Thursday, January 20, 2011

Childhood Adventures

When I was a kid, my Grandparents lived on a farm on the outskirts of a small town. We usually spent a couple of weeks there every summer. We always has so much fun that it felt like we were there all summer. It looked forward to it all year, especially when it wasn't going to be just my brother and I, but our cousins Chris and Joey too.

My Grandfather worked as the Assistant Postmaster in town, and my Grandma spent the day with us. Well, spent the day with us is an overstatement. What she really did was throw us out of the house and tell us that if we came back before lunch or dinner was ready, we'd be put to work. Even though it wasn't a working farm anymore, there was always something to be done, whether it was weeding the huge garden, getting the veggies ready for freezing and canning, or scrubbing the old kitchen floor. Things would get worse quickly if she ever heard us say "I'm bored." Of course, we usually found ways to amuse ourselves.

There were acres to roam around on, and roam we did. There were trees to climb, a couple of cows to torment (not recommended), a creek to fish in and old barns to explore. The old train track out back was still in use, but the train schedule was predictable. Once a day, before the sun came up, we'd hear the whistle. By the time we were 8 or 9, the iron rails became our super highway. We could folllow it all the way into town to Johnny's corner store for a popsicle, pretending to be on any number of quests along the way.

My son walking our old railroad bed with his Teddy.
It's been converted to a hiking and snowmobile trail now, and is about 3kms to town.
When Chris and I were about 14 and 13 years old, we had the adventure of a lifetime.  A farmer up the road invited us to come and ride his brand new four wheeler.  We had only just met him at a neighbour's farm, but in those days, a friend of a neighbour wasn't considered a stranger so we were allowed to go. Our younger brothers, at 12 and 11 years old, were not allowed to join us. Not beause Grandma said no, but because Chris and I wanted to exclude them. This was big kid stuff after all!

The directions were simple. "Just follow this road, and when you get to the third road that crosses it, turn left and go the big yellow house on the hill" he said. It sounded simple so we packed a snack and headed out at the crack of dawn. No lunch, no water, no cell phones. Just two kids walking to paradise. The "road" was HWY 30, an old two lane country road, with no sidewalks, lots of creeks, farms, and a stream of trucks and tractors going about their business.

To this day, it's still the hottest day I can remember. It felt like it took us all day to get there. The side of the road was littered with the stuff of childhood imagination. We found a dirty old jacket, a man's hat, an old boot, along with countless sticks to use as weapons to fend off whatever evil creature had made off with the person they belonged to. We wondered aloud what had happened to the man, and came up with countless possibilities, each making me more frightened and braver than the last.

By the time we finally made it, a woman answered the door, looking completely bewildered. Who were we, she asked, and what were we doing there? After we explained, she told us that her husband did indeed have a new four wheeler, but he wasn't home. Disappointed and heartbroken, we accepted a glass of water from her, turned around and headed back home. We made it just in time for dinner, where my Grandfather delighted in our tales of adventure and laughed at his neighbor for assuming that we'd never make it. It's one of my favourite childhood memories.

Chris and I with Grandpa, when we were about 7 and 8 years old
My son and his best friend, both age seven, made their first solo walk to the mailbox last week. It's a whole 62 steps for me to get there and back and it took them about 5 minutes. They were so proud of themselves when they got back. I was worried every second and I watched them, secretely, from the upstairs balcony.  As I listened to my son tell his Dad about their adventure, I remembered my own from so long ago. I looked the route up on Google the other day. It's about six and a half kilometers. How times have changed!


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