As the oldest of four boys, growing up amid the open spaces of Iowa, I was used to having more than my share of freedoms. Walking to school, fishing alone at night on a nearby river, and patrolling the neighborhood on my trusty Schwinn bike were all activities that I took for granted. So was watching television. My brothers and I never abused the TV privilege but we certainly enjoyed catching a college football or basketball game. My parents, who were both big readers, weren't fans of TV, and tried to limit our viewing opportunities.
When I was about eleven, one autumn day my brothers and I came from school and discovered to our horror that my father had installed a lock on our television. He said that he would unlock it for two hours every week, but that otherwise, it would remain closed for business. My brothers and I were shocked, irritated, and slighted. Arguments ensued. Ample time was spent cooling off in our rooms. Yet our parents didn't waiver.
At first we filled the holes that had been created in our entertainment landscape by spending more time outdoors. But as the weather turned nasty, we were forced to search out indoor forms of amusement. With some reluctance, we entered the world of books. Though I had always been a good reader, it wasn't until this moment that I truly discovered the joys inherent in literature. Soon I was reading two or three novels a week. A few of them were classics, but most were escapes into lands of dragons and wizards, samurai and shoguns. I began to read at all hours of day and night - while walking to the car, warming up the shower, heading out on vacation, and pretending to sleep with the covers over my head and a flashlight in my hand. I consumed books and they consumed me.