Recently I saw a picture on social media of a kid swinging on a grapevine. The writing on the picture said “How many of you remember doing this?”. So that got me thinking of all of the fun times I had growing up without constantly sitting in front of the TV or playing video games. I was only allowed an hour of TV after I got in from school. I usually watched either The Big Valley, The Wild Wild West (the TV series, not the movie), or The Virginian. And yes, I had big time secret crushes on James Drury (The Virginian) and Robert Conrad (James West). On Saturdays it was two hours of morning cartoons (Bugs Bunny) and then outside to play.
I am an only child so when I was about 6 or 7 I was beyond thrilled when a family with five girls moved in just down the road and became my neighbors! We took turns playing at each other’s houses when it was raining but on sunny days we would meet in the dairy cow pasture to wade in the creek or to catch crawdads and minnows. We would also try to dam up a spot with rocks to make a swimming hole but we never did quite master the dam building technique. Our parents set up a picnic area in a wonderful patch of woods next to the creek complete with a picnic table made out of a big telephone cable spool. We also had a swing that was hung in a big pine tree. On Sunday afternoons we would cook hotdogs and hamburgers and play until we were worn out!
Other summer days we would take our bicycles to the empty bunker silo at our dairy barn down the road and ride around and around on the concrete pad. I remember playing cops and robbers one day and the deal was to yell “Help! Help!” when we wanted the “cops” to come save us on their bicycle and chase “the bad guy”. My grandmother, who didn’t drive, could hear us yelling “Help!” from our house up the road. She panicked and called the neighbors to drive down to the barn and check on us. Needless to say that forever ended our cops and robbers game.
The barn loft was another fun place to play. We would restack the hay and build forts to play in. Most of the barn cats would go up in the loft to have their kittens. The mama cats would usually pick a secluded spot way back in the hay bales. When the kittens were old enough they would come out of hiding and play with us on the hay bales too.
My friend Marcia and I would take walks up the hill behind our house. We felt very “grown up” when we were allowed to go by ourselves. Of course Nanny kept watch on us as we trudged up the long hill. The view at the top was worth every step! “Up on the hill” was and still is one of my family’s favorite places to picnic although we don’t get up there nearly as much as we used to.
We also had a place that Daddy had beef cattle we called “Over Yonder”. “Let’s go over yonder and have a picnic” we would beg our parents on summer weekends. We loved going there because we knew that is where the good grapevine swings were. When I saw the picture recently on Facebook I immediately sent it to Marcia and said “Do you remember when?”.
When we got to our picnic spot (at Over Yonder) it was the kids job to find a “sturdy” grapevine that we hoped would hold us while the adults cooked hotdogs and set out the food. After our meal we would all go to the grapevine swing. The good ones would swing you out over the hill and were much more exciting because you had a longer way to fall. I remember that the vines were rough and would hurt your hands but you held on tight. Sometime you would get a good push and then “wheeeeee!” you would swing way out and back.
The adults took part in the grapevine swinging too! Marcia reminded me the other day that her dad, who had had polio and walked with crutches, took his turn on the vine with the others. We were fearless grapevine participants and sometimes came away with bumps, scrapes and bruises caused by a broken vine or a tree that somehow got in the way. But that didn’t stop us from finding the next “perfect” vine to swing on.
Sleigh riding in the winter was also such a fun time. When school was out I would walk about a mile up the road pulling my sleigh to go sledding with my friend Paula at her grandparent’s house. They had the perfect winter sleigh riding dirt driveway. If you had plenty of soap to put on your sleigh runners and the top of the snow was frozen and crusty, you could fly down one side of the driveway and halfway up the hill on the other side before stopping. For lunch Mrs. Virginia would fix us rabbit with mashed potatoes and gravy and later we would have hot chocolate. It still makes my mouth water to think about it.
As I grew, during warm weather, creek wading and bicycle riding was replaced by horseback riding and camping. My dad loved his horses and we did a lot of trail riding with friends and family. I miss it all. The beautiful views, sitting by the campfire singing songs, the food, the fun and camaraderie that we all had together and that wonderful smell of horse sweat and leather.
Sigh, I could go on and on remembering the fun times we had growing up without the internet! Such wonderful, priceless memories for which I will be forever thankful. And I am also thankful for the fact that I was not allowed to waste those opportunities by sitting inside.