In grade school, the most popular boys had developed a lexicon of cool things to say, which the initiates were allowed to use but those of us on the fringes and beyond could never say without netting silent withering stares of 'how dare you leave your station and try joining our party'!! Cool things like "tink" for when your pencil tip broke (or was actively broken, "tink" spoken with a lilt of glee) or "roar" for when anything went badly, often used when corrected tests were returned. There was "The Cowboy Jig" that one of the gang gleaned from some TV show and showed off to the others in morning homeroom.
By afternoon, at the second recess, an inner core of 8 guys, led by David, Greg, and Jason had developed 5 styles of the Cowboy Jig, loosely based off each others' personalities. Now what we witnessed on that playground, we 4th graders, was a dance of such exuberance and such exhilarating jubilation, our minds were blown. THIS was the very essence of life. We HAD to try it.
The Jig was easy, it only had one step: Bring the knee up while doing a little hop and return to the ground, both feet at the SAME time. That was it. But when we fringers began pumping our pistons and slapping our thighs, some core disciples of the Jig peeled off and forbade us. We did NOT know the "Cowboy Jig" and we were NOT welcome to perform it unless we were accepted by a Chief Jigger.
That night we Fringers went to our garages and basements and driveways, anywhere that wouldn't disturb our families, and we Practiced. We practiced one leg, we practiced the other leg. We practiced high jig and low jig, fast jig and slow jig, circles then squares. We became adept enough to begin creating our own signature styles. And the next day we were back like the Contours Do you loove me, now-ow, that I-I can dance? Watchmenow!.
Well, they didn't love us. Yes we were OK in our execution, and there was SOME merit in our style creations, but we still were not licensed to Jig. That was only for the true Jiggers. We Fringers stewed till afternoon recess where amongst ourselves we agreed to only Jig our signature styles or make up new ones, to avoid copyright infringement, and that no one could tell us not to jig. We started at the other end of the playground and it wasn't long before someone of the True Jiggers was sent to tell us to stop. We told them our jig was not the same as their jig and we would go on doing it. That was that.
The days the followed were filled with intense jigging showdowns. Dance offs. All showdowns were to be judged by a True Jigger. By the end of a week there were 3 recognized Cowboy Jig Posses. By the end of two weeks, the girls had taken their fists off their hips and were joining up. There were reports that the 5th and 3rd grade recesses were forming their own posses. More judges were brought to the core. At home, True Jigger and Fringigger practiced alike. Sure we needed to hone our skills and create cutting edge styles but more than not it was just plain hard to stop jigging.
Halfway through the third week, in morning homeroom, the principal announced: "There is to be no more "Cowboy Jigging" on the playground, at recess, or in the school." Evidently the pandemic was spreading a little too fast, a few fights had broken out and the teachers were sick of the whole thing. Sad and crushed as we were there was a certain pride that the Cowboy Jig had become an official sport recognized even by the Principal.
Another word from the lexicon was "42" and this was the word I was aiming to talk about before the Jig carried me off. It seems someone of the gang, Todd or John probably, had read Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and managed to communicate a sense of the climax to the others. This super computer the size of a planet, after thousands of years of computing is spitting out the answer to the question "What is the meaning of life?" Sages, truth seekers, wise ones, wizards, etc. have gathered from across the universe, and thronged the planet with bated breath. The answer is ... "42".
At first the guys scrunched their faces "What? That's dumb" and then they began to see the humor of the whole thing. Thereafter every mention of the word forty-two was filled with significance and ripe with implied humor. The teacher would say "Please turn to page 42" and about the room, like a coven of owls, would be heard "Forty Twooo, Forty Twooo, forty twoooooo!" Often, in the face of a stumper math question, when even the smart chicks were quiet, a hand would go up and a deadpan voice would ask "Um, 42?" Titter titter. Being on the fringes I suppose strengthened the impact of any 'cool' catchphrase and to this day at the mention of "42" a little owl in my head goes "Forty Twooooo!"
So coming back to the present I find a magical delight in beginning this family excursion as I turn 42. This is the time, of course, when midlife anxieties should be charging like bulls, (and perhaps they are, my wife could tell you) but things seem well in hand. Look! I have a truck, a nice big truck. Look! I have a family that all want to do the same thing. And Look! I have a beautiful wife who can read my mind and my heart. (In our first year of marriage an argument peaked with Bethany exclaiming "What do you want from me?!" I replied "I want you to read my mind and tell me what I'm thinking." This was not well received, to put it mildly.) But now Look! I could never go near another woman without Bethany knowing what I was thinking and feeling before I did. I love that! I love my wife!
I am, at almost 42, exhibiting signs of reveling in my glory days, but the Tale of the Cowboy Jig is understandably hard to pass up. The freedom I experienced jigging is quite akin to the feeling I have now, untethering the family and stepping out in faith. It's a bit on the wild side. A friend of mine deep into numerology says the meaning of 42 is Perfecting Freedom. I'll take that! And I'll buy that the answer to "What is the meaning of life?" is 42.