|Sharon, Pam, Jan with Sue in the tree - 1966|
Sue, my sister, Pam and Bruce Randall and I were the neighborhood explorers. We could be found in a swamp, sloshing in the mud chasing snakes, frogs, turtles or salamanders. We could be found in a nearby pasture full of cows, dodging cow piles as we made our way to the pond or the bull pen. Yes there was a bull pen...a pasture which we had to cross to get access to the "woods" as we called it. The bull pen was really a corral that the bull was kept in...or sometimes kept in. The bull was not always in residence but there was no way for us to know that for sure until we got there. We would climb over the fence if we did not see the bull, then there usually was no sense of urgency. We would skirt the corner of the corral and climb the fence and now were safely in the woods. The corral seemed large to an eight year old girl. It was probably no bigger than five acres but if the bull was present, we ran like hell to the fence on the other side of the corral climbing it as quickly as we could and throwing ourselves over it ....usually in a pile of pine needles and leaves left from last year. Of course we were breathless and laughing, thinking that once again we had out smarted the bull. I honestly only remember see the bull once or twice and do not remember if it actually chased us. But we were certain that it would happen one day! No one ever wore red to the woods!
Once in the woods, we built forts out of tree branches. We climbed so high into the trees that we could see for ever. I remember the feeling of wondering if this branch could hold me....Was I too high in the tree? I remember the tree swaying in the wind and sometimes thinking I might fall out of the tree if it got any windier. I remembered wondering what would happen if I fell but it did not stop me.
We would hunt crayfish in the creek after tromping on the skunk weeds to get there. We would come home stinking to high heaven! We would lay in the field eating the green pears from the pear tree and watch the clouds as they drift across the sky. We would talk about what the clouds looked like and time would stand still. We discovered a small swimming hole in the middle of the nature preserve. It was a small sandy beach. The water was cool and four kids could not help but get in, our own private beach. We spent many days playing in the water there. This area of the Stoney Creek park was north of the dam on the Creek side of the nature preserve.
My sister had met a new friend at school and she lived at the Stoney Creek Nature Center. Her dad was the ranger. The Nature Center was new and a fun place to visit. We did not realize that the woods we played in were a apart of this nature preserve area. At the Nature Center, there were defined nature trails and many things to see and do. We were bound and determined to figure out how to get there thru the woods. Mom would not let us walk the road to the Nature Center because there was too much truck traffic due to the nearby gravel pits. We knew where it was because Sue's friend rode the bus with us and some times she spent the night with here friend. We decided we would try to find the "back way through our woods" to the Nature Center on Inwood Road. It was at that point during our exploration that we discovered the gravel pit.
We had heard large equipment near the woods sometimes but it was always off in the distance and during the day during the week in the summer. As we wandered further into the woods than we had ever gone we came upon an area which was fenced off with an extra tall chain link fence. Insided the fence we saw large piles of gravel and sand and a lot of large earth moving equipment. On the fence it was clearly posted, "No Trespassing" ! It was the weekend and there was no one there. "How would they know if we walked thru the gravel pit to get to the Nature Center? " we wondered. SO over the fence we went. As we proceeded through the gravel pit we were enticed by the large mounds of gravel and sand. It is very difficult to resist the temptation to run up a pile of sand and then roll down it again when you are 9 or 10 years old! So before we knew it, instead of just walking thru as we had planned, we had begun to play...with all the interesting stuff we found. First the sand piles, then the gravel piles. Then we found a pond. We threw rocks into a pond but could not tell how deep it was and apparently were not interested in swimming.
As we made our way to the front of the gravel pit, we came upon an area which we could not quite figure out. It looked like a pit of sand. It has a small amount of water on top of it. It reminded us of our swimming hole. I think that Sue was the first to venture onto it and with her first step she began to laugh. "I'm walking on jello!" she said and then began to run in a circle. We laughed hysterically as the pit heave and giggled. We thought it was amazing and before we knew it we were all playing on it. We had no idea that were were playing on quicksand until I stopped running and after a few seconds began to sink. I became scared and scrambled out of the pit. I started to cry and begged them all to get out of the pit. Eventually they did...but they still thought it was fun and that I was being a baby! At this point, we moved on trying to find a way to get to the Nature Center. We would soon discover that there was no direct route to the Nature Center and that the front gate of the gravel pit was locked with a pad lock. The only way out of the gravel pit was over the fence just as we had come in!
By then it was late in the afternoon and we decided that we should go back the way we came so we did not get in trouble. I told the rest of the kids if they stopped at the "jello" I was going to keep going. They told me I was a big baby...But I did not care. It scared me. We never ventured into the gravel pit again. The only time we got to go to the Nature Center was when someone could drive us there. Many years later, they had put trails in the woods that we had called out play ground. Some day when I move back to Michigan. I am going to visit the nature area and our old neighborhood and see what I remember.
My parents never knew the things we did as kids in those woods. It is truly a wonder that no one was ever hurt since we were so far away from home. We were gone for 6 or 8 hours and there was no sense of concerned about what we did during that time. The only thing that I remember that they were very strict about was the time that we had to come in the house at night. After dark, they would turn on the porch light and that meant it was time to come in. So there you have it...I did alot of things that I probably should not have. Some of these things I am confessing for the first time...not as a confession but more of a memory revisit.
So what did you do that you probably should not have?