A ‘trampoline,’ open woodland and desert
One day, while driving through the outskirts of the city during a brief (and past), winter warm spell, I saw children jumping up and down on a set of bed box springs. It was very evident that they were greatly enjoying themselves, with no shame, although some might view their conveyance of fun as a “poor man’s trampoline.”
Upon seeing this, I though of another child out on Old Concord Road in the 1950s and ’60s, who lacked something which all of the surrounding neighborhood children had: a really nice yard.
In the summertime, I have walked past some really nice yards where I now live. When the sprinklers are on, I catch that strong whiff of chlorine which almost makes me think there is a swimming pool nearby.
I mentioned in an earlier recollection that in my yard, rocks were always pushing up. (It was almost as if “something” below were doing the pushing.)
Actually, the only thing which made my yard a “yard” was that in its geometric center there was a house. Without that house, the trees, weeds, grass (both crab and a little fescue), wildflowers, rocks and an eroded area would have qualified it as “open woodland and desert.”
Like those children and their “trampoline,” I enjoyed what nature had provided for me in the way of a yard.
That yard represented a microcosm of several “macro” natural environments. In studying geography at Granite Quarry School, I could relate to the different types of topography because their miniatures were within the briefest of walking distances from either my front or back door.
In the very back there was the forest floor, along with the heights of the forest. This part thinned out toward the house to become “open woodland.” This was where the forest canopy opened up to let some sunlight (but not a lot) through to nourish low-ground vegetation.
Mankind’s settling down from being a hunter-gatherer to becoming a grower of crops was represented in my father’s backyard garden. (This part was more anthropological than topographical.)
The “open woodland,” with its decreasing number of trees and increasing amount of sunlight spread down into the front yard, after which a “sloping” set in. Where the ground sloped, the water ran down and had begun to carve away the topsoil. This was that gullied, desert-like, foremost part of my childhood front yard.
“Red” is the color to which the human eye is most sensitive. “Reddish-orange” is the first impression that my yard would have made upon someone driving down the Old Concord Road back then, simply because that was the part next to the road.
This color was the “Red Clay of Carolina,” exposed by the erosion of about the first dozen or so feet of my yard. This was where the “open woodland” gave way to the “desert.” There were no finger-like roots of grass to hold the upper inches of soil in place, so they had gradually been “sloughed” away at a descending angle toward the Old Concord Road’s parallel drainage ditch.
That earth, in its slow descent to the ditch also had the look of the “Badlands,” with many rivulets, one rivulet a “canyon” (in comparison). An occasional, sturdy wildflower mimicked the beauty of a blooming cactus of the desert.
Ants, utilizing their medium of crumbly Carolina clay, were able to build the cones of their anthills several inches high. A few inches away, their predator, the “ant lion” also using that medium of fine, crumbly clay, built his “negative cone” (pit) in which to trap unwary ants which tumbled to his grasp.
Unlike those underpriviliged children, bouncing on their “poor man’s trampoline,” I wasn’t in need; but just like them, I enjoyed the yard that was dealt to me, and felt no shame in it. In fact, what I encountered there was a most interesting slice of nature’s variety.
I felt sorry for my neighbors, in their having to put up with that daily, boring sameness of the “manicured green” of just one particular plant species, only varied now and then with the occasional dandy lion.