A good portion of my summers were spent at my grandmother’s house in Waverly, Missouri: the sleepiest of river towns. Growing up in The Wave in the late 80s & early 90s was both tedious and terrific. There wasn’t a whole lot going on for the most part, so we tasked ourselves with administering adventure. It was that or literally sweat to death in a habitually humdrum and humid climate. There was no movie theater and no arcade. We didn’t have fast food or a concert hall. No proper video store to speak of. We had a tiny mom-and-pop-one-stop that happened to have some movies for rent, but good luck finding the weird slashers I was after. On the same side of town there was (and still is) a Casey’s General Store and on the other end an amazing baseball field. The lack of easy external stimuli led to some less than ideal ideas about how to kill time between Batman and Tiny Toons. After my cartoons with crackers and lemon-lime soda I would head to the holler* across the street to my fort. My secret sanctuary was comprised of miscellaneous tree limbs and trunks that had fallen down the autumn before. For the rest of the day until my parents picked me up, I would swashbuckle and stick-slash my way around the growing grass with the squirrels and birds. The holler was connected to several other ones in the town by gravel roads, which allowed my tree-dwelling brethren and me to roam the city unaffected by lights and asphalt.
Every once in a while we would sneak our heads out of the brush by the city water plant and see what was happening at the marina. If nothing caught my eye I’d say goodbye to my group and cruise on over to the tracks a little farther downriver to see if my penny was flattened yet…or if the train had derailed because of it. If I was really feeling lucky I would venture to the backside of the elementary school and go into the forbidden zone. I don’t know if it really was dangerous, but all of the kids on that side of town said some freaky shit went down after dark. Even though it looked just like any other dell in the area, I was only ever brave enough to wander the edge of the zone that bordered my buddy’s back yard. The hill leading down to it had a rad terrace about half way, though. That was prime BMX jumping there. Ask my buddy CB about that one; I bet his neck still hurts from that epic flip.
I wasn’t totally by myself all of the time. I did have a group of friends that got together to play Sega pretty regularly. We all seemed to favor the Twins’s house. It was a perfect central location, and they had a fantastic basement that we could all stay cool in. Many a days were spent battling Dr. Robotnik (now Eggman, I guess?) in between sliding matches on the linoleum floor. We would spend our weekends at each other’s houses, as well. One night would be at my house across town on Commercial Street, the next at one of theirs. Sometimes we would alter the cast of the slumber party; depending on who had a family thing that weekend, or what town the game was in that night.
When we could go outside, it was baseball time. Everyone played baseball in Waverly growing up. It didn’t matter who you were or what part of the county you were from. We spit, dug and swung until we couldn’t see anymore. Even with the lights on. When the grownups told us it was too late and the mosquitoes were too fierce to play, it was back to the basement to save the princess or collect more Chaos Emeralds.
It was different in those days. The dangers were there, but we didn’t know it; nor did we care. We were free to grab our bikes and tootle the town at our leisure, with no threat to think of. Everybody left their doors unlocked and their windows open. No fear…Good god. Now I’ve seen so many murder documentaries and horror stories about kidnappings and sex slavery, that I do at least three perimeter checks before I finally lay down at night.
We were lucky, uninhibited and full of imagination.
How the hell are we still alive?
*holler – Southern slang for “Hollow” – A low, wooded area.
Thanks to Amy Woody for help with editing.
Thanks to Jeffrey Kyle Crutchfield for help with editing and proper footnote placement.
Feature photo: bridgehunter.com