By Ole Jordan
My father would write the exact date here but unlike him, I don’t know it.
To me, it was still an important moment marking the growing up of our community and the coming changing times.
I was with my sister as we stood on the muskeg banks of a little pond on Mink Creek that the local neighborhood kids called, “Beaver Lake”. As we stood there looking south toward Birchwood Elementary, big bulldozers were pushing over big birch and spruce trees making way for the new Glenn Highway.
Beaver Lake is where we would make rafts out of anything that could float to catch frogs, tadpoles or many of the mysterious bugs and beetles that lived in that aquatic, swampy soup. Because of the mosquitoes, it wouldn’t take long before the game would change into knocking everyone off their homemade Birchwood Swamp Yachts and into the water. Beaver Lake wasn’t too deep, but when you were knocked off your B.S.Y., and then tried to stand, your feet would sink into the muck almost up to your knees. The next thing that usually went through our minds was the movie, “African Queen” and the image of Humphrey Bogart coming out of the water with those nasty leeches all over him. That mind-picture would send us panicking and screaming as we scrambled to shore, getting bloodied up by the thick intertwined brush that lined Beaver Lake’s banks.
Those days were simple.
Just like our Birchwood Swamp Yachts, we made toys out of anything we could find. There were leftover electrical spools that were repurposed for many things. One very ingenious neighbor made a perfect rocket by taking a couple of the spools, then placing them on their sides with one on top of the other. He then put slats around the outside, and a cone on top with a hatch and a window. We were in there pretending that we were astronauts at the same time that the Apollo missions were going to the Moon.
Another ingenious use of a gigantic spool, though not nearly as clever, was to make a Vomit Wheel Of Death. We tipped the spool on end, removed a few slats from the middle so we could enter it, and at that point, it became the “V-Wod”. I can’t remember if there were three metal rods or four that went across the inside, I do however remember three of them very clearly. Once you were inside, your body would be in a form-fitting ball, molding to the inside diameter of the V-Wod. Your hands would grasp one rod while both feet would lock under another, and the third was halfway, going uncomfortably across the small of your back. Significantly, the handle we grasped did not steer, and the bar our feet were locked under did not work as a break. These modifications to the cockpit would have to wait for V-Wod version 2.0.
There was a hill on our street that we would push the V-Wod part of the way up, and a test pilot would climb inside to “test” our vehicle.
Each time we would push it a little farther up the hill as a new test pilot would get inside, venturing to set new records for both distance and speed. I drew the last straw and figured that was fine because the V-Wod was now thoroughly tested at this point. Right? This time we pushed it all the way to the top of the hill so I could really enjoy my record-setting ride. I climbed inside, my feet locked in and my hands firmly clutched around the rod near the hatch as it started to roll. Through the hatch, I could see the road. Then I caught glimpses of my friends pushing, ensuring I reached top speed and traveled the farthest distance yet. Then I saw the beautiful blue sky. Then the road. Then my friends. The same pattern repeated over and over as I rolled, but more and more rapidly with each revolution until my friends could no longer match the blistering V-Wod’s speed. Pretty soon the dust inside began to fill the cockpit, and not that it matters but I couldn’t see where I was going, as the V-Wod hit potholes slamming me painfully into the rod behind my back. Finally, there was a change in the pattern, with a slight feeling of weightlessness. Road, sky, road, sky, ditch, tree…SMASH!
I climbed out of the V-Wod and my friends were yelling, “That was great, you caught air!” I simply said, “That was fun. Who’s next?” For some unclear reason, no one volunteered- so we went to my house and finished the day as we finished most days back then, playing plastic ball at Jordan Stadium and eating my mother’s world famous cookies. Sometimes it’s the simplest of things that create the best memories.