I was born on Dec. 25, 1931, shortly after the beginning of the Great Depression.

At the time of my birth, my father had just lost his job as a hardware salesman. Not long afterward, he found employment as an insurance salesman. My mother died of pneumonia when I was four, and I lived with my great aunt until she died two years later. This aunt and her late husband had raised my father, whose parents had died from typhoid fever when he was a youngster. For the next four years, until my father re-married, I lived with my maternal aunt and her family in Waynesboro, Tenn., a small town with about 800 residents, surrounded by forested hillsides, with a crystal clear creek teeming with fish, turtles and harmless water snakes as a dominant recreational feature.

Our house was within spitting distance of the creek, in which we bathed during warm weather. Another aunt and uncle and their three children lived about a block away and their expansive front yard served as a playground for neighborhood children. That uncle, Ralph, hired an 18-year-old boy, named Tee, to watch over the youngsters during the summer. Tee taught us how to fish and occasionally Uncle Ralph would let Tee take us in one of his trucks to a secret fishing hole he knew about where we could always catch a catfish or two. One of our playmates was a pet goat, Billy, which Tee would harness to a wagon he built. Billy would pull us around in the wagon until he got tired.