Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Woods - Part One.

Reading Pat's recent posts about Florida and Mushy's hunting posts from a while back got me thinking about my experiences in the woods, both in my childhood and later. I started writing this stuff down about a month ago and put it away in favor of other, more immediate things. Dinners with Mom, concerts and such. I started working on it again a few days ago and stuff started flowing out of me. It's interesting how memories get flushed out, or washed up in the eddies as we read through other peoples life stories and find familiar themes. Anyway, it looks now like it's gonna turn into a series of posts. No tellin' how many I'll have in me, but it'll fill up a good bit of space, so brace yourself. Some of it will be familiar to you if you've been reading my stuff for a while.

I can't really remember the first time I realized I LOVED bein' in the woods. It may have been in England, where there were trees all long the inside of the wall surrounding the housing area that separated us from the Brits. There were deeper woods on the other side of the wall but we weren't supposed to go out there. Part of it included a huge cemetery that fascinated the romantic teenage minds of folks like my older sister and her friends. Our parents would always have a cow if they found out we ventured out there, which made it that much more fun to do, especially for the older kids. I generally stuck to the inner thicket, being a bit afraid of what was out there. It's kind of a theme in my story, but that's for another post.

We moved to England, as many of you may already know, in 1967, for a three year tour of duty. I was the new kid again and it took a while for that to wear off. Just about the time we got ready to leave there I started to have friends and got into lots of fun in those trees. Back there we were hidden somewhat from the prying eyes of the adult world. As miserable as I was for the first two years living there in Carpenders Park, if we'd stayed there for a fourth year instead of moving back to the states I might have learned how to smoke a cigarette, or kiss a girl. Hell, one of those girls was determined. If we'd stayed there for a few more years I might have lost my virginity at about the age of 11!

I tell ya, a few of those girls were wild. I wonder where they are now, and why it was that they were so determined to get things goin' at such a young age. You hear, after all, about girls who've been abused actiong out in promiscuous way. Anyway, they'd grab a few of us guys and lead us into the woods and insist we show them our junk. We didn't need much prompting. We called it our "Strip Club". They weren't as prone to want to show us their stuff but one girl did... In the middle of our third grade class! She turned around to us when our teachers back was turned, as three of us boys leaned over our desks. She grinned and lifted up her dress and there was my very first cooter, clean as a whistle. She didn't have any panties on. Shit we were all only about 9 or 10! Does that make me a perv? Hilarious memories. It astounds me to think back on all that now, knowing what a huge friggin' looser I was for about the next 35 years.

Anyway, We moved from England to Missouri in about 1970. The girls there kept their dresses down and didn't display any interest in me. I was the new kid again, who nobody knew or wanted to have much to do with. My instincts, honed through many years of moving around, led me deep into the woods, into myself.

The woods there were really woods, with endless tracts of solitude shielding me from the nervousness of the new social setting. There were critters to hunt out there, or critters I dreamed about hunting. that's really where my love for the woods began.

Dad got a job running a communications group at Richards-Gebaur Air Force base, working in a huge concrete block building with one door and no windows. It was all very hush, hush. His work took up most of his time, leaving my ass mostly alone to explore the wilderness around the neighborhood.

The street we lived on was called, lyrically, Southern Hills Drive. I found a picture of it on Google Earth the other day, and amazingly enough, it looks like it hasn't changed much. I think our house was the sixth or seventh one over from the bottom right. It was a big white house, like a plantation house from the front, with tall, square wooden columns. It was a split level, with a basement and den downstairs and living quarters and kitchen upstairs. When you walked in the door you were on a landing between floors and you'd ether walk up stares to the living quarters or down to the den.

The back yard was huge, with 12 Hawthorn trees spread out in it, leaving nasty little land mines for us kids to find when we gambled and went bare footed in the summer. The trees would blossom in the spring and by the summer the berries would be heavy on the limbs, attracting all sorts of wildlife. This also left the ground littered with broken off branches with those long needles on them. Damn those things hurt. I still have scars.

Those blossoms are the state flower, or something, and there was no cutting the trees down. It was the only sore point (literally) about the whole place. You couldn't walk around bare footed in the summer without worrying about getting impaled. HUGE friggin' things they were. Hurt like hell! Have I said that enough?

As you can see, the neighborhood was ringed with woods and there was a shallow creek running just beyond everyones back yard. you can see it, running like a crease just beyond the mowed yards in the picture above. Beyond the creek was a huge wooded thicket that led up to a main road and civilization. There was a cool TG&Y up there that was like a toy paradise to us then. It had just about everything a kid needed.

Further up from the road was my elementary school, where I started the 4th grade. Down at the end of our street was a dead end that led to even more woods and taller trees. if you look back at the picture, the dead end was to the left of about the thirteenth house from the right. Everything to the left of that was built after we left. They were clearin' the land for those houses when we left to go back to Texas. I'll post somethin' about that drama later.

There were trails through all those woods, and stories about everything from monster deer that guys claimed to have run up on, to a rape that supposedly happened out there, committed by two glue sniffing brothers from a family that lived up the road. Their house was both scary and fascinating, and I'll post about them later too. There's a lot to tell, and I think I might as well tell it. I think you'll enjoy it.

So, this is enough to get started. we'll talk again in a few. cheers.


Christina LMT said...

I LOVED exploring the woods as a kid. Now I'd be nervous. It's sad how that happens.

Mushy said...

I dare think that the gals were interested, but it was you that didn't recognize the signals! That skill is a big advantage for a guy, so get it and some don't.

I too, as you know, love the woods and spent a great deal of time alone there as a kid. I suppose that's why I loved deer hunting so much.

It's also a wonder you and I didn't turn out to be serial killers!

This is gonna be good...

Old Soldier said...

And a fine start it is. I am looking forward to more of your meanderings.

Suldog said...

Excellent! I look forward to hearing some good stories.

Lin said...

I love my time out in the woods, too!

Hey, I thought MO's state flower was mildew? Jes kiddin'.