Monday, October 26, 2009

Our Backyard

This is the view of the back of my childhood home. My father was the first to purchase property in that strip of land on Dughill Rd. He bought three parcels and eventually sold the two others to our adjoining neighbors to build houses on. At that time, we all went to the same American Baptist Church. The parsonage of the church was built two parcels from us. After a few years, the Lord showed my parents that this church did not honor the Lord and they moved on when I was just a tyke.

The backyard of my home afforded all the entertainment of my youth. It is a 3/4 acre lot and we had plenty of room in the back to play soccer, Ghost in the Graveyard, archery, and many other great games. The back left wall served as both a soccer kicking wall and a baseball backstop. I remember one day that we found some toads and so from that baseball backstop we pitched them into the air and sent them screaming with one swing of the bat the 60 or so feet to the creek.

When I was younger, each side of the yard had 2 parallel trees that served as goals for either soccer or football. My brother and Pastor's son Craig would come over and shoot archery in the yard. They would set up hay bails and shoot their compound bows. One day, after watching the variety show "That's Incredible", my brother and Craig thought the could mimic the show with some trick shooting. Ray would lay down in front of the hay bail and Craig would shoot the target only inches above him. They also got the bright idea that they could shoot arrows at each other and catch them. This lasted only a few shots as they almost killed each other. Another archery idea they had came from the Dukes of Hazard. They poured the bb's out of 12 gauge shotgun shells and then placed the shell upside down on the end of their arrow. All that was left was the primer and powder wad. They then shot the arrow at a huge rock we used to have at the edge of the creek. When the arrow hit, it made a tremendous BANG and shot right back at them. They decided that this too could kill them, so they stopped.

The focal point of the backyard was definitely the high rope swing tied from a 40 foot limb of the Sycamore tree. We used that swing for so many childhood games. It always served as "base" during tag. We used it so much that it always had a 4 or 5 foot dirt bare place underneath of it. My dad changed the rope to that swing every few years. It was a neighborhood event when it happened. Dad had devised a method of getting the rope that high by tying it first to a ball-peened hammer. He would through the hammer over the limb, and then my a series of ingenious throws tie the two ropes at just the right distance to come down and be attached to the seat. For my sister's wedding in our backyard, Dad purchased special white rope that was beautiful. He would drill two holes of course for the seat and tie a knot below the board. A very important step was melting the ends of the rope so it would not fray over time. Mom would not have liked that look at all.

A fun thing we like to do with that swing was sit someone on it and then twist up the 40 feet of rope. They would rise, rise, rise as we twisted them and then spin with furious speed as they unwound. If you were in the seat, you could get more speed by simply leaning forward. When the ride finished, the rider would hop off and stagger around drunkenly. It was great fun. I never remember anyone throwing up from the ride, but I sure remember many who could not walk for several minutes.

My father has always been meticulous about his lawn in that yard. Originally, when we built the house, my parents raked the yard for rocks for several months before seeding it. They also "rolled" the yard several times a year with a large water-filled roller that we had for many years. My father religiously fertilizes, and today that lawn is softer than most carpets with zero weeds. It is great to visit and romp around with the grandchildren or simply lay on and look up at the sky through the large boughs of the Sycamore tree.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Rock Garden

My mother always kept a "rock garden" on the sloping side of my childhood home. I assume it was called a rock garden because of the large rocks that bordered the garden and also separated the large collection of plants within.

In my early years I remember the top of the rock garden being a steady row of orange/brown Iris flowers against the house. Each end of season, my mother would faithfully cut away the plants to allow the bulbs to send up new growth in the spring. One year, I really wanted to help my mother. A friend of mine had just purchased a new invention that hardly anyone possessed: a weed eater. As I saw my friend cutting down weeds with that orange electric Black and Decker weed eater, I thought of all the time I could save my mother if I got him to cut down the Iris plants. I was a good boy and I explained the contraption. She hesitantly agreed and came to watch progress in action. As the string began to spin on that weed eater, the Iris' choppings began to fly like a blender without a lid. It was as if we were in the middle of a tornado of juicy plant shreds. My mother lost her sanctification and we were barely able to escape with the weed eater and our lives.

Another rock garden story fills my mind...Our neighbor to the left was a mean man. He was rather well-to-do and didn't seem to like kids at all. His wife was very nice though and we tried to be kind to her when we could. Our next door neighbors to our right had two girls a bit older than me. The younger, Tina and I decided that it would be a nice thing for us to put some Iris flowers from my mother's rock garden in a vase and leave them anonymously at the front door of our mean neighbor. So, me (being a good boy) asked my mother first if we could do it. She of course said "yes" and thought it was a good gesture. The problem was that I didn't understand horticulture. I found a large vase, dug the Iris plants up (bulbs and all) and put a large handful in front of our neighbors house. My mother was sore at me for several days that she had lost those good bulbs.

I found a very nice garder snake one time in that rock garden. I kept it for a while in a large glass canning jar. One day, to my surprise, that snake vomited itself up. I don't know how to describe it to this day. I don't know if it was shedding it's skin or what. All I know is, it opened it's mouth wide and vomited it's entire body out of its mouth. I was so freaked out that I dumped the snake out and ran away with only the willies.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My Childhood Home

"I will look to the hills from whence cometh my help..."

I often speak of my childhood home in West Virginia. Even to this day, I draw strength from those hills. I am invigorated when I deeply breath in the air of the hollow where I was born.

My parents built our home the year that I came into this world. It was the only house that I ever knew. I thought it might be fun to share some photos and stories with you of this sacred place.

A road barely two cars wide runs up a hollow called "Dug hill". I do not know whether the two hills on opposite sides of this road were indeed "dug out", but the hollow is only separated by the road, a strip of land perhaps 3/4 acre wide, and a beautiful creek.

These are the elements that cause years of precious memories to flood through my veins. I hope to share a few with you.