(I wrote this on August 19, 2009).
"Hey you kids get out of there!" Those words have certainly been familiar tones to these ears -- ringing out from the tunnel of time that leads back to our early explorations. Though we never really did anything tragically illegal, we did push the envelope as we saw fit.
One of our occasional spots for adventures was by Roy Stole's old house (yes, I guess that was his real name). This was a two-story structure I can barely even remember now, as close to haunted as our neighborhood could be.
Brother Ross and I would bring Mom's Kool-Aid ice cubes over there, and we would check out the premises. I think he did manage to salvage some prized artifact before its eventual demolition, but Mom recently informed me that the yellow Tiffany lamp we own, was actually her purchase. (Ross has probably since sold whatever he salvaged anyway, as he dabbles in antiques sometimes). And I have no idea what happened to the man named Roy!
The house has since been razed and now it's a vacant lot -- possibly a great site for metal-detecting treasure hunts. Since one of our favorite restauranteurs lives nearby, sounds like it's worth a shot!
"Mopedalling" also brought us to some interesting rural "grey" areas -- like the horrendously treacherous and legendary Diamond Road. This was like the dead-end from hell -- a completely unfinished strip punctuated by large rocks and perhaps even some kind of creek bed! There were at least a few more impassable routes in the "Spring Valley" area, but this one was tops in our Hall of Infamy.
On one occasion, we happened to encounter a sheriff's deputy for some brief questioning. Apparently one of the prominent area racers had a barn fire the night before, and I guess this "man in blue" (temporarily) pegged us for returning to the scene of the crime! But Ross and I had no idea that the fire had even happened. And our bottle-rocketing adventures had probably been in an entirely different direction, but you never know!
One fun place (or at least I thought it was) was a big coal pile just a few blocks east of here. It was great because you could also pick mulberries there (we sometimes stored them in Ross's "Vroom" bike glove compartment). I guess you got the prize of the berries if you managed to scale the pile, and I do remember getting in trouble for getting too "coaly" once!
Not far north of there was the legendary Box Canyon, probably our favorite bird shooting area. But even before our celebrated airgun adventures (occasionally interrupted by cops), we explored an abandoned boxcar. (Both Box Canyon and The Tracks were approximately on the same street which was also paralleled by railroad tracks).
This boxcar boasted a bumper crop of..bees!! I guess we tried to procure some of the honey (or Ross did) but I don't remember anyone getting stung. We also found (and took home) a nice wooden Radio Flyer wagon from the canyon once.
Many of our play-places just involved a bit of semi-trespassing, like when we'd sled down "Grade School Hill." One of our alleged relatives, Marv (whom Ross named G.O.B.O.= Great Old Bitchin' Odor) was often on the warpath there. And maybe he had a reason -- with kids sledding into his garage! (Later we relocated our sliding spot, a few houses over, but one of our friends was then injured by an unexpected terrain hazard -- a metal pole sticking out of the ground!).
Hunting grounds present special challenges for anyone seeking wily wild game. Our favorite territory was ruled by a decidedly-curmudgeonly auctioneer and patriarch -- and his progeny were well-distributed throughout the "Spring Valley" (not the actual Illinois city) area. Most of these landowners were acutally pretty easygoing, but this guy was very high-spirited, warning, "Don't hunt the first woods!"
Still, having an exceptionally-quiet air rifle should have represented no problem. So that's where I "hid" -- and it definitely paid off in the number of squirrels bagged. I thus laughed at my brothers, afflicted with the gunpowder-burnt disorder known as magnumitis, as I championed the "power without powder" principle.
But was I really in the forbidden woods? Actually it was probably a grey area. I sometimes hid if other hunters or farmers passed by, and it was great to ditch the cows there. And I never did disclose my hunting secrets to the grand patriarch!!
Later we realized that a certain jagged-leaf "weed" was the real invader of that first woods, and perhaps that was the reason for keeping us away. Our oldest brother suspected some kind of drug-making operation in the area, though he had no proof. Still, a later tragedy in the landowner's immediate family indicates that such a connection may have taken place.
Fortunately the cows chased me away from those hunting days and we let that "happy hemping" ground go fallow. My brothers have also moved on to other areas of life and exploration. One now lives in Wisconsin with his wife and daughter, and the other studies snakes on a semi-official basis.
Forbidden places might just lose their luster and then we turned to somewhat-shady or unfamiliar people. Once I remember burning an abandoned stump but I still don't know who actually started it. And some of those temporary pals just seem to disappear in the mists of time.
Ross was once mistaken for a boy named Russ who had the same last name -- linked to some kind of vandalism by the cops! Fortunately Ross got out of that mis-apprehension!
Youthful years are a great time to test boundaries and push back frontiers of exploration. So carry that spirit ever forward -- but make sure your footing is strong, and that no one gets hurt. Then go ahead and jump!