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Howdy Doody Time
Saturday, November 27, 2021
The very first song that I remember singing to myself while watching TV was this: “It’s Howdy Doody Time/It’s Howdy Doody time/Bob Smith and Howdy too/Say “Howdy do” to you/Let’s give a rousing cheer/‘Cause Howdy Doody’s here/It’s time to start the show's kids, let’s go!” I would sing it at the top of my lungs, and I could even feel it in the pit of my stomach. Ironically the TV show didn’t give me pleasure, but more of a horror; due to that, I found Howdy Doody slightly sinister. Nevertheless, my grandparents gave me a slightly smaller version of the Howdy Doody doll. At first, I didn’t want to open the package because it had a nice picture of Buffalo Bob holding Howdy on his lap. There was the phrase in small print on the box: “Say, kids, what time is it? Then in big print: “It’s Howdy Doody time!” Once the package was opened, the spell was broken, and the doll became mine. It was no longer his time but my time.
I placed the doll on my rocking chair that faced my bed in my tiny bedroom, entirely away from my parents’ room. As a procedure, and since I was a restless sleeper, I would say goodnight to the doll. Also, I would make sure that it would face me; the way I was positioned in bed, I could look directly into his eyes. Either my father or mother would turn off the light after falling asleep. I never liked to have the lights off before I fell off to sleep because I was petrified of the dark. Once the lights were out, I felt I was entering another world. My bedroom seemed to change its mood or take a life of its own. I noticed the shadows caused by the tree in front of the back porch lighting would sway if it were windy outside. It didn’t exactly scare me, but I was thankful that I was in a covered bed, full of blankets, and therefore I could hide my eyes.
I have often woken up to the sound of the chair rocking back and forth. Once I was fully awake, the sound stopped. I could barely see it in the dark, but I could make out Howdy Doody’s eyes staring at me. I went back to sleep - but this happened maybe three or four times a week. I would never leave my bed in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom because I found my bedroom scary in the dark a.m. hours and was fearful of Howdy. I always had the feeling that the doll was alive, but never sure. I would notice little things like maybe his head would be tilted in a particular direction when it should be facing the bed. Or even once, I found his leg crossing his other leg, which I thought was impossible because I always placed Howdy on the chair with his legs straight out. I would never obsess about it, but I have to say the thought of it was in the back of my mind. Thinking back now, I think I was suffering from a mild version of “pupaphobia,” which is a fear of puppets. I never told this to my parents, or any grown-ups, because I was embarrassed about my worries.
After many days of hard rain, we had a mudslide one rainy afternoon, which destroyed our home. What was once a structure became splinters, mud, and nothing else. There wasn’t even a foundation. The house was built on the side of a hill with stilts facing down the mountain. If we were in the structure, especially me, we would have been killed. My bedroom would have been the first to get hit by the mud and rocks. We were fortunate that all of us (the family) were out that day. The tragic thing is that we lost everything in the house. We were homeless, and if it weren’t for the kindness of our neighbor, we wouldn’t have shelter over our heads. A few days later, that neighbor came up to me with something in his arms. He brought me closer to him, and he said: “look what I found on the hillside.” It was Howdy, but a very battered Howdy with his eyes missing and his left hand. This always bothered me because I’m left-handed, and I thought this was a bad sign for some reason. I wanted to throw the doll away because I felt my entire life went down that hill, and I didn’t want to have this ‘object’ to represent the only toy or object that I owned and what survived in my life. Nevertheless, the adults around me thought it was a good luck charm of sorts. So the one-eyed, one-handed Howdy was cleaned-up and placed in a chair by my sleeping bag in our neighbor’s living room.
Now that I’m 67, I still have this doll. I place it on a chair facing my bed. At this point and time, besides my mom, this doll has known me for the longest time. I want to think that my last sight will be looking straight at Howdy’s face with his one eye gone before dying in my bed.