I know I have talked about this before but in the years of my youth and even later finding entertainment was for the most part creating your entertainment. There were very little organized events and groups for us and hardly any organized sports were yet in existence either. So on just about any given day if you weren’t in school or at church or visiting your grandparents finding something to do was going to occupy your time and was going to come about by your own creation.
As I have said many times also I grew up in Washington Township in Clermont County in the 50’s and 60’s. I was raised on a farm that existed among many other farms out on Fruit Ridge Road and an impression of vast loneliness could pop to one’s mind quickly. There were a lot of acres of land and very few little boys to exist on it in those days. So one of the most enjoyable things I would think of doing was to explore all this land. Since my dad farmed on a large amount of the farms and we helped the other farmers work on their farms I got to see a lot of what was out there in my neighborhood.
Washington Township was established back in 1801 and by giving that date you must realize that this area had been inhabited for a long time before my arrival. I have and still like to study history and in doing so whenever I would see an abandoned road or a worn trail in the woods or just a grooved in path through the land I would get the urge to explore it. My curiosity urged me to take that walk and see if it went anywhere in particular. I wanted to know why was there a trail that now is no longer in use. To me there had to have been some good reason as to why it was created in the first place. So with all these questions and more rolling inside my head there could only be one way to stop the questions and that was to take a walk and take a look.
Many of the trails were carved into the earth by livestock that had for years unrecorded had been used for them to move to pastures or watering places. One thing for sure was they had been used so long that there had been a permanent path formed by animals that compared to us had relatively short lives but left trails that will possibly last longer than we will ever last. I always marveled at that fact. Now some had been old driveways to log cabins or homes that have long since been destroyed or burned or just abandoned and have fallen into rotten timbers lying around old foundations. Many of them in the spring of the year will have long since planted flowers that bloom I guess just out of the habit. I have seen old apple or peach or pear trees that are still yielding fruit that these days are going to feed the deer.
Since my dad was a trustee he would tell me where a township road that was now a dead end road had at one time been longer and had ended at another road. But since people that had lived along that section had passed away or moved away now no longer needed that stretch to be kept up and it was listed as abandoned. I always thought that a sad thing to determine an area unneeded only because of the expense of the upkeep. Remember I was a kid and had yet realized the value of money and the cost of paying taxes to keep them up. But just because it wasn’t in use anymore didn’t mean I couldn’t explore it and take a look.
There was a farm behind us that was only used by us to raise a little tobacco on and the hunters to walk over. It was loaded with paths and trails and a couple driveways. I loved walking this place often as there seemed to be a new way to walk and look each time. Also down an old abandoned road along a creek bank on one side and a small parcel of bottom land my cousin Walt and I found the stone foundation of a small house and a stone wall that ran along the creeks bank. When I told my dad what we had found he smiled and said that had belonged to an old man named Groupley and he had carried every stone out of the creek in a device of a wooden barrel cut in half and two straps attached to it so he could load the rocks and hook it on his back to carry the rocks out. My back began to hurt from him telling me that as I remembered how many rocks I had seen. Dad said he had been a bachelor and lived there until he got too old to care for himself and then he had to be put into a home as he didn’t have any family. This was something that always caused me to be sad but on the other hand I was glad I took the time to explore and see this for myself and it kind of gave me a feeling that I kind of knew him and I still recall his name.
It was exploring trails and paths that allowed me to see the area where I was growing up in first hand. Today I think about this and feel so happy I got to see all the places I did and now I realize that where I was walking and I felt like the first person to be doing so. But in reality I was looking at what many people before me had walked this land and some were the first to do so. But in their case they didn’t just walk it they were in most cases the ones who created the need for the trails. You see they were opening up a new territory. If you really want to mess your mind up just think that the native Indians hunted and lived right where I was walking! Folks that is a lot to experience by just taking a walk isn’t it?
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.