Photo credits: Old Chum and The Life of Animals
I was born for adventure. I know that sounds a tad over-the-top, and maybe it was just my age. But from early on all of my favorite stories were adventures: The Three Musketeers, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Call of the Wild, and best of all, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn! Thanks to movie adaptations and kid’s literary versions, we developed an insatiable desire to actually be Tom and Huck!
Our houses were boring–ranch-style tract homes suitable only for eating, sleeping and watching I Dream of Genie. So we virtually lived outside. And “outside” mostly meant the huge field across the street.
On The Field’s highest hill was Our Treehouse. Jeff and Rory and I regularly upgraded it. But other kids, mistakenly thinking it was Their Treehouse, kept altering it. So we’d look for exotic animals (rabbits, coyotes, field mice), and even catch some! We regularly brought home pollywogs and crawdads from nearby La Mirada Creek. We’d set the pollywogs free once they turned into toads. Our cats tended to eat our “pet” crawdads.
I also loved capturing trapdoor spiders! This was accomplished in five steps:
- Look for a telltale half-circle “door” hinged with spider’s silk
- “Knock” lightly and wait till its occupant threw it open, and then, finding no lunch, disgruntledly went back inside
- Dig down around its hobbity little tunnel with a spade
- Lift the captured section out and put it in a jar
- And then share it at school! The whole class would capture bugs, put them on the spider’s door and wait for it to attack! My teachers, um, loved it.
But the “Shingle Wars” were my favorite activity! Kids from all over the neighborhood would climb up onto the rooftops of The Field’s two precariously-leaning shacks, left over from the days when seasonal flower-pickers lived there. We’d pull up chunks of asphalt-shingle roofing and “sail” them at the kids on the other rooftop! For weeks, we came home happy as Viking warriors—and nearly as cut and bruised! Until a quickly-formed parents’ committee made the city tear down the shacks. Rats! No more shouting, “Today the shack, tomorrow Valhalla!”
Hey, you know, come to think of it…
We really were Tom and Huck!