Jay, Day, Say and Ee lived across the street on the south side. Down and across the other way Dee, Vim and their brothers Doo and Uoo lived. We had enough kids for most games and they all had real bikes! Sometimes they would let us have turns. That was great!

We'd get better accquainted later, have fights, divisions, reunions, aplologies, and all the rest that a group of almost 20 has to deal with. Right now, day one, we only knew Jay and Day and sort of knew Say, Ee and Bay, their older brothers. Their dad was our mailman and Jay was the victim in the yo-yo incident.

At the end of our block was Way, an only child, I think. He didn't play with us very often. I never learned much about him, he was pretty quiet.

Across the street from him were May, Nay and their little brother, Quay. Next to them were an older boy Doy, his older sister La, sister younger, my age, also named Val, and a younger brother, Fee.

That was the neighborhood. We lived here till I was 12.


A New House

The move to the white house was good for all of us in the long run. We girls got down to two in a room and Aboy had his own place. That cut down on bickering so Mom had less referree-ing to do. It was a little less crazy and that was good.

The yard was bigger, we had more kids our age to play with and we were still only a block from the store, a block from the church hill, and 3 blocks from school. It was 4 blocks to downtown and 5 to the library. 7 blocks to the river side park. 3 miles to the dad's folks farm and 4 blocks to the mom's folks apartment. It was our small world. It was good.

We didn't have any noisy neighbors, we WERE the noisy neighbors. Dad worked on race cars and motorcycles for himself and his friends after work. There was usually an extra vehicle or 3 around. One uncle/2nd cousin liked to enter the Demolishion Derby at the county fairs so there was a junker or two sometimes.

I had 3 motorcycles before I was 12 but only owned each till someone offered dad enough money to make him sell them. I hated that. I could only ride around the yard on them unless he trailered us out to state land so I guess it didn't seem like that big a deal to him. Having been told, "this one is yours" I tended to think I should be asked before he sold them, at least. One of them I really wanted to keep. It was a sweet little 125 cc Suzuki, medium blue original paint job, shiny chrome, good tires, started easy (kick start). I cried when he sold that one.

We had a corner lot with a church parking lot behind us and a kind of "strange but nice" couple next door to us. They had a million cats. One of their kittens was born with 5 legs, that was fascinating to us, we didn't understand about in-breeding then. They always let us play with their cats and they didn't holler at us for playing in the side yard. They were good neighbors.

This house also had a big front porch with a wide railing around it and 3 columns. You could dance on the railing, I know because we did! We could sit out there when it was raining and watch the storms lashing the trees.

There were several trees but only one really good climbing tree. We were only supposed to climb if an adult was home but, like most children, we figured what an adult didn't know couldn't hurt us.

So I was almost 8, that makes the others almost 7,6,5, and 2 when we started life in the big house.


Cabin Tales 3

On a hot summer afternoon we would hang out under the maple trees by the fence and watch what we called "the horse races"

We used to really enjoy watching the cousins, Fum and Wu, try to catch Dusty, the horse. Dusty was nothing special as far as I know, as a horse. Just a dark brown gelding with a black mane and tale. The second cousins kept him for riding, they said. It looked to us like they kept him for chasing.

The horse was quick, limber and smart. The cousins weren't. Dusty could turn on one hoof. He'd raise up, stand on one hoof, spin, leap forward, land, raise up, put his weight on the other hoof and spin the other way. He would put his head down between his front legs, brace himself then leap backwards!

He delighted in running over by the shade trees, waiting for them to come at him from both sides and then leaping between them, making them back peddle to avoid being run over.

We were cheering for the cousins because we all wanted a ride but we cheered for Dusty because he was so good at evasive tactics.

Mom's bro, Uncle Ar, used to come up and spent days with us. He would help get wood for the stove cut and fix things, like the car, for mom. It also gave her a chance to get some shopping done without the "horde" tagging along.

We liked Uncle Ar but he was a little daunting for such a small uncle. We learned quick that we couldn't trick him, he always looked under the beds if we were cleaning our room. He knew just the right way to sweep floors so the dust bunnies didn't run off as he ran the broom. He tried to teach me but I was a "fast" sweeper and never really managed to get the bunnies all corralled.

One time we were all going to the beach. Uncle bought us dogs and buns to cook on the way to the lake. Aboy got cranky and we left early for home. While mom was putting Aboy down, Uncle built a fire and got us all weenie sticks with his pocket knife.

We all sat there and ate the dogs that had been in the car for a whole day. Boy, what a mess 4 sick kids make for two sick adults to clean up. Cee still won't eat a hot dog!

Dad came up a few times that summer and we were always glad to see him but he didn't stay long. We were told he had to get back to be at work.

One weekend he came up to help us pack up and go to the new, white house we were moving into.

I ran back into the cool, dark, empty cabin to tell it good bye while the rest were loading up the car. It seemed so sad to have us leaving that it made me sad to go.

By being "last in" I got a window seat in the car. I hadn't learned to not look back yet so I got up on one knee and watched as the cabin got smaller and smaller. The breeze made it look like the lilacs and the willow were waving good bye.



Cabin Stories II

We had lots of things to keep us busy that summer. There was a lake nearby where Mom would take us to swim on hot days. That meant getting 5 of us changed into swim suits, finding the swim toys, towels, and sunscreen and packing a chair for Mom. We would make sandwiches and Kool-Aide to take with us so we could make a day of it.

We loved going to the lake. There was a dock to jump off, lots of beach and the water was every temperature from cool and shaded to shallow and warm. There were other kids to play with, new games to invent and places to explore.

The lake life guard wasn't so glad to see us after the first few visits, sad to say. My little brother was most of the reason she dropped into a football blocker stance when she saw the car pull up.

I was a typical eldest helper girl. When we got there the other kids would break and run for the water but I would help Mom get the towels and such to the beach. I was supposed to keep an eye on all of them, as would Mom, but they were pretty quick.

Aboy would launch for the dock the minute the car door opened. He would run as fast as his short legs could go and shoot down the length of the dock to fly into the lake. This was acceptable behavior from most kids just getting out of a car after a long, hot ride. His problems were that he was just a little, skinny two-ish year old with no hips that couldn't swim.

Mom would turn from the trunk with an armload of beach paraphernalia to see Aboy's butt hanging in the breeze as his trucks shimmied to the ground while he ran. No problem there, he just stepped out of them and kept going. He was too far for her to catch now, even if she could try to reach speed by dropping all the stuff in her arms.

We both watched in resignation as he raced on down the board dock, passing laughing people all the way. There was no hesitation at the end of the wooden walk, he just kept running right into the air until gravity modestly covered him with water. Completely. The child sank like a rock!

The first few times this happened the life guard jumped right in after him and fished him out. He looked like a spastic frog, rubbing at his eyes, blinking, gasping for breath and crying. She brought him back to Mom, picking up his suit on the way, and depositing the crying child in her arms with his suit on his tummy.

The life guard would say something like, "I can see he is a quick one, you might want to watch him a little closer," while Mom shrank under all the "bad mother" thoughts that were being flung at her from every side of the beach that had seen the event. Not to mention her own thoughts of incompetence.

About our fourth time to the lake we had the problem solved. Mom put a draw string in the swim trunks and would tie them on tight before we left. Then, about a mile from the lake, she would have me put the new floats they came out with that little kids could wear on their arms on Aboy.

When the doors opened on the car I saw the life guard get down out of her stand and head toward the dock. Aboy achieved his usual rocket speed and went for the water. His little head was down and his arms were rocking from side to side but bent at the elbow to hold his floaties on.

The life guard stopped in shock. Aboy's suit stayed on, he cleared the end of the dock and jumped. His head popped up like a cork. He shook the water off his face and crowed his success then started "swimming" in a circle.

Mom and I carried the chair and towels to the beach and put them down in the shade. She dropped her beach robe on the chair, waded into the water and went to tow Aboy back to the shallow part of the lake in front of our stuff.

Now do take note here - While Aboy did get scolded for running off the dock, reminded the water was deep and he couldn't swim during the first dunkings, Mom didn't expect this to change anything.

We girls were all bigger, stronger, faster and more experienced than he was and this always caused a problem for him. He'd do anything to keep up with us! Mom didn't try to stop him from keeping up his way, she found a way to make his way work without getting him killed.

There were no laws enacted that made all children under 5 feet tall stay off the dock or anyone under three wear flotation vests at the lake. We were never barred from the beach. People expected kids to do dumb stuff and hired trained life guards to pull them out and do CPR on them. How else are they going to expand their abilities and become self confident adults?

There were kids who didn't grow up with me, they drowned, fell on the dock or dived and broke their necks, or had other accidents. Those of us that survived were able to deal with life better for our learning experiences. Maybe we weren't the fittest, but we learned to LEARN.

We learned wet docks are slippery, you should walk on them carefully, we learned to swim better, we learned that even keeping a three point stance in a tree you can fall on your butt, that your best isn't always good enough, that bad things happen sometimes for no reason. That a buddy system is best because usually one can run for help or a rope or tree branch to pull you back in with.

You can't keep everyone safe all the time, the system isn't built to accommodate it. It's supposed to be challenging to grow up so you have adults that know how to survive the variety of situations life throws at them.

Take your, "no riding in the back of an open pick up", seatbelt and helmet laws and shove 'em.

And, just to let you know I am not unaffected by the accidents of life, I will give you a heads up. Aboy did NOT grow up with us all the way. We lost him when he was 12. That story comes later.

I still believe we must have the option to experience life in the way we choose, not be legislated into being safe every minute of every day.


Cabin Stories

Living at the cabin was mostly fun for us. We had chores but they were always done has a team so they went fairly quickly. We had lots of time just to play outside. We got to meet a lot of the family we didn't know very well.

We hadn't been at the cabin one full day when I went up the willow out back to see how high I could go. I got pretty far up there before a branch broke under my foot. I had a "3 point stance" for climbing but, when the one under my feet went, the one I was holding on to gave out when my full weight hit it.

I fell about 20 feet, trying to snag a branch all the way down but failing. I landed flat on my stomach. Talk about your belly whoppers! I just laid there for awhile, hoping someone would come help me up. I felt like I couldn't move anything, not a finger.

When I could get up I went in and told mom what happened. She doctored up all my scrapes but forbid us all the willow after that. It was a great climbing tree but we had to stick to hardwoods.

One day an Aunt stopped to visit us. She got right down in the lilacs to see what we were doing. Who knows what we had going on, could have been any thing from playing house to drunken astronaut...more about that one later. Anyway, this lady was little, only about 5 inches taller than me at almost 8. She had long, black, wavy hair that was really thick. She ended up teaching us how to whistle with a blade of grass.

Now this looks easy. You find a wide blade of grass that is as long as your hand from the base of your thumb to the top of your index finger. That can take awhile. Once you find it you pick it as close to the ground as you can. You put the widest end at the base of your hand near the thumb and catch it with the base of your other hand. Now, get ahold of the smaller end between your index fingers and pull the grass up tight between both fingers. Then you just put your hands up to your lips and blow through them and over the blade of grass.

Our way was like this. Some people just do it with their thumbs holding the grass. See which way makes the loudest noise. That's what we did for about an hour.

Then the little aunt tried to teach us to pucker whistle and tooth whistle. We made all kinds of noises but whistling wasn't one of them for a long time.

We were real country girls. You couldn't get us in a dress if it wasn't Sunday and we didn't wear shoes except to go to church or town. Mom despaired of ever having us be "real girls" because we wore shorts or jeans and t shirts because they were quick to get in and out of and didn't get hung up on the branches when we climbed trees.

One of our chores was to bring in the cows for milking for Uncle Gee. We liked doing that! We got to run through the fields, find the cows and then convince them it was time to go in for milking. They were pretty easy to herd, usually they were headed for the barn anyway.

One beautiful afternoon (again) we headed out to bring in the cows. With the four of us being so short, we were usually strung out a little, we needed to optimize our visual ability.

We had walked further than usual looking for the cows, they were way back on the south side in the shade by the swamp.

I was barefoot, as usual. We were trotting along briskly, now that we had spotted the cows, to get around behind them. The sisters were spread out on either side of me. My foot came down on something big, round and cold. I paused and looked down just as I felt it slithering out from under me. It was shiny, black and green and gold and huge!

"SNAAAAAAAAKE!!!" I screamed. All the girls screamed! The cows, completely startled, took off running for the barn without us. That was good because we were booking back for the house as fast as we could go! I think we all beat the current land speed record!

I went tearing in the house and told mom I stepped on a snake and she just said, "Did he bite you?"

I shook my head, no. "Maybe next time you will wear your tennis shoes."

A little later a grumpy Uncle Gee came down to tell us we couldn't make the cows run to the barn, they had to walk. They wouldn't milk well if you made them run.

Mom told him what happened and he sniffed, "Should'a known a bunch of girls would be scared of a little ol' snake. Make 'em wear their shoes next time," he snapped, "that's what they're for!" and went back home.

more later.