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Ashley Creek

August 18, 2015

Photo on 8-17-15 at 3.02 PM

What if we wrote all of the things we were sorry we did? What if we wrote all of the things that helped us change into reasonably healthy adults? What if we included all of the old rusty cars we played in as children, the sheds and shacks and chicken coops? The alleys.
Remember that big kid, Ted? When we played the junk car and shack hide and seek games he used effective strategies to fool us. He whispered loud enough for us to hear that he was leaving the area where we hid, but he nabbed us.
Ted was also an expert concerning the mysterious things. Motors and radios. He spoke of a powerful radio his dad had that could get all of the stations but one, and that one was too nearby. I could get my hands on radios. Motors were harder to get. Ted said they worked because of “coils.” I didn’t know what coils were.
Radios made a humming noise when the tubes warmed up and at night the tubes glowed with an orange light. Remember? The tuner had interleaved plates that meshed in arcs as you turned the dial. The dial on the front of the radio had a small electric light. You could see all of the tubes glowing by looking into the back of the radio cabinet. Best of all the radio made music and told stories. The radio was a solo instrument. Other times all of the cousins were in Kalispell.
Did we track sand and dirt into the house after playing in the gravel pit? Did we sit at the top of edge of the gravel pit and kick away the gravel until the edge collapsed? Why ask? If you had been there you’d be right there with us. Grandma would have been wise to meet us before we entered the house to clean us up and dump out the dirt from our shoes. Would she have done this each and every time we visited the gravel pit, just on the other side of the fence from the house?
Fortunately for her, other, less dirty, attractions for us seven boys kept us away from the gravel. Worms for fishing. Some fishing poles in the corner of the barn. Hooks, bobbers, weights. The bridge over Ashley Creek, running deep, slow and muddy. It was never clear to me if our grandpa owned land on both sides of the creek, but we roamed freely all over. It was all ours, overgrown with crab grass, thistles and nettles and brush. We just sat on the bridge with our feet dangling until the bobber blooped. Then we reeled in with the bait reel.
Cousin Mike said his brother David caught a trout there with his spin casting rod. David was serious about things. Very intelligent, but kind and benevolent. We almost always caught perch, and they were usually about 5 or 6 inches long. We kept every one we caught in a tin can that a big kid had nailed to one of the logs that supported the bridge. That was it. A couple of logs, maybe three or four, that spanned the creek. Heavy boards provided the bridge deck, nailed. I could smell the boards in the hot sun. They were gray from weathering and smelled of humus and oil. One day my cousin Carl removed all of the dead perch from the can, one at a time, and threw them into Ashley Creek to float away. I don’t remember any particular smell, but I was at the far end of the bridge, perhaps 30 feet away.
Once I reeled in a turtle. Another time someone hooked a water snake. We let the turtle and snake go. We considered Ashley Creek too dirty to swim in.

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