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3.26.2012

LOCKJAW AND OUTHOUSES

About a mile from where I grew up there was a family owned park of sorts.  It was called Leatherman's Grove.  Aptly named after the family that had originally owned it.  It consisted of a small grove of trees at the back of the property and a white clapboard building with wood shutters that could be propped open to let outdoor air in during warm weather months when reunions and other family gatherings occurred.  Off to one side and rear of the pavilion was a handful of playground equipment that had long lost its luster and had given way to age, rust and decrepidness.  Standing almost forlornly were four or five swings, a large slide, and a merry-go-round powered by a participant running to spin it.  All the playground stuff was crappy, desperately in need of a Rustoleum paint job and more than sub-par.  You needed to be sure your tetanus shot was up-to-date before playing on it!  To get the merry-go-round moving, two or three kids would hold the bars and run crazily in a circle while pushing it.  After you got it spinning at an RPM powered by 9 year old legs, you would jump on and enjoy the pure dizziness that it offered.  I preferred to shut my eyes and feel the air rushing at me, only opening them as it slowed down.  Much like a dog pacing behind a fence, a worn-down-to-the-dirt rut circled the merry-go-round from years of kids running and pushing it to a rusty frenetic spin.  There was a rudimentary kitchen inside the pavilion.  Enough of one to facilitate the carry-in sort of stuff you would typically have at a family reunion.  Out at the edge of the trees stood another small white clapboard building - a literal out house.  There was no running water in the building.  One side was girls.  One side was boys.  It was dark and hot in there which intensified the horrific smell in the heat of summer.  I was frightened to death to go in that dark, steamy bathroom let alone sit my ass over a dark hole where urine and shit piled up from years before.  I felt like all that was needed to complete the picture was to be naked and have a bloated belly with flies resting on my face.  No kid really ever wants to stop playing outside to go to the bathroom.  But those bathrooms assured that I would just hold it until I exploded or imploded, whichever occurred first.  Leatherman's Grove was also a great "parking" place.  I saw many a car there parked late at night, no lights on and windows fogged over.  Possibly I might have utilized it for that a time or two myself.  The road in front of it is a fond memory for me of a chance meeting with someone I loved deeply.  It was also a great landmark.  A place used in giving directions on how to get to my parent's house; go till you get to the not straight four way stop by Leatherman's Grove and take the jog south another mile.  Through the years it has had its share of property ups and downs and has changed hands a few times.  I wondered, while driving past it to my parent's house last week, if anyone ever uses that out house any more.  It makes port-a-potties look like the Taj Mahal! 

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