Oh, but the fun we had in the woods

Mar. 02, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

When my pastor talked about his boyhood days of playing in the woods, swinging on a vine and returning home hours later, the thoughts of playing in the woods struck a familiar chord with me.

As a child who lived in the country with three sisters and dozens of cousins — scattered as far away as Reno and as close as Shiloh — when our cousins came for visits it was routine to head  to the woods. 

We'd talk non-stop as we trekked through the fields and pastures until we reached the woods. 

Boredom had not been discovered by kids 50 years ago. There was always something to do.  

There was a huge hill down in our woods, created just for sliding.

Once you made it to the top of the hill, it was a fast slide down to the gully. Time and time again we'd slide until we couldn't climb up any more.

Bethany Creek flowed in our woods and it was there we fished, swam, went frog gigging, turned over rocks and found slimy things and we seined for minnows.

Hours later we'd head back to the house hungry and thirsty with stories to tell.

Who ever heard of carrying a plastic bottle with water? And there was no way to get in touch with us while we were in the woods.

Unless we were in the woods at my grandparents' house.

When Reno cousins came home for summers, we often spent time in the woods with them. Struggle doesn't begin to describe how it was to try and run through a field of kudzu higher than you and covering every inch of visible land.

It was more like a monster movie. Kids legs were flying in the air as kudzu vines snatched a kid right off the ground. There was no turning loose.

Getting back on your feet was quite the task. 

Oh, but the fun we had.

A different set of woods on the same property was where we became potters, digging clay from the sides of creek banks, carefully molding them into bowls and plates for our playhouse. 

There was something absolutely wonderful about those woods.

 Although it seemed we were a hundred miles away from everyone, it was the most adventuresome place a kid could find.

Until we heard the sounds of a car horn. That was our call to come back to our grandparents house. Our parents were ready to go.

Two or three beeps on the horn and you'd better come running.

Oh, but the fun we had.

When our family traveled to Charlotte to visit the cousins there — eight of us kids — we headed to the woods as fast as we got the car doors shut.

I remember my cousins had more bikes to ride and other things to do than we did, but nothing compared to the woods.

In the deep part of their woods was the most amazing vine swing I'd ever  seen. 

It was our favorite part of the woods. 

Grabbing onto that vine, backing up several feet and then taking a running go, hanging onto the vine for dear life, I could swing across a deep gully and back again and again.

We took turns, one after the other, anxious until it was our turn again.

I can still see the vine.

Last year when my aunt passed away — the mother of our Charlotte cousins — we were all together and talked about our wonderful childhoods and the fun times we had.

We talked about that grape vine.

Then it happened. My cousin Danny reminded me of our final vine ride.

We figured a way for all eight of us to get on the vine at once. I was the last to find one little place to put my hands and then it happened.

One quick swing and the vine broke.

The eight of us ended up in a pile at the bottom, my cousin Danny reminded me. 

We were in hysterics.

Oh, but the fun we had.

In another part of their woods was a creek that seemed as large as a lake.

In the winter when it was frozen, the eight of us would head to the woods. We pretended we were at the biggest ice skating rink in the world and we'd skate for hours on the bottoms of our regular shoes. 

Who ever heard of skates? Or an ice rink.

Oh, the good times in the woods. 

I ventured out in my car early Friday morning to find some of those woods.

The woods near my house where we once walked, fished and played games are now covered with asphalt and offer four lanes of highway travel for vehicles speeding to get from here to there.

The McDade Road area of woods is gone too. 

That infamous kudzu field is gone, too.  

The few woods that are still standing are much smaller than I remember. Back then, they seemed much further away from the house.

A friend reminded me this week, I've been exposed to a lot bigger world. 

Oh, but the fun we had walking to the woods.