Sunday, April 13, 2014

Going off the map: Big Rock, Sid Vicious and The Woolsey Property

One of the advantages of living at the edge of civilization is that you don't have to go very far to go off the map.

In those days our neighborhood was a small oasis in the foothills below the Wasatch Mountains, and traveling a few blocks in any direction would take you into uncharted territory. To the north, our elementary school was an island, in a sea dust and rocks. To the east was the Woolsey's property. To this day, I don't actually know how much of that undeveloped area belonged to them, but you got the impression that they owned everything to Colorado. What I did know was that going east was trespassing. That doesn't mean we didn't do it, but we knew we weren't supposed to.

On this property, down in a stream that you could only traverse by walking across a rusted old water pipe, was a giant rock, that the local kids called Big Rock. For the older kids, this was a place of partying and drinking and making out. To those of us who were younger, it was a place of myth and legend. You heard about it in the same whispered tones that you might hear of a home for trolls or a haunted house. Until you made the trek, and eventually everyone made the trek, you weren't sure it was a real place. I didn't spend a lot of time there as a kid. First of all drinking and partying weren't really my scene. And, secondly, one particular summer afternoon, as Aaron and I were exploring (trespassing) we became separated, and I found myself at Big Rock...

...where I came face to face with the ghost of Sid Vicious.

It was actually Ike Murphy, the son of one of my mom's close friends. But he was pierced, and snarling, and mohawked, and clad in shredded denim and spiked leather...and he scared the hell out of me! We came upon each other suddenly, and he looked up and growled at me,

"Get out of here!"

I didn't need to be told twice.

He lunged (actually, I think he head faked) at me, and I turned into a living cartoon -- my feet turning into spinning wheels, as I left a trail of dust clouds between me and Sid. I probably ran a quarter mile before I stopped. Or breathed. If it weren't for the evidence of the giant smoke screen I left in my wake, you could have convinced me that my feet hadn't touched ground. I was pretty sure I'd die of a heart attack at the age of twelve. As I came upon Aaron, I flew by him screaming something like, 

"He's going to kill us!"

It was like living in a Scooby Doo episode.

My other memory of the Woolsey property is another time that Aaron and I had hiked far into the interior, and lost track of time. It was getting late, and we were due home for dinner, and there was no way we would make it on time -- at least not if we went out the same way we went in...Well, Aaron was nothing if not resourceful, and he came up a plan -- Aaron always came up with the plans (and somehow we lived to talk about it anyway). This particular plan involved jumping into the river, and letting the current do all the hard work of taking us home. It was simple. You just jump in the river, float as far as you needed to, then grab on to something on the bank and pull yourself out.

You're probably thinking that I'm telling you this as a cautionary tale. That one of us came close to drowning. That parents and paramedics were called. That we never did anything that stupid again.

All of those assumptions are wrong.

Not only did we do a lot of things every bit as stupid, but in those cases, as in this, it always worked out just the way Aaron planned it. I've never concluded whether it was dumb luck, or chutzpah, or supreme self confidence, but Aaron instinctively knew how to get in and out of every situation. And in this case, we jumped in the water, floated to the end of the property, grabbed hold of the weeds on the side of the river bank, and pulled ourselves out -- Aaron smiling like the Cheshire Cat, me just looking like a drowned cat.

I'm not sure how we explained being drenched, on a hot summer day, to our parents, but, to be honest, it probably didn't even phase them.

Weirdly, it seemed that, after a while, nothing phased our parents anymore.

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