Making it ours

While Mom had us racing to see who could roll the most old, rusted barbed wire fence in the biggest roll the fastest in teams of two she used the lawn mower to take down a field of now fully grown swamp grass and graze.

You know the routine. Tip up the front of the mower, roll it ahead, lower it slowly over the very tall grass until it is back on the ground - repeat until the mower quits in protest.

We were trying to clear some of the ground between the pond and the house. I guess someone had a horse or a cow there years ago. The fence posts were so rusted they broke off more often than they pulled out. The barbed wire was rough and nasty with rust and more; spider webs the size of beach blankets, weeds, and mystery stuff.

But Mom wanted yard, not field, so we tugged and pulled and rolled and pulled and pushed and dragged for a whole weekend while she kept stalling the mower. The grass was hip high on us and it was just a standard power push mower. It couldn't take it. She blew it up. There was a loud CRACKing noise, a billow of black smoke and the mower went to mower heaven.

When dad got home she asked him to fix it and he went through the roof about five minutes into the job. It needed a whole new motor and it was a brand new mower! When he asked her what she did to it she said, "Just mowing the yard." and he laughed in her face.

I guess it must have been under warranty as it got fixed and Dad didn't rant about it anymore. Mom got her side yard down to where the spring made it too soft and wet to mow. Another twenty feet and she would have been mowing the bank of the pond.

The path to the pond ran right through the wet spot. Being resourceful kids we dragged an old barn board down and tossed over it. I don't know why we bothered. It kept us from getting our feet wet but two minutes later we would have them hanging in the pond anyway....Kids!


The pond, the dam, the pool below the dam and the creek became ours. We never saw the state there so who cared if it was really "state land". We had paths both ways around it and another down to the creek where the swimming hole was cool and shaded all summer.

You couldn't go completely around the pond without a boat, the swamp at the far end was nasty and deep. So "Our family name here's Path" ran along the west side of the pond and around the "lagoon" and back to the far road while the trails on the other side went back to my stump and over further east to the sand pit, the swamp and the pines.

Along with the cows, horses, chickens, goats and assorted critters we kept as our own over the years there were deer, chipmunks, raccoons, squirrels, rabbits, wild dogs, geese, ducks, herons, cranes, frogs, moles, possoms, porky pines, ground gophers, beavers, foxes, wood chucks, owls in assorted sizes, snakes and many kinds of birds. They were OURS! You did not mess with them! Fishing was ok, but hands off the animals.

The pond below the dam had pan fries and bullheads while above the dam there were large and small mouth bass, monster pike and what we called hammer handles, the little pike, blue gills, sunnies, a few perch, crappies, and minnows all over. Lot's of people came to fish there. In the winter we would have a little shanty town and we were friends with a lot of the people that came out.

We were not, however, friends with the idiot who kept trying to run traps on the pond. We had Ozzie and a cat for mousing now and didn't need them losing a leg. The boy wasn't all that smart, either, he was just little and could have easily gotten snagged by one of the open jaw types this person used tagging after us..

As soon as we spotted the first one in the fall the little kids would take the family path while Vee and I took the trails on the east and we would use a stick to pop all the traps. We were not allowed to "steal" so we had to leave them them but I don't think the guy ever took another animal after that first coon we saw dead and bloody laying under the trees in the sunshine by the bank. Once he started we checked every day and when they were re-set, we re-closed them.

We were not being animal activists, those were our friends! On the shore of the far swamp we had chippies that would come out and eat cookie crumbs from our hands. The Mama Rabbit in the lilacs would let us watch the babies play. The coons wouldn't come close but would sit and chatter to us while we watched them washing their catch in the creek. The big blue heron would let us watch him gobble frogs and minnies.

For active, energetic kids we could sit really still for a long time if it meant we could get a chickadee to land on our hands or see baby coons playing. The youngest girl, Arr, was really good with the critters but we all had our special places and friends. Back by my stump in the swamp were beavers for a few years. I loved to watch them dragging their sticks and patching their homes.

I don't think we ever missed the TV till after dark and back then one TV channel would come over the FM radio so we listened to that as we did chores and homework in the evenings. Moving us out there and taking away the TV may have been one of the best things that ever happened to us.

We had so much that kids can't anymore. Letting a bunch of girls run alone in the woods would not be safe now. Swimming with no supervision, Ha! Riding bikes on a main road, mowing the yard in a swim suit, playing Tarzan and eating wild mushrooms - I was a very lucky kid. I even knew it back then when I could take a book up a tree and read all of a Saturday with the sun trying to find me in the shade of the old oaks and not a soul to bother me. I am so glad I have those special outdoor places and events to remember.

If I ever hit the lottery I am buying it back.

Comments: 2 Comments:
At 6/11/05 1:27 AM, Blogger Joe Tornatore said...

dam shame we don't have beauty like that picture in new jersey.

At 27/11/05 10:47 PM, Blogger Three Score and Ten or more said...

I haven't got to your archives yet, but I will. Love your little essays. They make me feel like I should be more organized with my stuff. I am not sure whether I got your URL from a comment you put on my blog or if it was a comment on another one, but I'm glad I found it.


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