After such a great response from my previous tale of our childhood exploits, I thought I could add just a bit more. Everyone already knows our love of the water. It didn’t have to be deep to play. The hills and hollers are full of small springs, and if you have a good spring, you have salamanders. Flip over a rock and there he is with black beady eyes. It might be brown, black, or even red with black spots. It takes determination to catch one. Besides being very quick they are slippery and just when you have one in a clenched fist he squirts out between your fingers. We would catch them until we got bored, searching for still larger ones until we got bored.
If you had a mind for a little more of a challenge, we would move to a little larger stream and pursue craw fish. Craw fish are found under rocks also. They are extremely quick, plus you have to be wary of those claws. The pinch could be painful but not really serious, though its hard not to flinch when a craw fish assumes a defensive stance with its claws held high ready to take on a misplaced finger. Not so long ago, I spent many an hour with my son on a rocky sand bar of the New River, teaching the art of catching craw fish.
This may seem cruel, but one of our games was to catch a large tub of craw fish and stage battles. They are very territorial and when you place them one on one, they fight like gladiators until somebody loses a claw. ( The claws do grow back.) We would keep introducing a new pair until we had a winner.
We loved to climb trees and we had an abundance to choose from. One of my favorites was a large red cherry tree in my grandfathers front yard. It was a little tough to get a good hold on that first limb, but after that, what a reward. I could easily eat enough cherry’s to make my belly rebel.
One of the best climbing trees was a white pine. The branches tend to grow in evenly spaced circles around the trunk, it makes a natural ladder. Its not unusual for a pine to be 60 to 80 feet tall. If you had the guts to climb high enough the tree top wold start to lean over under your weight. It was thrilling, but terrifying, at the same time.
As fall would come to pass it was time to make a big pile of leaves from the maples, oaks and poplars. We might spend a couple of hours raking a huge pile only to flatten it down with a few screaming jumps in to the crackling cushion. Then we would do it all over again. I’m sure many of you have done the same. Even city kids had this pleasure!
And next came winter. We liked school but like most kids nothing beat a snow day. The mountains of North Carolina could even provide a snow week, sometimes even more. After several days of snow ball fights, sledding and building snowmen, boredom would rear its ugly head. On one morning while mom was at work we stated daring each other to “streak” in the snow. This was about 1970 or so when streaking was a new thing with college kids and was in the news . Finally, Greg and I decided to run around the house together and Tammie would then do her run. Just as we stepped onto the porch we heard the click of the lock as Tammie squealed in laughter. We were mighty cold when she finally took pity and let us back in.
No matter the season, we always played rough and physical. Greg and I fought a lot and I don’t mean in a playful way. Tammie was always afraid we would kill each other. Lots of punching, kicking, and arm twisting. Whatever it took to inflict pain on the other. We didn’t hate one another, far from from it, it was only three type “A” personalities trying to assert themselves. Now fighting between our selves was fine, but woe be unto any one who might attack one of us. We would defend one another unto death.
We didn’t spend all our time isolated in the holler. Our cousins Gary and Pam Bare would get off the bus at our house after school and their mom would pick them up on her way home from work. We would have an hour or two to work on our many shared projects. We tried for the longest time to finish an underground fort but the digging was tough and we just didn’t have the skills at the time to pull it off.
Gary and Pam lived about 4 miles from us just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. In the summer they would walk to our house . Gary was five years older than Pam and he was very protective. He would tie a rope around her waist to keep her from getting run over while they walked down the road. You can tell how much he loved her by the nickname he gave her…Dookie.
In our adult lives we love to talk about all these childhood memories and share them with others. It was a special time and a great way to grow up. We challenged ourselves and one another, almost to the limit. We would try anything and that attitude has served us well through our adult lives.
I hope everyone has fond memories of the things they did as children and can sit back and smile as they cruise down memory lane.