Kids seem to think that they are invincible. I don’t know where they got such an idea, but they often take chances without giving a second thought to how dangerous something might be and whether or not they will get hurt…or worse, killed. It has been the same way throughout time, I think. Recently, while visiting my Uncle Bill Spencer, his son Bill asked him if, while walking across a railroad trestle, they had ever encountered a train. Uncle Bill confirmed that they had, and when asked what they did, he said, “We dropped under the trestle and hung on until the train had gone over.” He said that it really shook. Well, I don’t mind saying that my uncle’s revelation made my blood run cold, but when I later mentioned that to my cousin Laurie Carlson Stepp, she told me that she had done that too, and that I shouldn’t tell her mother about it. Well, Laurie, I don’t think your mom gats to read my stories, so I have kept my promise, I think. Laurie told me that all the kids she knew did that, and never gave a thought to whether or not it might be dangerous. Yes, I’m sure that’s right. Kids don’t think about stuff like that. They are invincible…right?
My dad and Uncle Bill, and possibly even my Aunt Ruth, did the same thing. They never gave it a thought…or not that they would admit. When I think about the trestle they were on when the trains came over, the distance to the ground from there, and the fact that there was only a creek at the bottom of that trestle…I cringe. It might be my extreme dislike of heights, or it could be that hanging under a railroad trestle while a train is going over is…seriously crazy!! Nevertheless, you can’t tell kids how dangerous or crazy something is, because they know everything…right! My dad and my Uncle Bill, I have learned over the years, were certain that they were invincible. They messed around with dynamite, walked on railroad trestles, jumped on the trains even though they had a pass, and countless other stunts that make me cringe, but somehow both lived to tell about it…but I’m quite sure they didn’t tell their mother either.
A lot of the chances kids take in driving their cars can be pretty dangerous too. Things like four wheeling up a steep hill. I have seen video after video of people rolling their vehicle trying that one. I’ve never tried that, but I can say that I’ve driven my car much faster than I should have. I think I’ll decline to say how fast, because my mother does read my stories every day, and since I have to see her pretty often, I don’t really want her to shoot me. I can say, Mom, that it was only one time, I was 18, and even my friends told me to slow down. After that, I decided that taking that kind of stupid chance with my life and the lives of my friends wasn’t worth any thrill it might have given. Like most kids, I’m wiser now.
On our trek back into our past, we took a drive to see some of the places my dad’s family had lived, like the town of Holyoke, Minnesota…my dad and his siblings’ old stomping grounds, I felt as if I was walking in my dad’s shoes so to speak…or at the very least traveling along on the same journey he had taken as a young boy. As we drove into the area, I recognized the railroad trestle that my dad and Uncle Bill had played on as kids. We had just talked to Uncle Bill, who told us that when a train came, they would just drop down and hang on, because there wasn’t room enough to stand there while a train went over. They said it shook a lot, and I personally wouldn’t recommend such a thing to anyone.
Our next stop was at the park across the street. This park was a favorite hangout for most of the Holyoke kids, and was located just down the hill from the school, making it convenient for after school ball games or hanging out in the creek that ran through it. The park is in great condition, and looks like it is still used a lot today, but I could picture the little boys, who were my dad and uncle hanging out there with their friends and avoiding the chores that probably awaited them at home.
We drove past the old church that they attended, who’s alter had been built by my Aunt Laura Fredrick’s ex-husband, Fritz. We were very sorry to see the state it was in. The front of the building looked pretty good, but when viewed from the side, we could see that the roof had caved in, and all that was still standing was three sides. That really made me sad, because it was the church they had attended for so many years of their lives.
Heading out of town, we came to a section of red dirt road that went for about a mile or so before returning to the pavement. Our cousin, Bill Spencer, who was our tour guide for the day, told us that his dad, our Uncle Bill and our dad had ridden their bikes to Superior, Wisconsin on this road. That was astounding, in that it was about thirty miles…one way…and they went to town and home in the same day, on the old clunky bicycles of those days. It was here, as we drove from Holyoke back into Superior, that I felt like I was traveling along the same journey that my dad had taken so many times. It was a lonely feeling, in that I really missed my dad right then, but it was also an interesting, in that they had gone so far in just one day.
I think that sometimes, we don’t realize just how amazing our parents lives were. We forget that technology and transportation have come a long, long way since their day. It seems like the work was harder and yet, the times easier somehow. I thought of my dad and Uncle Bill riding happily into Superior to spend the day, and what their plans might have been. Maybe it was just the idea of being free for the day…with no one to tell you what to do, or maybe they were meeting friends. I’ll probably never know, but I do know that it was strange to be traveling the same road to Superior, that dad had taken so long ago.