Friday, December 23, 2016

Neighborhood Nostalgia on a Frosty Day

About the same time yesterday that two of my brothers, visiting from Montana and Oregon, were driving around on an afternoon memory-lane adventure, I was headed home from completing some errands in town.

After driving past the old University of Idaho experiment farm on my way in to town and having observed a truly magical blend of frosty trees, bushes and frozen ponds, I decided to stop there on the way home. 

I pulled into the parking area on the North Boyer farm, which once grew lush fields of alfalfa and other experimental crops. Now, the acreage includes open areas of flat ground and gently rolling hills, providing recreationalists a convenient spot to enjoy throughout the seasons. 

Back in the day, when we were living at our farm less than a mile away, Tom Brackney ran the experiment station with help from Charlie Johnson, a longtime, close friend and hunting buddy of our dad Harold. 

Tom's family lived in the house near what's now Panhandle Special Needs, and because his daughter Kathleen was one of my classmates at Lincoln School, I spent a lot of time at their house. My most vivid memories:  dialing (not cranking) the Brackney's new-fangled wall phone for the first time, enjoying a piece of Mrs. Brackney's mayonnaise cake and playing croquet with Kathleen and her sisters in their back yard. 

So, it was a bit of memory lane for me as I got out of the car, snapped a couple of photos and then walked toward a friendly couple who had been cross country skiing.  

I visited with David and Nicole for a few minutes and proudly answered David's question, "Are you from around here?" with "All my life . . . grew up just a mile away on a farm north of the airport."

David helps maintain the cross country ski trails when he's not doing his day job as a financial consultant, while Nicole sells planks for grilling.  The more we talked the more people we knew in common. 

That's what's always fun about Sandpoint. 

Anyway, while Nicole went on her way and David took another ski run, I walked around like a kid in a candy store, marveling at the winter beauty while taking pictures.  At times, I just plain smiled, thinking about how pretty virtually every view was AT THAT MOMENT.  

Could be most folks have rarely seen the place look quite like this---my timing was right because except for David who was cruising the trails, once again, as so often happens on my frequent photo adventures, I had the place to myself.  

That's always fun about Sandpoint too. 

I drove home, thrilled with the experience and soon sharing it with my brothers who had stopped by the house from their afternoon adventures.  

Then, the tales began.  We're all sad that virtually no vestige of our early years on that North Boyer farm exists except for the acreage itself.  The last of its character and our visible memories went with a logging job last year. 

Nonetheless, those memories are nicely tucked away in our minds. 

Kevin told of his tree house and of the red flag he placed at the top of a tree in the woods. He didn't think Harold ever saw that, but did remember distinctly our dad's reaction when he discovered that the extensive line of dozens of pieces of twine neatly tied together and extending between a pine tree in the west field and a cottonwood at the field's edge.

Kevin told Jim and me that his goal of stringing all that twine across the field was to be able to talk from one tree to another.  I don't know if he ever did. 

We also remembered snowmobiling in the field dotted with stump piles. Harold had cleared that field, and the piles remained for years.  

The highlight of our snowmobiling memories could have had a bad ending, but our sister Barbara was pretty lucky that the machine stopped with her aboard before it went out of control through the north barbwire fence.  

Of course, I had to bring up the mail thefts and the curiosity over the years of any possible existence of the remnants of the mail I had stolen at the youthful age of 5 from twelve mailboxes and buried beneath the pine needles in the northeast corner of our woods. 

Jim reminisced about the rocket launches after Harold hauled the 4-H rocketry club members out to the southwest field on a wagon so they could test their homemade models.  There were Gissels and Bergers among that bunch. 

Great memories of formative times in our lives on that beloved farm.  And, so wonderful to revive them every now and then. 

So, yes, the trip to the old experiment farm inspired a few thoughts of the past for me along with a lot of visual enjoyment.  And, then after telling my new friend Dave about that farm not far away, I really enjoyed the later experience of bringing some portions of it back to life with some of my siblings. 

Can't beat that!

Happy Friday.  Safe travels for Willie and Debbie as they go to Boise, for Annie as she flies into Spokane this afternoon and for everyone who's coming or going. 


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