Lockport R.D. 1…2

The River Bank II

Now, let me see, where are we? Oh, there we are: Ball, over the river bank, stuck in the muck…

Which brings us to the inevitable moment of truth.

SOMEBODY had to go in and get that ball.

Before we knew anything of the Green Berets, Navy SEALS, Delta Force, or Marine Force Recon, we kids in Upper Lockport had our own “special operators”. They were the (very) few, the brave, the strong of will (and stomach) who would voluntarily accept the challenge to go where most of us dare not venture in order to get the job done. SOMEBODY had to go get that ball. And that is what they did. And they were heroes. That’s all I’m going to say about that…

As our horizons widened, we sought out new wild places to explore, and that search took us beyond the confines of Upper Lockport proper. What a world we discovered…

The Gut

The Gut is a lazily meandering trickle of a drainage that has its head waters in Meadow Hollow, dribbles under the back road through a little corrugated, galvanized pipe, and wanders through a low spot between two farm fields until it merges with the West Branch just a few yards west of the Lockport Road’s sharp curve. As it flows from Meadow Hollow, it spreads out to create a swamp-like environment with dense tangles of trees and underbrush, interspersed with the occasional open area where the water would collect, almost like a tiny pond. The drainage picked up enough runoff and force as it neared its mouth that what started out as a fairly flat, marshy space became more of a tiny stream.

Our initial forays into going “up to the Gut” mainly consisted of playing on it’s short, steep banks on the downstream side of the ancient stone bridge that supports the farm lane, leading to what was one of the most beautiful examples of late 18th, early 19th century architecture that I’ve ever seen. That stone- constructed masterpiece was the farm-home of the family of Samuel and Elizabeth Haussener…Jake and Libby, to those of us who knew them. More on their home, and their ever-patient benevolence, later…

The lower end of the Gut, where it met its confluence with the river, had soil that was deposited there over the eons by floods that inundated the area. As a result, this dirt was silty-fine and soft and generally free of stones, which made it ideal for lots of kid activities, from jumping into from the top of the bank, to digging, and generally getting head-to-toe dirty. Huge, bent, gnarly trees lined the top of the bank, and some of trees grew almost horizontally out over the stream. The last time I checked, one or two examples of this kind of tree still existed at the western-most edge of the last township-owned rental property. The Gut itself, and the parcel of land immediately to its east, is now, as it was then, private property. We spent hours playing in and around this small section of outflow and on its adjacent banks, swinging on a rope out over the stream and back, and for the more daring, dropping off the rope to land in the soft dirt below. The only caveat was that the floods also deposited the occasional broken glass fragments, and we had to be on the lookout for those, or suffer the consequences.

Now, as we grew, we found other uses for the Gut. One of our more nefarious activities that we thought we were surreptitiously committing up there was smoking cigarettes.

My very first friend who was not family lived two doors from us. He and I were born on consecutive days, and FJH and I became fast friends by the age of 6 or 7 or thereabouts. Once we hit our teenaged years, he and I plotted to become the main perpetrators of the Great Cigarette Caper.

We would scrape together the 30 cents or so that we needed to buy a pack of cigarettes, and he would boldly saunter into a local variety shop, no longer in existence, and do the deed. (I was too much of a chicken to attempt the transaction.) Then, off to the Gut we went. Light ’em if you got ’em.

We knew there was no way we could find a cigarette hiding spot in our houses that could not be deduced by the omniscient wisdom (and suspicious curiosity) of our parents (Moms, mostly), so, we struck upon the genius idea of hiding the pack under a tree root in our outdoor smoking parlor. We learned a hard and expensive lesson about that method after the first time rain drenched our precious contraband…remember, in those days, for a kid, weather just happened. Forecast? What forecast? Who actually worried about day-to-day weather? Keep in mind that this was the era of AM radio and one-channel television reception from an antenna on the roof, wired fast to the chimney, which more of less allowed that one station to be beamed into our world. So a weather report didn’t factor into our strategic thinking…at first…

AND, as remote a spot as we thought we had, in reality it was no more than 100 yards from the house of my most senior uncle, and in winter, with no leaves on the trees, he, my aunt, or one of their daughters, (yep, cousins o’ mine, who were several years older than we were) could have easily spotted us and “dimed us out”, as they say. However, if they ever did see us, we never heard about it.

Ah, the blissful ignorance of youth…

The Gut did provide more wholesome forms of entertainment, such as ice-skating on one of those wide, treeless swampy spots previously mentioned. It was great fun to try and weave our way into the surrounding brush on ice skates, pretending to be some kind of wilderness pathfinder blazing a new trail into the great unknown…

And, the grape vines that hung everywhere made for hours of derring-do as we launched ourselves from one side of the Gut to the other, bravely, successfully swinging to the far side of the stream…usually…but sometimes not…

The Gut was our private playground, provided by Providence and very understanding landowners. As kids, I don’t think we realized how lucky we were…

The Gut. Our own personal wilderness. Long may it live.

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