The Sand Pit

The long hot days of summer had slowly become shorter to the point where they had turned to the days of fall. And like in all the previous years Greg and I were once again sentenced to another year of sitting in a desk inside a schoolhouse  while all sorts of fun things were happening outdoors and happening without us.  The teacher would stand in front of the classroom throwing pieces of history and prepositions at all of us kids and you had to be on your guard every minute not to be hit by a math problem or a spelling word.  All the time we were inside dodging commas and semicolons the birds were outside singing and the squirrels were scurrying around gathering acorns and running up trees to hide their winter stash and all the while nature was calling our names and pleading with us to come out and play.

It was also the time of the year that Mom hit both of us with her “You two boys really should” speech.  Every night, at the supper table,  Mom would start in on both Greg and me.  ” You two boys really should listen to the teacher a little bit and it wouldn’t hurt either one of you to learn a little something once in a while.  Your father and I don’t make you go to school to punish you, it is the law.  I have a wonderful idea, why don’t you boys quit staring at the outdoors and take a moment to look at the letters in a word and try to figure out what that word might sound like, or even count on your fingers to get the right math answer.”  That would be about the time Greg would tap my leg with his foot and motion towards the window where, just on the other side, one of our bicycles laid in a  heap right where we let it crash when mom yelled DINNER.

One Saturday, at the end of a very grueling school week, Greg and I found ourselves walking from our family’s poultry farm, which was on one side of the town to our house which was on the other end of town.  As we walked we reminisced about our youth and all the fun we had in our younger carefree years and our conversation seem to be stuck on The Sand Pit.

A few years earlier Dave, our next door neighbor and mentor, showed up early one summer morning and said with excitement “Hurry up, you two won’t believe what I just found.”  Greg and I gobbled down what was left of our breakfast and followed Dave out the door as he headed up the hill towards his farm.  About half way between our two houses Dave pointed towards the bushes and said there it is.  Both Greg and I squinted and still couldn’t see anything that looked interesting at all. Not wanting to admit that I had no idea what Dave was pointing at I waited for Greg to say “Look at what?”  Dave came back with “What are you two idiots blind or something.”   Dave affectionately called Greg and me idiots so often that both of us found ourselves answering to that name.

Finally Dave said “follow me” and with that we tramped through the bushes to where the bank started to slope up to the big field that separated our two places.  Dave then pointed at the light colored dirt at his feet and said “do you two idiots know what that is? Its sand,  this whole bank has a bunch of sand in it which means it will be easy digging.  We can dig tunnels under the field and make a big cave to play in.”  “Now”, Dave said, “what I am about to say is important so do your best to try to understand a least a little bit of it. We will want to keep this a secret so as we dig we’ll pile the sand in front, that way it will keep our cave out of view and each day when we are done digging we’ll hide the fresh pile of sand with bushes so it will look like part of the overgrown bank. Then when it is done we will be able to throw things at people and cars as they go by and then hide in our cave. They’ll never know what hit them.”

Dave’s little speech got both Greg and myself all pumped up so we went to digging, all the time hiding the fresh sand as it came out from under the field.  With the three of us throwing the sandy dirt it wasn’t long before we had quite impressive network of tunnels, some going a long ways under the hay field.  It was so big that one day Dave brought his goat, Wobbles, down to see our handiwork.  Wobbles, not ever wanting to ever be left out of anything, dropped to his knees and crawled into the big main tunnel with Greg right behind him.  At some point something scared Wobbles and he decided it was time to leave.  Well, I guess Wobbles couldn’t or didn’t know how to crawl backwards so he twisted his body sideways and somehow got turned around and crawled out the same way he went in. In the process Wobbles caught Greg between the back side of himself and the wall of the narrow tunnel.  After Wobbles got out of the cave Dave and I had to go back in and peel Greg off the wall.

I can’t begin to tell you how many hours we spent digging and playing in our Sand Pit, but like all secrets at that age sooner or later someone has to talk and it becomes public knowledge.  Such was the case with our Sand Pit and faster than the spread of a wildfire our little secret was out.

One day when Greg and I were walking home from the store that was in the middle of the village, we stopped to check on The Sand Pit.    No sooner had we stepped behind the pile of sand that hid the entrance to our tunnels,  I spoke up and said “look Greg someone has written something in the sand with a stick. The second word is YOU but I’ve never seen the first word before.”  Greg got a serious look on his face and started in with “foo  Fuu  fou  uk uk”  and kept trying different combinations of sounds until I finally spoke up and said “There I think you got it, that sounds just like it looks.”  With that we left the sand pit behind and continued our walk home.

The moment we stepped into the house, trying out the new word on one another, we were met with horrible screams that seemed to be coming from our mother.  Neither Greg or I had heard screams like that since the time we found a three foot long piece of curled up black electrical tape, left behind by the men working on the telephone wires in front of our house.  Mom was sitting on the back porch shelling a big pan of peas so we snuck up behind her and threw the long piece of tape and yelled snake.  The next thing we heard was this really high pitched screaming and the sight of shelled peas as they floated back to earth.  Out of past experience Greg and I split up and took off running as fast as we could.

Before either Greg or I had a chance to ask mom what was wrong,  she was screaming at us “don’t let me ever catch either one of you using that word again.  If you do there will be some serious consequences.”  I had already had my fill of serious consequences, but before I was able to make any promises, mom hit us with “I hope you know that only men that ride those big motorcycles and belong to gangs use that word.   And all they do is drink beer, get in fights, ride their bikes real fast with wild women hanging on to them from behind and they smell  just like motorcycle exhaust.  (Now that I think about it, I don’t ever remember mom saying anything bad about the motorcycle men  but she sure did bring them up often.)

Mom’s face then got a real serious look and with fire in her eyes asked “Who told you that word?”  A huge smile came across Greg’s face as he remembered mom’s nightly dinner speech and he blurted out “No One.  Someone wrote it in our Sand Pit and I sounded it out.”

As time went on the Sand Pit became less and less a part of our lives until it was nothing but a fading memory.  After Dave joined the Army a farming family in Peacham took over haying the fields.  They owned the largest dairy farm in Peacham and they had tractors were almost as big as Dave’s farm.  One summer day when they were mowing the field between Dave’s place and our house,  the ground seemed to open up and their big tractor disappeared. Our Sand Pit came to a sudden end as did a piece of our past.

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