Big Tree

Supposedly the sense that is most capable of conjuring back instant memories is our sense of smell--odors, in other words.  But for me today it was two simple words I read in a kid's autobiography--Big Tree. Just Big Tree.  This kid today was describing in his paper a beloved childhood destination easily reached on his bicycle close to his grandma's.  I too had a "Big Tree" in my past, and when I read those words I zoomed there in light speed.

When I was seven and eight we lived in a modest two story frame home literally "on the other side of the tracks" in Malad, ID. We'd moved there from our "city house" to save on rent, I believe. My mother was working at Morton/Thiokol (of space shuttle fame); my father had a new job with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture; my oldest sister was in love and almost graduating from high school; the rest of us were kids. This little home was situated on some acreage and had some interesting outbuildings--an old chicken coop or two, a small orchard,a ramshackle garage, a swift ditch managed by the water master. But its most interesting asset was a reservoir--think large body of water which inspired rafts, a little non-fishing, and general allure.

Beyond that lay a dirt road that stretched far and straight to the south. And down that dirt road (about a better-pack-a-lunch length) was Big Tree. Big Tree was just far enough that you didn't run down there after school. You couldn't even really go there any time the urge seized you. Big Tree took planning. And as a seven or eight year old I most certainly wasn't brave enough to slip down there by myself! Therefore, Big Tree was not really a destination--it was an event. Going to Big Tree meant I'd fannagled some time out of one of the older kids.

What did we do there? Throw cow pies. Swing on the rope. Try to climb it. Scoot up against the massive trunk and dig through a lunch sack. Big Tree meant a long hot hike home with maybe a popsicle at the end, but most likely we'd have to settle for scraping some frost off the sides of the deep freeze with a kitchen spoon. How could THAT have possibly tasted good?? Going to Big Tree took something out of you--better plan on some prone TV time to wind down--Henry Aldrich, Mickey Mouse Club, Tarzan.  Nowadays("There she goes waxing all eloquent about the good ol' days...") I would hope ("Maybe she isn't going to!") that kids have some sort of destination point--a place to anticipate going to. Not a Disneyland or a Raging Waters. Just a Big Tree...with maybe a lunch and the captured attention of a sibling and the feel of a giant trunk rough and barky through your summer T-shirt.

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