1950 Memories of Suburban Adventures

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Huckleberry Nortons

Gondoliers became a common sight on the pond at our house. Their feet coated with mud/poop pudding while gliding by on submersible rafts made these gondoliers quite uncommon.

David and I didn’t lament a pool’s absence; we had two cow ponds to fill the gap. Neither one was deep enough for actual swimming.

There's plenty more where this came from.

There’s plenty more where this came from.

The further pond was a glorified mud/cow-poop hole. The closer pond had the same mud and poop mixture, but was lighter on the poop. Depending on the season and the weather it also held two or three feet of water.

A wooded hillside filled with Adder-tongues, Trilliums, and hanging Tarzan vines bordered the furthest side of the closer pond. The same items that surrounded our clubhouse (cows, cow pies, and woodchuck holes) bordered the remaining circumference.

The steepest part of the pond-bank, also the side least pooped on, is where David and I created a mud slide. Slide maintenance required constant splashing of water and removal of pointy stones rising up to leave long red slashes on our behinds.

Clothing coming into contact with the black muck never looked clean again. To help Mom, we stripped to our undershirts and underwear. Dingy white undies wouldn’t matter unless we got caught in the proverbial accident all mothers warn you about.

A little cow drool never hurt anyone!

A little cow drool never hurt anyone!

We previously tested the cleaner water in a cow trough near the barn, but it was too small to do much except pretend to scuba dive. Thirty-four degree ice water (from a deep well) constantly dribbled into the trough, freezing our submerged heads and taking our breath away. As the divers resurfaced, floating ribbons of slimy cow drool clung to our hair.

We stopped swimming in the cow’s drinking water, but they continued peeing and pooping in our pond.

David and I built two rafts from our abundant supply of used lumber and rusty nails. With much effort and teamwork, we dragged our sailing vessels from the clubhouse to the pond.

We slid our rafts across a moat of mucky mud to reach the water. We quickly learned to remove our sandals before they got suctioned off, never to be found again.

Our skinny weight managed to sink our rafts slightly below the surface. This became an unintended, but delightful feature.

First, the water above our rafts washed the first couple inches of entry muck off our feet and kept them cooled. Second, our submerged vessels were like glass-bottomed boats, but without the glass.

An aquatic assortment of sea-life paraded across our rafts and feet, everything from fat pollywogs to baby bullhead. I didn’t like the water striders, especially when they climbed up my bare leg.

www.thegreenhead.com This is how we pictured ourselves. But without the mustache, hat, or clothes.

This is how we pictured ourselves. But without the mustache, hat, or clothes.

We pushed our rafts around the pond with poles made from dead branches. Sometimes we pretended to be gondoliers singing Oh sole oh me oh; not the song, just the phrase over and over, since it’s all we knew.

We rescued each other when a pole broke in half or remained stuck in the muck while our raft glided away.

Mom and Dad didn’t have to worry about us capsizing and drowning. The worst that could possibly befall us was getting stuck up to our knees in the mud and eaten alive by mosquitoes, a fate we expertly escaped.

Our imagination and creativity exploded while developing carpentry and submersible raft skills.

Lessons learned: Give a kid a new toy and he’ll play a few days. Give a kid some used wood, rusty nails, and skanky water, and he’ll play all summer–if he doesn’t get tetanus or cow manure poisoning first.

And in case anyone is wondering, a mud/poop bath does not soften your skin.

Related Posts: Basement Dwellers/Clubhouse Spies; Basement Dwellers/Delicate Martyr

Now it’s your turn: Did you ever build a raft?

© Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures, 2012 forward. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mary Norton-Miller and 1950s Suburban Adventures with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Haha! This could have been written by my brothers and myself. My older brother built a raft from a fallen tree and with much effort cut the trunk into two pieces, nailed some boards across the tops of the to god them together and give us a platform. Our farm pond sounds very much like yours, not deep enough to even swim in. The raft made it about five feet from the bank and settled down in its new home. There it sat watching us grow up while we used it for a diving board and a fishing boat. Funny (and fun) days.

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Yes, MW, as much as I missed my old neighborhood on Dean Road, farm life had a lot to offer. And as I’m sure you remember, the water in those cow ponds wasn’t pure.

  2. That’s a pretty bad typo where I wrote, “the to god.” It’s supposed to say “to hold them together.” Blame it on my phone monkey who thinks he knows how to spell better than me.

  3. Mimmy Jain says:

    I do wish I had been a child with you, Mary, your life sounds straight out of an Enid Blyton. The closest I came to this was trying to create a concrete sculpture. We’d had some building work done at home and the builders had left behind a small pile of dry cement. Having watched them mix the cement with water and make a slurry for days, I was blown away by the notion that it looked so easy. Needless to say, what I had not noticed was how fast cement dries and how tough it is!

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Oh Mimmy, a pile of cement sounds like so much fun. And how creative of you. If only it didn’t dry so fast.
      So often, it’s the little pieces of childhood that are the most magical.

  4. C. Suresh says:

    Hahaha! Mary – it is almost sinful to be able to enjoy reading this for free – but, what the heck, I am a confessed sinner 🙂

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Thanks, Suresh. I’m so flattered that you enjoyed my tale. Faulty designs can end up creating new inventions, such as our submersible rafts. I’m still not sure why they didn’t catch on.

  5. Glynis Jolly says:

    What is it about dirty waters that attract kids?

  6. sandemara says:

    Mary, your stories are delightful. I don’t know how many I’ve read over the last 12 months or so, but all enjoyable. However, today was the first time I’d noticed the sub-head beginning ‘mostly humorous stories …… etc’.
    Your work is to good to carry that mis-spelling of ‘Buddha’ above it in that sub-head.
    Please keep up with your reminiscences. I wish you all the best

    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Thank you so much for alerting me to this, Sandemara. I got it right within the home text, but never noticed the typo in the header.
      And thank you for enjoying my stories.

  7. e m bahnsen says:

    Wonderful and enjoyable as always. I wasn’t reared on a farm, but in the suburbs. I have one brother and three sisters, so there are fond memories as you and Dave have.

  8. Sunni Morris says:

    Well I’m a farm girl here. We always played in the muddy ditches after a rain. We couldn’t resist it and it cooled us off as the summers were hot and humid.

    We also played baseball in the cow pasture using the cow patties as bases.
    I’ve written a few childhood stories on my blog here.

    I’m going to follow yours as I’d like to read more of your adventures. I found your blog through Linked In.


    • skinnyuz2b says:

      Sunni, thanks for stopping by. I’ll definitely check out your site.
      Remember the home runs garnered because the baseball landed with a sploosh inside a fresh cow plop? We’d grab a stick to get it out and roll it around the grass with our feet to get the poop off. Meanwhile, a home run is scored.

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