Monday, March 3, 2014

Part Seven: Tales Of Sherwood Forest

As I stated in his first post, once weekly I plan to feature a guest writer, my husband. He has been painstakingly writing down the stories of his childhood to share them with his then 9 year old niece. I wanted her to know what kind of childhood her beloved Uncle was able to enjoy. While enjoying them myself I thought these are so much fun to read, why not share them? So here are the short missives of his memories of growing up in wilds of Florida during the 1950's and 1960's. They're packed with misadventures, romance, and all the confusing things that can happen in our youth. Even though his hometown of Jacksonville is a big city with over a million residents now, during his childhood it was several small communities surrounded by countryside.

This is his story.

(Please note: None of the photos in this post are from our files. They are all from the internet.)

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Tales Of Sherwood Forest
by Steven R. Hudson

So much of our play centered on a stand of tall Cypress, Tupelo and Water
Oaks. Spanish Moss festooned the trees and the sunny edges of this wood were girt with prickly, head high briars. It was situated in the very middle of Center Park and had probably been planned as a park by the developer before some calamity of business brought such plans to a halt. The trees formed such a canopy that little sunlight reached the lone footpath that cut through the heart of this magic place. Our previously mentioned fishing canal defined the north side and a crude bridge of fallen logs gave access to the trail on that side. We played out countless boyhood fantasies in that wood, of Robin Hood, Cops and Robbers, Cowboys and Indians and other imaginings.

Every dime store in those times sold bow and arrow sets. The small maple bow and three rubber tipped arrows were stapled to a cardboard backing with the profile of a noble Indian chief on the front and bulls eye target printed on back. This was an essential piece of kit for a round of Cowboys and Indians and I think every kid back then had one. We actually shot these rubber tipped arrows at one another. A wonder none of us lost an eye.
 Many rabbits inhabited the briar patches around Sherwood Forest and these bows now gave us an idea of how we might hunt them. Of course the "sissy" rubber tips had to go first but we found the arrows would not fly true with their tips simply sharpened to a point. Something heavier and more lethal was needed if we were going to be successful rabbit hunters. It was Peanut who came up with a solution. A soda bottle cap could be bent over the end of the arrow shaft and then hammered flat. This locked the cap to the shaft and formed a sharp, thin steel point that could be made even sharper with a little honing on a stone. Armed with this new deadly weapon we were ready to rabbit hunt. We soon learned that rabbit hunting was not as easy as we had thought it would be. Rabbits are quick and we had to get very close with our under powered maple bows to have any hope of making a hit. We next experimented with making stouter bows that would cast our newly upgraded arrows with more authority. The raw materials for bow making were all around us. Medium sized maple saplings were found to make a decent bow and Peanut actually managed to kill one unfortunate rabbit. We soon tired of bows however. Far more interesting weapons were coming.

We loved making forts in Sherwood Forest. Cast off pieces of plywood and cardboard could be fashioned into walls and roofs. A hammer and a Mason jar full of rusty nails were all that was needed. Ray, Jackie and I found a pile of cardboard at a building site and dragged it off to add to a fort we had already but as we neared the briar patches, a new idea was hatched. Why not build a hideout in the midst of those impenetrable briars. With a machete, "borrowed" from Mr Mealer's back porch, we began a kid size crawl tunnel into the maze of thorny canes. As we went, strips of cardboard were laid down to protect us from the thorns. At last we tunneled to the center of the briars and hollowed out a room large enough that we three could sit cross legged. We lined the room with the remaining cardboard and made a "door" out of woven canes to hide the entrance. We felt so clever.


Simply Linda said...

I am really enjoying reading your stories. Blessings

Monkeywrangler said...

Ah, brings back memories of my own childhood roaming in the neighborhood woods...

linda eller said...

I am reading and imagining as the story goes.

Anonymous said...

I remember the bow and arrows stapled to the cardboard. I made many play houses out of appliance card board boxes when I was a kid. You boys were a little more daring than wimpy ole me!!!