Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Chap Stick

My parents met in Red River in 1953 and married in 1955. They started building a cabin up Bitter Creek Canyon soon after. They did not have much money, but they had time and good friends. The cabin was dried-in by the time Craig and I were five and six years old, but it had no water or electricity until years later. The mountainside was fairly steep – so the cabin’s front porch was about 6 feet off of the ground. The driveway could be a booger to drive up. Mom often got a running start and just flew up the driveway with us kids bouncing off the roof of the car (no one wore seat belts back then). She was even wilder in the 55 GMC pick-up truck - Craig and I liked to see how high we would bounce in the bed of the truck. The trip down the driveway and canyon could be just as exciting. We often talked Mom into coasting down the canyon and into town without hitting her brakes in our old Rambler. Mom was great!

There were outhouses located up the mountain between us and the neighbors on either side of us – two outhouses – both two holers. Dad hauled water from town for drinking and bathing. We had a large galvanized tub that would hold both Craig and me at one time. Just like in the old days, the tub was placed in front of the fire and the kids were sent outside to play while the adults bathed. We were then brought in by twos and bathed in what was often some dirty water. Why was the water so dirty? Our backyard was a mountain and it was not called Bitter Creek for nothing.

Craig and I played all over that mountain. We had "forts" and tree houses and swings from pine trees. It was a kid’s paradise. The cabin itself was a playground. Dad would set us up in the rafters and we would swing from one to the next like monkey bars. We had a red wagon that we rode down the driveway often picking up enough speed to jump the road and land in the creek bed. Sometimes we crashed and burned before reaching the end of the driveway. My knees, elbows, and ankles were black and crusty from the rocks and dirt. We did not have hiking boots back then; we had PF Flyers or little red Keds, which were not much protection for the ankles. My hair usually had tree sap and pine needles stuck in it causing a tangled mess. But still, Mom managed to get my hair back in a ponytail. Craig always had the "tick-free" hair cut – a buzz or burr as it was called. Our standard uniform was overalls or jeans and a T-shirt, which were well worn by the end of the summer. Craig and I were like twins; we wore the same clothes.

We had a cat that would catch chipmunks. Then Craig and I would catch the cat. Dad built us a box with a screen lid so that we could shake the cat until it dropped the chipmunk in the box. Craig always got to shake the cat while my job was to snap the lid on to keep the chipmunk from escaping the box. The only time I got to shake the cat, I got so excited that I dropped the cat in the box with the chipmunk. The chipmunk didn’t make it, and Craig was irritated with me (nothing unusual there).

Not only were our legs and arms crusty, they were chapped by the dry desert air. No amount of lotion kept us soft. Our cheeks were rosy and red like Campbell soup kids. My lips were always chapped – I had a nice pencil thin mustache that was actually a chapped area on my upper lip. Mom kept smearing Chap Stick on us to no avail. But to this day, I love the smell of Chap Stick. It brings all these memories flooding back. We sold the cabin and bought a lodge (which holds its own special memories) in RR in about 1968. This photo was taken about six years ago while we were vacationing in RR. The large windows above the stairs was the kitchen. Dad did not want to extend the porch over that window. He wanted to be able to "see the sky" while drinking his morning coffee. And that is what we did - we drank our coffee and watched the birds and chipmunks from that window.


Junk Diva said...

What great childhood memories! Riding the wagon down the mountain made me think of us as kids, there was a large hill ( no mountain) a mile from our house ( dirt roads). We would ride to the top and get going as fast as we could and go down that thing, the challenge was to coast all the way home. Good times! Good times!

Course of Perfection said...

You've reminded me how thankful I am for running water.

Thanks for sharing this lovely snapshot of your Chapstick childhood.

Buck said...

Looks like the new owners wanna watch CNN (or something like it) in the morning instead of the sky, eh?

Did y'all have a sled, as well? I'd think sledding down the hill would beat a red wagon ANY day!! But landing in a frozen creek...or worse, a bitter cold UNfrozen creek... wouldn't be much fun, though!

Great post!

(The word verification thingie seems a lil bit better today. I got it on the first try... by previewing. )

Dawn said...

mmmm, Looking at that photo and hearing those happy memories makes me mindful of that sweet, pungent mountain air, the mountain trails softened by those blue spruce pine needles,jumping into the ice cold creeks and rivers...
I'm homesick for the mountains!!, Thanks for sharing Lou, that was a fun read.

Fire Fox said...

Lots to be grateful for! Our parents taught us the difference between right and wrong, the value of friendship and hard work and the realization that in a country as great as America, we could grow up to be anything we wanted to be!

Bag Blog said...

Buck, Actually we did have a sled that Dad made for us, but winters up Bitter Creek were difficult.

Dawn, The smell of pine trees is such a memory maker. There was just no place better to grow up than in the mountains.

Fire Fox, You are spot-on!

The Friendly Neighborhood Piper said...

Not only did you have a little slice of heaven...you got a taste of it too.

Anonymous said...

That was such a sweet time in life, Sister. Thank you for that post. And lets coordinate before the next get-together so we wear the same style overalls.

Catherine said...

Lou, I love reading these stories about your family; they help me know Craig just a little deeper -- giving me glimpses into why he is the wonderful person he is and why I love him so. Thanks for the magical tour down memory hill (in this case - not a lane!).