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Thursday, October 7, 2010
The Wreck in the Canyon
San Diego was far less developed at that time and the vast neighborhoods that were growing on Clairemont Mesa were interwoven with a network of canyons that seemed wild and mysterious to us kids. During recess at Riley Elementary School I would sometimes stand at the chain link fence that separated the playground from the depths of one such canyon and gaze into the wild place.
Across the canyon I could see what I had been told was Kearney Mesa--another developing area with more houses and businesses. That might as well had been another far off country separated by the undeveloped canyon. Kearney Mesa was interesting, but the canyon lured my sense of adventure.
At the bottom of the canyon was an old car that I had decided had crashed at the foot of a dirt road that pitched steeply from the opposite rim of the canyon down the embankment to the canyon floor where it forked into diverging directions. I was convinced that the car had lost control many years ago to come to its current resting place. Undoubtedly the bodies of the occupants were still inside. At the very least, perhaps the unfortunate victims had managed to get out to safety, having left something of value in the car. I knew that I must eventually get to this car so that I could make my tremendous discovery and become a hero.
Unsure as to why no one else seemed to have noticed the wrecked car in the canyon, I would periodically go to the playground fence, my fingers poking through the mesh as I grasped hold and furtively surveyed the expanse of the canyon. Finally, my gaze would rest upon the old car. When summer came I was going to go down there to check it out.
The canyon was like a playground to me. I never saw any of the other neighborhood kids down there, but I guess it was just so big that we never encountered each other, Then again maybe it was such a treacherous ordeal getting down there that none of the other kids were brave enough to go. I was an adventurer and a climb down a brush covered canyon slope was not going to hinder me.
After summer had arrived, I organized my expedition of fellow explorers. My younger sister, Joy, and our friend Ross, who lived across the street from us, agreed to accompany me to the site. On that morning we went to the school, which was closed for the summer, and made our way along the outside of the playground fence until we found what appeared to be a trail down into the canyon. We wended our way into the canyon, always on the lookout for rattlesnakes.
My body tingled with anticipation as we neared the old car. Dust kicked up by our steps quickly settled in the dry stillness of the warm morning. Crossing the dirt road in the canyon bottom, we found ourselves standing before the rusting hulk of a car of unknown make or date. There were no bodies--not even skeletal remains. There was not even a sign of dried blood. The occupants had apparently escaped with their lives.
We discussed among ourselves what we might be looking for now in this wreck. Circling the car and peering inside it was pretty obvious that there was nothing left in the car. The cracked and torn weathered upholstery smelled musty dusty. The glove compartment was empty--not even a map. I would have at least liked to have found an old map. The gauges were still intact in the dashboard. If there had been a way to remove them I would have done so. I would have liked to have had the gauges.
Looking around the crash site we could see a few old beer bottles and little else other than the brown dry vegetation that blanketed most of the canyon. I concluded that the car had been there for a very long time--perhaps before I was born, which had been about ten years prior to this day. There was no cache of gold or stash of cash. There was not even a bit of loose change on the floorboard. Our mission here was finished.
The sun was climbing high. The midday heat and the dry dusty canyon was making us thirsty. A cold bottle of Coca-Cola would have been nice right then. We decided to head back home. There wasn't any Coke there, but there was sure to be some Kool-Aid and that would be good too--so would some lunch for that matter.
Before heading back up the canyon trail, I stopped to look up the dirt road that disappeared into the canyon. That road probably hadn't been travelled since the days of stagecoaches and cowboys on horseback. I wouldn't go there on this day, but I decided that one day I'd be back to explore where that road went. I was pretty sure that there was probably a long lost band of Indians living up there somewhere.
What kind of adventures spurred by imagination did you have as a child? We roamed pretty freely as children never feeling very unsafe: How do you think today's environment affects the imagination of children?
On Saturday I will have my first special post as I play "tag" and acknowledge an award. I hope you will join my then.