Henrietta, Texas, August 1955: In a magazine, I’d seen the advertisement for the Rosicrucians. Being eleven, I was uncertain what a Rosicrucian might be, but they did promise to provide the Secrets of the Universe. That sounded pretty handy, so I sent off for free information.
When the free information came, I was clear that it was free, though somewhat less clear just what the information might be. It looked very mystical, and had old and mysterious drawings of wise looking fellows and words in a wierdo alphabet, and astrological signs and odd chemical equipment. It seemed important.
I just wasn’t sure how. Or what it all meant. Or what to do, exactly.
However, my cousins were younger, and so I figured that however little I knew, they knew less.
From this August beginning came “The Mystical Order of the Golden Dagger”.
Being summer and no school, I had plenty of time for the Golden Dagger itself, which I carved with my pocket knife. It was actually more of an Arabian scimitar, which I had seen in my Viewmaster slide about The Magic Carpet. No problem. And of course, I had some paints left over from a ‘painting kit’ which had failed to help me generate anything faintly resembling Van Gough or Talouse Latrec or Guy d’Maupassant.
For the actual Golden Dagger, gold paint was missing, but yellow worked OK.
Then of course we would need a fancy altar with mystical symbols, and a handy wooden orange crate with legs added worked fine for that. There may have been some other mystical things in there, but I don’t remember now.
On a weekend at my grandparent’s farm, I was able to copy the greek alphabet from the back of a large dictionary they had, and also some electrical-wiring symbols. That was fairly mystical. And then I bundled the whole shebang down into the (generally unused) potato cellar which was in the chicken yard. It being dark, and similar to a cave, a person could burn mystical candles and whatnot, there in the potato celler. Oops, I mean the mystical cave.
First, they were made to understand that we had a very important secret society, and they were sworn to secrecy. This seemed to make it very attractive to them, even though I am sure they did not know about the Rosicrucians, like I did.
Then, with great solemnity, we entered the potato celler — oops, I mean the mystical cave — where the mystical alter could be seen, dimly illuminated by candles, as is proper. After repeating the vows of secrecy again (“Cross my heart and hope to die; stick a thousand needles in my eye.”) they were shown the Golden Dagger itself, and even allowed to hold it, and then it was wrapped up in its mystical cloth and returned to its secret hiding place in the mystical altar, and then once more everyone was pledged to secrecy.
So that we could identify our fellow members of the Mystical Order of the Golden Dagger, we settled on a special greeting. Only we would know the deep and mystical meaning of this special greeting. We discussed several possibilities, and finally settled on ‘Cheerio.”
Extinguishing the candles, we left the mystical grotto and returned to the farmhouse, where our grandmother gave us cold apricot nectar. As we drank the apricot nectar, we exchanged knowing glances and nods, but we spake not of that which was forbidden.
For the remainder of the afternoon, we just acted like we were ordinary kids, what with running around and climbing in the trees. The grownups never suspected a thing.
And when it was time for them to leave, Uncle Esty and Aunt Rosemary loaded the boys up into the car, while my mother and I stayed behind a little longer. As they drove away, Bob and Dan thrust their heads out the window.
“Cheerio!” they cried. “Cheerio! Cheerio! Cheerio!”