Childhood: The Age of Exploration

When I was young, I was an apprentice entomologist. I spent hours watching ants forage for food and bring it back to their ant hills. Interestingly, I don’t see any ant hills here in the Pacific Northwest. They were everywhere in upstate New York. Alabama had many too, but they were of the red ant variety (and you didn’t want to get too close to those!) In New York, we had the medium size black ants, and their small dirt mounds had a small entrance at the top through which they would enter and exit, rubbing antennae as they passed each other at the portal to their complex chambers underground.

Yes, I also explored the dramatic effects of the sun when its rays were magnified. What can I say, I was a curious child. I also remember exploring magnification on the backs of friends necks when we were standing in line at the Assumption School. Ouch!

an-eroding-bank

I was also an archeologist. As a young, curious boy, I spent days sifting through the eroding bank of soft dirt at the edge of Lockwood Drive on the way down into the Annsville woods. I found some really cool things too. Some Indian arrowheads and old medicine bottles from past civilizations. Everything that I brought back into the house at the end of the day was a real treasure to me. For some reason, my mother didn’t think so. But then, she wasn’t an archeologist like me, was she?

Of course, like all young archeologists, we tried to dig to China a few times as well.

Most of the time, I was an explorer. Some of my favorite childhood memories involve long hours pedaling down new streets and paths on my banana seat bike with the center gear shaft. Every turn down a previously unexplored avenue held endless possibilities. As an explorer, the top of every hill had potential to offer the most magnificent view. Each new trail off the road might lead to a secret world, previously unexplored by any other kids in the neighborhood — an undiscovered landmark full of mystery and adventure. A young boy couldn’t resist a mysterious trail or unknown road. We were childhood pioneers and adventure was our game.

We also explored old buildings that were left vacant for whatever reason. There was a sense of danger when we did this, especially if the vacant building had a No Trespassing sign nearby. But, that just made us more curious. Why do they not want people trespassing there? What are they trying to hide?

The fact that we most likely read a Hardy Boys mystery the night before only stoked our imaginations of what might be in the next room or in the concealed cave in the woods. The Fort Hill woods in Peekskill actually had some cool hidden caves, and plenty of Revolutionary War remnants, like old stone walls where muskets once lay. We had BB gun wars in the Fort Hill woods. Don’t worry. We had a two-pump rule.

As children, adventure was our business. We were curious about everything around us. It didn’t take much to get our imagination running wild. I sometimes wonder if children today are filled with such curiosity about everything around them. Are they still energized with adrenaline when a new path is discovered? Do they still think there is treasure underneath their feet?

I hope so, because there is.

There really is.

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