A hot and windy August afternoon
Has the trees in constant motion
With a flash of silver leaves
As they’re rocking in the breeze
The boy lies in the grass with one blade
Stuck between his teeth
A vague sensation quickens
In his young and restless heart
And a bright and nameless vision
Has him longing to depart
From Analog Kid by Neil Peart of Rush
I was born a Desert Rat. I am built on the DNA of rugged outdoorsmen and the blood of wanderers runs in my veins. I was raised to love the outdoors. From BLM land to vacant lots and National Forest to my Grandparents’ small patch in the country, I felt refuge from the bullies, the peer pressure, and that angst that pre-teens often have when I was outside. Arizona was a magnificent place that offered escape.
In 1979 my Dad was transferred to Fort Worth, Texas. It was a necessary move to keep us employed. He was placed in a start-up plant with Motorola and his time at work and away on trips was taxing on all of us. He spent many weekdays apart from us, but his job provided a nice home in a good community for us. It also provided a means to great fishing and water skiing- but more of those family adventures later.
I wasn’t really bothered by the fact that there were really no kids in our new subdivision. I had always naturally drifted to playing on my own. I was an only child who was undersized for my age, so at times I was an easy target for the bigger kids in my class, sometimes even the ones under my class as well. We moved to the Metroplex area when it was just beginning to boom. I was an oddity moving from Arizona, because most families were coming in from places like Chicago, Detroit, New York, Cincinnati, and St Louis. A few miles north of us was another section of the subdivision. Here is where the kids from those large areas settled. The housing was cheaper and the neighborhoods had a very different feel to them. We all were invaders, outsiders, and even though I was from a state claimed by the Confederacy during the Civil War, I was a “Yankee”.
Not accepted by my school mates and often bullied on the bus by the rough and tough inner city kids I often made the 15 mile trek to school by bicycle. I’m not sure my parents ever caught on to the fact I peddled my way back and forth. I could leave my house about the time the bus would arrive, and by the time it made all of its stops and then head for Keller High, I could be at school myself.
So enough of why I needed a retreat, and more about my little sample of the woods. Our house was one of the first ones built in the southern section of what used to be a huge farm. Less than a quarter-mile from back porch was the Fossil Creek. A short walk and a 25’ drop-off placed me into a small patch of wooded are that was unscathed. Builders had missed it as a refuge dumping area, and from the street level, you really didn’t know it was there. It was heavily strewn with Oak, Cotton Wood and occasional Mesquite. There were Bass, Catfish,and Blue Gill in the creek as well as Water Moccasins and Rattle Snakes. Fire Ants were just beginning their invasion of Texas so as long as you were on the lookout, you could keep yourself out of trouble.
I spent most of my days after school and weekends in that little retreat. I could run it from its point of origin just off of Bayberry Drive all the way to I-35. It’s now part of a park and golf course I believe, but for me it was a place to explore. I would often pack a lunch, throw it in a small pack with my Bowie Knife, military poncho and twine, matches and later a magnesium bar, and either my BB Gun or fishing rod and take off for the day.
In my postage stamp sized paradise I learned how to make shelter, though at the time they were forts. I improved my shooting skills with my Daisy pump air rifle, and learned to create fire in all conditions. In the seven years I played in that area from the week we moved there in the fall of 1979 until I left for the military in 1986 when I was 21, I never saw another soul in the area. I credit the area for keeping me out of trouble. I never saw the thrill of drugs because I was too busy learning knots. Though I dated, girls really never caused issues because they probably thought I was some kind of weirdo for staying in the woods all the time. Sure I had my rebellion years as a teen, but I’m sure I didn’t give my folks too many heart attacks like my peers did because I was in my retreat and not out at keg parties at the lake.
Every kid needs a retreat. I was lucky. I grew up before smart phones and the internet. My every move wasn’t tracked by GPS and I never had an option to post the day’s adventures on social media- keeping my spot free of intruders. For a time- until it was time to grow up and move along, I was the Analog Kid that is described by Neil Peart…..
The boy lies in the grass, unmoving
Staring at the sky
His mother starts to call him
As a hawk goes soaring by
The boy pulls down his baseball cap
And covers up his eyes
Too many hands on my time
Too many feelings
Too many things on my mind
When I leave I don’t know
What I’m hoping to find
When I leave I don’t know
What I’m leaving behind…