*Some of the stories shared on this page will probably never be seen in the literary magazines. However, I feel that they have some value and I’m glad to share them with you. “The Long Dirt Road” is the beginning of a series that appeared on my Facebook last year. These stories are about growing up in the Maine woods in a cabin at the lake without electricity or running water in the late 1970’s and early 80’s. Writing them brought me back to that time and I was able to re-capture some of the thrills and the challenges faced. I hope you find some thrills in reading them.
by Kristy Gherlone
Through the black and white birches, over the maze of pitchy pine roots, and just past the dead pools of standing lake water, there is a place where my childhood lingers. When I close my eyes, I imagine that I’m still there, playing amidst a sea of boulders.
Ancient glacial fingers lost their grip on gigantic rocks as big as trucks, long ago, dropping them in a scatter throughout that hidden stretch of land.
Amber beds of pine needles and white moss covered them in blankets of fragrant carpets. Crooked cedar jutted out from the tops, like weary soldiers. Their thick roots wound around in spindles, like spiral stairways waiting to be climbed. It was a magical place where ferns, tea berries, and imaginations bloomed.
When my dad bought our cottage in the woods in the late 1970’s, the adjacent property was uninhabited. Rows of pines and maples stood guard at the entrance to that the deeper, dark forest that surrounded our cove for miles and miles. It was deserted and desolate as I stood on the edge peering in with fearful eyes. I was sure that bears and vicious creatures lurked behind every corner. It took a year or so of brave, but short, excursions with my sister and the boys next door before we finally ventured all the way in.
To us, when we came upon those hulking gray rocks, they looked like houses. Big, empty structures waiting for inhabitants. It was nature’s playground!
Railroad spikes and blocks of old wood were hammered together and became pretend televisions. Pieces of discarded lumber turned into chairs and tables. Days were spent crafting furniture out of whatever we could scavenge.
I became Roxanne Howl. I was rich with my snow-white mossy carpet and my fine home furnishings. My rock house was the last in the row, and I was sure it was the best. I made my fortune selling Brach’s candies to the others from my store nearby. Instant oatmeal packages became the paper bags used to carry away the purchases. Our currency was pennies and I used mine to purchase Kool Aid from the colony bar keep.
Dad came out to inspect our work. “You’ve got yourselves quite a colony here,” he said, chuckling.
None of us knew what that meant at the time, but we thought it was a pretty good name for our club. We made a sign and posted it at the entrance. ‘The Colony’.
We built a log raft to transport us to and from the main camp, but it sunk on the first trial, so we blazed trails instead. Our chattering voices echoed across the lake as we traveled to and from our hideaway each day.
We led extravagant lives in those woods, among those rocks. We escaped to our made-up world as often as we could.
Back in the days before video games and cell phones, imagination was all we had. It was a valuable tool, taken for granted, but never forgotten.
Whenever I see a boulder, my mind transports me to that time and place, and so I believe my spirit remains like a shadow among the forests of my youth.