Next to the Ellis' was another house owned by a woman we'll call "The Crazy Lady." I use this term as an endearment, not disrespect, as you will see by this story. I'll call her Crazy for short. If I ever knew her proper name, I have long since forgotten it.
Crazy was mentally challenged; even we young boys understood she was special. She had built a "space ship" in a wooden shed behind her house. This thing was little more than a piano crate, perhaps six feet high, five feet wide, and eight feet long, and full of things that should have been in a landfill. But to us, it was the nearest thing we had ever seen to a spacecraft other than on TV.
Crazy had painted jar lids and various everyday household items to simulate gauges and dials in a spaceship. She had star charts and a spring-loaded lever that struck a large, five-gallon metal can with a stick, simulating lift off with a loud and vibrating bang.
She had hats that looked like something you see on employees of a fast-food-burger operation today; you had to wear those hats to board the spaceship. And Ms. Crazy carefully monitored the entrance to the spacecraft. There was a door at ground level, used, I suspect, for moving equipment into and out of the spaceship. That was locked, and you entered by climbing a ladder up the side of the shack, dropping through a hatch in the roof, then climbing down another ladder to get inside.
Once inside, the space was cramped, even for little guys. But surrounded by gauges and dials, star maps, and the healthy imaginations of young boys and one moderately retarded adult, you could swear you were rocketing through space. Crazy never let more than about three boys at a time in the spaceship, and only if she was there to make sure we messed with nothing. She padlocked the ship when she wasn't there.
I recall adults at the Home warning us not to go there. I think they knew Crazy was a little daft and were probably afraid to have her around young children.
Now that I'm an adult, I have seen and know the irrational fear that swells in us adults when we meet someone radically different from what we have so arrogantly determined to be the norm for behavior in our society. And, while there is some basis for this fear, I suspect statistics would support my theory that a great deal more harm has been visited on children by their parents and so-called normal adults than has ever been wrought by those folks born with fewer synapse connections than the rest of us, or maybe they are more visionary.
I’m sure that by now Crazy has moved on to whatever reward her simple mind envisioned after death, and somehow I think her vision was probably more fun than most of us hold for ourselves. What I know is that Crazy never harmed me or anyone that I knew. Quite the contrary, she understood the need for young minds to imagine and experiment with what might one day be possible. She brought countless boys hours of fun, and looking at what we've accomplished with space travel in the last fifty years; Crazy may have been more of a visionary than anyone realized.