Monday, September 17, 2018

Monday Memories: The Volcano

As I’ve probably mentioned before, a creek ran behind the houses on the street where I grew up. It had steep banks that seemed really high when I was a kid. In places, they actually were twenty or thirty feet tall. We’re lucky none of us ever fell off and busted an arm or a leg—or a neck. But as far as I recall, none of us were ever hurt playing along the creek other than the occasional scratch or bruise.

On the other side of the creek was a large pasture that was anywhere from fifty to a couple of hundred yards wide, depending on the course of the creek, and on the other side of it was a small country road. That pasture was part of our stomping grounds, too, of course. I remember one Saturday morning I was with a couple of friends, and after crossing the creek by jumping from rock to rock, we climbed up the trail on the opposite bank and came out into the field bent on some adventure I no longer recall.

But then we stopped in our tracks and stared at something new that had appeared seemingly overnight. From our point of view, it was a huge, steep, circular bank of dirt that sloped in. As we stood there gazing at it in awe, one of my friends asked what it was.

I said, “I think it’s a volcano.”

Now, I knew good and well it wasn’t a volcano, and my friends quickly figured out that it wasn’t, but for a minute or so I had them going. And it was certainly an intriguing thought, that a volcano could pop up in the pasture behind our houses. That would have been pretty cool.

We climbed up to the top, and as those of you who have lived in the country have probably figured out already, it was just a stock tank, a big ring of dirt shoved up with a tractor to catch rain and provide water for the cows who grazed in that pasture. (That's not the actual tank in the picture above, that's just a photo I found on the Internet, but the one we saw looked a lot like that.) The ground sloped down toward the creek so the bank was a lot lower on one side and the cows could get to the water without any trouble. When the pond it created was full, it was probably fifty feet wide and maybe two feet deep. Certainly not deep enough for anybody to use it as a swimming hole. (We did have a swimming hole in the creek for a while, after some of us dammed it up . . . but that’s another story.)

Anyway, the volcano name stuck, and that’s what we called it from then on. We played some around that tank over the years. Any mound of dirt, if little boys were around, was going to get war played around it sooner or later in those days. One time I was running along the top of it when I tripped and fell and put out a hand to catch myself . . . right into a clump of cactus. That was not fun, and I still remember my mother using tweezers to pick at least a hundred cactus needles out of my palm. I’d like to think that I bore the ordeal in stony, heroic silence, but that’s probably not what actually happened.

Eventually somebody put a mobile home in that pasture, and years after that I think there was a gas well in it. But the volcano remained right where it was, although the banks wore down quite a bit over time. A year or so back, they started putting in an RV park on that property, and I thought, well, that’s it, they were finally going to bulldoze it down and fill it in. But no, even though there are dozens of RVs parked around it, the volcano is still there, or at least it was the last time I drove by. And I hope it stays. Not every kid had a volcano practically in his backyard when he was growing up.


Charlie Steel said...


GREAT STORY! Enjoyed reading it immensely. Nostalgia---it brings you to your knees...

Rick Robinson said...

Neat. Thanks again for the reminiscence.

Peter Brandvold said...

Another great memoir, James. I've been enjoying these. Please keep 'em coming.