We took a walk down memory lane this morning. Literally.
It was a bit damp and cool, but the trek took us around a familiar walk for me. We were in Loogootee, Indiana visiting my brother-in-law and nephews after Hoosier Hysteria in Bloomington the night before.
Loogootee was the site of three of my most memorable childhood domiciles from four chapters of NEVER SETTLED. We woke up early, got our coffee and began to retrace my childhood path from our trailer we lived in during Chapter 6 (1980.)
From Chapters 6 & 7 of NEVER SETTLED: a memoir of a boy on the road to manhood by Shawn D. Congleton.
We moved into a run-down trailer park that was really no trailer park at all. In its heyday, this trailer park may have housed ten to twelve trailers. There were about three or four that were still lived in while we were there; the rest of the spaces were vacant. When we turned right into the trailer park off the small town street, we rounded the bend on a dirt road with a lot of overgrown trees, bushes, and tall grass. The area was not well manicured, as lawns and vegetation go. As we turned right, there was a row of trailers on our right and typical southern Indiana woods on our left. Junk or maybe just abandoned cars were strewn throughout the vacant lots and left over trash was spread around in front of people’s trailers.
Later that day, when we were riding our bikes on the road in our rundown trailer park, we found a snake. Well, we found part of a snake. It was about an inch in diameter and eight to ten inches long. It looked like it had been run over by a car, then run over by a bike, then run over by a lawn mower. It was smashed and cut up to the point that nothing could live through that, I thought. We were all a bit freaked out and disgusted by it, but I guess that’s what boys did. We took home tadpoles to live on our dresser and fiddled around with half-dead snakes. We played with that snake, but from afar using a long stick to poke and prod it.
“What the h*ll?!” my brother’s friend yelled as that snake started to slither around. That snake started moving as if it had come back from the dead like a zombie. We all jumped back, but then Jimmy and his friend burst out laughing. I was freaked out. That half-dead or zombie snake had literally moved around and slithered as if nothing happened to it.
“These snakes can slither around and move for up to twenty four hours after they die,” my brother explained. He was so freaking smart. When it came to guy stuff, Jimmy knew everything.
“What? So… it…. is… dead?” I asked quizzically.
“Of course, look at it.” He poked and prodded it. It slithered and moved a bit, but it was terribly cut up and smashed. I didn’t know what to think, but Jimmy knew everything so I trusted him. Then my brother reached for his pocket knife and decided that he was going to prove his point. He was a bit afraid I could tell because he wouldn’t just grab that dead snake, but he took his pocket knife and started cutting into the middle of it. After several minutes of playing with his meat, like it was the first steak he had ever eaten, he was able to cut through it. Two snake halves literally laid there on the road and both parts were squirming around.
“That’s disgusting! I’m out of here,” I proclaimed and then rode off on my bike by myself. I loved to hang out with my brother, but I wasn’t going to stay there. That snake freaked me out. I rode my bike around the neighborhood for a bit and then headed home. I passed by the city pool on my way that was near the bowling alley. It looked like a great place to swim, but summer was over and even though it was a Sunday, the weather had gotten too cool to swim. It was kind of neat living that close to the pool, but we never got to use it since summer was already over and we weren’t there long enough for the following season.
(Later in the next chapter)
About that time, the front door opened back up and Terri popped her head in.
“Let’s go,” she said. “Jimmy went on to school, but I couldn’t leave you here. If you get caught, I’m dead. I’m responsible for you. Let’s go!” she exclaimed. I knew I had to go. No choice, but I still didn’t want to. We headed out the door and started walking to school. It was such a long walk and we passed that same bowling alley and city pool that I had always wanted to swim at.
Why can’t I just have some sort of a normal life? I wondered as we continued to walk the back way to school. We could have arrived at school a little quicker if we walked the front way, but that would have taken us right down front street by all the business and the cars driving up and down the street at 10:30 in the morning.
We continued up the back way and I thought more and more about how embarrassed I was going to be, having to explain why I was late to the teacher and the other kids in class. We still hadn’t gone to school here for more than a couple of months and I was pretty shy at this age to begin with. Finally, after we had walked three fourths of the way to school, my mind had gotten the best of me and I changed my mind, again.
“I can’t do it. I’m not going to school,” I pleaded.
“Yes, you are! We are almost there!” she said.
“No, you can’t make me. It’s your fault anyway! You said we were staying home!” I cried.
“Fine, go home. I’m going to school. And I’m going to tell the cops you are skipping school,” she argued.
Yeah, right, I thought. She is going to tell the cops. They didn’t have cops at schools. She would be lucky to tell the principal. They wouldn’t do anything about it. What are they going to do, come get me?! I thought.
I turned around and started walking back home. Terri went on to school. I walked home wondering if there was any other option. I just couldn’t face my teacher or classmates being late. About a half-mile later when I was about half-way home, I heard a car coming down this less frequently used street. I turned to see how far away it was and to move further over to the far side of the street since there were no sidewalks in this particular area. As I careened my head around, I realized the car was a cop.
Are you freaking, kidding me?! I thought. Nobody ever drives this street and it happens to be a cop! I hoped he hadn’t seen me at this point and I moved over further into the ditch as if to hide my presence. I could hear the car slowing down and I reached down to my shoes as if to pretend I stopped to tie them.
“Hey there, little buddy,” the cop called.
“Oh, hi there,” I responded.
“You doing alright?” he asked. “Why aren’t you in school?”
“Oh, yeah. I, uh, wasn’t feeling well today,” I explained.
“Oh yeah, then what are you doing out here?” he persisted.
“I started to come to school, but then I felt sick. So, I’m heading home.” I was sure he understood that or at least, I hoped he would.
“Well, guess what?” he replied. “Good news. There is a nurse at school to take care of you. Come on, get in my car.” I walked up to the passenger door and let myself in. I sheepishly pulled myself into the large front passenger seat. “Don’t forget to buckle,” he said. I didn’t know what my parents would find out, but even after the night before, I was so embarrassed to be going to school late and arriving in a cop car, at that!