Tag Archives: childhood adventures

Old Things

Ever since I was a child I had a love of old things. “Antiques” people would correct me. “No,” I would think. “Antiques belong in museums and serve no purpose but to remind us of the past. Old things are things you can still use.” That love of “old things” has never left me. Those wonderful objects that were made to not only serve a purpose but to do so aesthetically as possible. From old cooking utensils to hand pumps I always pause and think, can I use that? Not, how quaint.

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When I was young we had a neighbour named Jim. He was an old man who lived in a house build of Cottonwood logs of a girth few trees today have a chance to achieve. His house had one light bulb hanging from a cord with tinfoil to direct the light as he needed. He had a tv that he only used to watch baseball and a fridge that normally only held lunch meat and milk. Those three things was all he owned that was “new”. His house was dark and smelled of the wood stove and tobacco chew.
He would sit in his chair and tell stories about how he used to be a cook in the army and served up 300 meals a day to the boys on a cook stove like he’d never seen, it had space for 24 pots. It was an all day task back then, you split the wood between cook times and had to keep those fires just right. His own stove was just a tiny thing compared to the one he used in the Big War.
His water came from a hand pump that was attacked to a sand point pounded down into the ground water. he taught me how to hold the edges just right as the metal had worn so much they no longer fit quite right. He talked about how the leather diaphragm inside it worked to suck the water up and how to prime it. He explained that if you let the leather dry out it would crack and then… no more water. So every day, if he needed water or not he would be out there to pump up a bucket of water. No water ever tasted better to me.
(I have a picture of that old cabin and Jim in a photo album that I would love to add, but my scanner is not recognizing my computer…)

On the farm I grew up on the barn was a wonderful old thing, filled with old tools, from hand crank drills, to horse pulled plows and seeders. I loved them all.

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(My mom, sister and I in front of the old barn) Sadly it burned down in the late 80’s

Perhaps this love of the old things is what led to my interest in permaculture and off grid options. For if Jim could live with but a bulb and baseball game now and then why couldn’t we all? It has also given me a fascination with old buildings. I do not think my son is quite as exceited about them as I am.

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On the corner of the property there is an old cabin that is mostly been lost to the past. He and I walked out on the 30th as it was remarkably warm with the snow melting and the need for coats debatable. We climbed about the old logs and mounds of earth about it. The logs themselves held little interest to him, it was the plants that had begun to grow on them that held his focus.

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I had to wonder how tall the walls had been, when it had been built and why had it been left, bot those a are questions that only the local historian could hope to answer. Luckily for me she does not live far but trying to track her down is another matter. In the mean time, I will debate digging up the floor and shifting for clues or should leaving it to melt into the forest.

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Down by the River

Where I grew up the river was less than a mile from the River my brother and I, as two of the middle children of a family of 8, found escape and entertainment reality of “out of sight out of mind”. We would hurry through chores and dash from the house to grab the three things we needed, sleeping bags, fishing poles, and matches. Each of us geared up we’d take off. Down the driveway and up the road, over the creek, past the told railroad car and under the barb wire fence.
the river
There was too much risk to cross the open field around the old cabin we would keep to the trees, take the long way; hurry through the cattails, duck along the banks and use the ditches for cover as if we were to rebel scouts in enemy territory. Low and fast we stayed alert and hoped we would get far enough away we couldn’t be called back.
Along the way we would pick wild asparagus, watch for carp in the slough, snatch up springs of mint, debate over cattail roots and rose hips, but would rarely bother with either.
Once past the field, across the old wagon road, and over the old culvert we were free.
We’d relax and slow down to an easy stroll. We would pause to pick June Berries, gooseberries, or Buffalo Berries or even Currents depending on the time of year.
We would choose a site that we both knew in the wonderland of the 100 acres of cottonwood forest. Maybe we would choose the Culvert Site, or the bank, the Rocks, the Fishing Hole or the Bank. There we would lift the sod from the fire pit, check the rocks and if we had a tent there or carried along we’d set it up. The next step was always firewood. Grass and twigs were set up to get it going, and wood stacked aside to last the night through. Just close enough to dry out but not so close as to risk catching sparks.
Then- the river
Beaver on the bank
We would fish or go after crawdads in the back waters and side pools.
“Watch the rapids, think like a fish,” he’d say. “Go grab me some grasshoppers…”
With our treasures in hand, never less than one fish we would head back to camp.
Depending on the site we would cook our fish, in a pan, split over the flames on a willow frame or rolled in tin-foil, stuffed with wild herbs and slow baked in the coals. Each site had different “stores”, from salt and pepper in baggies buried in the sand, cans of tomatoes soup to dip crawdad claws in, crackers in sealed tins, even noodles were smuggled out to the Store carefully hidden from random passer-bys as well animals.
We’d spend a week at a time down there, dashing home to get our chores done and take off again.
At night when the coyotes were too close, the river running dangerous high, or the lightning striking too close as the wind tore at out shelters my brother would tell stories.
little fire at the river
Stories of being alone in the artic with a lost polar bear cub as your only company: life as a civil war hero: life as a native medicine man watching the “white devils” destroy his world; lives full of challengers far more difficult than our won.
Together we learned that when life is overwhelming, when you needed to see beyond your self or the moment, or when you had no answer for a moral dilemma… tell a story.
The lessons learned down by the river have been with me my entire life, from fishing to learning to deal with troubles with a story, are lessons far more valuable than anything learned in a classroom. So today I write stories, while my brother laughingly says to all troubles in life, “you just need to go fishing more.”
my brother grown up