Once, when I was about seven or eight, Kyle – the neighborhood bully who was probably in fourth grade for the third time – challenged me to a fight later that day, to have time to gather our arsenal (just like the Wild West, only it was about 2 p.m. rather than high noon). I showed up dragging a tree limb behind me as my weapon, and Kyle, who showed up empty-handed, probably because he was fighting a girl, hightailed it out of there as soon as he saw my epic cudgel. I was full of bravado back then, even if I wouldn’t have gotten very far in a fight. It’s funny to remember that incident now because I could barely pull that branch behind me, let alone fight Kyle with it.
Most of the kids I found myself in trouble with were great adventurers. We’d roam the neighborhood, cutting through backyards, being yelled at as we went to “go home and mess up your own yard!”. I found that the worst discovery in a new backyard was a dog.
We had a German Sheppard when I was growing up, who wouldn’t have hurt me or my siblings even if my father had commanded her to, but she would have torn the throat out of anyone else. Consequently, I was not afraid of dogs in the least, which was remedied one summer day around my eighth or ninth year.
Kyle was often the ringleader in most adventures I had, and we had an uneasy tolerance for one another. It was that or be bored. My older siblings didn’t want me hanging around them, and my younger brother would often devolve into tears too easily, or was too little to keep up.
That morning was one of those sweltering-at-10am mid-summer days, the sweat making you uncomfortably sticky and ornery. Kyle had the idea to bring several of us to a good swimming spot in the Ten-Mile River, but we’d have to take a new way to get there (translation: he had no idea where he was going).
The last yard we cut through had a thick stand of trees and brambles that we had to scramble through, branches whipping those of us unlucky enough to be right behind Kyle, while brambles tore at our legs. After several complaints Kyle declared that we were ‘pirates’, and what was a few scratches? If were we sissy-babies about it, we could go home. No one left.
It was a sweet feeling to be out of the woods, but now we were in territory I’d never been in, and even had I wanted to go home, I would have been lost. We started to walk through a yard where a dog was lying in the shade of the house, and I thought nothing of it. Kyle said going through the yard would bring us to the river, and that was fine with me until I heard a low, bone-chilling, growling. Two of the kids ran back the way we came, but Kyle and I were already half-way through the property, and the dog was between us and the woods. Kyle told me to stand still, but I had never heard a dog growl like that toward me, and I ran. Kyle ran too, not wanting to face the dog alone, and just as I hit what I thought would be a sloping hill, I realized too late was a cliff. I may even have run through the air for a few seconds à la Wile E Coyote.
We were lucky that it was an angled cliff side, so that when we hit we were rushing down the rest of the drop with rocks and gravel – right toward train tracks. I’d like to make this story much more interesting and say we just missed an oncoming train by inches, but it looked like the tracks weren’t even used anymore. There were weeds growing all along and in them.
Neither Kyle nor I suffered more damage than scrapes and humiliation, but I would have jumped off that cliff again because that dog was still standing at the edge of the drop-off barking for us to ‘stay the hell off his lawn’!
We never did make it to the Ten-Mile River that day, but I certainly was glad to make it home.
© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.