Down to the river….

river art

I grew up near the banks of the Blanchard River. Our house was at the top of a hill, our farm was gently rolling, and looking out our kitchen window to the east was a field that we called “the riverbottom”.   It was a wet field, frequently flooded.  It was definitely not our best producing field because often the crops would get washed out early in the season when the spring rains came fast and hard.  In the summer a heavy thunderstorm would cause flooding of crops trying to grow and mature, and in the fall, when harvest was near, any rains would make it difficult to move the harvesting equipment into that area.  No amount of tile could change Mother’s Nature’s drainage plan so my Dad learned not to expect much out of that particular part of the field.

The southern border of that field was marked by a small creek which drained other fields on our farm.  It could be dry in the summer or full of water after heavy rains.  There were cattails growing along the creek and turtles could be found there.  One spring Mom  found a mother duck and several newly hatched ducklings.   She would take the grandchildren back to  visit and observe and watched them most of the summer until they disappeared on their life’s journey.

There was a grassy lane leading from our farm buildings downhill to the creek.  It was a steep slope to the bottom of the hill where the lane then  made a sharp 90 degree turn to the east;   a great place to ride your bike.  I can still feel the wind in my face and the bumps of the bicycle tires hitting the dirt clods.   Racing downhill,  picking up speed, trying to make the turn and then crossing the creek,  sometimes with a splash.   Those were the dreams that summer days were made of.   In the winter the same hill was  a great place to sled. After a few trips down the hill, the snow would become packed hard and we would fly down the hill.

Just off to the west a bit was the famous Hickory Nut Tree (see related post)  https://retiredruth.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/hickory-nut-cake/  .   It grew along the meandering creek and was the lone tree for miles.   As the natural waterways flowed through our farm toward the river, there was a small area where the water twisted and turned and made a bit of a wet spot.   My best friend and I discovered it one spring and we named it “Paradise” .   There were tiny streams and green grass growing.  We spent quite a few hours there making tiny dams and pretend villages with stones and rocks and twigs and weeds.   Paradise, indeed.  I’m not sure why  finding that little oasis in the middle of our pasture field is such a significant memory to me.   It seemed a bit like a fairy-land close to home.  My friend remembers it too.

If you followed the grassy lane further to the east it eventually led to the “line fence”  that separated our property from an adjacent landowner’s property.   The line fence was an old wire fence which eventually grew into a sizeable tree line with a buckeye tree and lots of weeds and wildlife.   The field next to the line fence was a  feeding place for  groundhogs when soybeans were planted in it.   When the crops were rotated to corn, the deer who naturally moved toward the river, had a feast at the expense of my dad’s corn crop.

Stepping stones, River Esk, Eskdale We often traveled back to the river, usually on foot.  We were careful to make a path along the edges of the field so as not to disturb the crops.  There was a  low-water crossing nearby, which I am sure had been there for centuries.  The water was not deep and it was a narrow part of the river where you could easily cross with a horse and wagon or later with bare feet hopscotching across on the flat rocks that lined the river.  I don’t remember it ever getting deeper than my knees.   Again, it was another part of a dreamy summer day.   We would criss-cross the river on the stones, skipping flat stones, and watching for fish, frogs,  and dragonflies.   If we lost our balance on the stepping-stones, all the better.  The sunshine and the warm summer breeze would dry us before we got back to the house.   We  returned with mosquito bites and a cut or two on our feet from the sharp rocks, maybe even a skinned elbow,  but full of fun memories and the promise of another day to be spent at the river.

When I was nine or ten years old, I began to explore the river from another angle.   I was allowed to ride on my new bicycle down to the river bridge.   It was a big iron structure, an Iron Whipple style bridge.   I would park my bike at the edge of the bridge and carefully climb down the steep slope until I was under the bridge.  There was a cement structure that supported the bridge which was big enough for me to sit on.  I could spend hours just sitting under the bridge.  Occasionally a car would cross the bridge and rumble across.   No one could see me and it was a place where I could escape to and be alone.   Every summer I would head to the bridge and soon I had a small path worn through the grass and the weeds.

bridge

When I was about twelve, skateboards were the thing.  I would take my skateboard, prop it on the handlebars of my bike, and ride to the river bridge.    I went across the bridge and pedaled hard back up the hill.    Here I would park my bike, check for traffic, step on my skateboard and ride to the bottom l…. no helmet, no shin guards or knee pads.   Just me and my ponytail riding a wooden skateboard with steel roller skate wheels down the road to the bridge.  Early skateboards were difficult, if not impossible, to steer,  so I would sometimes veer toward the guard rail of the bridge.  At some point I would need to stop or hop off and a few times my skateboard went off the bridge and landed in the river.

skateboard

I continued to visit my private escape even into my teens.  I could ponder the meaning of life and other  important stuff like boys, teenage drama, and what I was going to do with my life after high school.

A few years ago, I returned to my private escape.   I was disappointed to see the changes.  Why do we always assume things will stay the same?   The trees and brush were so much bigger than when I was a girl.   The path I had worn had disappeared.  I was no longer a sure-footed young girl who could attempt to climb down to the banks of the river.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the desire for a private escape.  I still feel the need to find a secluded spot, away from noise and people, a place to ponder what I am going to do with the rest of my life.

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This memory was jarred loose by LouAnn.  Check out her blog at the link below.

http://onthehomefrontandbeyond.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/wonder-as-i-wander/

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About Life in the 50's and beyond...

Welcome to Life in the 50's and 60's and beyond .... where I write about my childhood memories, music of the 60's and about life in the country. I am a mother, grandmother, farmer's wife, business owner, and retired teacher.
This entry was posted in Farm Life, My Life and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Down to the river….

  1. Maxi says:

    Omg, thank you for this. It brought memories of summer days, playing in puddles, chasing puppies, swinging on a tire…
    blessings ~ maxi

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  2. Ruth, I think this is my all-time favorite post of yours. It’s beautifully written and your memories are vividly told. You always bring back memories for me. You mentioned bare feet, and it seems to me we were barefoot all summer long. We used to go to the store in our bare feet! I completely forgot that we were five kids hanging in trees with no shoes on.

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  3. Beautiful, Thank you for sharing
    Susan x

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  4. LB says:

    As I was reading this lovely post, I was wondering if the youth of today have the opportunities that we had to explore these treasured outdoor places. I have similar memories. You shared yours beautifully!

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  5. Sounds like a perfect spot. I come from a town where such solitude is hard to find, but in the evening, when I wanted to feel alone I’d perch on the windowsill, legs dangling down onto the roof below, and close the curtains behind me. Then it was just me and the stars.

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  6. Thankful for days you describe…”yearning” comes to mind…of those warm summer days and the openess of the areas we explored!

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  7. Reblogged this on On the Homefront and commented:
    Take the time to read this–it is well worth it and may bring back some memories or create some new ones for you……….

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  8. Grace says:

    What a wonderful time to be growing up; freedom to explore and nature to learn from, “hands on!” I’m not so sure that today’s children will ever have that experience to the degree that our generation had. I agree, our generation was handed such a gift from the universe. Imaginations ran wild, and in a sense so did we! There was so much natural space to explore.
    I still return to the solitude and beauty of nature when I need to ponder a life. Thank you for sharing this lovely post!

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  9. So lovely. I felt I was walking along beside you. Yes a secluded spot in nature is a wonderful treat.

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  10. Kathy says:

    It’s good to have a place where we can escape, where we can hunker down in nature and relax our weary souls. I enjoyed reading this piece. It took me back to childhood memories about times I would escape to trees in our apple orchard and feel their limbs protecting and keeping me safe for a while.

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  11. Karen says:

    What do I think about these memories? I think that they are some of the richest gifts our generation has received! My daughter exclaims that she would love to live in the country and find that place to escape. She lives in a suburb. I think it is sad that there or no more paths down to the river well tread because that is what one did in their spare time. I remember the creeks, ponds and rivers of my childhood too. And I know I am most blessed to have such memories. To this day, I make sure and take my grandchildren on escapades when they come. You might even see me down by the Blanchard River some day this summer. I’ll bring the fried chicken! 🙂

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