How fast we returned to those hills year after year, cutting out after each picnic lunch to have another quicksand adventure.
Our stage, the clay hills went on for miles, clear to the bluff that you couldn’t see past. That bluff was something. Like the Great Wall of China, it went all the way from the river up north to the road down south. It made sure those clay hills weren't getting away. Scraggly and dry with branches growing out of it, it was the only bit of green in the western view. If you looked to the east you saw forest, to the west you saw only the sky and the bluff. We always wondered what was over that bluff.
That was a fine year when we decided to find out. That year we buried the banana, thinking we’d come back to find it the next year in those look alike hills. How silly we were. What fun it was too.
We found some rope. Where did we find it? We tied it ‘round us waist to waist. I still see us climbing up that first heap, walking along the top of a row, rows and rows on either side of us, walking west into the sun until it got too easy, too boring. Then we invented a reason to brave the quicksand below, to walk between the slag heaps. The ooohing and ahhing and be carefulling were whispered and very dramatic. The quicksand could take us all down, slowly sucked underground together, never again to be heard from. We’d seen it all happen in the free movies downtown on Saturday mornings.
But we were determined to make it to that last bluff. It was as if we were in some old Western movie—when you're a kid a movie's a real thing—and on the far side was the cavalry. So we tread our way one step at a time. Who knows how long it actually took? Each step was tested, tried, and cautiously put, hoping that no one would sink. By the time we were half-way there, problems forced us up on the heaps again. The little kids were getting whiny. They were starting to ruin all our fun.
We made it to the end of the row and down. Slowly we crossed the last bed of quicksand. The climb up that bluff was pioneer teamwork, seven of us roped together. We pulled each other up—one by one—until we reached the top. Finally after all these years, the bluff was not in the distance. It was no longer a giant backdrop. Finally we knew what was on the other side.
More clay hills and quicksand—as far as a kid could see.
The letdown lasted about a second.
We were still atop a kid-sized mountain, and there were clay hills and quicksand filled with danger to keep us busy all the way back.
—me strauss Letting me be