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Half the fun is getting there.

 

    As I prepare to enter the playing field outside of our home, near the foot of the back door steps, I stop to ask my mother, "Do you have any more old spoons I can play with in the yard, today?"

    It is a stifling hot summer day. No evidence of a breeze can be detected anywhere. The sky above me is clear blue and cloudless. I spot the area I want to play in. I see the blistering white sand between it and me. Slowly, I gather the confidence to run, since I am barefooted, to my place of battle.

    I finally begin to run. I lift my feet so high, and so fast, my heels kick myself in the butt. At last, after what seems likes two miles, I run the 25 yards to the spot I have chosen.

    I am sitting and playing in the scorching, hot, white sand of a driveway that leads from the road, up to the house; the relentless sun beats down on my bare back. I am wearing shorts, only. The sand burns my bottom and my legs as I sit down. Eventually, I grow accustomed to the temperature of the sand. After a while, it feels almost cool.

    I empty my sand pail and allow the sand to slowly trickle over my leg, slightly above my knee. I feel a chill as I watch the sand pile up around my leg. Goose bumps form on my skin.

    While in that same sandy driveway, I trickled some of the sand into my sand pail which was first filled about half way with cold, brown branch water. I notice the hot sand bubble up on top of the water. Some of the sand seems to even be floating on top of the cool, dark water contained in that rusty pail.

    Earlier that day, my cousins and I constructed a Dam in the small branch that runs along his house. We used our shovels and spoons to re-channel the water until our stream diversion was completed. We used some old rotten logs to obstruct the water flow. Then we allowed the water to re-enter its original course, slowly raising the water lever as it backed up behind our wonderful, man-made dam.

    Our objective: get the water high enough to go swimming in. Presently, after about thirty minutes, the deep brown water covers our big toes and begins to wash up over our feet. We stand back and admire our new construction site.

    Little did we know, Mylnor and Stevie's Grandfather (we called him Grannie, but his name was Arthur) would discover it later in the morning and demolish it with one swift swing of his foot, thereby allowing the water to seek its own level once again.

    I break a twig I found, which recently fell from a tall pine tree in the yard, and begin drawing in the newly raked dirt to form the rooms of a building where I will play house for a few hours with my cousins.

    Just as my cousins and I begin enjoying each other's company, after a long, tedious and boring afternoon of trying to find something in common to participate in while our parents visit with the grown ups inside, my parents step to the front door and exclaim,

"Okay, get your things. It's time to leave!"

We reply, "Awww, Just as we started having fun!"

    I head out on an adventure through the unleveled, overgrown ground of the area I grew up around calling The Woods, passing fallen trees, long forgotten tree stumps, newly sprouted Venus fly traps, animal bones, breaking an occasional fennel weed as I go, when I encounter the remains of some one's trash pile: I see things like an old enamel wash basin,broken shards of a blue glass, twisted and matted pieces of fence wire, Ball Mason home canning lids, empty Bayer aspirin bottles with the tops still screwed on, coffee can keys, with the metal strips still wrapped tightly around them, old car seat springs, a tea kettle with a broken handle and the bottom busted out, a discarded kerosene reservoir, rusty bobby pins, the skeletal remains of an old radio cabinet, empty Carnation milk cans and a broken skillet.

    I see friends and playmates dangling from limbs of an old scrub oak tree, as others swing from a rope out over the swift running tannic colored artesian waters at a public landing. Beneath the surface of the water, I find a watermelon placed there earlier that day to cool. The smell of the cold running water on the hot July afternoon is refreshing to my nostrils as I inhale deeply.

    Later, I rush to the side of the road and begin feverishly pulling blackberries from the bushes and putting them into my pail, not avoiding the stickers, occasionally popping one (or two) of the roadside dust covered berries into my mouth, remembering the last time I picked enough for Momma to bake a blackberry pie.

    Once, when an old washing machine was replaced with a newer, working version, the old one was placed in the yard for future disposal. I, being the adventurous type that I was, saw the opportunity to build my first rocket ship. The "hatch" on top of it made it ideally suited for space exploration. The instrumentation on the inside were meager, but the steering wheel was convenient to the operator, if you could curl yourself around it without too much trouble. True, it was cramped, but what astronaut didn't have to fly while in a cramped position, on those first Gemini and Apollo flights.

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