Just below Lover’s Leap (Photo: Rod Clark)
Writer Rod Clark revisits an old limestone quarry near the village where he grew up, and finds the towering cliffs and hidden caves still a magnet for children today, and full of memories.
CURWOOD: Some memories remain evergreen in our minds, decades after the person who had the experience has moved on. At least that’s what writer Rod Clark found, when he revisited a childhood haunt decades later.
CLARK: Children are playing hide and seek in the old limestone quarry at the edge of the village where I grew up. I hear them as I walk; their voices ringing high and clear, echoing off the high stone walls among the mysterious trees. Crows complain; squirrels scold the invaders from the safety of green branches. And suddenly, I am carried back to summer days in the ’50s, when my brothers and I played “Scatter” and “Capture the Flag” on the two wooded levels of the quarry.
CLARK: Remembering how we crept among the sumac and the shadows of boulders. How honeysuckle perfumed the air; how once I saw a possum hanging by its tail in the cool shade of a Catalpa. And I remember how we named the secret places of our playground: “Pirates Path”, “Lover’s Leap”, “Dead Man’s Cave”, and most marvelous of all, “Cool Cave”, which possessed in its depths a limestone nook where you could keep a bottle of Coke cold even in the heat of summer.
CLARK: And as I ascend the path to the uppermost ridge to look down on a world mapped by children, some of whom are no longer alive, a small boy pops out of the brush in front of me, his eyes wide, burrs tangled in his hair. “Are there any pirates down there?” he demands breathlessly. But I am no longer of his world and cannot answer him.
CLARK: Without waiting for a reply, he plunges into the green realm below. I hear the rapid patter of his feet descending to the second level—punctuated with improbable leaps and bounds, and suddenly I realize what it is I have been seeking when I make this pilgrimage to the old quarry. Because it is my childhood that is racing away from me, down the steep pathway, among the mysterious trees.
CURWOOD: Rod Clark lives and writes in Cambridge, Wisconsin. He's the editor and publisher of Rosebud magazine, and he took some pictures of the old quarry. They're at our website, LOE.org.
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