The summer of 1962 was a tense one. Mom and Dad were upset over something called the Bay of Pigs and the spread of communism. For my sister and me, it was simply another boring summer. I had recently turned 13 and she wouldn’t be 10 until December. Our nearest play-pals were over two miles away, so we usually played together. We didn’t have much money, but we had 20 acres with a creek on it. The rocks were slippery, so we “accidentally” fell into the water sometimes. Once in, it took us a while to find our way out of the three foot wide body of six inch deep flowing cool water. It was generally followed by an extended period of time playing away from the creek, but it was worth it. One day we were swinging and discussing something of great importance in loud voices. Mom came to the door and told us to find something to do or she’d find something for us. Naturally, we preferred to find our own entertainment. What does an old woman of forty-something know about having fun?
We wandered away from the house and out into the field. I found a cow patty and a stick. Swinging the stick like a golf club, I struck the pile with a liquid smack. The manure divot arced through the air and lit in front of my sister.
“Linda!” she yelled, and then glanced at the house. She found another stick and a fresh pie and the fun began.
Mischievous as it was, the battle failed to hold our attention for long.
I plucked a stem of the tall sage and popped it into my mouth, turning my attention to the tall swaying tawny grass. It was dense enough to hide a person – or several people.
“You know what,” I said to Anita. “We could build a fort in this grass.”
Anita eyed me skeptically, but she was ready for something different. “How?”
“Well, we could clear out a spot in the middle and pile the grass around the edge.”
And so it was that we began our fort in the tall sage. After a while I noticed Anita wasn’t pulling grass. She was busy with something over at the edge of our clearing. I marched up to her and asked what she was doing – politely, of course.
She leaned back with a smile, exposing her handiwork. She had woven the grass we cut through the thick sage grass still standing.
“Hey, that’s neat,” I said and plopped down beside another pile of grass. We spent the rest of the afternoon and several days pulling grass and weaving a framework for our fort. We made passages, and even archways. We never played in the fort we built, but we sure had fun building it. In fact, the cows liked it so well that they even slept there. We learned more than the art of weaving or working together that summer. What we learned stayed with us as we grew older. We had more than our share of fights after that, but we remembered the camaraderie of creating something together.
Today, every time I see a field of tall sage, I have a longing to run into it and recreate those hours. We had built more than a fort. We had built memories with nothing more than our hands and our imaginations. We had no television, and PC’s had not yet been invented. When it was too hot to stay outside, we sat in front of a fan and read books. I suppose the greatest lesson we learned was to make the most of what we had, and that if we were bored, it was of our own making.
This story can be purchased in the collection of short youth stories "YOUTH YARNS."