Over the past few weeks I’ve shared an assortment of memories about adventures at our old Kentucky home in Foster, Ky., but best of all is that those were our children’s toddler years. When we backed the U-Haul truck up the lane (which was an adventure in itself) to unload our meager possessions in September 1980, Adam was just 15 months old and Emily would not arrive for two more years. Despite some hard times, our little house overlooking the Ohio River was a wonderful place to raise our children and watch them discover their own adventures during their early years.
We did a lot of the things young parents do. A sandbox was constructed with old railroad ties retrieved from the tracks along Route 8; a long rope swing was hung from a tall maple tree; a small swing set was purchased and installed by the sandbox; and saucer sleds were purchased to enjoy the winter snow, of which there was plenty. The snow made for great sled riding, starting just a few feet from our back door, but it also meant parking the car at the bottom of the hill and carrying little children and groceries all the way to the top until the snow finally melted enough to once again navigate the steep street and our long driveway.
You may recall this was the era of Walton’s Mountain, and, although our hill by the Ohio River could hardly be called a mountain, the experiences we shared with our children during those early years were in some ways similar to those of John Boy and his family. One of my fondest memories will always be of Adam traipsing through the snow with me to the back side of the hill in search of the “perfect” eastern red cedar for our Christmas tree. Thinking back on those times, of how much we enjoyed cutting and then decorating a little cedar tree each year, I have to ask myself, “Why would anybody ever want or need more?”
By Adam’s fourth birthday he was ready for Big Wheels, which he quickly mastered. From our front porch to the post office in the middle of Foster was about a quarter of a mile, and it was downhill all the way. The picture of Adam racing full speed down the hill is still etched in my mind like a YouTube video.
With feet outstretched above the pedals he would fly down our gravel driveway, then lower his feet to slowdown just enough to slide sideways and make a hard right turn before gaining speed on the steep paved street as he raced toward the post office. A neighbor boy, a year older than Adam, would watch to stop any oncoming cars as Adam ramped the cross street at the bottom of the hill and then gradually slowed down on the half block straightaway, finally arriving at the post office. After retrieving the mail, he would slowly make the long trek back up the hill, pushing his Big Wheels all the way. You’d think we would have known better than to let a four year old risk life and limb in this manner; but this was safer than letting him, at age 3, sit in my lap to drive the last two miles home on Route 8, as we sang the gospel song, “We Are Nearing Home.” This was (as best as I can recall) before the days of car seat laws. Luckily, there was little or no traffic to risk having an accident and making the words of that gospel tune a reality.
The next year Adam graduated to a two wheeled bicycle, and his daring feats rose to a new level. One time when friends were visiting, Adam shouted, “Hey Uncle Ken, watch this!” In an instant he was headed down the driveway full speed. He apparently had in mind to try the “slowdown and make a hard right turn” trick, but he missed the turn and flew over the rock wall at the bottom of our driveway, crashing headlong into the side of old Mrs. Nickerson’s house. I had broken into a run when he first started down the driveway and arrived just a moment after impact. Adam was shaken but okay, but the same could not be said for his bicycle, which was damaged beyond repair.
Emily arrived in August 1982 (adopted with only a six week notice, which is a story of its own for another time), and she quickly became as adventuresome as her older brother – would you believe at only nine months old. On this occasion I was able to capture the adventure on film and still have the picture. I don’t recall what I was doing when I heard the kitchen screen door open and then slam shut, but when I glanced out there was Emily crawling across the driveway as fast as her little knees and hands would carry her. I quickly grabbed the camera and watched as she climbed a two foot high rock wall then proceeded to crawl up the steep bank toward the sandbox and swing set. I called her name at just the right moment to capture her looking back at me, as if to say, “I’m just going for a crawl.”
So many memories – watermelon juice running down their arms on a hot summer day; gathering eggs from the nests in our little chicken coop, then coloring, hiding, and hunting the Easter eggs; going for walks to Farmer Brown’s (no relation) to see his Tennessee Walkers; watching Adam shave for the first time (with no blade); walking down to the river to wade in the shallows where the ferry once crossed to and from the Village of Neville; and one of my favorite memories, weaning Emily from her “binkies” and potty training her while Yvonne took a much needed and deserved break to visit her sister for a few days. The binkies were taken cold turkey. The potty training was more challenging, but a diet of salty crackers and Sprite, with the reward of M&Ms, did the trick.
Well, thanks for allowing me to take a few paragraphs to wonder down memory lane. Too quickly the adventures at our old Kentucky home came to an end, as a job change took us to Indiana in 1985. But, as I gazed across the Ohio River toward Clermont County during those years at our old Kentucky home, little did I know I was looking at the place we would call home within a few short years, and where I would spend the best years of my career.
And so ends this series of columns about adventures at our old Kentucky home. I hope you have enjoyed them as much as I have.
George Brown is a freelance writer. He and his wife, Yvonne, live in Jackson Township.