As an adult of forty-three, at the start of 2018, I will write, of an adventure with a little less darkness or sappy romance. Instead, I will share an experience of childhood excitement. I will do my best to include as much detail as possible. I hope you enjoy it as much as I loved living it. This story is based on true events. Very little if anything was embellished. It was truly an adventure.
The Crab Catching Place: A Childhood Adventure-Part 1
A true story, by
When I was ten years old, I had very little supervision. I lived in the Northern part of the United States, in a little town in Michigan. We lived in what a lot of people around the world refer to as a Trailor Park. Though, our trailers were generally permanent in their location, once parked.
On mornings when I didn’t have school or was even at home sick, I would be up and out the door. Our park was surrounded by woods that spanned many miles on one side. The front or Northern side of the park was connected to a major freeway. The reverse or Southern side was a very busy rural road connecting to many suburbs.
The West contained many kinds of woods but led to, after awhile, an old abandoned sewage plant and then a Cement factory. Both of these places involved many other adventures my parents had no idea that their ten to a twelve-year-old child was involved in and in a lot of cases, I was the troop leader! (laughs)
To the East, ladies, gentlemen, gentle genders, are where our adventure begins today. Many acres of woods, spanning miles. Thick and dense in many areas. Running through these woods and zig-zagging, looping was what a Northern person would call a very large crick. A southern person would call a creek. Many people would also, in parts of it, call it a small river.
The crick was as wide as thirty feet in parts and several feet deep. In other parts, it was only inches deep and you could easily hop over it. Parts of it traveled under and through thick brush, forest like. A large portion of the creek turned and snaked through half a football field of thick purple vined Briar Patches. With Mother-Nature claiming it as her own. Parts were almost tame and parts were severely wild. It was truly a marvel of nature to be admired.
The water traveled under a small bridge that crossed over the creek and very busy road behind our trailer park. Approximately twenty feet/six meters high from the surface to the roof of the bridge. The banks of the creek there were just as equal in height and slanted. So children such as us, me in general, could easily walk down it and play in the water. Though I am sure that was not supposed to be the function of them! Storms would cause great swells in the water. The crick would flood and rise easily twenty feet. Normal levels below the bridge were only near one foot, or 30 Cenitemets deep.
When the storm hit, it was amazing and terrifying to watch. The gentle stream we played in all the time would become this muddy swirling mass of rushing water. You didn’t have to tell the children to stay away! It was mesmerizing. I would find myself watching it speed under the bridge. I would feel the vibration of the water passing under and around the pillars. Watch tree branches and debris float past at lightning speeds. As the storms drenched our homes, the crick became a dangerous beast that no one could tame! At ten years old, I attempted to do just that.
Let us step back a moment from the ferocious parts of the crick or creek or river… I would like to introduce you to a place someone shared with me and I then, in turn, shared with my friends. We played there for many years. We called it, The Crab-Catching Place.
The crab-catching place started at the very end of the wild wilderness. All the briars and thick brush that hung over the crick just stopped and then turned around a very high banked portion, much like the bridged area I talked about. High and very steep dirt walls with sods of grass hanging over in tuffs. Where the crick started There was a natural fish ladder right at the start of our special place. Crayfish, also known as crawfish or crawdads, would swarm there by the hundreds. If you collected a five-gallon plastic bucket full, cleaning out the ladder. The next morning it would be full again! It was amazing. So, our little-secluded area, crick, clubhouse… hang out(?) was titled, The Crab-Catching Place.
We caught crabs, we swam, we fished for turtle and trout. It was an amazing place. The adventures and misadventures we had there surmounted day by day. Girls, first kisses… Secrets… All happened in this place. My troop of friends would, of course, like to think we were the only ones to ever discover this place. We knew it wasn’t so. Though the three years I lived in that park, the Crab-Catching Place was ours!
Not too far from the Crab-Catching Place was an old condemned house. Most likely a beautiful place to build a home before the world moved on and properties were bought and trailer parks were built. As an adult thinking back, it must have been a beautiful small place. A creek near-by with some trout and crabs. Hell, I bet the person that lived there could have built the Fish Ladder where the crab and minnows lived. It was very well crafted to be just natures intent.
One day, riding my bike down the two-track towards the creek. I stood looking at this old small palace. My ten-year-old (I think closer to eleven) mind took in the entire picture. The roof had collapsed in on the main room and the small bedroom was completely decimated. The front door was halfway open. All the kids in the park stayed away from this old house. It was said to be haunted. I knew what haunted felt like. This wasn’t it. It was just old and forgotten.
My friend, Gary was close behind me. He stopped, asking what was up.
“Let’s go in,” I said. His eyes became round and slowly shook his head no. Gary was my best friend. We did almost everything together. He was also three years older than me. Some people might call Gary a “slow” person. Like the house, I think Gary was just misunderstood. He thought differently than others did. I think that is why I liked him. I also think I got him into way more trouble than he deserved. (Sorry about that, Gary!)
“Come on, it isn’t haunted. It doesn’t feel bad at all.”
“Mom said I was never to play or go in there. That it was haunted.” He was starting to shift from foot to foot. I think maybe he might even have been perspiring from the very thought.
“Fine, stay outside the door. Watch our bikes. I’m going in to explore.” I said all these things as I was riding toward the front door. The weeds, from the two-track to the house were three feet or about one meter tall. I was a stout ten-year-old, they were almost chest high! I picked up my bike and threw it into the weeds so no one could see it. I started to wade into the weeds… The door was about twenty yards away.
At this moment I realized how long it must have been since anyone had cut these weeds down. I came across an old yellow rusted plow. A coffee grinder. I knew what it was because my Grandma used one. I played with the handle for a few seconds after I dug it out of the ground. For some reason, I looked for a million different things to distract me from getting there. I loved to explore. I think I was trying to draw out the experience. I’m not really sure. I started to understand why people avoided this house. It put off an energy to stay away. The ripped tar paper falling from the walls. The roof collapsed. White chipped lead filled paint coming off in flakes around all the busted windows.
I tripped on an old axle and fell face first into weeds and a dead dog (I think) skull stared at me. I let out a small yell. Gary was at my side instantly. What a great friend. He was so afraid, yet was at my side the second he thought something was wrong.
He helped me up and we both turned towards the house. We both nodded at the same time but didn’t talk. I knew we were going in together.
I stepped up into the house first. The porch was nothing but a pile of cement dust and a few brick shaped rocks covered in moss. I used the door frame and pulled my myself up into the main room. The ceiling was collapsed on all sides but left the center open. Gary quickly followed. He had his hand on my belt. As an adult, I think he was afraid I was going to fall through the floor or something. He might have been right!
We both looked in awe. It was obviously something people used as a dump for unwanted trash. It Was a gold mine for two children. There were several old-fashioned washing machines with handles and rollers. Wash-boards, old rusted bed springs, gross old furniture, and mattresses. Old Chevy and Ford motors. What looked like baby crib rails. Then there they were. Three very old 60’s bathtubs. One was an old claw foot. The other two were fiberglass.
A plan started to form in my head. A plan that would probably change the course of every single one of my friends lives for the next two weeks, as well as tamper with mother nature, just a little. A plan inspired by television, books and my father. I remember the words I spoke to my friend with clarity.
“Gary, we are going to have some fun.”
I had to bribe every single friend I had. No one wanted to help. I begged for my mom to buy a box of ice cream sandwiches and popsicles. She did, luckily. The day came and I stole both brand new boxes. I paid for that later with a spanking, but it was well worth it!
I stole, umm, I mean borrowed nylon rope from my dad’s shed and me and six sugar-filled and frightened children went to work. I tied all the knots and directed all the pulling. We salvaged the fiberglass tubs from the old house with ease. The big one… The clawfoot made me think. We couldn’t pull it. We all tried very hard.
The next day at school, it was like God himself was talking to me. I heard my mom talk about divine intervention. I honestly thought that this is what that was! My teacher brought in a projector that day for our history lesson. There on the screen in front of me was the answer to all my problems. The Egyptian slaves on the screen were building the great pyramids. The huge stone blocks were being moved with pivots and logs! There was an old log pile next to the house and endless amounts of old 2×4’s and plywood. Heaps and heaps of the stuff. I sat back in awe and soaked in every little detail. The scheming never ended. I knew this was going to happen!
After school, I was only able to get three friends and myself. Of course, Gary was there for me. This is where the 1980’s montage music starts. It was like a miracle. I tied the ropes. Grabbed the logs and a sheet of plywood. It all went, sort of smoothly. The tub moved and it kept going left and right and falling off the logs and plywood. But we managed to get it out of the house and through the weeds.
The scene was set. I was scheming and my adolescent brain wouldn’t stop. Down-stream from the Crab Catching Place and after the swimming hole was a clay deposit. It was really quite a discovery and very beautiful one at that. As you wade down the stream it spans out from under the steep earth banks that surround the creek. Just under the surface of the stream, you can see it spanning out all along the bank. The clay had to have been easily 3 feet deep, covering an area under the water 10 to 15 square feet or 1.5 square meters! So basically, TONS of the stuff.
Who said kids don’t listen? I listened very well when I was a kid. One of the things I paid attention to because I was fascinated by it, was cement. My father was repairing our front porch and I asked him what it was made of. He listed three ingredients. Sand, rock, and clay as the basics. Oh yeah, you know where this is headed. But wait, there’s more!
Operation Set Sail was well on its way.
I hope the first part was at least interesting and drew you in a little. Part two will be posted soon!