28 December 2005

The Hollow Stumps of Old Cedar Trees

The neighbourhood the family moved into was not even fully developed when we arrived in 1966. Some streets were still surrounded by slopes of mud. Every tree and blade of grass had been bulldozed and waited for the construction crews. The small park nearest our house, where I would one day play lots of road hockey and experiment with controlled substances was still forested with the trees that grew up to replace the tremendous old growth that had been logged many years earlier with axes and hand saws.

In the young forest we constructed forts with whatever we could lay our hands on and pretended we were cowboys. When we could convince someone to play Indian we would shoot the shit out of them with cap guns before they could scalp us with their plastic knives. We were all white kids. There were not even any black people on the TV. The only Indian any of us had ever seen was Tonto at a movie show unless we looked out of the car window from our back seat games when the family was in downtown Dope City. The Indians in the big city staggered around a lot it seemed.

If our cap guns ran out of caps we would hit each other over the head with sticks until we bled. Our mothers hated it when we came home bleeding. "You've ruined your shirt!" Other times we would fall out or be pushed out of our tree forts causing limbs to bend and occasionally break. "You ripped your pants!"

The other parks around were mostly bush too. A couple of them had fields for soccer and baseball. When it was dark we would sneak through the bush to spy on the older kids sniffing glue in the hollow stumps of the old cedar trees. They talked a different language like the Presbyterians my dad had warned me about. The glue sniffers were the cool kids. There were empty tubes of glue in all the bushes. The glue companies had it made.

As we got older we built our forts further and further away from home. We liked to tunnel into the sides of sandy ravines and play caveman. One time when we were not there two kids got buried when the cave collapsed on them. I bet they wrecked their shirts and pants when all that sand landed on them. It took the fire department a long time to dig their bodies out. My mom told us, "You better not be digging in the sand making caves!" Oh no, not us.

There were old stolen cars dumped near where those kids died. We used to like playing in the old cars. There was usually still some flammable parts of the car left we could light up with the matches stolen from smoking parents. One time some kids threw a match into the gas tank of one of the old cars. It blew up like one of those road side bombs in Iraq or Afghanistan killing two brothers. Their empty desks at school looked, well, empty. We got a big lecture from mom and dad about the dangers of old cars. "Playing around in them is ok but for God's sake you better not be lighting them on fire." Not us. That would be stupid.

How we did not die before we became teenagers in that neighbourhood is anybody's guess.

No comments: