Friday, July 25, 2008
My grandma and grandpa have lived in the town I grew up in for over 40 years. Their house has always been the central house for family events. It was the perfect place, too. Grandma had horses, which I loved, the yard was big, but most importantly there was the gravel pit.
The gravel pit was just that, a place where they used to "mine/harvest" gravel. What was left were two pits that have since filled with water. Before I was born the kids of the neighborhood used to swim there, but for some reason I never did. I think it was the stories of leaches that scared us away from swimming. We had our own memories to make.
Every family reunion we would go fishing. Of course, we always needed to buy a new fishing rod because the ones from last year either broke or we lost them (how you loose a fishing rod is beyond me). My dad would always take the Blue Gills off the hook because they were too spiky, we could handle the Bass on our own. He was also the one we called when we got the line stuck up in a tree, I'm sure he loved untangling fishing line every ten minutes. Now that I look back on it I couldn't imagine the kids of today, with their computer games and cable TV, sitting still long enough to catch a fish, but we would spend hours up there.
The gravel pit was also the place to go to catch frogs for the frog jumping contest at the Geauga County Fair. One year we spotted the biggest frog we had ever seen. We snuck* up behind it and just as we reached out it jumped into the water and disappeared under the mud. We spent the next couple of weeks waiting for him to come back out because we knew he would win the jumping contest for us. Eventually our time had run out and we had to pick a different frog to jump. I don't remember if we ever won or not, but just the act of trying to catch frogs made it fun.
(apparently "snuck" isn't a word recognized by mozilla)
When my pony, Lady, was still alive I would spend hours riding her around the gravel pit. We would sit under an apple tree and I would feed her apples, which she loved. She was old, so the only thing we ever did was walk around, but I loved just being up there with her. (I have to admit that Lady wasn't actually my pony, she was my Aunt Rhonda's, but when I was at my Grandma's I always thought of her as mine.)
When I was visiting home a couple of weeks ago we had a picnic at Grandma and Pappy's house. I was excited to go up to the gravel pit and pick blackberries and blueberries. We used to come home with buckets of berries and blue stained fingers. This year, however, it was different. The little part of the fence that had been slightly tilted for years was now fixed and there was a lock on the gate. Grandma never kept a lock on the gate, the gravel pit was open to all.
I guess this is where I should say that my grandparents didn't actually own the land that the gravel pit was on. An old couple, that our family has known since my grandparents moved there, owned it and let the entire neighborhood use it. They let my grandma keep her horses back there and even gave her two gates to access it. Slim was the man's name, which was actually very fitting for his slender physique and Ethel was his wife. I just loved their names, Slim and Ethel. Slim died several years ago and Ethel followed a couple years later. About a year ago someone new bought the land with the understanding that the gravel pit was open to all, at least that's what they said would be the case.
I guess they didn't like the idea of us using their property because locks on the gates definitely implies "Keep Out" to me. When my grandma told me they didn't want us using the gravel pit anymore I was devastated. How could these people take away something that was such a part of our history. They must not understand what it means to us. At least that is what I told myself when I jumped the fence with my camera, a bowl for berries, and my cousin in tow.
I jumped the fence to find the grass mowed (we never mowed the grass, it was supposed to be natural), and picnic tables scattered around both of the ponds. Along with the picnic tables at the far pond were some trucks and people, but I was going to be stealthy, they would never notice me.
I got several pictures taken, including the one of the lily pads, and a couple blueberries in my bucket before two men in a golf cart road up to us. Who rides a golf cart through the gravel pit, it's supposed to be natural, you're supposed to walk.
The driver asked what I was doing back there.
I said, "Picking blueberries and taking pictures."
He responded, "You know this is private property right?"
Umm, excuse me?
I said yes, "but we have always used the gravel pit, my Grandma lives here." With a tone of innocence to my voice.
"Ok, but next time let me know your going to be here," he tried.
Yeah right, I am not going to call every time I want to walk around the gravel pit.
I know he owns it, I know it is private property, but to us it belongs to everyone. I thought he knew that. I have not yet let myself believe that the gravel pit is gone to us forever. I keep hoping that this man will just go away, or just leave us alone. I want my kids to have the same experiences as us. I want them to catch Blue Gills that my husband will have to remove from the hook for them. I want them to come home with blue stained fingers from picking berries. I want to catch that giant frog with them and enter it in the fair. I can't think that these are experiences that they will never have. That they will just be stuck looking at the gravel pit through a locked gate. I won't let it go, I won't let this piece of my memories disappear behind a padlock.
** One of my other hobbies, besides photography, is scrapbooking. If you are interested in entering a scrapbooking giveaway head over to Carolyn's site.**