Remembering time spent roaming the slough

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, September 30, 2017

Whenever fall rolls around and I happen to drive past my old “stomping grounds”, as my dad would have referred to them as, I think of all the fun times I had growing up north of town. Driving past the slough, I think of the many trips that me and my friends would take to skunk hill. In later years I found out that we were definitely not the only kids that frequented the aforementioned hill. It was a regular hangout not only for us kids but for “town kids” who lived on the north side. Most of our time was spent either at the bridge or in our own little hideout below the hill next to the slough on the west side of Bridge Avenue. There was a clump of willows next to the slough and we had fashioned a makeshift fort in the middle of them.

Roger was the oldest of us neighbor kids and he was definitely the leader of our little group. When it started getting close to Halloween he started getting things together for our special brew. Now, we had been told many times to never play with fire and we took that very seriously because we knew there would be consequences if we got caught disobeying that rule. The only person that I feared more than Roger was my mom, he could give me a beating but she could take things away from me that I liked. I’d guess you could say that I valued personal freedom and my stuff more than my physical well-being

Every day after school we would bring things to add to the “witches brew”, grinning like a Cheshire cat as we were stirring it and admiring the odor that was emulating from that big pot of garbage. I mentioned fire because Roger had decided that when the time was right we would cook our concoction to make the odor even more disgusting. Our little hideout in those willows offered plenty of cover that would shield us from any one (parent) who may be getting curious. I am sure most folks are aware of what happens to slough grass in the fall, it turns from a lush green color to a dry tannish color. This has fire starter written all over it so having a fire right next to the slough seemed a little risky.

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When I voiced my concerns to Roger about the slough and fire not being a good mix he called a chicken at first, but then after he thought about it he came up with the idea of moving the pot of brew. Roger was always open to suggestions as long as he made the decisions. We eventually put the brew in Roger’s yard, behind his garage and out of sight of the house. This brew that we coddled and fed and eventually cooked was to be used to spread good cheer to the folks who didn’t pass out candy at Halloween. This was always the plan but like all plans there are sometimes flaws. Once Halloween night was upon us we got so wrapped up in the trick or treating thing that we forgot all about the brew and the sharing of the stinky stuff in that pot.

To me, this is the season when there always seems to be a certain smell in the air that says fall. That must be why someone coined the saying “fall is in the air”. I love the smell of fall, maybe it is the drying leaves and grass or wet leaves after a rain that give off that certain distinct odor that you can only detect in the fall. When I was a kid our breezeway would always smell of tomatoes, squash and other vegetables that had been picked from our garden. We had a big garden when I was growing up and my mother and my Aunt Ruby would can just about everything. I still love the taste of pickled beets and I can’t even remember the last time that I tasted watermelon pickles. She made those from watermelon rinds which she cut into small chunks and added some cinnamon sticks and other sweetness before sealing them in a jar. My mouth is starting to water just thinking about it.

The other day I happened to hear Darrel on the radio talking about the pelicans and where they were. My brother-in-law Lynn Johnson is home from Alaska for his annual fall visit and he and I drove out to South Shore Drive to the Jugland Dam to see what feathered friends were there. The river below the dam was playing host to a heck of a lot of pelicans. There were also turkey vultures, hawks and a few ducks in the vicinity and on the way out we spotted some wild turkeys. It was pretty neat to see all of these feathered friends in one area. There are times when you may also see an eagle or two. This is always a good place to go if you want to see a little wildlife.

Until next time: enjoy the nice weather that we are experiencing and take a little time to go for a drive in the country or even visit one of the many parks that we have available to us locally.

Please take some time to honor those that have sacrificed so much for the freedoms that we enjoy today, also take a little extra time to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those who served and those troops that are serving today.