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Batman

October 26, 2015
Tom Struckman, about 1964, with nephews Chris and Chuck Angel in Dillon, Montana.

Tom Struckman, about 1964, with nephews Chris and Chuck Angel in Dillon, Montana.

October 25, 2015

In 1952 my brother Tom had a batman costume, that is, a headgear/mask made of blue material with pointed ears, along with a cape and blue pants. I don’t know where he got these, but they were upstairs in his (forbidden) room. Of course, I tried them on. I could only imagine the play he had with his friends, probably the Browders. Little Tommy Browder was about the same age as Tom. Tom was “Big Tommy.” Little Tommy in the 1970s changed his name to Sebastian and married Dolly. Dolly Browder was the midwife who delivered my grandson, Roland, just 6 years ago.
Jimmy Browder was a bit younger than I. When he was maybe 6 years old, he had to go about on crutches because something was wrong with his knees. I saw him walking, running, on his bad leg, knee and all. A snap for him, even with the crutches.
Jimmy eventually became a Missoula County Sheriff Deputy and in 1981 I saw his picture in the Missoulian as he carried off the body of my school classmate, Bruce Stoverud, after he crashed his hang-glider in the Hellgate Canyon in June after a sudden thunderstorm caused him to wing-over and die. I heard that Bruce’s mother was devastated, lost her mind, was hopelessly grief-stricken, and died a miserable person. Like that.
My brother Tom had a batman costume, but he helped me fix up an Indian breech cloth. He took a pillowcase that we colored with crayons and looped it through my underpants so that it hung outside front and back. Then we took up bows and arrows. I don’t know where it went after that. Can’t remember. I imagine we dashed in and out of the house, then around the yard a few times, whooping, shrieking.
The world I inherited was one of decay and echoing of good times just past. The ice skates were worn out. The seams down the back of the shoe were separated, the threads torn. The toy cap gun was broken, and my parents were not buying any replacements. In good shape, though, were the miniature figures: the soldiers, the knights. The army men came in just a few models. The grenade throwers had this plastic look of terror. Actually we had some pretty good army men, made of flexible stuff, like rubber. Some of the shooters were prone, some firing from the off hand position.
Later I learned that the standing position of firing was called “off hand” when I went through Marine Corps basic training. I was not happy when I learned that. My will to live was pretty much gone by then. Back to the shooting: such a position is notoriously unreliable. We learned that our bodies’ heartbeats would make the front sight weave a figure eight, so our strategy was to time the weaving so that when we squeezed the trigger the sight would pass the bulls eye. It worked part of the time and I qualified as a Marine marksman.
I think the batman costume, the skates, the cap gun and a bunch of other costume-stuff was in a drawer in the hallway opposite our kitchen where I grew up, at 334 North Avenue West, Missoula. Oh yes. Mittens, too. Socks, hats, plastic belts. None of these things could impress my friends who had better cowboy gear than I had. However, none of them had any batman accouterments, either, because they didn’t have a brother who was a genius like I did. I always had that ace card. That was my brother Tom. And his things.
I boasted about his things, but if he caught me with any of them he would beat me up. Getting beat up wasn’t the worst thing. It generally meant that he would knock me down onto the ground and punch me in the arms. And curse at me. It really didn’t hurt. It was always worth while to steal my brother’s things. His cool things.
He had elaborate model airplanes, some of them made with tissue and balsa. A phonograph with many classical records. Mozart, Bach, Brahms, Haydn. A Persian rug. A model train set. A book he made about his family’s travels around the southwestern United States. Cub Scout stuff, especially rubber molds for plaster of paris. A pirate plaque he made of copper. No end of cool stuff. A couple of rifles. One of them was my grandfather’s 30-30, the other a Winchester .22 single shot. Of course I played with both of these for hours. Tom had a yellow desk with a cigar box in the drawer with many “I Like Ike” buttons and 12 deeds, each for a square inch of land in the Yukon. Tom said someone could mail the deeds in and receive the land in a burlap bag that someone would shovel in. There was a slip of paper that he wagered with someone that the “Dean Machine” would ultimately be found to be a fake. I think he won that bet.

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2 Comments
  1. Hi Dan. In your ‘Batman’ you wrote: “Little Tommy in the 1970s changed his name to Sebastian and married Dolly.” Actually, it was Tom’s older brother, David, that had the nickname Sebastian. But David did marry Dolly. Tom married Carolyn (I saw both at my 50th high school reunion last August.) Jim, whom you described correctly, recently retired from the police force in Kalispell. I really do enjoy ‘insearchofbud’ especially your musings about your childhood, going all the way back to when your dad and mine taught Journalism together in Missoula. It was in your room upstairs at 334 North Ave West in Missoula that I read my first Mad Magazine (your copy)! Best, Frank

    • Frank Dugan! I can’t begin to describe how great it feels to hear from you! Yes! Thanks for refreshing my addled memory about David Browder. I have many memories and thoughts from that period and you played a large role, as did your marvelous parents.

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