From all the memories I have shared to date it might seem that all we ever did was work. That would be a false assumption. Aside from occasional visitors, my playmates were my younger brother and sister. We had two favorite places to play, the woods and the creek.
Now, besides being nice and cool, both offered endless possibilities. We were surrounded by hundreds of acres of neighboring land which was mostly wooded. There were two or three old abandoned houses to be thoroughly explored and near endless hikes. Uncle Grant’s house was a favorite destination, with a stop at the Thed sheets house along the way. We could always find a new treasure like an old bottle or tin, sometimes a broken tool or even part of a book or newspaper.
We knew where all the good grapevine swings were to be found. On more than one occasion, where a vine was lacking, we could hang a rope to make do. It was always a thrill to hold a rope as you ran toward a sharp drop off and swang out over the abyss. It didn’t take long to develop an iron grip.
Scattered around were several rock outcrops that formed cliffs, some of these were quite large. It was a great challenge for fearless kids to climb as high as possible. One in particular that I remember is across from my sisters current house. I was probably six or seven, with Greg and Tammie being two and three years younger. I had just reached the top and as I gripped what I thought to be a sturdy branch it snapped and I toppled over backwards. Greg and Tammie thought I was dead, but being the loving siblings they are, they continued to play. Eventually they returned to my grandmothers house and she inquired of my whereabouts. When informed of my demise she promptly grabbed the Radio Flier wagon and demanded to be taken to my resting place. I can remember coming to while being pulled along the gravel road in that wagon.
Another of our favorite actives in the woods was building forts. Countless trees were sacrificed and many of my fathers and grandfathers tools were lost to our pursuits. I must say we built some fine structures. One of our last projects was on the site where a portable sawmill had set a few years before, when our grandparents had sold their timber. A huge pile of sawdust was left behind as well as plenty of slabs. I must have been near 12 then. We set five posts solidly in the ground. We attached slabs inside and out to form a hollow wall which we filled with sawdust. We fashioned the roof from more slabs lapped as to shed water. Our skill had progressed to the point that deer hunters were able to use this fort as a ground blind for ten years or more.
On a really hot day, nothing beat playing in the branch. (a small stream for you flat landers). We had three to choose from, neither of which was much more than ankle deep. To increase our options, we would build a dam every chance we got. As with the forts, as our experience grew with age, so did the quality of our dams. The pools were usually narrow and long but we could sometimes swim a short distance. Now swimming in a branch is not for the faint of heart. Its more like a polar plunge. That cold mountain water would soon have your face blue from the cold. Some of our later damns would last several weeks until a big thunderstorm would wash them out.
The freedom we had to make our own entertainment was priceless. I think as a result of all that play, we have all three become great problem solvers . Even with arguments, we worked as a team to achieve our goals. These things have served us well in our adult lives. It may seem like it was dangerous, but times were different then and kids had so much more freedom than is allowed today. We still have all our fingers and toes even though we played with hatchets, axes, and saws. I think children learn a lot about self reliance and responsibility when allowed to do things on their own. I wouldn’t trade any of these memories with Greg and Tammie for all the treasure in the world. I hope you have great memories of your own.