Down on the Farm: Hideouts
As summer winds down, the boy in me dreads school. In August, my dreams at night revert to themes of missing the bus or of going to school in less than proper attire. The deeper dread is of the resumption of constant adult supervision.
Town and city boys used to build secret clubs in tree houses as a rebellion against adult oversight.
Even after homes became large enough and families small enough for every offspring to merit their own room, having one's own room wasn't private enough. In your room, if the experiment started on fire or if the rat started screeching, some parent would be there in a flash to interfere with the research.
And so, suburban boys had secret hideaways in tree houses or out back behind the garage where they could count their baseball cards, conduct vivisection on animals and plot neighborhood wars.
No need for a secret hideaway on the farm! Everything was a secret hideaway.
My Grandpa assembled a small town worth of old buildings on the farm. His office was in a retired school house with a bell tower. The bell itself had been taken down and mounted by the old house. Mildred, the cook, used it to call the men in from the field for forenoon lunch, noon dinner or afternoon coffee.
That left the tower for me to use as an office. With a commanding view of the whole farm, I kept Twins statistics on 3 x 5 cards which I filed in cracks between the ceiling boards of the little roof which once shielded the bell.
The granary, a sturdy eighty-year-old building propped on an open foundation of field rock, stored grass seed, fertilizer, anything that needed to be dry.
For added storage, they threw scrap plywood and two-by-sixes across the rafters. That is where boxes of old tax records and the like ended up. It was an archive.
I trace my love of history to long summer afternoons digging through musty boxes, finding out from a 1926 yearbook that Grandma had a boyfriend before Grandpa, or from a 1956 letter that my aunt planned to marry a man who smoked cigars.
No need to put a "secret" sign outside the granary's sliding door. I knew the place was full of secrets, and I knew that if I disappeared up the ladder for five hours for research, nobody would care unless I missed two meals in a row.
Grandpa was a dreamer. The farm was littered with abandoned inventions, machines, and public works projects.
A set of canals designed to bring in water for irrigation had long been abandoned and grown over with willow.
I plowed through the canary reed grass, threw a big oak slab across the canal, walked across, pulled the slab up on the opposite side for security reasons, and had myself an island.
On the island, I built a sod hut. When the hut became infested with garter snakes and unsuitable for meetings, I cut down saplings and built a teepee. I don't believe an adult ever saw what I was up to outside of hunting season.
Things have changed so drastically for the worse! The sanctity of summer has been violated by the endless scheduling of the lives of children into competitive, organized soccer matches.
Why does every child over the age of three have to play soccer? And not just once per week, but every single day, every weekend. Can the suburbans come out to the farm for a weekend? No, they have a soccer tournament in Des Moines at five on Sunday morning.
Do any of them ever go on play soccer in high school? Very few. Do any of them ever become good enough to compete on the world stage in those incredibly boring matches between Brazil and Cameroon on cable TV? Nope. Never. All of those hours, weeks and months of childhood soccer are utterly wasted.
The only purpose for suburban childhood soccer is to prevent children from having one unorganized moment alone in a secret hideout.
If some rebel child snuck away to a granary, crawled up a ladder and looked through old tax records for dirt on his ancestors, the parents would have the poor kid's name streaming across the bottom of the TV screen by noon.
"I'm bored," cry the modern children if they get so much as one free moment.
No wonder. They've been managed, watched, scheduled and soccerred into unimaginative little dolts.