Friday, August 14, 2015

Up A tree

 I was in junior high that year. We lived in a nice big house on Main Street. About a mile down the road was a main highway. To get to our town you had to turn onto what became Main Street and drive past our house to get to our block long business area. And I am being generous about that block.

We had a little grocery store, a post office, a cafe, and a couple of other small businesses there. There was even a feed store that sold feed for livestock, seeds for planting, and farm equipment. It was a nice little town.

My brothers and I spent a lot of time in the cafe. They had a pinball machine. We spent a good deal of our earnings from our paper route playing pinball.

Our house had hot and cold running water. Yay! I spent a lot of time shampooing my hair in that luxury. But alas we had an outhouse.

I have often spoken of my hatred of the outhouse. Besides the indignity of everyone in the world knowing where you are going and what you will be doing there an outhouse is the smelliest place to be. In the winter it is so cold. In the summer it is so hot (and full of flies). I can live with primitive conditions but I really want my indoor toilet!

There was an old root cellar near the corner of the house. It was damp and dark in there and not particularly safe. It could be used as a shelter in case of tornado but thankfully we never had to use it. We did not store canned goods or roots in the cellar because it was too damp and it was not really a safe place.

Toads loved that root cellar. There were other cellars in the neighborhood that were probably just as popular with toads. In the evening we could catch the toads that came out into the cooler air.

But when it rained was when the real sight came. Thousands of toads emerged from root cellars filling with water. The yards would be dark with toads covering the grass. Even the road (Main Street) would be covered and dark with toads.

But that is where the carnage happened. Cars driving into or out of town used that same road that was covered with toads. Sitting inside our nice dry house we could hear the pop pop pop pop pop of toads being run over by cars. It was like listening to bubble wrap.

We also had a telephone. That was not something we always had. It depended on where we lived. Sometimes telephone service was not available.

Our telephone was on a party line. A party line meant that we shared the connection with other people. Some party lines had as many as 8 different parties on them. We only had one this time. We shared with the drugstore.

That affected a lot of things. Of course I could not sit on the phone and gossip with my friends because we had to also make the line available for the other party. If we picked up the phone to make a call we had to listen first to see if the other party was using it. If they were we had to gently hang up and wait a reasonable amount of time to allow them to finish their conversation. And abolutely NO rubbering in.

Rubbering comes from the term rubber-necking. Rubber-necking means that you are eavesdropping on the conversation of another party on your party line. It is strictly against party line etiquette. It is also where the name of the song by Elvis came from.

In the corner of our front yard right near where the driveway met the street stood a huge pine tree. It was several feet higher than our two story house. Someone had cut the very top off and placed two boards across the top. It made a good place to sit.

Oh how I loved that tree. I spent a lot of time at the top of the tree. My teenage angst was at its height. It was good to have a place so seclude and yet so in the middle of everything.

I knew what was happening in our yard as well as the yards around the neighborhood if I was interested. I watched as cars went into town and out of town. I could even watch the activity in our "business district".

But most of all I could be alone. That was not an easy thing in a family of six (my last brother was not yet born) children and two parents. I could take a book up there with me and read all afternoon  if that was what I decided to do. That tree was the best sanctuary I ever had.

Our school was at the other corner of town, as usual. We walked to school, as usual.

The school had grades Kindergarten through 12 just like most schools in Nebraska at that time. We still had recess so there was not a regular gym class. But we had sports teams.

I was on the volleyball team. We were a very good team and had been for years. Even after my family moved away they were still winning. We were undefeated even in tournaments while I was there.

When a team had away games in another town school buses transported all the students who were going. Those who did not go still had to be at school for the remainder of the school day. But there were not enough students for regular classes so we found other things to do.

One of our favorites was to play soccer. We did like all other kids and chose up sides. There were boys and girls on each team. We played our hearts out.

At that time fashion dictates were that girls wore little flat shoes. Not much protection but certainly stylish. Boys wore what we called engineer boots. They were heavy boots that went halfway up the calf. The toes were built to withstand nuclear explosions (my assessment, not an advertising claim).

On the day of one away game we were involved in a heavily contested soccer game. The ball was rolling and I intended to kick it. So did one of the boys. Unfortunately we were both successful.

We kicked the ball with all our might at exactly the same time. Me in my little flats and him with his engineer boots. Both with all our strength.

I do not remember the outcome of the game. All I remember is the broken toe I had. And I had to walk home from school with a broken toe. Inside that little flat shoe.

We had a pop machine and a candy dispenser at school. That was the only school I went to that had them.

The pop machine was one of those old chest types. You would select your bottle of pop and slide it along until it was right at the place where it could be pulled out. Then you would deposit your coins. The machine would then release the bottle of pop and you pulled it out. There were no screw off caps. There was a bottle opener on the side of the machine with a cup to catch the tops so they could be thrown away later.

Royal Crown Cola was what we drank then. We called it RC. But before drinking it you must buy peanuts from the candy machine and pour them into the RC. It was not always easy to get the peanuts in without the RC foaming over. At least we got a little protein from the peanuts along with the sugar from the RC.

My teacher lived in the rooming house right directly across from my house. He was a heavy old man who did not see too well. He probably should have quit teaching years before.

We were an unruly lot. We placed thumbtacks on each others' chairs as well as the teacher's. We used rubber bands to shoot sand burrs at each other. I still have a keloid on my left cheek from the one that stuck there.

The boys liked to used their feet to push the desks in front of them forward. Once we were too far forward in the room we pushed back.

One day the boy who sat at the back of the row I was in was walking up to see the teacher. As he went by I stuck out my foot and tripped him. He stumbled but did not fall.

Later when I went up to see the teacher the same boy pushed the row forward. The girl who sat behind me pushed the row back. At least the row starting with her.

As I was going back to my seat here came the boy from the back. I decided that it was a good idea to get to my seat before he could repay me for tripping him. I quickly backed into my desk seat. And promptly sat on the floor! My desk had been pushed forward.

In the middle of the school year our teacher made the decision to retire. He had enough of us. Our new teacher was a nice young woman who brought discipline back into the classroom.

The only class we left our classroom for was music. Our music teacher was a large woman. She looked like she could have played a Valkyrie in an opera.

Like many large women she was very well endowed. I was amazed at the torpedo looking protrusions from her chest. She must have invested a fortune in her bra. I am afraid we learned little in her class either.

I loved that town. I especially loved that tree. A few years ago I drove through there. The school was being torn down. The cafe was not there any more. Our house was gone. But saddest of all my pine tree was gone.


  1. I had two sets of cousins who lived on farms, with outhouses and a pump outside the kitchen door. We thought it a romantic and wonderful kind of life, not realizing the enormous amount of work in running such a house.

    1. You have not lived until you have to pump water in freezing cold temperatures. Or when the pump pumps up worms and bugs along with the water. We kept a strainer by the pump to catch most of them at one house we lived in. And there was always a little bit of water ready in case the pump had to be primed. Otherwise no water came out. And hot water in the winter if the pump froze. Such fun.

  2. Ohh I know the feeling of not funding again something you've invested sentiment on in the past. Whenever I go back to mu hometiwn, I always go back to those places I have considered "sanctuary" too. Funny, I liked being on a tree to be alone just like you.

    Unruly schoolers - I don't remember if I was one but I know who they were in my class.

    Toads eh, it must be disgusting to see bodies of dead toads in the morning scattered on the street.

    1. The strange thing was that no matter how early we got up to look for smashed toad carcasses we never found any trace of them.

    2. Maybe they resurrect ay night, magically :)

    3. That is a lovely thought. I wish it to be.

  3. Dear Emma, it is sad to lose those sanctuaries - but you keep them in your heart. I am often fascinated by houses in some towns where we once lived in - and now different persons are there.

    1. Very few of those are left for me. And I have looked for them. Of course they are from many many years ago and time marches on.

  4. The similaritie between your childhood and mine is remarkable...except for the music teacher. We didn't have music teachers in school. Any we were a little further from town.

    1. This was only one school I attended. Most schools did not have music teachers. I went to 13 different schools before I graduated high schools. I think most children of our generation have similar

    2. experiences. We lived during a time when we had few "luxuries" but we sure did have fun.