Stuck in the mud
It was a late fall afternoon in 1967; I was nine at the time. My mother lived in N.W. Portland; our apartment was located at the dead end of N.W. Pettygrove. The apartment my mother lived in was surrounded by two large fields that sat on both sides of her spot. The lot located to the west was owned by a local family in the neighborhood it had a few huge alders and a several big Douglas fir on it, it sat there undisturbed for years; the field to the east of her apartment was a big old blackberry field; blackberries covered most of the lot, there were a few trails and a small cleared out little meadow that sat on the lot. I was in third grade at the time.
The big old blackberry field located to the east of her apartment was a popular spot to play, several of the neighbor kids gathered in the vacant land; we threw dirt clods and played army in the meadow from time to time. Kids after school, heading up in the hills of Kings Heights would congregate, maybe throw blackberries at each other, or mud. Raccoons built their dens in the dense blackberries; once in a blue moon, you’d see a few deer eating the ripe berries on the prickly vines.
Well, around this time, it must have been the middle of fall; around 1967 or so, workmen pulled up in a pickup one day; they got out and surveyed the land; they pounded orange steaks in the ground, soon bulldozers and a steam shovel started to push the blackberries around, construction workers carrying chain saws cut down the trees that sat on the land; big dump trucks drove up on the lot; they piled up dirt and shrubs, afterward they dug trenches for sewer and water lines that ran about two feet below the ground. They piled dirt around the lot; some of the piles were ten feet high or so, the piles sat up above the ground; they cleared off most of the land and drove off, the land sat there for a while, it was coming into the early winter, at that time, I figured they’d start building in the spring when the weather was better. As kids we’d play in the lot, hiding in the areas that were dug out for sewers and pipes. We had the whole lot to ourselves.
Well, in the fall of 1967 it was pretty wet; it rained all fall if I remember right. Leaves were piled up; the rain soaked the cleared out lot, and the big piles of dirt got drenched; mud flowed down the street and got into the sewers. Deep thick dirt covered the lot. We soon found out plans had been set; new apartments would go on the lot; I had heard they were going to put in ten or so apartment units, they’d get rid of the lot; it would be covered with the new apartments.
I had several friends in the neighborhood at that time, had a few friends who liked to come over to my house on Saturday mornings, we’d play in the vacant lot or go down to Wallace Park. That Friday at school two of my good friends came up and asked me if I’d like to get together and play on Saturday morning?
“Sure let’s get together at my house, I’ll see you at 9:00 A.M.,” I replied. I went home that day, walked by the lot; everything on the lot was covered with a dark-colored gook, and piles of mud sat just there, the orange sticks stuck out of the ground. A few tractors sat on the land. I saw my mother that night and told her about getting together with my buddies the next day.
“That sounds fine Grant, it looks like they’ve forecasted rain for Saturday, you better wear you galoshes, rain coat, and your stocking cap.”
I nodded to her as I read my latest Spider Man comic book. I ate dinner and called my buddies on the phone; it was set, David Everett and Kendall Perryman would come over around 9:00 A.M. the next day. I watched Johnny Quest and a late-night monster movie; I watched “The House of Frankenstein” and went to bed that night. I had a few dreams about Frankenstein living under my bed.
The next morning I was up bright and early, it was pouring out; big dark clouds rolled along the west hills; they looked so black and gruesome. I ate my oatmeal, ran in my room, and put my clothes on. I wore a big Oregon sweat shirt and some handy brown cords, put on some wool socks and put on my trusty galoshes.
There was a knock at the door; it was David Everett and Kendall. I could hear them laughing. They were giggling and rough housing.
“Ask your friends to come in,” replied to my mother.
They came running in; they were wet; their clothes were soaked; my mother made them hot chocolate and cinnamon toast. We hung their wet coats in the hall coat closet. We watched cartoons and drank hot chocolate, usually on Saturday morning, they showed Bugs Bunny. We laughed at one of the cartoons.
“Let’s go play outside!” barked David.
We grabbed our jackets that were hanging in the coat closet and ran outside. It was pouring; we played catch with a football for a while out in the street; we chased each other; we ran around and yelled at each other, then we decided to go over to the vacant lot that had been cleared; we sloshed around in ankle deep mud. It was a real mess; we climbed around some of the mud piles, and the rain came pounding down; dark rain clouds got thicker and darker, dumping more rain on us as we played. Someone pushed me, and I went flying face down in the mud; everybody laughed. Kendall started to throw mud at David; the mud flew up and hit him right in the face. We ran through the lot exploring, climbing under and over dirt and trenches that covered the lot.
David and I were playing over in the N.W. corner of the lot; Kendal was climbing on one of the huge piles of dirt; he had climbed near the top of one of the piles, pretending he was an explorer climbing to the top of the pile. Suddenly, Kendall started to scream.
David and I stopped and looked over at Kendall. We couldn’t believe it; Kendall was stuck in the mud pile, stuck in the mud up to his knees, crying and screaming; he was trying to pull his legs out of his boots; his face was bright red; the rain poured down on us.
David and I ran over to Kendall, we ran up that huge pile of mud and tried to help him, soon David was stuck in the mud, and then I was stuck, all three of us in knee deep mud, Kendall kept crying, David started to pull on his legs, soon he got out of his boots and rolled down the mud pile. He stood there and looked at us and laughed. He was standing in his stocking feet, soaked, and covered with mud as the rain kept pounding down.
“David, go and get my mom, she can help us get out of this!” David looked at me and started to shake his head.
“I’m not going to get your mom; she’ll kill us if she sees how we look!”
He started to run down N.W. Pettygrove; I remember watching him run down the street in his socking feet, covered with mud. Some friend he turned out to be. I remember a neighbor sticking his head out of his front door and laughing as David went running by. He laughed even harder when he saw Kendall and me standing knee-deep in the pile of mud screaming our heads off. I started to panic, started to think that we might sink in the big pile of mud, perhaps Frankenstein would get us, or maybe the Wolfman would get us! That’s what I get in watching those late-night monster movies, I thought to myself. I panicked, and I pulled on my legs, fighting to get my feet out of my goulashes; I looked at Kendall, and he was busily pulling and pulling on his legs, screaming and crying. I got one leg out of my boots, and my foot sank deeper into the mud.
Kendall was screaming, soon my mother appeared, and she was wearing a heavy-duty rain coat and a stocking cap on her head.
“What are you boys doing? What happened? What…….What is going on!”
I looked at her; I was embarrassed, cold, wet, covered with mud; Kendall was sinking bigger and deeper in the gooey mess. He was beside himself.
“Oh mom, I’m so glad you heard us yell, were stuck, were stuck, Kendall and I can’t get out of the mud!”
She rushed over to the lot; she was wearing her trusty rain boots. We stood there watching her as she started to run through the mud and up to the huge pile of dirt that held us captive. She pulled on my leg, and it came popping out of the boot; my boot was stuck down deep in the mud; it vanished shortly. I held my other boot in my hand as I watched Kendall scream; my mother was pulling on his legs trying to get him free from his boots. My mother stood in ankle deep mud. My mother pulled on both of Kendall’s legs, and soon he was free; his boots had disappeared in the mud pile as well. He ran down the mound of dirt and started to run home. He was crying as he ran up the hill to his home. I could see the mud tracks David left looking down the sidewalk; my mother looked at me and started to yell.
“Why, I you, why I can’t believe you got stuck in the mud! Look at yourself! Look at all the mud, your boots, why your boots are ruined. They’re stuck in the mud!”
I laughed at her as we started to run in the apartment. Mud was everywhere; she rushed me to the tub and peeled off my clothes. I remember scrubbing and scrubbing at myself; the bath tub was covered with the dark mess; I had to scrub the tub down until my hands hurt. I scrubbed most of the morning.
I looked outside, there was a trail of mud; you could see my mother and my foot prints on the cement outside her apartment. I called David first.
“David are you O.K.?” I asked.
David was laughing on the phone.
“Grant, Grant my boots there gone, my mother is really upset at me!”
I didn’t know what to say, I hung up the phone and called Kendall.
Kendall’s mother picked up the phone. I could hear his mother yelling at Kendall. “You get in the tub right now!”
There was a pause on the phone.
“Grant, I can’t talk right now my mother is pretty mad at me, besides that I lost my boots in the mud, and she just bought those for me!”
He hung up the phone. I could tell he was in deep trouble.
I looked at my mother as she stood there cleaning off the floor. She took my dirty clothes down to the laundry room. I did homework the rest of the afternoon; I didn’t say a word to her the rest of the day.
The next day I drove with my mother down to the store, we drove by the vacant lot; I looked at the tall piles of dirt with Kendall, David and my boots stuck in the thick mud pile; I started to laugh, from my count five boots were devoured by the rich, dark Willamette mud that day. The boots stayed in the gook until a tractor a few days later scooped up the pile and loaded it into a dump truck.
Soon the apartments were built; ten units were put in along with a parking lot, and nothing was left of the blackberries, the mud, or the boots. The apartments are still there, every time I go by those apartments I think of my boots that got stuck in the mud that day. It was one of the funnier times as a child growing up in Portland.