Craig Jones Legacy Columnist
In one of his essays dated January 28, 1960, E.B. White wrote about a first love in this way: “I made my first rail journey into Maine in the summer of 1905, and have been riding to and fro on the cars ever since. On that first trip, when I was led by the hand into the green sanctuary of a Pullman drawing room and saw spread out for my pleasure its undreamed-of facilities and its opulence and the porter holding the pillow in his mouth while he drew the clean white pillowcase up around it and the ladder to the upper and the three-speed electric fan awaiting my caprice at the control switch and the little hammock slung so cunningly to receive my clothes and the adjoining splendor of the toilet room with its silvery appointments and gushing privacy, I was fairly bowled over with childish admiration and glee, and I fell in love with railroading then and there and have not been the same boy since that night.”
Later he noted that first seeing a bog “was an inseparable part of the first intoxication of railroading, and, of all natural habitats, a swamp has ever since been to me the most beautiful and the most seductive.” So many senses and experiences can be enveloped inside early loves. I had my boyhood share of them.
I loved watching the Wizard of Oz every February (no DVDs or Netflix then) and how the color changed when the house landed in Oz. I loved the smell of the grass and climbing the trees in the cemetery across the street where my dad had been buried since I was five. This was before ticks and their fearsome Lyme, and I’d bury my face in the grass. I was a trumpet player and loved Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. I loved Edvard Grieg and The Peer Gynt Suite. I loved Jimi Hendrix. I loved falling asleep listening to late west coast Red Sox games with the transistor radio under my pillow.
I loved my poster of Raquel Welch. I loved Jesus and going to church and hearing the footfalls of the ushers on communion Sundays when they’d all walk to the front in unison like an usher army and some of the floorboards would creak. I was intoxicated with words and how they felt in my mouth and how they looked in typeface. I was drunk with books. I loved Scouting and being able to start a fire in the rain and cook swordfish and green beans using tin cans for my cooking merit badge.
I loved the old and musty smell of the stacks in our municipal library. I loved summer nights on the front porch with soft talk as dusk fell and how the red, smoky pith of my grandfather’s pipe became more and more disconnected, seemingly, from the hand that held it in the gathering darkness.
I loved some girls. I kissed my first one, tentatively, when I was eight during our town’s bicentennial in 1962. I looked forward every summer to seeing leggy Peggy from Pennsylvania return to the same rental cottage near our own small place on the lake. I loved the exotic and wonderful smell of the dark, dark girl at our church.
And yet … I loved Lolly Columbe most of all.
With Lolly I had my first sexual awakening and, like E.B. White with his railroads, I have not been the same boy since that night. Lolly Columbe. A lyrical name, that, for a steel support pole in the unfinished cellar of my grandfather’s house where I grew up.
I never thought much about Lolly until it occurred to me one night to shinny up that pole. I shinnied all right … and all of a sudden my little cock was stiff and I didn’t know what was happening. I let myself down and my cock went down. I shinnied again and was hard again. I realized I was in control of this tool I didn’t know I had right there in my pants. Then I went on to learn there were lots of other ways to be in control of my new toy and there was no going back. Never the same boy.
More commonly known as Lally columns, unless being climbed by a boy with his first raging hard-on, poles like that used to be made with structural steel and filled with concrete. I think they’re made of lighter material now. I’ve heard them called jack posts or load bearing posts.
Maybe better to say jack off posts or load wearing posts, because I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only boy to make that discovery.
Nothing like a first love.