I'm gonna label this as a My Town Monday Post, but in actuality it has a tighter focus than the town I live. If you've read this blog for anytime at all you know I live in Amarillo, Texas. I have never called anyplace else home although for a number of years I did live out in the boonies, far beyond the city limit signs. These days I am once again a city dweller just as I was for the first 18 years of my life.
Of those first eighteen years, I spent every last one of them living on this street.
My house sat on a corner lot of what I'd describe as a lower middle class neighborhood on the far southeastern corner of Amarillo. It was a great place to grow up. Two blocks to the south a boy found nothing but empty fields. Only a mile or so to the south lay more open country and if we boys dared to chance the ire of the farmer who owned it, there was a small fishing pond we could sneak to and fish. We were close enough to being out of town that the firecrackers stands were but a mere bike ride away and many a day we dug aluminum cans out of the alley dumpsters to provide the funds for our afternoon destruction.
But my street had something unique to the neighborhood. Row after row, street after street for every lot was occupied. The houses had all been built in the late sixties and early seventies and apparently the market had been good but through all of the Oakdale edition there wasn't but one vacant lot -- two houses down and directly across the street from mine.
We played countless games of baseball there. yes breaking the occasional window, yes losing balls to backyards to dogs and grouchy old men we feared.
We played football there despite the fact there were more goatheads and stickers than blades of grass.
We settled our differences with our fists the way boys used to do. No one ran home for a weapon or to have their parents file a restraining order. My short memoir piece titled The Hard Way and first published with Opium Magazine was set at the vacant lot.) click here to read it.
We played demolition derby with our dirt bikes on that lot. The object of that game was the run into and crash your friend without putting your foot down. The last person riding who hadn't put a foot down was the winner. Yeah we spent a lot of time repairing bent chain sprockets, patching the tubes from those goatheads, and denying we put our foot down.
I made friends at that lot.
I made enemies there too.
At least enemies in the sense that you have them at the age of 9 ... 10 ... or 11
My buddy Jason and I waged a war on the red ants that continually claimed the dirt lot for themselves. We mixed concoctions from the chemicals we found in my garage and in truth it's a miracle none of them ever blew up or asphyxiated us. Some of them were smoking and bubbling as we poured them into the anthill despite the fact they had no heat source. Please of you work for the EPA disregard anything I have typed here.
Sometimes we got lucky and found a horny toad who'd come to the lot to dine on the many ants. No, we never actually got on the spit blood from it's eyes though we certainly tried.
I shed a tons of body fluid on that lot. From pints of blood in the fights, bicycle demolition derby, and tackle football games, buckets of sweat from playing out in the 100 degree summertime heat, and yes even salty tears when things didn't go my way.
But last week, I had my saddest moment ever in regards to that vacant lot. You see my dad still lives in the house I grew up in and when I pulled up and looked down the street this is what I spied ...Forty years after the first house on the block was built and nearly that many since any of them were built, SOMEONE has built over every the hallowed ground of my childhood.
Here is what it looks like from the driveway of my old house.
The site of that lot covered up is both foreign and odd to me. I am 37 years old father of two, but in many ways seeing that freshly framed and bricked house makes me for the first time feel like childhood is over, never to be reclaimed.
It is highly doubtful that me and all my old pals from the neighborhood ever would have ever stepped foot on that rough, uneven lot together again, much less broke out the BMXs or footballs, but I felt better knowing that there was at least a chance. And I hope like hell the people take good care of my red ants.
For more My Town Monday posts from all over the globe, or to join in with one of your own please visit the My Town Monday site.