Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Island

In yesterday’s comments, Ashley mentioned pretending to be a horse when she was little. It is amazing how kids use their imaginations. My older brother had an imaginary friend. My little brother had a whole imaginary football team – Mom had a heck of a time feeding them all and getting them into the car to run errands. It was Ashley’s horse comment that reminded me of The Island where we kids in RR use to play.

The Island was not really an island, but close. You may remember that our first cabin was up Bitter Creek Canyon. The mountains of the canyon were pretty steep – our cabin set on the side of the mountain near the mouth of the canyon. The floor of the canyon was very wooded, but had a creek running through it – nasty sulfur water. At one time there had been lots of mining operations further up the canyon, which lead to the Midnight and La Belle (try reading about Black Jack Ketchum who frequented the mining towns) area. You can even go over the mountain into the Valle Vidal where we used to take some amazing horse back trips. Anyway, as the creek emptied into the Red River, the area widened into a very rocky dried up creek bed. I often wondered if at one time Bitter Creek was much larger or if the miners used the creek for some hydraulic mining since. Today the area is much like a gravel/rock pit for the Town of RR. The way the river eroded the land over time caused a "tongue" of forested land to stick out into the gravel pit. Looking at the "tongue" from the pit or from town, it looked like an island with cliffs rising out of the gravel pit. It was far enough up the canyon to not be noticeable to the public - it was well off the beaten path. It was perfect place to play for us kids – we called it The Island.

The Island itself, was forest and a small meadow. As kids, it was our imaginary kingdom. We had various forts and houses in the trees. I can remember tying a string to a limb and calling it our doorbell. We girls insisted that the boys pull the string (ring the doorbell) before they entered our "house." For years that string stayed on the limb even after we grew up and quit playing there. We had mock battles in the meadow with the evil knight. We all had our own stick horse complete with string bridles. Those same stick horses stayed there for years. We made mud-pies using the creek. We even dammed up the creek to make a wading area. It was a wonderful place to play. Our friend, Terry, had a cabin nearby. His mom had an old bell that she would ring when we were expected home. We could hear that bell all up and down the canyon and would come running when it rang.

In our teen-age years The Island became a good place for, well, parking. It was very isolated. When our old dog, Pumpkin, died, Dad buried him on The Island. Years later, when a mean Husky killed my little Randy dog, Dad carried him out to be buried there, too. There are lots of memories on The Island. The river has eroded more of it and the town continues to use the creek bed for rock and gravel. Someday, The Island will be gone, but we sure had fun there.
La Casa de Towanda, this is a painting that I did several years ago of an old building in Ocate, NM.

14 comments:

Fire Fox said...

Hi Lou... great post! Had me thinking back to our hide-outs when I was a kid.... Some still exist, but most have gone the way of land development... new subdivisions, new roads... I've done the chemical overload a couple of times myself! Think they ought to have warnings about mixing stuff like they do on medication! Love the painting... I'm off to mow the back forty! Hope you have a great day!

Skybag said...

Are you talking about Treasure Island? I remember Grandma helped us grandkids build a really cool fort out there one summer. A couple of summers later, I was out there with some other kids and they showed me this ancient fort that they had discovered - it must have been built by Indians or gold miners! "Naaah - my grandma made that."

John said...

Lou, is that gravel area you are talking about on the right side of Bitter Creek road as you travel up from High Street? We passed that area coming back from our "Midnight" jeep trips but I can't exactly place it.

Sea-gal said...

My kids had different tree house spread out all over our property and had different names for each of them. I think the names were all from places in Star Wars! I could never remember which was which - my only stipulation was that they had to be within whistling distance!! They would leave the house and they were going to such and such "place" (treehouse)and I would have to ruin their fun and ask directions to their world!

Dawn said...

I enjoyed the fun memories of kids at play, you can't read this without going back to your own hideouts and stuff way back when!!!
Your just real good at story tellin' Lou!

Bag Blog said...

skybag, it is the same island, but your grandma called it "Treasure Island" but I don't think my generation called it that.

John, Yes that is the same gravel area. About the time you get to the island part, the trees beside the road hide the island. What, you never went parking there?

John said...

I remember it now Lou...it is kinda hidden from the gravel road. Yea, I went parking there in '75 in that huge green '54 Chevy. The RR sheriff probably knew that the teenagers went up there but he didn't bother anyone. Now who I went up there with is another question...my memory fails me...maybe it was Patti :-)

Buck said...

You certainly had an idyllic childhood, Lou. Your stories read like something out of Tom Sawyer, and I'm not kidding one lil bit.

If I read you right, you were somewhere between eight and ten years old when you played on The Island, right? Our childhoods simply couldn't have been more different. My adventures at age ten revolved around sneaking off into Paris on the metro (subway) with my two childhood buddies, and that was Big Adventure (for us, at the time)! When I told those stories of our escapades to my parents much later in life they were horrified. I suppose I would have been, too. But it was a MUCH different place in time...

Jo Castillo said...

This is a cool story. Love the painting. Black Jack Ketchum and gang came by my grandparents place at Field, NM. Interesting..

Bag Blog said...

Buck, you call my childhood "idllic" yet your childhood was just as interesting - maybe different, but idllic is a relative term. I remember seeing movies wabout kids who grew up in cities and I thought the houses and streets were so cool.

Jo, We used to tell Black Jack Ketchum stories around the campfire saying that he was the "Headless Horseman" riding the mountains in search of his lost gold. The Dairy Queen in Clayton, NM has some pretty gruesome photos of BJK's hanging. I did read an account of his attending dances at the La Belle hotel - he didn't sound like such a bad guy. It is interesting that he came by your grandparent's place - How did that turn out?

Bob said...

Great story!

As children of the fifties growing up in El Paso, we had the best of both worlds. We lived in the city, but were less than a mile east of Mount Franklin, a ridge that rose 3500 feet above the Rio Grand Valley. We went on boyish wilderness adventures nearly every week.

Towanda said...

Lou, I love all your stories of REd River. I grew up several thousand miles from there, and yet there is a thread that weaves through all of our childhoods that is similar.
And thanks for posting your painting of the building in Ocate. I know I had several pictures I took in that little town but don't know where they would be in all my bins of photos. I just know I thought that was such a cool place .. I know we saw a llama there.

Bag Blog said...

Bob, El Paso - it has been a long time since I was in that area although I do have relatives there. Back in the 80's we lived on the other end of the Rio Grande Valley in McAllen - interesting places to live.

Sharon, I saw a herd of alpaca in Mora, NM, when were traveling through there, and told my husband that I needed a few alpaca - they were just so cute. He just rolled his eyes.

Towanda said...

DUH!!! I should have remembered that. I said, "Oh I need a picture of the llama ... and John said, "That is an alpaca. It was the first time I ever heard of an alpaca.