This morning we went to work and cut out by noon to do a couple of caches in the woods. One of them brought us to an area where I spent a lot of time when I was a kid. This particular section of woods is located in Chicago. Now you might think to yourself, “Woods? In Chicago?” But to tell you the truth, there are a lot of great forest preserves in the Chicago area and I spent my childhood running around in them. This mornings geocaching brought us almost exactly to a spot where I had an encounter with the river many years ago and I told Louie the story as we searched for the cache.
As soon as school was out for the summer, and before we left for our annual trip to Missouri, my girlfriend Carol and I spent most of our time at one of 3 places. The park across the alley, a prairie several blocks away where we ran around with butterfly nets and caught butterflies, moths, crickets and grasshoppers, or the woods. On summer mornings I would get up, eat breakfast and before we could leave the house, we had to do our chores. This consisted of making our beds and doing the ironing. Back in the 1960’s, when I was a kid, everything got ironed. (Today I only iron my clothes for church or if I have a meeting). Mom started us out on my dad’s hankies, then we moved up to sheets and pillowcases, and once we became ironing experts, she let us iron my dad’s work shirts.
We would drag our feet out to the enclosed back porch, plug in the iron and stare at the mountain of ironing in the basket. And we could forget about going out to play until that ironing was done. But believe me, the second we were finished, the screen door would be banging us in the ass as we hightailed it out of there.
Usually I’d spread some peanut butter and jelly between 2 pieces of Wonder bread (helps build strong bodies 12 ways), wrap it in a sheet of wax paper, toss it in a brown paper bag and jamb it into the basket on my bike. I’d pedal down the block to Carols house, where I would “CALL” for her. Did anyone else do that or was it a Chicago thing? See, back then, the front door was for “guests” and the back door was for family and friends. You would go down the gangway to the back of the house, stand on the stoop and shout out in a singsong voice “Yo, yo, Carol!” If Carol was home she’d come to the door. If she wasn’t, then her mom would stick her head out the window and tell me where she was. Anyway, Carol was usually home stuffing golf tee’s into a cellophane bag. Her uncle ran a golf course and he’d pay her 1 Penney for every bag of 10 tee’s she stuffed. She usually did about 20 bags a day. If she wasn’t finished, I would go in and help her and then she’d pay me when her uncle paid her.
Carol would make a sandwich too and then the 2 of us would ride our bikes about a mile away to the woods.
This was my ultra cool banana seat bike, except it also had a basket on front. (photo taken from google images)
Now you have to remember, this was the 60’s, when it was very common for kids to be out and about. If we left at 10 am and didn’t come home until dinner at 5:00 nobody gave it a second thought. And nobody was worried. But if my mom said to be home at 5, then I had damn better be home at 5.
We usually headed over to the woods because there was so much to do there. In the winter we would ride our sleds and saucers down the hill but, in the summer, we would ride our bikes down the hill. More than once I took a nose dive over the front of the handlebars and then chased the bike down the hill. We hiked and biked over all the trails, poked sticks into the mud, threw acorns and pinecones at each other and climbed trees where we perched among the branches to eat our sandwiches.
The only thing we were not supposed to do was mess around the river. We usually heeded that warning and just threw sticks and stones into it or tried to catch frogs along the bank. But one day some trees and brush had dammed up in a narrow turn of the river and it was just… too…. Tempting….. We had never been on the other side of the river. It must have been after some heavy rains, because I remember everything being extremely muddy. We started to pick and climb our way across the dam when it happened. My leg slipped thru the tangle and I fell down between the logs, my shoe stuck in the muck and my pants got soaked to the thigh. Well, I’ll tell you, it scared the crap out of me. I worked my leg loose, but when I pulled it up and out, my shoe got stuck in the muck and then the river carried it away. I scrambled, heart pounding, back to our side of the river and looked down at my foot. Man, I was in big trouble. Those were the days when we got one new pair of gym shoes when school let out and one new pair of dress shoes when school started in the fall. And there I stood, 3 weeks into summer and I had lost a shoe. And I was full of mud from the river I was not supposed to be in. And I had to go home and get past my mom. It was not a good situation.
We pedaled home very slowly and I hit upon the bright idea of getting home, sneaking in the house through the basement door and washing my pants in the basement washtub before my mom saw them. I still had no idea what I was going to tell her about the shoe. So, there I was, tiptoeing into the basement and who do I run smack into, but my mom. I swear she has eyes in the back of her head and super sonic hearing, as well as a 6th sense about when I was up to something. Let’s just say that I never messed around on the river again and we'll just leave it at that!
So…. There we were today and it was fun to see the river again. This is the exact bend in the river....
and it wasn’t nearly as deep as I remembered it. We saw several bucks, a doe and a fawn while we were there.
Afterwards, I went home - with both shoes still on my feet!