Thursday, August 13, 2015

Living Down a Dirt Road

I was a lucky kid.  I grew up living down a dirt road that dead-ended at an orange grove.  We didn't have many neighbors, but Donny and Gary came to stay with their grandparents every summer.  They were our age and I was going to marry Donny when I grew up.  We played outside all day and board games in the evenings.  Then hide-and-seek after dark.  The rules change after dark, you know.

My dad and grandad built our house, finishing it the day after I was born.  It sat on a quarter-acre lot and they built the house back so that we had a long driveway and a big front yard.  Every summer when the sun was setting and my shadow long, I would dance and sing with my shadow out at the end of the driveway.  

Cooper's Farm
Across the road from our house was a farm.  Old Mrs. Cooper's farm had orange groves, walnut trees, an old barn where Mr. Cooper--her son--extracted honey from his bee hives, and a huge field that was leased out to a company for farming.

We loved playing at the farm; there were many interesting things to get into.  First there were the trees to climb.  Secondly, there were the irrigation ditches to play in.  And best of all was the fort.

The fort was build on an old truck bed.  Gary, Donny, my sister Patty and I built that thing.  Old Mrs. Cooper helped us put the tarp over the roof so we could play there if it rained.  It was built against a walnut tree, so we could climb out the window and into the tree--perfect for keeping away from the enemy.  Did I mention the boys liked to play war best?

The farm's growing field was just outside the fort's door, with an irrigation ditch curving around the fort area.  We played in the ditches when they watered the fields.  One year the migrant workers--I always talked to the workers--widened and deepened the ditch so we could play in the water more.
The field looking out my bedroom window

Down the road were fields.  One was a dairy field.  We never played in that field because we heard stories about how mean was the bull.  But the largest field was empty.  That's where we played great imaginary wars and mobster stories and had dirt clod fights.  We dug out two large rectangle holes so we could have dirt clod fights against one another.  We were in the war trenches in those holes.  We were safe from the enemy in those holes.  Did I mention that the boys liked to throw things best?

Next door was Mr. Curtis' place.  He had an old car that we played mobster in.  I was a gangster's moll and always took names like "Annette" or "Donna."  My sister was always one of the gangsters and took names that could be either a boy's or a girl's name.  Gary always took his big brother's name.  We got shot at a lot.  Did I mention the boys liked to play shooting stories best?

The property that ran behind our property was long and narrow, ending at the field.  Three goats lived there. When I was about 10 or 12 I would go out to the field and sing and make up plays for the goats.  They were a very attentive audience.

Mrs' Cooper had a huge pepper tree in front of her place that I loved to climb.  Our dog, Dodger, climbed up with me.  We'd sit in a crook of the tree about 5 feet up, concealed by the branches.  Dodger watched for danger; I wrote teenaged angst poetry.  I would also climb out the fort window at times and write teenaged angst poetry.  Dodger stayed in the fort, warding off imaginary danger.

The fort and the fields and Mrs. Cooper's farm remained on our road through my high school days.  It was all lost when the city--we were incorporated into the city sometime after I left home--opened the road through to the next street and we joined Howard Ave.  The road was paved.  The farm land sold and an elementary school was built.  Housing tracts were put in behind the school and other streets were connected.  Mrs Cooper's farm was torn down--along with our fort and the great pepper tree--and housing tracts were put in.  The field was filled with a mobile home park and the cow pastures became housing.  Eventually, after Dad died, Mom sold the house and moved into a senior living complex.  Progress.

But I was such a lucky girl.  I had great adventures living down a dirt road, driving a gangster car, tending to soldiers, singing to goats.  Taking long bike-hikes with Pat and Gary and Donny.  Playing board games.  Using our imaginations.  And playing hide and seek after dark when the rules change.



Anonymous said...

"Annette" or "Donna." ? LOL

Island Woman MJ said...

What fantastic memories! Back to a time that still exists in yourself and now in written words - they can't pave that over!