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Sounds that define a lifetime

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We’ve all experienced a myriad of sounds or noises during our lives, including some that stay with us and become either pleasant or not-so-pleasant memories.

As you read about sounds I recall, maybe you can also reflect on some of your own.

• Cock-a-doodle-do — Although I was not raised on a farm and have never owned a rooster, the sound of a rooster crowing might be among my favorite sounds.

I can’t explain why, but I want to think it’s because when the rooster crows he’s telling us he’s happy and wants everyone to know it.

Heck, if I was as handsome as a rooster and could make the kind of sound he does I’d probably crow, too.

One thing my wife and I do at the state fair each year is visit the poultry barn and listen to the hundreds of roosters seemingly competing for the titles of best, loudest or proudest, with every rooster in the building trying to speak at once.

• Train whistle — Another of my favorite sounds is the one made by a steam locomotive, or any kind of train for that matter, chugging down the track and blowing its whistle.

• Ice cream man — Most of us recall the alluring music of the ice cream truck being driven by the man bringing ice cream bars or Popsicles for sale to kids in the neighborhood on hot summer evenings.

It was not unlike the way things went in the Pied Piper of Hamelin fairy tale.

• Wooden baseball bats — Unless it was at a major league or high minor league game, most of today’s baseball fans or players may not have heard the distinctive, pure sound made by a baseball being hit by a wooden bat.

In past years, all bats were made out of wood. While aluminum bats are used mostly in today’s youth leagues, high school and college ranks, the major leagues still allow only wooden bats.

To baseball purists, wooden bats and not metal bats, regardless of the reason, are still the only way to go.

• Banjo music — Although I enjoy hearing music played by almost any musical instrument, my favorite category is that played with a banjo.

As comedian/actor/banjo player Steve Martin once said during his stage act, “You just can’t play a sad song when you’re playing the banjo. You can’t go ‘Murder, death, grief and sorrow’ when you hear a banjo.”

• The louder the better — Attending an air show featuring the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds aerobatic flight teams, sitting on the front row in the stands at a NASCAR automobile race, (without earplugs) or hearing really loud fireworks at a Fourth of July celebration might be among the loudest experiences available to us.

I enjoy doing all these things whenever I have the opportunity.

• Police/fire/rescue sirens — There is not a parent among us who hasn’t cringed when hearing sirens blaring late at night while sons or daughters were still out on the town either alone or with friends.

Although sirens are necessary and serve a worthwhile purpose, no sound could be more unwelcome or frightful.

Our parents probably had the same feeling years ago when we were the ones still out after-hours.

• Niagara Falls — Water pouring over Niagara Falls on one’s first visit to this place may not be the loudest sound made in nature, yet it is one of the most memorable.

• Theme music — Movie, serial or cartoon themes that played at the beginning of such shows as “Three Stooges,” “Little Rascals,” “Popeye” or “Lone Ranger,” among others, gave a hint of what was about to take place and in most cases it was good.

• Rock ‘n’ roll — My first real exposure to rock ‘n’ roll music probably came from hearing the radio playing in the concession stand at the Five Points Park swimming pool in Wilson during the mid-1950s.

Performers like Little Richard, Fats Domino, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly provided us with a sound different than anything we’d heard up until then and were to ultimately become a trademark of our generation.

Keith Barnes is a reporter for the Johnstonian News. Email him at