I have tons of memories about growing up in Decatur and most of them are good ones, so… The old wooden bridge that crossed Spring Creek on North East Carrol, was our absolute favorite hangout. My best friend and I spent hours upon hours skipping stones, hopping from one rock to the next. A lot of times we just sat under the bridge, hearing cars rumble overhead as the wooden planks rolled and clunked. We built rock dams across the creek and screamed whenever we lifted a rock to find a crawdad. I hated those things! Their pinchers, their beady little eyes, their exoskeletons, their pinchers! They still scare me and I grew up to be a wildlife biologists stomping through swamps and creeks but then childhood, and my life of crime, prepared me well.
We built rafts out of driftwood and sticks, which supported our weight for about 3 seconds until we sunk to the bottom. We walked up and down the creek, sometimes in our good shoes, and came home dirty and smelly. The funny thing is, I never remember my parents ever getting mad at me for having some good clean dirty fun. We’d play from sunup till sundown outside riding up and down South Court Drive, East Court Drive and North Court Drive on our banana seat bicycles. Highway 51 bordered the neighborhood on the west, so there was no West Court Drive. I’m thankful we didn’t have computers, iPod’s and video games. Life was so much more fun when it was lived and not just talked about or played out on a computer screen.
Besides the bridge, Brettwood, a stripmall, was our major hangout. Those “No bicycles or skateboards allowed on the sidewalk” signs you see there today, were because of us. My lasting contribution to the community!
Brettwood was usually fun, except for a couple occasions. We had this really cool idea to sneak out of our houses at 3:00 in the morning and walk to a nearby shopping center. My friend knocked on my window, right on time and I climbed out into the backyard. Once in the backyard it seemed barely recognizable. It looked creepy. How could my backyard, my beloved backyard look so creepy? We hurried to the back street and walked quickly. The bridge, which seemed so benign during the day, looked like a scene out of a cheap horror movie. It was extremely humid that night and the heavy night air was hard to breathe. The moisture in the air could be seen, touched, and felt. Under the lone street light above the bridge, the mist reached its arms out beneath the old wooden structure, like a clouded monster about to grasp us and pull us under. We ran across the bridge. We made it to Brettwood, a half mile away, in about 35 seconds.
A post office was still located there at that time and we walked passed it. It looked creepy. We walked past all the stores that we knew so well and they too looked creepy. We made it to Kroger’s which was open 24 hours a day. The bright light shinning out wasn’t as welcoming nor comforting as we thought it would be. It looked weird at night. We stood before the automatic doors and looked at each other. I think every lesson our parents had ever pounded into our heads about strangers, kidnappers and murderers of careless, disobedient children suddenly popped into our brains. “This had been a very dumb idea.” We both concluded. We ran the entire way home. The pines on Christine were dark, ominous masses of fright. The yews, in front of the ranch style houses, surely had something sinister hiding behind them but they were all blurs as we ran by. Sweat dripped off of my body and as I climbed back through my bedroom window, and sat in front of the fan, I vowed never to do THAT again. This wasn’t the only time we had ran all the way home from Brettwood.
The other time involved my one and only stint in the criminal world. We had shoplifted a couple candy bars from SupeRx, hidden in a couple hats. These were those cheesy painter style hats from the 1980’s. I think mine was of some bad heavy metal band like Ratt. Just as we reached the door, the cashier yelled, “Hey, let me see what you have in those hats!” We dashed out the door, ran behind the shopping center and into the woods. There was a small creek and railroad tracks to cross. We ran through the water and then thought, hey maybe we should go back and forth through the water so the dogs, who the police would surely send after us, wouldn’t be able to pick up our scent. So back and forth we went quickly and then just to be on the safe side we ran through Spring Creek near our homes. Neither one of us had ever been so scared before. I ran into my house and he ran to his. We stayed hidden for a good while. Every time I heard a dog bark I freaked. The worst part of the whole ordeal was we had tossed our candy bars into a dumpster so as to dispose of the evidence. All of that trouble and I had nothing to show for it but a guilty conscience and wet shoes.
So ended my life of crime.