes, of traveling carnivals and homemade treats on Halloween. Thanks to Elizabeth at Phenix & Phenix for the book, which is the first in a planned three book series about life in DeGraff.