Monday, February 02, 2009

My Backyard

Amber's post about her back yard got me thinking of my childhood. I grew up in West Texas, where there is more dust than grass. It was in the middle of no where, but it was a very peaceful childhood.

At one point my mother decided that she wanted a fruit cellar. She had the boys dig the hole in the ground in our back yard. Her plan was to put an old refrigerator in the hole to use as a cellar. The boys made a big wooden box to go over the top to act as a roof. They even dug dirt steps going down in to the hole. My mother never did get an old refrigerator to put in there, but I used it as a clubhouse. I had a cigar box with "treasures" inside tucked away in that hole. I used to love to go out there and just sit and look through my box.

Behind our house was an alley. All of the garbage cans were lined up in the alley. When I was young, I used to walk up and down the alley looking for more "treasures". I usually only found things like a marble, or small plastic toy, but occasionally I hit the jackpot! One time I found a rocking chair. It had one broken rocker on it, but I dragged it home. My parents had the rocker fixed, and we used that chair until my brother got married and started having kids. Then my parents gave him the rocker to rock his babies in. Another time as I was walking down the alley, an old man came out of his yard with a huge sack of shelled sunflower seeds. He was just about to throw them out, but asked if I wanted them instead. He told me to take them home and soak them in salt water. He said I should then bake them to dry them, and I would have salty sunflower seeds. I took them home, but never got around to following his other directions. I kept them in my room and snacked on them. I do remember that occasionally some would find their way in to the carpet. I'm sure my mother loved that.

I think I thought that the entire neighborhood belonged to me. I can remember walking along the top rung of the 6' wooden fences and looking in to every back yard. Occasionally I would jump down in to their yard and go out their side gate as a short cut. I can remember also times when I was walking home and got thirsty. Instead of waiting until I got home to get a drink, I would walk up to a house and turn on their hose and get a drink. One neighbor had a trampoline in their back yard. We used to go over when they weren't home and jump on it. I guess I really did think the whole neighborhood belonged to me.

One last memory before I close this long post. In West Texas we had many dust storms. I can remember coming home from school in dust storms. It was blowing so hard that I could barely walk my bike, much less ride it. It took me a very long time to get home in that strong wind with the dust stinging my skin as it blew around me. Usually when I got home, I would have to clean the grains of sand out of my eyes and ears and hair.

Sometimes I think about the lack of educational stimulus in the city where we lived. There weren't many museums or other places of interest. I only remember a plains indian museum that also had a planetarium. Living in the San Francisco area, my kids are exposed to many different kinds of educational opportunities. But my childhood was kind of educationally sparse. But I do have fond memories of spending my time outside with nature. With all of my kids' video games and electronic media, I believe they are missing out.


Amber said...

I loved your idea about the alley - we had alleys in TX and I sometimes got creeped out walking down them, we get bad dust storms here in NM too where I've had to clean the sand out of my ears and eyes

Ramana Rajgopaul said...

This is a truly amazing post. So stirring. It stirs up memories of my own childhood and some of the things that I did as a young lad. Thanks for letting me have a peep into your childhood. I feel that I now know you just that much more personally.

Inklings said...

It was fun to read this post. I NEVER went into the alley. Not once. And I didn't know about Mom's idea for a cellar. It must have happened after I left home. I only lived in Texas a year and a half, weird, huh?