Life in my neighborhood was always an adventure of some kind. Counting six or eight blocks in any direction, it seemed as though the space was endless. By foot, bicycle, or go-cart, we could lose ourselves and lose all track of time. It has really grown in population now and what exists in houses in houses and businesses today was “the woods” back then. There was hardly a day that went by that we didn’t spend time in the woods.
Across the road in front of my house was totally forbidden when we were younger. Living on Huntsville Road was like living on the Indy 500 track. Cars were numerous and speedy and crossing by any means was not allowed. We would beg mom to go “over there” and play. We didn’t really know what was over there, but it sure seemed cool. I don’t remember the age that my mom finally said, “Yes” to riding my bike across the road, but I do remember the feeling of excitement.
We immediately found the wooded area to explore. What we discovered was there were people who had gone before us. There were walking trails, probably made by people on foot, bikes, and motorcycles. We found all sorts of things in those woods. Old cars, junked and just left to rust. We found old washing machines. We found old bottles (which back then you could take to the store and redeem for cash). We found old magazines (some of questionable nature), books and the suchlike. We even found bicycles parts that were old and rusted.
One of our favorite things to do was to create our own trails. We stayed there so much that we knew every trail by heart. The speed with which we used to ride through those woods was a testimony to how well we knew them. In one area, we would have neighborhood bike races. We called it the “Eight Track.” It was complete with ramps, cools curves, and some of the dustiest dust in the world. Mom always knew when we were there because of the “red” dirt that would be in our clothes when we returned home. That track still exists today to some degree. A few years ago, I took my kids there to see it. That was interesting. They rode their bikes on a trail that I rode on as a kid. By the way, I was on a bike with them too.
The woods also connected, in another direction, with TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority). On their property, which I think we were not technically supposed to be on, we found an area which was totally covered in smooth asphalt. It was perfect for us. We carried enough building materials through the woods to this place to build our very own skateboard park. We had slalom, small ramps, and even built our very own seven-foot vertical ramp. It was going great till one day we showed up and all of our stuff had been removed. We took that as a hint and decided that we would not rebuild.
One of the most fun thing to do in the woods was to build tree houses. We once built a three-story tree house. The top-level was the “look out.” I don’t have a clue as to what we were to “look out” for, but it was there if we needed it. n the lower levels, it was big enough for the gang. We could even eat lunch there if we wanted to. It was the coolest tree house in the world. We built it out of some very good lumber that we “borrowed” from some of the new houses being constructed in the neighborhood. They even provided the nails for the job. It was the “hottest” treehouse ever built in our neighborhood.
The thing that writing all of this brings to my mind is the kind of imagination we had as kids. Going through all of this with my young friends was a basis for thinking and creating. We could be anything we wanted to be in our own minds. Many times, we actually made our imaginations come true. Whether it be a motorcycle racer, to an army defending the forts, to a spy hiding out from the enemy, we felt like the world was all ours.
Sometimes I think about it and get teary-eyed. I think that those days of imagination are gone. Then I think of the God I serve and understand that I can still imagine great things and work to see them come to fruition. He is still the God who says He is “…able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us….”