Friday, March 7, 2008

Growing up in Cass City

Most of my childhood and all of my teen years was spent living ½ mile south of Cass City, Michigan in the Walnut Trailer Park. We walked to school about a mile away and when we weren’t doing other things my brother and I spent our time exploring the area. Our black and white TV had only one channel and since we couldn’t get along, my mother usually shoo-ed us outside. You see besides myself and older brother there was also 2 younger sisters and my parents all living in an 8’x36’ mobile home or trailer. And for the first few years there were no children our age that lived in the park.
But occasionally we hooked up with some of the kids living in town. We used certain landmarks as places to gather. One was “BIG ROCK” which was a boulder about 4 ft high and 10 ft long and 4 ft wide that was in the middle of a small clearing in a woods down by the river. Another was “FROG-LEG TREE” which was closer to town, and it was the tallest tree in the area and at the very top it split and the limbs bent in such a way as to look like a pair of up-side-down frogs legs. It was an old dead Tamarack tree that for many years was a landmark for our excursions until other trees finally topped its height. Then there was “THE TURTLE POND” an L shaped pond fed by a spring in the cedar woods behind Erla’s slaughter house and drain water and blood and tiny fleshy tidbits from the slaughter house. The snapping and painted turtles thrived there along with tons of flies and mosquitoes. It always had a green covering of duckweed and was surrounded on 2 sides cattails. The stream ran along the old railroad bed and was very mucky and to the east of the pond was a cedar swamp area of about 7 acres of cattails. To the east of which was a 20 acre cedar woods.
We had a hatchet and a WWI bayonet of unknown origins that we found when we lived in Kenosha, Wisconsin, along with an assortment of jack-knives and cheap hunting knives that we either purchased or found. At first we had to sneak these outside but later they were as much a part of us as our clothes. We fashioned our own bows and arrows and spears and explored the woods to the east of us from near town all the way down to the Cass River about ½ mile to the south to about 1 ½ miles east of town and also along the river to the west 1/2 mile to the west, also the gravel pits and town dumps in that area as well as the gravel pits and ponds just east of the trailer park, and the dump down by the fork of the river. These areas we considered our back yard and grew to know every inch of them and town later when we both had paper routes. John delivered the Saginaw News, and I delivered the Detroit Free Press.
The first year we lived in the trailer park there was no gravel pit to the east of us just rolling hills and a hidden prehistoric looking pond. At one time many many years before someone had dug into the steep hillside and removed the dirt and gravel and left a deep depression with very steep sides about 80 ft long and 30 ft wide. The sides were covered with trees and brush and wild grapevine and I doubt that the pond ever saw anything but the morning sun as the sides probably went up to 50 ft high. I know that some of the town kids and us made a raft to use there but I don’t remember how deep the water was, just dark. And I know we never played IN the water. The next year we moved to Rudyard and when we returned to the trailer park it was GONE along with the rolling hills and just a very tiny pond where it once stood. Now there was a gravel pit and one shallow pond filled with minnows Painted Turtles and frogs. And of course the old “Turtle Pond” was still there.

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