Growing up in the country in the 1950’s, we often used the landscape for play. the “Big Rock” as we all called it was in the background of many good times. It was also the location for a couple of catastrophes of mine.
I recall my early tree climbing training. I’m a self- taught tree climber, school of hard knocks type lessons. A couple of the neighbor boys and I were out near the big rock and the older and bigger of the two, Keith was discussing how he could climb the wild cherry tree that grew in the stone wall. I decided that was good idea too, and began climbing right behind him. He was, as I said taller and had a longer reach so he was able to grab the first limb and begin upward progress right away. I jumped and barely grabbed the branch, but followed right behind, mimicking his choice of limbs.
We were quite a ways up and I was right under Keith waiting to take the next branch. As he went upwards, I put my arms up and grabbed the branch he was standing on. His weight evidently was all the strength the branch could muster, and as I pulled with my hands and searched for a place to get footing, the branch snapped. Continue reading →
It was a beautiful fall day in Vermont, and the bow and arrow season for deer had just started the weekend before. It was a week day and there was no school that day. I hadn’t had my drivers’ license for that long but I had quite a bit of experience driving back roads and standard shift vehicles. A neighbor was anxious to go deer hunting with me and we decided to ride around looking for a good place. Due to the fact there was no school, my little brother was also home. I was 16 and he was 10, and I didn’t particularly want to have him ride along or go hunting with me at the time. I felt that I was older and shouldn’t have to babysit him when I wanted to go out in the woods, but he insisted on coming along.
Somehow I came up with the idea that if I scared him with my driving he’d want to stay home and leave us alone. I told my neighbor friend, David, that I was going to drive in a wild stunt to scare my little brother into wanting to be brought home. He grinned as if he thought it was a fun idea and was ready for it. We were a couple of miles from my house on the dirt road, and headed toward Cavendish and in third gear. The car was a 1964 Chevy station wagon, 3 speed standard on the Continue reading →
There are many influences that can make adolescence a complicated time of life. Bullying is one of them, and the defense against it can make or break someone’s self-esteem. When I was a kid, I was proud of my ability to defend myself against the worst kind of bully I ever encountered. He is still in jail for murder, and was an adolescent who should have been stopped then, but somehow manipulated the system and made it through without any deterrent that he respected. Later in his life, he admitted to figuring out how to give the right answers during interviews and to get by the authority that should have kept him off the streets.
I made it through many stressful meetings with him, and to make matters worse he was my neighbor on our country dirt road. Here is one incident to show the devious bully I knew. This one I’d say was the worst, but I lived to tell about it afterwards. This person is an example of how someone devious and without proper direction can manipulate those around him until it’s too late. I have changed his name.
I was about 13 or 14 years of age and lived out in the middle of nowhere in Vermont. One of the life skills my woodsman father and his friends taught me was trapping. During the winter it’s the season for muskrats and mink. I checked the trap-line every day and roughly at the same time because there isn’t a lot of daylight after school. One particular night I recall having yet another violent encounter with the tall and mean neighbor up the road. Johnny lived about a half mile away but it was within view of the path I followed through the snow along the banks of the beaver pond and stream where my trap-line was set.
Johnny evidently was waiting for me to show up that day, and had some sort of plan in his head about what he wanted to do to wreak havoc on Continue reading →
Living in the country on a dirt road allows for many adventures in youth, including fun outings on the spur of the moment. Fishing in nearby streams that follow the contour of the valley in Cavendish and Chester Vermont, was one of those summer activities I enjoyed as a kid. The season always started on the second Saturday in April and coasted along until September which made it a perfect summer pastime for school vacation. My father was a great fisherman and came home with a fresh catch for supper often. I wasn’t as good at it but enjoyed catching a few good sized brook trout. I spent more time fishing alone than with friends because I had to meet my mother’s “get home so I can make sure you haven’t drowned” schedule. There weren’t many kids my age to go fishing with either, and it seemed that the one neighbor that was close to my age was always luckier than I was, and he didn’t hesitate to tell me so, which made me feel a bit inferior as a fisherman.
One day we were feeling like an adventure and took out a couple of horses for a ride. At the last minute we decided to take our fishing-poles with us. It appeared this would be a less strenuous trip than even on a bicycle. No pedaling, just hold the reigns and the pole crossways in our fingers over the front of the saddle. Every time we came to a good fishing hole we could just tie the horses up to a near-by safe tree and walk to the brook and throw in the line. The creel was a canvas bag with waterproof interior so if we caught any fish it would keep the leather saddle dry.
After fishing on the Dean Brook Road about 2 ½ miles from home, we turned around to head back. The ride was pretty uneventful and the horses were calm for the most part. The closer we got to home the more anxious we were to make it a more exciting ride. I recall David was on my right and I was posting along at a slow trot. He decided he’d like to kick it up a notch and we began to trot faster and then canter. Suddenly, and unbeknownst to him, the hook he had placed in the eye of the pole bounced loose and swung over just enough to catch in my Continue reading →
Casual trail in the snow,
Cross country skier had been there though.
Deep mountainside woods,
A place I’d been before.
Travelers on skis or foot,
Seeking distance to feel
No door to close,
No window shade.
The more I walk,
The more my worries fade.
The snow is colder here,
Left untouched by the sun,
Not a wrinkle for the wind to smooth.
Deep breaths massage my chest
While passing silent sentences,
My thoughts layer upon my memory.
I will recall them to be laid upon paper,
That my eyes may give an opening for retrieval,
My pen renewed my calm.
Rick Wyman, 3/20/17 6:41 p.m. Spring Equinox
A lot of people I knew in high school, and some I didn’t, made a reputation good or bad at Barney’s Garage. The place was just across the street from Chester High, the school I attended, my first year being 1967. It was a real garage and a real place of business. The man was as nice as could be and rarely ever complained about the patronage of students that frequented or spontaneously showed up there. The parents of a lot of the students were his customers for gas or minor work on their cars. Some of the older students themselves were customers and I believe one of his children was a student at the school too.
Sometimes the students would loiter out in back of the garage to have a place to smoke or just hang around talking. Often the students would go there for answers to challenges by one of their adversaries. You’d often hear someone shout out in the halls of the school, “I’ll meet you behind Barney’s Garage at lunch time.” But more often it was, “We’ll settle this behind Barney’s Garage after school tonight!” No matter what the adversaries looked like, there was always something to watch happening there. My reason for going to Barney’s was usually to buy a bag of chips or soda and candy bar out of the vending machines.
One day while I was standing there, two cousins with an age difference of a few years, and 50 to 75 pounds difference in weight, arguing and daring each other to do stupid things. They were trying to prove who was the bravest, or perhaps the results were to prove who was most foolish. I tried to talk the younger one out of taking one dare in particular of a most disgusting and what I’d call dangerous nature. He was dared to Continue reading →
The old man was a tough task master for me while growing up. The longer I live, the more I can look back on the lessons and realize his mentoring was just what I needed to become respectable and self-sufficient. I learned to have confidence and survive under adverse conditions.
Growing up, I never really worried about his providing for us because, well, he always did. We lacked money and luxury, but I never thought we were undernourished or without plenty of entertainment. The word bored was not one I can recall using when describing my day to day life. My father was a man who had an overabundance of suggestions to keep me busy as he was himself always on the task of something. If we were low on food he would know Continue reading →
The summer got shorter, and so did my construction job, as I was enrolled at Castleton State College for the fall semester. Being on the construction crew still required me to be there at an early hour, usually 6 days a week as the deadline for finishing the bridge neared. This made for very tense times when it rained, or when the specialty skills guys couldn’t make it.
The rest of us were pushed onward and upward to get things ready for the “big guns” to inspect the work, such as the angle of the bridge approach, the amount of right of way, and the pouring of the structural concrete. Being nineteen years old, I made sure my life was fun as well as productive. My mother was a big fan of me never being idol, making sure I was up in time to get to work. A motivational alarm clock, if you will. Some days I’d make it to work early, and fall asleep in my car at the job site. If I did fall asleep, I’d be awakened by a fellow worker or the foreman rapping on the windshield, telling me to get up and get started.
I was on the crew picked to cut the trees for the right of way, and pile the debris to be burned. We had spent the week cutting and piling so the heavy equipment guys could make sure the entrance and exits onto the bridge were ready to set, and the temporary crossing was clear for everyday traffic. We had a giant pile of brush and chunks of wood ready to be burned. The workers with carpentry skills were on the bridge building the forms that would hopefully soon be full of concrete.
Another worker, a year or so younger than me, was on the job that day too. He was a pleasant kid, and told me he had a wife and a baby at home. I wondered how he’d gained all this responsibility at his age. We got along well and had become friendly during the time we had spent on the same tasks. He was supposed to help me control the burn and clean up the area. We had chainsaws and gasoline cans around in case we had to make further cuts for managing the project. There were storage tanks of fuel to fill the heavy equipment machinery. I remember standing next to the brush pile and telling my coworker friend to go and get 5 gallons of diesel fuel oil to start the pile on fire. He took off in a chipper mood with the empty can.
I was leaning on my shovel when he returned and said he’d soak the pile so we could get a good ignition and feed the fire. I stood and watched as he shook the last drop out of the can. In great anticipation I watched him squat down to strike the match. As soon as his hand swiped across the friction pad on the match book, Continue reading →
During the time adolescence turns to adulthood, dreams become prevalent about what profession might bring both satisfaction and large earnings. When I was in college, in the early 70’s, the time between semesters brought a couple of jobs I had randomly acquired. These soon fell off the list of things I’d choose for future careers.
I will be the first to admit that I am someone who has been described as accident prone. I have been getting injured since clumsy toddler-hood (check my mother’s entries in my baby book) and have not had a respite from damaging my body since.
Despite all the signals, I still found myself working a construction job building a bridge in southern Vermont. The job had a variety of risky tasks to perform working toward its completion. Safety rules were not as diligently observed then as they are now. The owner of the construction company decided to recycle the steel beams that spanned Continue reading →
I had a lot of things happen in the winter as a kid in the 1950’s and 60’s. It happens frequently that I hear people about my age refer to the deep snow falls we used to have back then. They are constantly comparing them to the snowfalls of now. I imagine most people forget or choose to ignore climate change as a valid factor. I was one of the unfortunate children of the 50’s that had a birthday in the middle of January. January 20th seemed often blessed by a snowstorm of substance, which was great for sliding and building snow forts, but not so great for having a birthday party. We lived on a single lane dirt road in Vermont.
Continue reading →