Rick Houser: The hundred acre woods

Clermont County's Rick Houser has released a second book, this one titled "Memories from the Heart."

I am positive that I have covered this topic before more than once. In one way or another it seems to come back into a subject or a time in my life. No matter what or how it appears and reappears it is a topic that lingers long in my memory and deep in my heart. In the years of my child hood I can’t help but recall how the Marshall brothers and myself had a place to play in that to some degree all farm kids had but for us we had was most likely the best.

Yes we had woods we played in that were the top of the crop and almost impossible to compare to. Herb and Charlie lived at the corner of Bolender and Houser Road. From their yard you could look in all directions and see the neighborhood. The land their home was on ran the entire width of a field belonging to their Uncle Richard Davis. As a matter of fact the property they owned ran so deep that his parents let us build a clubhouse that was beyond compare to any other clubhouse ever built. It must have been awesome as they really didn’t want a sole to see it. (Probably didn’t want anyone copying ours.)

Just a few feet past the clubhouse was a fence and once we climbed over that fence we entered what was our very own playground. It was a large tract of land that was on their uncles’ farm and served as pasture for the cattle. I never did know just how many acres were in that section but in my mind I could hear Christopher Robbin telling Winnie the Pooh about his “hundred acre woods”. So that is what it has been to me ever since those days many years ago and will always be called that.

This parcel of land seemed to contain every type of terrain there was. Just over the fence was almost level but as we walked away from the clubhouse the terrain became rougher and in places it would become steeper as we would walk down and eventually into a valley. In the valley was a creek. Not a large creek and as a matter of fact in a dry season it would almost dry up. The truth was it was the mouth of Maple Creek. Once the creek was crossed the banks went almost straight up and raised more than twenty feet up. It could make for a hard climb but once on the top we felt like we had ascended Mt. Everest. We got the feeling of king on the mountain for a moment.

If we moved to the south east corner of the field we found ourselves standing out on an area that allowed us to look down onto Fruit Ridge Road and also have a glimpse of the Beginning of Maple Creek Road. What would bring us to this area of the field was simple. Out on the point of that ridge had been a small house built and rotted away long before our time.. All that was left was where the foundation had been dug out of the bank and probably a house no bigger than a hut had existed there. Where the house had begun was a spring. Richard had kept it dug out so the fresh water would pool for the cattle to always have a drink of water. The spring had been made in two sections. One for the cattle to drink from and the spring itself was covered with some stones so it wouldn’t get trampled by the cows. It also made a great place for Herb, Charlie and myself to get a fresh drink of water and fill our army surplus canteens so we could play on.

Between the canned potted meats and snacks along with a constant water supply we never really had to return home until the day was over. Now this was in the early 60’s and we having watched closely westerns and military shows like “Combat” we entered the hundred acre woods with a new set of scripts to play out each trip we made. If I could count all the battles we fought in the woods it would be safe to agree that we defeated the Germans and the Japanese over and over. The thing was we did it differently each time. As a matter of fact we won these battles having been wounded badly yet we survived. (It is safe to say we would have won Oscars for our acting ability.) As for the westerns we favored the Calvary versus the Indians. Again we fought them against staggering odds but always came out on top.

Another reason these woods were special was just about anything we might want or need was growing there. I know in one corner was a raspberry patch and along the fence we crossed to leave their place were blackberries along the fence line. In one corner of the field was an apple tree. In the fall of the year we could gather up Walnuts and Hickory Nuts. Out in the pasture part were some wild strawberries. We could pull on the stems of the honey suckle blooms and get a taste of honey. There were Oak and Hickory and Walnut trees and with our army surplus knives we were able to cut off a branch and form a pistol or a walking stick or whatever our minds could conjure up for the most part.

Yes sir this fenced in area was ours to play in and just about anything we thought of we could play. Also anything we cared to make craft with or eat on we had that too. A thought just came to me and that is when we were in the woods I don’t recall ever seeing the cattle. We knew they were there as they had worn paths that had grooved into the terrain. Probably whenever they saw us arriving to play they made up their minds to go to the farthest part to avoid us. Sometimes we would have to assign one of us to make a run back to the club house for a supply run. I forgot to mention we learned that it was wise to store extra supplies as a day could run very long and those nuts and berries were nice to snack on but we all know an army runs on its’ stomach. At least I know our army did. Also I will say it again. The hundred acre woods were the best woods ever to exist!

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 houser734@yahoo.com.