If winter was enjoyable, then summer was pure paradise. With those long, warm days and a whole countryside to roam over with bicycling, swimming, fishing or just lying on the barn roof watching the clouds drift by. To tell all the childhood games in which we engaged would make a boring story but I will mention a few that may be entertaining.
One of the highlights of my childhood career was my first bicycle. Bill had earned some money of his own and used some of it to buy a brand new bike with a two-speed rear hub and a spring suspension front fork, having this new deluxe beauty, he no longer had any use for his old one, and so, he gave it to me. His old bike had seen better days, sure enough. He had gotten it from Dave Weller and I have no idea how many had owned it before Dave. The covering was all gone off the steel seat, it had no fenders, no chain guard and no brakes. But I was thrilled to have it for my own. The front tire had a bulge in the side that had to be wrapped with leather lace, twine, wire or anything that could be found to keep it from rubbing on the fork. After a few miles of riding, the wrapping would wear through, letting the bulged tire rub on the fork again so there would have to be a time-out to re-wrap the tire. Each time this would happen the tire would get worn a little thinner at the bulge. One day, about a mile from home, the wrapping wore through again and the tire went rub, rub, rub, bang! So the first expense on my bike was a new tire and tube. Bicycle parts could be ordered from Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalogs so, as soon as I had saved a little money, I ordered a tire and tube as well as parts to repair the brake so I no longer had to put my feet up against the front tire to slow down. Next, I covered the seat with a piece of sheepskin. Then, one at a time, I bought new fenders. After painting the whole thing bright blue, I had a bike that I rode with great pride.
All of the boys in the neighborhood of my age had bicycles now. Marshall Hanson a half mile to the east and Duane McDaniel about a mile north. We would ride our bikes to each other’s homes and, very often, some or all of us would ride down to the canyon on the Smith River. There we would climb amongst the rocks or fish or swim in the river. For awhile, Virginia and Wallace Buckingham lived just over the hill from the canyon at the original Buckingham place, and they would sometimes join us to play in the canyon. There was a huge, water-rounded boulder in the middle of the river that we called Steamboat Rock. One day we were out on Steamboat Rock experimenting with smoking Bull Durham that one of us had gotten somewhere. I was sitting on the edge of the rock with the sack of tobacco in my shirt pocket when Virginia pushed me off. When I got out of the water and back onto the rock, the tobacco and papers were soaked so we spread them out on the rock to dry. The papers soon curled and shriveled into uselessness. As soon as the tobacco had dried a little, a puff of wind scattered it. So we smoked no more cigarettes that day.
Marshall’s older sister, Carol, did quite a bit of typing and had saved a number of old ribbons that she gave to Marshall one day. The next time he and I rode down to the canyon, he had some of the ribbons with him. All afternoon we looked for some use for those ribbons. We wanted to stretch them from rim to rim across the canyon but couldn’t come up with any way to do it. On the way home we hit upon the idea of stretching typewriter ribbon across the bridge at Newlan Creek. After doing that, we hid ourselves and our bikes under the bridge to wait for a car to come. Well, of course, the drivers had no way of knowing what that was across their path and couldn’t see it until they were close, so they would slam on their brakes to stop and then get out to look at it. We would sit under the bridge and snicker until they drove on and then put another ribbon across the bridge. Our fun ended, however, when Shorty Thune, the barber, came along. When he saw what it was he suspected there were some kids nearby. The first place he looked was under the bridge. He gave us a lecture on the danger in what we were doing. We got on our bikes then, and started on up the road. When he had passed us and disappeared over the hill, we turned and went back to the bridge. We stretched our last ribbon across it, and then, pedaled furiously toward home before anyone else could catch us in the act.
One hot, dry summer Newlan Creek was down to little more than a trickle. I had ridden my bicycle over to McDaniel’s one afternoon. Duane and I and Duane’s younger brother, Donald, went down to the creek seeking relief from the heat. There wasn’t even enough water in the creek for good wading. After sitting on the bank for awhile, wishing for a swimming hole, we hit on the idea of building a dam across the creek. The heat was soon forgotten in the excitement of dam building. Even though we worked like beavers, evening came before we had anything that resembled a swimming hole. Well, naturally, I was back over there the next morning and we attacked the project again with vigor. By noon we had repaired what had washed out overnight and had a fairly decent dam going. Duane’s older brother, Dale, came down a time or two and offered advice. But Duane, Donald and I did all the work. After a quick lunch, we were back to work. We didn’t know it, and wouldn’t have given it a second thought anyhow, but not more than a half mile down the creek Uncle Ned was trying to irrigate his meadow with the little bit of water that we were so busily impounding for a swimming hole. Along in the afternoon he came up the creek looking for the beaver dam that he presumed he would find shutting off his water supply. He was a little surprised at the type of beaver he found. Being a mild-mannered and patient man, he made no objection to the dam. He was satisfied that by the next day our dam would be full and the normal flow would be going down the creek again. We had a swimming hole of sorts there the rest of the summer but, of course, the high water the next spring wiped it all clean again.


Excerpted from “Wool Trompers”  by  J. L. Fuller

About authorjim

I grew up in the country near a small Montana town, I have spent a lot of time in the outdoors, working, fishing, hunting and camping but have always been interested in mechanical and electrical things. Most of my life has been spent in the use, care and repair of things mechanical, electrical an electronic. After being retired for several years, I began writing and published my first novel at the age of 79. Now, at the age of 82, I have recently published my fourth noveland it is available from me or from the pulisher or book distributor.
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