Sunday, September 14, 2008

In The Good Old Summertime....

A portion of the actual river
A fairly long time ago, in a place not so far from where I sit writing this, lived a young boy who had far too much curiosity, energy, bravado, and spare time on occasion for his own well being. To complicate matters more, he was pretty much a loner with the exception of about four other lads who shared the same traits and who would join together in a loose knit group at times to pursue adventures that were often not well advised, planned, or executed.
On those days (or nights) that they all found themselves restless and lacking any real plans for their rare 'free time', they seemed to possess a hunger for adventures that were usually not 'really' forbidden, either by lack of rules prohibiting the behavior, or a tacit understanding that their efforts at having fun would not be well received should the activities in question 'come to the attention of ' certain people, namely adults. While never really harming themselves (too badly) or destroying anything (beyond repair), the group nevertheless garnered the oft-employed name 'usual culprits' when their actions came to be discovered, which was more often the case than not. Let us say they were not masterminds at 'covert operations'. They'd have been caught more often had there not existed at that time a sole Town Constable who worked evening weekdays only. His time was generally spent snoozing in his Chevy, which substituted for a real patrol vehicle.
Having known these boys in passing, their shenanigans were not unfamiliar to me, especially the ones involving the local 'spur' line of the railroad which ran to their town from the neighboring country which is very fond of maple leaf emblems. At the upper edge of the log booms feeding the local mill on the river was situated an iron railroad bridge which crossed into the other country without benefit of customs inspectors or regular (or irregular) border guards on either side. This was well prior to the modern era of border security attempts. Being just up-river of the booms meant that during most of the warmer days of the short summer the water beneath the iron bridge was clear for diving and swimming, sort of. It was also very irksome to the train crews who came through at regularly scheduled times to have those young scofflaws wave happily at the passing trains while leaning on the railroad company's 'No Trespassing Under Full Penalty of The Law' signs.
They weren't usually too happy about kids climbing their bridge either. Something about 'getting sued', a term most were pretty unfamiliar with in those days, other than knowing the guy who lost his leg in the wood room of the mill sued and didn't work, yet drove a new car to his nice house.
As for the actual danger involved, that's true if you count the 'deadheads', logs saturated with water on one end and partially sunken like an underwater picket fence. Needless to say, these were rather hazardous to divers descending from the top girders of the bridge to the dark waters below. For this reason, if swimming was the agenda, twine and small plastic bottles, usually old bleach bottles, were deployed in and around the diving area like so many fishing bobbers to mark the positions of the deadheads. One flaw in this system was that the current was rather strong, the water rather deep, and the 'de-barking' plant only a short way up-river and out of sight of the bridge. The de-barker and bark piles leached a continual flow of tannin-like bark juices into the river and greatly hindered visibility and the ability to find all the deadheads in the area. This also doesn't take into account the fact that additional partially sunken logs continued to drift a few feet below the water surface toward the mill's chutes downriver. This meant that the de-barking plant missed a great many of these which then passed under the rail bridge. Add the lack of EMS, an ambulance, or phone service near the bridge, and you can see why the ever unreasonable adults attempted to discourage any swimming in the very waters and conditions which they themselves had enjoyed at those ages. Plus, now there were white plastic bottles, which they did not have, relying instead on pieces of rags attached to sticks by twine as buoys. The 'new' system was obviously far superior to theirs. There was always the warning that you'll 'break your necks' falling from the upper girders with your wet, slippery feet. All of which the kids were well aware and blissfully dismissed as so much 'grown-ups not wanting them to do anything fun'.
I just recalled this as I was watching the local train cross over the iron bridge here in our present 'hometown'. It also stirred up some old memories I hope to share in the future for any who are interested. Until next time, take care and be well.

9 comments:

reeflightning said...

looking forward to more memories mike!

tweetey30 said...

I thought you were talking about a movie at first.. LOL.. Now the name of it wont come to me.. I am terrible sometimes. I know which one I am talking about the name wont come to me. Yikes..

George said...

Reminds me of growing up in North Idaho, except we had wooden trestles, not steel bridges. There were also the basalt cliffs around Elk Creek Falls. I would jump or dive off anything I could get above the water on.

Linda said...

Because of some of the stupid stunts we pull as kids, it's amazing we ever grow up to tell about them...BUT WAIT!!! Do we ever really grow up? Cause I find myself still doing stupid stuff....

thewishfulwriter said...

I love it. Felt very much like a memory from the movie "Lean on me." Which is one of my fave movies of all time.

It is amazing most of us escape unscathed. Like the time me and two other of my girlfriends decided, at the age of 16, it was a good idea to take a few seaman up on their offer to tour their ship. Their ship that had been out at sea for 8 months. How we came out of that intact and without horror stories, I'll never know...

an average patriot said...

That is great! That must have been a great time and area for an adventure crew of boys. Looks great. I thought I had a fairy tale huckleberry Finn childhood growing up in the woods and ocean of mid 60s Salem, Ma on Gallows Hill! We owned a 57 chevy Bel aire and it had power windows and seats. Rare I think in those days!

Midlife Mom said...

When I think of some of the things we did as kids I am amazed that we survived intact! One day my father caught up playing with dynamite that he had hidden in the upper beams of the barn. Needless to say we got our be-hinds paddled, but that was better then blowing up the barn and ourselves! Great post!

an average patriot said...

Hey Mike
Never get sick of the pictures. Love that area! Thought I would stop in say hi and thank you for the E's

Melly/Melody/or Mel said...

We used to skinny dip off of a bridge very similar to this...but luckily there were no logs meandering down the river.

Nice pics and great memories.