My Brother and I have a Run Away Adventure: 1st Family Vacation
I grew up in a family rich in every possible way, except for money. I had eight brothers and sisters, a mom and dad, grandparents not too far away, and a simpler life style. We did not walk five miles to school everyday. But we did walk about a mile to the bus stop, which gave us every opportunity to skip school, which we did quite often, I might add. However, that is a story for another time.
My mother had her hands full with 5 boys and 4 girls to look after. So much so, that she would allow us to play outdoors all day long. This was excellent for us boys. All we needed was a couple chunks of homemade bread and whatever else we could grab and head for the hills. I have a brother that has gotten me into a lot of fixes in my life. Don't worry I always got him back. He is close in age to me about a year and a half older than me. Just enough older to sucker me into a bunch of no-good deeds.
Let's Run Away Today
One day we got up and he said, “Let's run away today.” Of course, not knowing what that meant, I thought it was the best of ideas and I never passed up an opportunity for adventure. We got our shoes on and stuffed a pillowcase with grub and other runnin away stuff. Butch, as we call him, got a stick and tied the pillowcase to the end of it so that we could carry the bundle proper-like, over the shoulder. The bundle actually amounted to a couple chunks of bread and a cucumber and an apple, we could drink out of the creek. We did manage to get our fill of water out of the hose before we left.
So we started off on our journey and headed down by the creek. I don't think we even told our mom where we were going, we just left. Now nothing against mom, but remember this was different times and we spent the whole day outdoors anyway. My mom was not one to panic, not at least until dinner time.
Beyond where we had gone before!
At the time we lived in the country, had neighbors a couple of miles away and a highway about a mile through the woods. We lived on about 20 acres and raised some animals and worked a garden. The drive wound down through the woods and was spooky. So running away consisted of cutting through the woods to a point beyond where we had previously gone.
This was exciting and by the time the sun was winking through the trees, I was starting to get tired and hungry. So we climbed a tree. This is where Butch said we needed to be since it would be best to keep a look out. It was a huge maple tree with its arms outstretched and we found a nice little perch resting between a couple of arms and ate our cucumber and one of the chunks of bread. That seemed like one of the best meals I had in a long time. The only thing that could have made it better would have been a Nehi Orange. Anyway the yeasty taste of the homemade bread and the crunch and cool of the cucumber was heaven. I think I fell asleep for a spell. When I woke, Butch was peeing off the tree. Of course, I wanted to do that, too. After we rested we continued on our adventure.
We needed a boat!
It seemed like we had been going for a long long time, but it was early in the day as the sun was overhead. We headed out into a clearing and found a little house which we took advantage of and scampered around it and pushed open the door and messed with stuff. I think at some point we realized that it was not deserted, but a place where someone was living, they were just not home. Now looking back, it was just off the roadway and I'm sure the residents were gone to work. Just beyond the cabin was a vast swamp area. Now to a six year old a swamp of about an acre or so is vast. Butch said, “We need to cross the swamp.” I was delighted at this idea and was quite eager to embark on the next leg of the journey. Never mind that the 'vast swamp' might in itself represent a quality challenge.
Butch told me that we needed a boat. I was wondering where we were gonna find a boat and insisted that we eat the other bread because I was hungry again. So we sat down on the shore of the swamp and ate our other bread and again it seemed like sustenance rivaling the finest cuisine. In retrospect, it occurs to me that if you don't have much, you seem to appreciate all you do have all the more. So back to the problem of the boat. There were no boats to be had, nor had we spotted a raft or even the materials necessary for even a rudimentary raft. We really had to start being creative. Then he spotted our vessel. Around the corner of the house was a washtub. It was a large one. Since it was 1954, I'm sure that the owners used it to do their wash. But we didn't give it a second thought.
This was perfect for our purposes. One huge washtub, two boys and vast swamp. I did not stop to think about what was on the other side of the swamp. We were about to embark on an adventure. This is where the stick with the bundle came in handy since we had no oars or paddles, we would use the stick to propel ourselves across the pond. We argued about whether it was really a swamp or a lake or a pond. We settled on a pond at one point until I pointed out that there were cattails in the shallows and so it had to be a swamp. That settled it and it became a swamp again.
We had to do some testing. We put the washtub in the shallows and both got into it. It seemed stable and we were excited. It soon became apparent that the washtub was resting on the bottom with our combined weights cementing it to the one spot. We broke the stick trying to launch the craft to no avail. Back to the drawing board. We knew then that we had to start in deeper water. However, we needed to locate a new gondola pole. Unfortunately, the inhabitants of the little house did not seem to be Italian because there was no gondola pole to be had. Finally we settled on their hoe. So now it was two little boys preparing to launch a sailing ship with an Italian Hoe aboard. (We later decided that they must be Italian after all since the contents of the cabin contained a huge tin of virgin olive oil. That still makes me chuckle. That's about the only virgin I ever knew.
Butch's Bright Idea!
We took the sailing ship to deeper water and both got into it. It was quickly evident that this vessel lacking any sort of ballast or rudder was only navigable in the most tenuous way. The person with the Italian hoe had to carefully, very carefully stick the hoe in the water to the bottom of the swamp and gently, ever so gently push off. Any sudden movement would spell disaster. Just then Butch, the hoe handler, lifted up and the tub with its contents flipped over and all were sent adrift.
We quickly made the decision that someone, moi, would have to push the craft while the captain, Butch, sat back and kept watch. It was with some trepidation that I accepted the job. Thankfully, I already learned to swim the previous summer in a near drowning. Or as the older siblings called it, total immersion swimming lessons. Anyway, I could survive for a long period of time treading water and dog paddling. So I began to push the ill fated craft toward the distant shore. As we went along the water got deeper and soon I was swimming but this was perfect since I could motor with my feet while I hung my arms over the edge. Yes the vessel was in a list, but all was well, until Butch got a bright idea. I am telling you those came only once in a while.
His idea was to scare the hell out of me. So all of a sudden he yelled at the top of his lungs, “SNAKE!” I was alarmed to say the least and a huge jolt of adrenalin hit me and I shot out of the water like a water spike and landed squarely in the ship. The look of delight on Butch's face was short lived as the vessel heaved to and dumped its contents directly in the middle of the ocean, err, swamp. We both made for the shore at our fastest pace. We just got to the shore and I was griping about the snake trickery when we heard a vehicle of some sort approaching. We lit out like we had a fire under our heinies and headed for the woods in a full tilt sprint. When we got to the cover of the trees we stopped to see a farmer type standing by the swamp looking at the upturned washtub and the Italian Hoe and scratching his head.
By this time the sun was beginning to wane. We made fast time retracing our steps and only stopped long enough to drink out of the creek, if we had had an old coffee pot or or tea kettle we would have had us a water dog. But we needed to hustle.
We made it to the house just about the
time mom was hollerin for us to come to dinner. What a fabulous day
we had that day. We ran away, had several adventures and got home
in time for dinner. No one was the wiser. My brother and I carried
that secret for quite awhile and over the years reminisced about our first family vacation.
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