Mixsonian Larry

The Field, Woods, and Lake

Our street was the last street in the neighborhood with a big open field behind the houses across the street where my brother and I would spend many a day exploring.  To get to the field we would walk across the street between the Lyons and the Weaver’s house, up a small embankment which we just called the “bank” and go out into the field spending many a day playing in the field and around the pond,  often with the other neighborhood boys, Doug, Hank, and others.  We would tell mom that we were going to the field to play, sometimes for hours, and mom would think nothing of it just saying, “Be back in time for dinner.”  In the field we would dig holes to make forts or just go exploring around the lake. he first forts were just holes we dug with the earth piled up around the hole. Later we covered the holes with boards and covered them with dirt. We would stockpile rocks to fend away the "enemy" which were the boys from the other end of the street. One time we rode our bikes down to their end of the street and throw rocks at their fort which was a tree house. In return they came down to our fort in the field and we would exchange a hail of rocks. Fortunately, nobody ever got hit or hurt. About this time the movie The Great Escape came out which inspired us to dig a tunnel. We dug a hole down about six feet and then dug a horizontal tunnel extend out about ten feet. When Dad found out we were doing this he got worried about it caving in and made us fill it all in and promising we would not dig another on. One time up on the bank behind the Lynes house we made a giant slingshot by putting two posts in the ground and then stretching a bicycle tube between them. With two or three of us pulling it back we could shoot rocks all the way down to the end of street which was three houses away.

One year I bought a magnifying glass with my allowance and learned I could focus the sun though it burning pieces of wood and even writing my name with the focused beam.  One day I took the magnifying glass out into the field just behind the Lynes’s house, gathered up some dried grass and set it on fire.  It soon got out of control and started spreading.  Fortunately, Mr. Lynes was home and saw the fire and pulled the garden hose from his back yard and put the fire out after burning an area around twenty feet in diameter.  

When we were a bit older my brother and I go BB rifles for Christmas, and we would go into the field and surround woods to hunt birds. I would seldom hit a bird and one time I shot a mockingbird and killed it and felt so bad I never shot another bird after that.  On one time my brother and I were sitting on a log that jutted out into the lake shooting frogs, which I didn’t feel so bad to shoot, when my brother turned and saw a water moccasin coiled in the water right behind us getting ready to strike so my brother aimed his BB rifle at the snake at point blank range and shot it saving me from perhaps a lethal bite.  My brother tells of another ocasion when we were at the lake shooting frogs.  David was kneeling in front of me as I was shooting my BB gun over his head when he suddenly stood up and I shot him in the back of the head. He got mad at me, threating to shoot me, and as I walked away, he shot me in the butt. It didn’t hurt all that much through my shorts and I’m sure not like being shot in the back of the head.  Later David said it stung a bit but not half as much as wasp and bees that had stung us before. 

The lake was fed on the north side by a small stream not more than a few feet wide at it widest. One time I made a dam across the stream just as it fed into the lake and the water backed up and then burst the dam, we had great time playing in the water.  Being great explorers, my brother and I followed the creek to discover its source like some adventure we read in National Geographic.  The creek wandered through the woods to another small lake which on one side grew a stand of bamboo behind which there was a house.  We were told by kids that lived on that end of the street that a witch lived in the house and from then on, we called it the witch house.  Many years later I had dreams about following that stream through the woods. I remember one time I made a dam across the stream just as it fed into the lake and the water backed up and then burst the dam. In the late 1960's they changed the drainage in the area and the stream stopped flowing and the lake started to slowly dry up. In the end it was little more than a large mud pit with a room sized puddle in the middle. The lake was filled with fish and as it was shrinking it the catfish would be the last fish, swimming in the three or four inches of water, their top fin sticking up out of the water which we would shoot with our BB guns.

One time when the lake was not much more that a mud hole, I got a gallon glass jug and mixed up some chemicals in it that would explode. I put one chemical to make acetylene gas and others to make oxygen at the same time. I took this out to the lake, sank the jug into the mud, and then ran a plastic tube from the top of the jug to a board which my brother and I crouched behind. After a few minutes to let the gases build up I lit the end of the tube with a match and…..nothing happened. Well I was surprised. I tried again, this time a little blue flame shot through the tube and again, nothing happened. Well I thought just let the gas build up and try again. After a few more minutes I looked over the edge of the board, lit the end of the tube and BLAM it exploded big time and a piece of the glass few out and hit me just below my right eye on my cheek and embedded there. Man was I surprised, I fell back and put my hand to my cheek and there was blood everywhere. After recovering from my initial shock, I got up, keeping my hand to my cheek and walked-ran home which was probably a quarter mile away from the lake. When I got home my dad looked at me, got a washcloth to put over the wound and then drove me to the emergency room where I had the several stitches put in. When we got home dad took all my chemicals away and hid them from me. That was pretty much the last time I messed with explosives. I still have a small scar on my cheek from that experience and I was really lucky I didn't lose an eye.

One of the last memories I have of the lake was a fond one. A year or so after I had moved out of the house I was went home one winter day and decided to go for a walk to the lake. It was a brisk. sunny day and the air had a crispness to. When I got to the lake, I found that the recent rains had once again filled the lake and it was bright blue with the sun sparkling off the surface. Being winter the knee high grass all around the lake was dry and brown and I laid down on my back and looked up at the bright blue sky and thought of all the wonderful times I had spent at the lake as a boy.  The lake still remains to this day behind the movie theater that is there now.

Sixty years later, David, my daughter and I had dinner at a restaurant on University Avenue where the old field used to be and then afterwards walked over to the movie theater that was there where behind it was the small pond, nicely landscaped around it, ducks swimming, a cormorant sitting on the branch of a tree with wings spread wide to dry, reeds growing out and over the water.  David asked if I remembered shooting our BB guns at the lake and I recapped my story about him shooting the moccasin and he responded with his story about me shooting him in the back of the head.  The pond had made full circle from a small lake in the forest, to a pond in a field, to a mud puddle and back to a beautiful pond.

The Pon in 2022
The Pond in 2022


The Zip Line

One summer Doug, David and I found several hundred feet of telephone wire and we had this great idea making a zip line, running it from a tree to a post a hundred feet out in the field. Doug then made a device with pulleys and a handle on it that you could hang onto and slide down the wire. We found a pine tree and attached the wire about twenty feet up in the tree and then ran the wire to a stake in the ground about 50 or 60 feet out.    Doug was the first to go down it making it look easy, dropping off into the sand just as he got to the end.  David went next and I went last because I was a little scared of jumping out of the tree hanging onto the pulley contraption, but I did, and it was a super rush. We each did it a couple of more times and then my turn came up and I left the tree and about halfway down, still 15 or 20 feet off the ground the wire broke, and I fell to the ground. I lay there stunned and was in some pain. I don't remember how I got home or if someone came and got me, but I was taken to the emergency room and they took X-Rays found nothing broken, but my back and stomach hurt quite a bit and I stayed home from school for several days.

Another time we Doug, David and I found a stand of small trees twenty or so feet tall which we would climb up as high as we could and holding on the top of the tree would spring away from the trunk and the trees would bend lowing us gently to the ground.  It was great fun until the tree that Doug used broke, and he fell to the ground hitting his head quite hard.  Doug got mad and went home getting an axe and came back and cut the tree down.

Updated: 08-17-2022