Summer Breeze

The first summer, at our camp on Martins Pond, Greg and I were kept busy helping with piling all of the brush into huge burn piles and stacking the blocks of wood as soon as dad cut the trees up.   On the rare occasion that Greg and I got ahead of dad we would fill our free time with fighting about one thing or another. There never seemed to be a shortage of things to fight about and anyone with a younger brother will know exactly what I am talking about.  This system of fighting to settle disagreements worked really well for me,  that is until I quit growing and Greg didn’t, but that is another story for another time.  It also irritated me to no end, especially when I was about to win yet another argument, when dad would decide that he wanted the stack of wood that Greg and I had just minutes before finished  piling  moved to another spot.  On an average weekend  Greg and I would move the same pile of wood a half a dozen times or more.

By the time the second summer rolled around though things had changed for us.  All the brush cutting, piling and burning had been done and camp had been built.  Dad and Pup, Dad’s father, did all of the building.  As strange as this may sound neither Greg nor I were allowed to pound nails or saw boards or, in the end, even touch a saw or hold a hammer.  When we did try to help with the building we always ended up pounding or sawing things we weren’t supposed to pound or saw, usually ourselves or one another.  This left us with a lot of free time,  time we ended up filling by exploring the area and discovering the wonders that lived near and around camp.
The first wonder we found was the little stream that flowed out of the woods and down past our neighbors camp and emptied into the pond.  This stream, years earlier, had earned the name Sucker Brook.  Martin’s pond was supposed to be a trout only pond but rumor had it that a few fishermen had used small suckers as live bait and somehow they escaped and flourished in this pond growing to an unbelievable size. I can still remember the excitement I felt and Greg had in his eyes when we first found this brook filled to the brim with huge fish, some reaching two feet or more in length.  It was early spring and the suckers swam up Sucker brook to spawn, something neither Greg nor I knew anything about.
Just above a slight bend in the brook there was a fairly large shallow pool which was also filled with these huge fish and just below this pool the brook narrowed and the bed  of the brook was covered with large boulders.  In no time flat Greg and I realized that we could move a few of the boulders and close off the only escape route these suckers had,  trapping them in the pool.  Moments later Greg and I had the stream damned up and we were in this shallow pool grabbing the huge fish with our bare hands and throwing them into the small field that bordered the brook.  As soon as we had emptied the pool we would move the blocking boulders go down stream and chase more fish up to the pool and then damn it up again.  This went on until mom yelled that it was time to head home.  I can’t begin to tell you how many fish we threw into the field but in my mind I can still see all the fish flopping up and down making this little clearing look alive.
The next day was Sunday and after morning chores at the family’s poultry farm we headed to camp for the afternoon. As soon as we got to camp our German Shepard, Priny,  bolted from the open car door and headed to the water to dig stones.  We have had several dogs over the years but never one that would dig stones out of the water.  Priny  would wade in the water until she found a rock and then, with her front feet,  paw at the rock until she had it in water shallow enough to stick only her nose in the water to grab the rock.  She would then carry the rock in her mouth to a special spot she had in the woods, drop the rock and then  rush back to the pond.  Greg and I on the other hand headed for Sucker Brook and  took up where we left off the day before. After a few hours though we grew tired of this game so we went looking for other adventures which took us to the shoreline in front of our camp.
Much of the shoreline around Martins Pond dropped off at an alarming rate but in front of our camp it was a gradual slope out to deeper water.  It wasn’t long before Greg and I discovered that, hiding under many of the rocks on shore were crawdads,  the fresh water version of lobsters, only a little smaller. We kept a five gallon pail in front of camp and with smaller buckets went up and down the waters edge turning over rocks and grabbing the crawdads, being careful to stay out of the way of their big pinchers.   In about a half an hour we had the five gallon pail almost half full of huge crawdads.  Every ten to fifteen minutes we would hear a kid scream in pain,  that was our youngest brother Dean about three or four years old at the time.  He would be standing by the pail, shaking his hand as fast as he could, with a big old crawdad hanging off one of his fingers.  We got a lot of dirty looks from mom that summer,  but both Greg and I were confident Dean would figure out where not to grab these crawdads sooner or later.  It turned out to be later.  
We also found out that bloodsuckers called this shoreline home. We did not take this news well, especially me when I found that I had over fifty of the little buggers, something I affectionately called them,  on one foot and leg.  After mom ran me down she decided that she would burn them off with her cigarette,  I didn’t take that news very well either.  Thank god dad said he had heard that salt worked just as well and without the side effect of a bunch of burn marks.  
The following weekend was our weekend off from doing chores at the poultry farm.  On alternating weekends Dad, Greg and I would do the chores on the farm giving Pup and the hired man a day off so every other weekend was considered camp weekend.  This was also the weekend that the Foss family spent at our camp.  Frank and Evelyn (Evie) were my parents closest friends so they along with their five kids they would spend every weekend possible at Martins.  Frank was a plumber by trade and it was because of him that camp got finished as soon as it did.  Three of Frank and Evie’s kids were very close in age to us three boys.  The two older girls, Sharon and Maxine, were each one year younger than Greg and I and their son, Brian,  was one year older than Dean.  They also had a couple of younger girls but how much younger I could not tell you.
Early Saturday afternoon, when we arrived at camp, instead of bolting for the pond like Priny normally did she circled around the car and headed out on a dead run.  We were so excited to be in at camp and anxious to get in the water that we didn’t pay any attention to her. So as soon as we had the car unloaded Greg and I made tracks for the water each carrying a bucket.  It wasn’t long before the Foss car pulled in and moments later the front of our camp was full of kids.  One of the first things Sharon and Maxine  wanted to know was why I was wearing an old pair of sneakers and high socks.  All I heard after I told them about the blood suckers was a very loud ear piercing squealing and the splashing sound of water,  that left Greg and me alone in the pond again.
That was about the time that the dog came trotting back with the hair on her back all matted down and she stood right in the middle of the crowd that had gathered to see what all the screaming was about.  Soon everyone was gagging and holding their nose and dad said “For god sake that d*** dog found something dead to roll in.”  Dad disappeared into camp and when he came out he threw a bar of soap to Greg and me and we had to wash the dog.
The rest of the day and evening went without a hitch and before we knew it,  it was time to hit the sack.   Bedroom at camp was one room which took up the entire upstairs,  there were six double beds, one single bed and a crib.  We had been in a very long hot spell so the windows in the gable ends were left open to allow what little breeze there had been to flow through.  Some time in the very early morning hours a slight breeze picked up from the upper end of the pond.  Air drifted in from the field that held a hundred or so rotting suckers and this air was just awful.  Dad yelled at Greg but Frank spoke up and said he was sure it was coming from the outside.  After breakfast Greg and I headed next door carrying shovels to bury all the fun we had the week before

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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.

Return of the stories

Hi Everyone

I would like to take a moment to thank all of you for being so patient with me during my recovery from shoulder surgery.  My shoulder now has 100% range of pain free motion but it is still very weak.  But not so weak that I can’t write stories, something that I have been doing for the past few weeks.   If things go as planned I will start posting stories again April 7th,  two years exactly from the first story that I posted…………..I would like to wish everyone a fantastic Easter and I’ll see you next week…………Gary

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