On a rainy day, I could be found looking out the window, staring listlessly as water collected into ponds in the ditches of the gravel driveway. After the rain, I would rock hunt. My little brother Glen and I searched for special rocks in the driveway; geode was our favorite. When I took geology in college I was disappointed to find out that the rocks we thought were geode were actually variations of quartz. We went cruising on our bikes, never far enough though, because my mother told us not to go farther than the dead end of our two streets. Oregon Trail was an escape—we could go farther than we ever had before without leaving the yard.
It was an elaborate pretend game of survival. I foraged for berries, leaves, clovers, flowers, and honeysuckle, putting them in a Frisbee for “dinner” that got served with the imaginary animals he hunted in the woods and brought home to our plastic cabin playhouse. We only ever really ate the nectar from the honeysuckle. We collected twigs for firewood, and put them in our cabin to store up for the harsh winter.
We didn’t have oxen, or a wagon; there were never broken wagon wheels or rivers to be forded. There were no murderous vagabonds; no thieving bandits. No one got typhoid fever, measles, dysentery, or cholera. No one got bitten by a rattle snake. Neither of us ever died. We never settled in our log cabin because it was infested with spiders that had made their home, nestled in every crevasse.
The honeysuckle still grows in the brambles. We have both moved away. I wonder if he remembers those summer afternoons of Manifest Destiny.