WINTER GOT YOU DOWN? TIME TO REMINISCE ABOUT THE SUMMER DAYS!!
Slow and sultry summers as a child for me were welcomed with a whirlwind of things to do outdoors. With many friends in the neighborhood, there were choices every day in where to go and what to do – all of which were outdoors. To fill some of the week up, we would collect pop bottles and cash them in for a few dollars, spending hours collecting, counting, and planning what we might spend our money on. Or we might be found hiking the hammock up on the shady backyard trees just high enough that Corky, my loyal best friend hound, could not reach and tease him to jump and try to get us. This always afforded hours of belly laughing for my friends and me. Only when we were all exhausted, including Corky, did the folly end for a while.
…it all resulted in learning for us that created skills which followed us through adulthood.”
More likely though, there would be weeks of playing in the woods, making households in the tall weeds, or planning and digging underground forts. For some unknown reason, this annual task was carried out with the expectation that one day we would have a safe haven to hang out at which was going to be as elaborate as the homes we lived in. It took many an industrious look at the design, math, grunt work, and architecture that created these forts and homes which always carried some lesson.
Be it physical exercise, team work, creativity, or dreaming, it all resulted in learning for us that created skills which followed us through adulthood. It seemed at the time to be shear ingeniousness and kept us all from being bored or lazy. By the end of the afternoon there would surely be a pool party for some of us, and we would welcome the relief from working so hard all day in the heat.
Getting Out and Playing Games
Middle of the week mini bike races in Daniels’ field afforded a venue of contest events with winners getting the “girl” – or at least adoration – that came in the form of begging to get a ride on the back of the winner’s bike. It was as if we were at the Grand Prix; the only thing missing were the grandstands. By dusk, “Kick the Can” or “Ghost in the Graveyard” contests began. Being the queen of winning, I had the ultimate strategy of picking a place for a short time, seeing where, “it” looked, then moving to that place already looked into to hide there until someone else was caught. It became a proven strategy to fool whoever was “it”, and I never let anyone know how I won so often. Once, I remember hiding on top of the open garage door, giggling so much I thought I would surely be caught. As soon as I saw “it” look behind the side door, I crawled down and hid there. I think I used that strategy all summer long and now wonder how I even got up into that location!
As night fell, it was never a problem to get permission to sleep in one of the tents that were up in everyone’s back yard. This was always sure to result in “sneaking” over to the other’s base camp. This required diligent planning, stealth-like actions, and lots of excitement over not getting caught. This would provide another two or three hours of sheer unstructured entertainment that we all benefitted from.
The only interruption throughout our days and nights of outdoor fun was the dreaded dinner bell. As soon as that bell rang from the neighbor’s household, we all knew we had to go home and eat. Like clockwork, it interfered with some outdoor fun we were in the middle of. But everyone went home, ate with the family as fast as they could, pretended to be interested in the rants, and could not wait to get back outdoors thinking we were missing some huge exciting event someone was surely planning for us.
Bringing a Community Together
My father, being the industrious man he was, would always be looking for a community event that would bring everyone out to participate. One summer he came up with the idea to clean up the junk in a creek that ran through our neighborhood. This being the 1970s, which touted commercials of the crying American Indian ads that ran frequently asking people to stop littering on American highways, it was little wonder why there was so much trash in the woods. My neighbors of four boys ages six to fifteen years of age were surely the culprits of a few tires and boards in the creek that were remnants of rejected items for their forts in the woods.
This two day project, in which my father made us tell the neighbors and rally our friends to help, became one of the events of the summer for us. I remember the warm summer day, the dirt and musty smell of the creek which was home to many tadpoles, turtles, and frogs. It felt so good to clean this up and respect the sheer natural habitat that we had taken advantage of and overlooked all summer long. When finished with this project, I remember that someone had released koi carp into the creek with its now clear running water and green foliage around the creek beds for them to swim in. The sight was so satisfying after having worked so hard on it. We soon after had inner tube races down the creek that was now free flowing, which truly provided the feeling of the lazy days of summer that were extraordinarily active and industrious for all of us…way back when.
Your turn! AWM would love to hear what you remember most about summers ‘way back when’.