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Growing Up Ranch Chapter 4

My Playground

Growing Up Ranch Chapter 4 My Playground


One of the more significant differences in growing up Ranch concerned play. The isolation of the ranch meant my brother Paul was the only playmate within walking distance. The next nearest neighbor with kids was at Esterbrook seven miles away. On the busy ranch, there was no priority to carting kids back and forth just to play. The nearest ranch neighbors were nearly ten miles away. The White School was twenty miles away, and Douglas was the closest town, forty miles away.

When I talk about the playground and how different my ranch one was you need to consider what happens on a playground. This is where you first learn to take turns, first learn to share and begin to build relationships through the serious business of children at play. You learn about following the rules, being "nice", working as a team. You really learn more about relating with people especially your peers here than anywhere else. I had no way to participate in a group since the only "group" was Paul and I. This meant no team sports at all. No baseball, football, or basketball. When I went into town or to the White School I was always at a disadvantage. Expected to play games I had no skills for, and not the faintest idea what the rules were. To top it off I had thick glasses which affected my depth perception to the point I could never properly judge a ball to catch it. After the second football face, and the first baseball eye, my instincts became duck and dodge; never catch.

This was balanced by my general excellence at individual sports. I loved foot races, though my tall lanky build kept me a second or third place runner at best. I cried many a tear, never appreciating that second or third was a respectable finish, in a field of ten contestants. I was nearly always the best broad jumper, a sport where my longer leverage was an advantage. What made me totally different was that I was so competitive that loosing went bone deep, so I just wouldn't lose. If I started the foot race, and realized I was beat say one-fourth of the way in, I just started walking on to the finish line. I always finished, but on my own terms. Other kids could never understand this, how I could just quit (Technically I never quit), and still bother to finish. In my view I had never quit: I just never believed in expending useless energy. If I was beat, I could be beat by a mile or an inch, it didn't matter, beat was beat. But I never quit.

My family was very supportive, and Mom and Dad worked to find activities I could do as an individual. They also worked to give us "opportunities" to socialize (more on that later!) Dad and Granddad both were skiers, who both worked to get me outfitted and taught the basics. I wasn't very cooperative for some irrational reason. All I had to do was to hold a broomstick at normal ski pole length so the correct length could be ordered. Over and over I refused until finally they just measured Paul and guessed on mine. It wasn't that I didn't want to ski. In fact, I was dying to learn, but I wasn't about to take any risks.

This was typical of me in many ways. I usually tried out new things only if I had had plenty of study time before hand, so nothing embarrassing would happen. If I tried it, and wasn't immediately successful I often just quit and did not come back. This made me look good at everything I did, but most people failed to notice that I was avoiding lots of other things. This really worked to isolate me socially more than anything. I felt awkward and embarrassed to dance so I became a strict wallflower. I was not about to participate any way but passively at a club meeting. Name a "fun" group activity and I was always just on the borderline of either panic, or out and out withdrawal. How I envied other kids who could just join in!

So I adopted the self-superior attitude of the prideful outcast and looked down on them instead of really working to fit in at all. While the isolation made for distinct differences, it was not a totally bad thing. It did make me very different. My reaction to this was not very good, and I consequently took and gave harm where none was intended. Other times I'm not so sure, I will let you judge.

We had a steady flow of visitors during the summer. Families came to camp, kids and all, and I always hung around these camps as having playmates was a real treat. Other times it was whole groups. The wilderness of the Back Country was a regular hiking and camping area for the Boy Scouts and we got used to seeing a steady stream of scout troops hiking the trails that crossed the ranch. For some odd reason all the uniforms and badges made me assume that the Boy Scouts were some sort of paramilitary outfit that would keep watches and everything. Still for all their book knowledge they didn't understand nature at all, at least not in my eyes. They were like lost sheep in the woods compared to me.

This was actually literal in some cases. The scouts would often ask Granddad Art to guide them on special treks to the more hidden locations. He was sometimes too busy. As I had been taught how to find my way around, I would be called upon for guide duty. I did this even when I was quite young, leading the troop by pony back. All of this, pretty well warped my thinking about scouts, and I got a swelled head over it. This finally ended in a most regrettable way.

It was a typical June, clear skies, not too hot yet, perfect hiking weather. I watched as another scout troop stopped and set up camp “Down Around the Corner.” I rode through on regular ranch business and somehow this group just seemed to need some special treatment. I waited for nightfall when a huge full moon rose turning the landscape nearly daylight bright in the silvery black and white moonlight. Bridling up, three of us rode quietly to the deep woods above the camp where we tied the horses and began to sneak up for a look see.

I was immediately disappointed, no guard, everyone was sound asleep, the snores proved it. Not only that, these pansies had actually carried a roll of plastic in and covered the whole troop with it so not even a dew drop would dampen them! Reediculess! The fire was not dead out and red embers were still glowing, another tender foot mistake. Something had to be done; an especially fine prank was called for! The three of us ghosted down into the camp. Not even Cindy Lou Who waked up as we silently grabbed three backpacks and went back up the hill. We had no way of knowing whose packs we had and I was adamant that this was a prank we couldn't take anything so what to do? I know! Let's just swap the contents; they'll know we were here no harm done and what a hoot! So we did. One pack was probably one of the leaders since all it had in it was freeze dried food. No pack had its usual contents when we finished, and we stealthily replaced the packs in the places they came from. We “tee hee'd” as we climbed back up to the horses, mounted up, then gave them a merry TOOT-TOOT on Grandma's English hunting horn as we trotted over the hill.

Now scouts are pretty predictable; up about dawn, breakfast one hour, break camp half an hour, on the trail by full sun up. We would have expected this troop to come walking through somewhere around Eight O'clock. Eight scouts. Nine scouts...Ten comes… still no scouts! Finally about Ten Thirty in the morning here they come, double time hut, single file, no eye contact, just grim straight line lips. They headed for tall timber at top speed! What a prank! Couldn't have been better! Right?

Well maybe not. All that summer we waited for more scouts, maybe a little sheepish at what we had done. None came. Finally, curious to know what had happened, we rode the lower Horseshoe Canyon for trail sign.Sure enough, plenty of scouts in evidence everywhere. Knowing how to read scout trail markers we set out to follow the trail. Right at our property line the trail abruptly took a ninety degree turn up the side of what was almost a cliff, headed up Valhalla. We followed and found that the entire trail had been rerouted to completely avoid SPAR, working through brush, over rock piles, and linking into old logging roads, to rejoin the traditional trails a mile or two from where they used to.

As my Grandson would say now "Not too good Paw Paw." I have sincerely regretted that prank ever since and furthermore I have had both my daughters participate happily and proudly in Scouting as has my Grandson. I was even a Girl Scout helper for my daughter’s troop. I have since learned what my "ranch" culture barrier blinded me from knowing, namely what a fine organization Scouts are, and how wrong I was about them.

Now I can see how the Scouts were not a really fair situation. I was very independent, and judged based solely on my "ranch" values. The Scouts were a relatively closed organization whose clothing and activities set them apart, even from their urban peer's. So let’s see how I handled a less extreme situation. How about with a group of other ranch kids at school?

Part of Fawcett School's activity list was a weekly visit to the White School on Friday, weather permitting of course. My mother was an excellent music director and she was the prime mover in preparing all the rural schools for several combined presentations at Christmas time. The real reason was actually to allow Paul and I to get some exposure to a "normal" environment with a large group of kids our own ages. I can remember the first day very clearly. I felt awkward and unsure of myself during class time as there were a lot of unwritten but clearly understood rules that I didn't know. How to raise your hand to speak, lining up for recess; the list went on. Not knowing the routine ropes immediately put me on the defensive. But I was hanging in. Then came recess and I was even more awkward. I didn't know any of the standard games such as Kick the Can, Annie Over, Freeze Tag. I had a temper and it was burning hot, my attitude began to show and the sharks smelled blood in the water. The bell saved all of us until later.

Lunch became the boiling point. I got more time to work on my slow burn, and they got more time to egg me on. Finally, it came down to physical challenge time. Once accused of being "chicken" I was on the hook to prove otherwise. I didn't do fist fights but a good old fashioned ramming speed head butt, soon had a respectful, if jeering distance and had actually won one friend.

At this point, everything should have become pretty routine. I had passed muster and been "initiated" into the group even if head butting was kind an odd ball fighting style. This was not to be. There was the playground bully who now felt obligated to make my life miserable.

He was my age, but shorter by several inches, and lighter by about twenty pounds. We both had what they called a "wiry" build, slender but strong, from hard work on the ranch. Normally it would have been such a physical mismatch, nothing would come of it, but my natural shyness in public, my general passivity seemed to be an irresistible invitation to pester, annoy, antagonize, and finally just plain terrorize me.

I came to dread Friday visits. Bullying would start with verbal attacks and teasing. My temper started to boil. Then he moved on to actual physical attacks. I wasn't the only one he did this too but I was the one who wouldn't roll over and just take it

The other kids tried to help but couldn't fight my battles for me. While I still felt socially awkward and frequently got tearfully frustrated participating in normal group activities I really only had one "enemy"; every body’s terror the playground bully. So apparently I had trouble relating in groups with my peers. But wait; didn't everyone have the same problems? The only real difference was that I didn't have any group social skills. The other "Ranch" kids did because they got together every day at school, and often lived close enough to go over to each other's houses.

So were they really my peers? On the ranch, the social network consisted of my brother Paul and me, and the four adults in my immediate family. Oh and about twenty cats, two dogs, ten to twenty head of horses, and four hundred head of cattle. These were, in reality, my true peers; those I associated with daily and had all those invisible yet essential ties of understanding with.

Just a few examples; In his usual prickly cactus way Granddad Art taught me names and habits of animals, plants, and flowers. He also showed me how to read and navigate with a topographical map. He was part of my basic training in ranch work, from stacking hay to driving tractors to calf roping and fence mending.

My Grandma Ruth was like a second mother to me. She taught me the smaller chores like feeding chickens, gathering eggs, bringing in the milk cows. Best of all she trained me as one of her berry pickers. Wild raspberries of course, but also Goose Berries, Service berries, Choke Cherries and more. I became part of the nest finding squad when the young pullets hid out their nests in the willow thickets. I once found a nest with over thirty-six eggs in it.

My dad Russ was always teaching and guiding, fishing, hunting, marksmanship, riding and more. You see most of the "play" on my playground was training for young ranchers so we would become contributing workers as soon as possible.

This adult peer grouping went far beyond mere play and helping. Dad and Granddad had numerous contacts in government, special organizations and associations. It was not at all uncommon for a State Senator, major Newspaper Journalist, Artist, even our State Governor to stop by or write and I was allowed to be present at many of these informal meetings, provided I was, “seen and not heard.” I became more comfortable listening to the pros and cons of selective cut versus clear-cut logging, than I was whether Lex Luther could really beat Superman or not.

I also had all the ranch animals who became to some extent a peer group. Riding, whether horse or pony, is a cooperative venture. It is quite un-natural for any horse to allow anything even slightly resembling a predator on its back On top of that the horse has to agree to take directions from its rider. Every horse has a definite personality and woe be to the rider who tried to ignore that fact. Even the cattle had personality and moving and caring for the herd required developing a certain rapport with them in order to know their needs and moods. Within these peer groups I had a belonging and known place I never seemed to achieve among kids my age whether ranch or town.

Not only was my circle of playmates and peers different, so was my playground. Most town kids had to actually go to the park or school yard to find a real playground with things to climb on, swings to swing on, or even a sandpit to dig in. I, on the other hand, had "The Yard" just outside my door. Sure I couldn't dig just anyplace, there were rules, but I had a special playground. As I grew older I was allowed an ever expanding distance until nearly the whole ranch was my playground. (See appendix A maps)

The Yard began right at the cabin door step, on the porch. It was covered, so in rain or snow, this was an outdoor haven and playground. I could climb into the rafters (monkey bars), Play with the ten to twenty cats who lived outdoors (petting zoo) or use the big vise as a ships wheel or a machine gun.

The cats deserve a whole story of their own but I can't resist telling this one short tale. We had a single indoor privileged cat named Rio after his amario (yellow) eyes. Pecking order wise he was top cat but with twenty or so cats there were occasional challengers. This day it was Inky, a jet black, runty tom cat. The fight started with Inky swatting and spitting at Rio then running for his life. Yowling and spitting they scrambled over and under things on the porch until finally Inky made a break for the rafters. Rio was hot on his heels as they raced along the two by four rafter beams. Suddenly Inky slipped and fell, but caught himself by one paw. Now I'm not saying cats enjoy dishing out, but Rio stopped, calmly walked over, sat down and curled his tail and looked down at poor Inky with what I dare say was a wicked grin. Casually, with no special effort, just for entertainment, Rio swat, swatted, Inky as he dangled six feet from the floor. Inky growled and yowled but could do nothing, in fact he was slowly losing his grip on the wood. Swat, Swat,..Slip slip..the slaughter continued. Inky's ears were getting tattered and he only had a single claw holding. Another swat swat and Inky fell, landing on his feet of course and he shot off toward the Barn while Rio calmly walked back down and politely asked in at the door.

At one time I was diagnosed with a small hernia and our doctor recommended chinning as an exercise to manage this condition. Dad sawed off a two-foot chunk of a broom handle, suspended it with some small manila rope from a rafter and my circus acrobat days began. Chinning was pretty hard and not much fun, but I kept at it until I could do a dozen or so at a time.

What was more fun was to flip over the bar, or flip up and swing from it, and at last I found I could hold the bar, flip upside down and hook my toes over the rafter. Then I could do what would now be called crunches in which I pushed the bar up as far as I could by doing a suspended sit-up. Eventually, I could do twenty or thirty at a time, reaching to my toes with the bar. Building up abs this way, soon put that hernia right out of business.

Most playgrounds have a sandbox to dig in and so did mine. It was the front "flower bed" which Paul and I sort of took over after the cats, dog and ponies trampled Mom's flowers down. This was good digging dirt. Tonka toy land grew here and roads were built, bridges made over holes dug. This was the starting point for an elaborate system of Tonka toy roads that went down the garden path, along the ditch bank, through the corral and the plum patch, back up the hill to the upper ditch bank, through some woods and finally terminated at the "mine", near the bottom of the High Point This was probably at least a quarter mile long and included bridges over ditches and lots of plum tree pruning to make a thorn free tunnel, through the Plum Path

This road was made using an all Tonka tool set. Shovels were available but we used just the Tonka toys to do the work. It worked pretty much like any construction crew. First the bulldozer was used to gouge out a rough road, removing grass clumps, big rocks and all until there was a basic road. Then the grader worked to smooth down the lumps and humps and if there was need the pickup trucks and dump truck brought in fill dirt. Naturally these were the original full size, real metal, elephant step'in tough Tonka's. Today's plastic cheapies would never have survived.

Another prized dirt play area was the driveway into the yard. The dirt in it got worn down into a powdery dust that felt cool and silky as it flowed between your fingers. You could take handfuls of this dust and make "bombing runs" which would smolder with the fine dust as it settled from the drop. When it rained, there were some puddles which became pretend lakes. At one point even I even set up a D-Day invasion diorama complete with scale model tanks and soldiers. This became one of my first experiments with miniature photography and the results though poor, whetted my appetite for more. The only problem with driveway play was that eventually, Dad came home, and toys left out, were toys utterly destroyed and no wasted adult sympathy either.

My models were treasures that seldom made it outdoors where they could be damaged or lost. I made one exception and never got over the great dog disaster that resulted. There was a crawl space under the cabin where our dog Bobby slid in and out from under the house. It kept the ground bare and flat, so this looked like a good place for an airport.

Gathering some thinner boards, I laid out a runway and tarmac then carried my whole aircraft collection down and arranged it carefully. How cool! I made some take offs and landings and like all kids my attention span ended and I wandered off elsewhere to play. Of course, I left the airfield setup, in case I wanted to play again later. After all, it wasn't in the driveway; the weather was summer sunshine, and I figured no worries.

What I had forgotten was that I had used Bobby's "door" to the nice cool shade of under the house as my airport. As the day grew hot Bobby went looking for shade and crawled up under the house, dragging her belly over my precious model airplanes! Propellers and landing gear were the least of the damage, even whole wings broke off. Then there was the outbound trip and even more damage was done. I was heartbroken, hopping mad, and fit to be tied all at once. I knew I couldn't punish Bobby and it was my own fault, but what a bitter lesson in taking care of treasured collectables.

Now I didn't have those metal monkey bars or jungle gyms as they are also called. But I did have the old plow, the corral fence, and a number of trees. No lack of climbing places at all. The Plow had lots of levers and handles to move as well as a big metal seat to perch on way up high. Of course, it was an actual piece of machinery so if you fell off the seat and hit the plow blade a bad bruise was the least of your worries.

The corral fence was a challenge. The poles were big enough to walk on easily, but you did have to do sort of a tight rope walking deal to keep your balance. The challenge was to walk around the entire corral without touching the ground. Most of this was not too hard, but the part down into, and up out of the water gap was a bit tricky. There was also a part where you had to walk along the front of the barn clinging to the logs.

Climbing trees is just something boys do. I had the advantage of having plenty of old nails and scrap wood to make rungs to climb up on. The big pine tree beside the cabin was not only the rope swing anchor but also where the "Tree House" was built. It wasn't a real tree house, more like a tree platform. Paul and I hauled old scrap boards up into the tree and nailed them across the limbs. This was built by boys for boys and the flimsy lumber would never support an adult’s weight. The platform kind of followed the rotating swirl of the branches up the trunk until it wrapped over into a second story. This was a nice eagle's nest to spy out the country, just be alone or hide away. Up the tree there was always shade and often a better breeze to keep cool in during summer. Winter's bitter blast was pretty much the end of tree house play. Not only did the snow make the ladder and boards slippery, the tree branches became brittle and prone to break without warning.

There was also an old building which we called the garage but could have been a workshop when it was functional. By the time I came to live there, it was in disrepair and falling down. The roof had fallen in so it was topless. This was the place we were allowed to cut and saw and make things. Eventually, one of the end gables fell in and made a make shift lean to. Adding some propped up "wall" boards created a club house of sorts.

Walking the corral poles must have made me a bit daring as I decided it would be a fine thing to walk the walls of the old garage. This should have been easier since the logs were larger, but it was nearly twice as high which made a fall pretty serious. I didn't realize how serious at first.

We had a family gathering and getting bored as usual I decided to attract some attention by wall walking. It wasn't working, but I kept it up. In one of those OMG moments I lost my balance, stubbed a toe, and was suddenly falling head first to the ground from about ten feet up. I made no conscious "I'll just flip over and land" decision but somehow that is exactly what I did. I pretty much stayed off the wall from then on.

For some reason, I was always looking for or making "hide outs" and "club houses." Some were very simple like the nest like hideout I made in the willow bush beside the garden path. That one was so cool I tried to take pictures of it. I didn't understand the basics of a hiding place being camouflaged so the camera would only see a bush, not the neat nest hidden inside. That lesson came when six or seven precious frames of the film came back looking like just that, a bush.

More successful was the garage clubhouse but that wasn't hidden and had no door, so I wasn't real happy with it. Besides the garage was infested with nettles, so that wasn't much fun in the summer time. Also, parents knew exactly where it was; not secret enough. The best hide out was up on My Ridge, a place I called the Look Out. I found a boulder which had a split in it that made a small lean-to style shelter. What was needed was some way to be hidden since the front of this over looked the yard and cabin. No bricks were available, but Wyoming is covered in rocks, and so the idea came. "I'll build a wall."

The ridge side was fairly steep, and that meant hauling all rocks by hand, so the wall was built from a number of small stones. By a number, I mean lots and lots. Think of a rock wall with no mortar made of fist sized rocks. Practical limits kept it to about a foot high, but from below you were completely hidden provided you lay down flat behind it. Here I could watch for Indians sneaking in to attack the cabin. Or be a rifle tote'en sniper picking off the enemy. To make it more comfortable, I added some boards for flooring. With binoculars or the Army sighting telescope, you could watch for Dad to come home or look for deer, or just look around the country.

Finally I got old enough to handle real tools and full size lumber. I wanted a club house, a real, no adults allowed, club house building. I wasn't much of a builder but I had watched Dad and Granddad build enough small buildings to know what I wanted. I wheedled Dad into setting 4 pitch posts out in a square to make the corner posts. Now I needed floor, walls and roof. Oh and a door, a special door, a hatch like they had on tanks. Handy hatchet in hand I went off to the woods and between dead falls and a few pole sized trees I felled, I soon had a basic cube ready to cover with lumber. One of the benefits of my play ground was plenty of building materials to work with. Old piles of boards, fallen down buildings, and several old sawmill settings provided plenty of nails and lumber. I got quite skilled with a hammer and wrecking bar pulling and straightening nails for my projects.

This project was a real challenge. I didn't understand some important concepts like studs and extra beams so as I laid on the floor I had to find lumber strong enough to hold my weight when laid across the lower poles. There was an 8-foot span, so most boards were a good bit saggy and springy but at last, I had the floor ready. The roof was made the same way, just a flat platform nailed to the upper pole beams. More scrap lumber for the walls and it was a completed box.

Now for the "adult" proofing; that special door! I built a small ladder and nailed it to the outside of the clubhouse. Next, I carefully cut out a square hole in the roof. Saving the boards cut, I nailed small wood strips across these leaving the ends overhanging an inch or two. A make shift handle and Ta Da the hatch was done. A second ladder on the inside so you didn't have to fall in or levitate out, and the clubhouse was complete.

Now this was kid built, so in no way was it weather proof, but it was private, and for sure no adult could come barging in. In fact, no adult could fit through the hatch. As sacred kids only club house, this worked fine, but there were issues. Sagging floor boards cracks everywhere, but mostly no way to get so much as a stool inside. That hatch really controlled access! Also, no windows so no cooling; it was blazing hot inside when the sun beat down. It wasn't long before the clubhouse fell into disuse and eventually I converted it into a calf shed.

Did you have a teeter totter? So did I! When the power company ran power into the ranch, some adult got them to leave behind one of the big cable spools. It was probably meant to be used as a picnic table, but boys soon acquired it for a toy. Block the reel so it couldn't roll, put a heavy plank across the spindle, and Wah-Lah! Teeter totter! It worked great, but the main problem was a simple physical reality. Paul and I were three years apart in age and therefore growth, so weight balance was a major issue.

Every playground needs a swing and ours was pretty good. Extra long ropes meant you could really swing big. A loop of one inch nylon rope meant that it was strong enough for two or three adults let alone a small boy. At first I needed a push but I did learn to as we called it "pump" on my own. The swing was in the pine tree beside the cabin and if you really worked you could get going high enough to look down on the porch roof. Most playgrounds had that nice soft mulch under them so a fall wouldn't hurt so bad. That's for wimps! My swing had nice hard dirt to fall on so you would know you had taken a tumble. Dirt was good for scuffing your feet to dig a rut under the swing. (But never at Grandma Mary's her grass had to stay nice and green).

Like all toys things became routine, and so variations got started. First, you could swing standing up. Or you could belly swing hanging over the swing. And of course, there was good old wind ‘em up and swing. You started by winding up, twisting around and around until the ropes were wound up tight. Then step, step, step back to get started swinging. Let go and whee; the swing unwound and wound up again the other way all the while you swung back and forth. If that didn't get you, dizzy nothing would!

Now there were some special playground pieces I would have dearly loved to have. A merry-go-round would have been really cool, but the most special would have been a slide. One of those big tall ones with the wave in it, all silver and slippery. To play with those, I had to wait until we made a trip down to the White School where they had a regular playground. The rest of the ranch kids got to use this regularly, so once again, as I grew up "Ranch" I grew up different.

What my playground lacked in equipment was more than made up for in imagination. No nice bolted together log fort? No problem, stack two or three layers of windfall poles into a square and instant fort. No nice metal cap guns? No problem, find a downed tree and break off a section with a short limb for a handle and instant pistol or if the limbs were right even a tommy gun. A peculiar boulder could become the saddle on a giant horse. A point of rocks could be the prow of a ship and the meadow below the ocean and the wind rippling the hay the waves.

Gradually as I got older and more capable imagining that some place or thing was something else gave way to making a reasonable model or mock up of things I imagined. It began with building models and eventually I began to carve and whittle my own models out of wood. Airplanes were my favorites, but ships of sail would be next. I even built a whole fleet of plank ships with cotton rag sails that sailed on the waterhole pool.

I did get some of the few commercial made multi toys a large action figure GI Joe type doll called Jamie West. He came with plastic chaps, plastic gun belt, plastic everything. That just wouldn't cut it in my world. Jamie needed REAL stuff. So I became a miniaturist making real leather chaps from old worn out glove leather. Gun belts followed, then a real house. It was a two story doll house with stairs and everything. I made cabinets, tables, stools, and chairs. A full set of kitchen utensils, plates, cups, and silver, or rather wood ware. There were even books made from the small frame box art of model boxes, I used catalog or calendar page cutouts for paintings. Jamie lived a full life and got to do everything I did. I carved a wooden canoe and outfitted him with a foam life jacket. Soon Jamie was floating down the wild rapids just like me. Jamie got to rock climb with strings for ropes. Jamie got to do some special things like parachuting. Tying on a parachute and throwing Jamie as high as possible was hard work and didn't really let the chute inflate. Solution: tie Jamie to a short rope, stand up high on my ridge, and swing him in a circle then sling him high. The only problem was Jamie wasn't strong enough to take the punishment. So soon I got another Jamie for show and kept "adventure Jamie" around for the rough stuff.

As seasons changed so did the available games and activities. My playground had a small ski area, laboriously cleared by hand. Snow drifts made sled runs. One particularly deep drift made a good place to dig snow caves. The pool was part of the playground so according to season it provided opportunities not found on town playgrounds. My Playground was, in my mind, so much better, I never even missed playmates.


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