Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Dig to the Devil



Funny how memories work. I sometimes find myself reminiscing about some event that happened in my early childhood, and yet, I cannot remember what I had for dinner last night.

So, for today, I will post about the former, having absolutely no recollection of the latter.

I'm pretty sure that, when I was very young, both my parents worked. This is because many of my memories of these times involve a babysitter. This particular memory starts with the antics of my brother and I while watched by a babysitter. Funny though, I only remember certain things like the fact that this babysitter lived in a trailer park. Maybe she was a neighbor as I remember, we also lived in a trailer park at this time.

Anyway, my brother and I were prone to activities that usually were brought to an end with a belt or switch. I would not say that we were mean-spirited or little demon boys, rather, we were considered "all boy." I think that today the term has been renamed. It's now called ADHD. Of course, behavior modification back then was usually conducted using a leather belt or tree branch. Otherwise known as a "whoopin'."

On this particular occasion, I remember we were outside on some dirt road. We were digging a hole, as, strangely enough, was an activity enjoyed by many boys of our age. Having somehow come into possession of a shovel, we were determined to "dig to the devil."

Yes, we honestly believed that, if we dug deep enough, we would breach the doorway to the home of the devil himself. We were also aware, of course, that if we missed our mark, we might just keep pushing through the dark earth all the way to China.

I'm pretty sure we dug with a frenzy for at least ten minutes (an absolute stretch of our attention) before stopping and feeling the ground. Looking back at this memory now, through the prism of age, wisdom, and cynicism, we likely only dug to a depth of about three feet. But, to young boys, I'm sure it seemed like we'd moved a mountain of dirt.

Well, sure enough, when we crawled inside the hole to check, we found that we, in fact, were well on our way to confront the devil himself. How did we know? Although the memory is sketchy, the emotion remains, and I remember clearly the elation we felt when we put our palms to the ground and found that it was warmer than the surrounding air. Yep, sure enough, we were closer to the devil than anyone could have ever been.

With this realization, we became scared. Just what would we do if we actually reached our destination? Suppose we ventured another foot into the fertile abyss and then, suddenly, out pops the devil? What would we do? We were just small boys of probably six or seven years old; armed only with a shovel and the backing of Jesus. How would we defend ourselves. The shovel, we could barely lift, Jesus was powerful and loved us. We knew this because the Bible, and those songs we sang in Sunday school, told us so. But how would Jesus help us when confronted with the devil. We weren't sure of this, but we had learned that Jesus and the devil were not friends.

I'm not quite sure how, exactly, it happened, but we came to a sudden consensus that we'd dug deep enough, and that we had no business with the devil. Plus, it was nearly lunch time.

Now, you might think there is some lesson in all this. In retrospect, I believe the true lesson came after lunch, and had little to do with the gaping hole we'd left in the roadway.

After lunch was nap time, so we were sent to some dark back room of the trailer with a cup of water and a stern warning to keep quiet. As young boys often do, we were soon quietly spitting water at each other through the gaps in our front teeth, and trying desperately to keep our giggles to a level undetectable beyond the thin wooden door to the room.

I was the first to run out of water, so I snuck out of the room and quietly turned the knob on the bathroom door. When I came through the door and my eyes registered on the object in the bathtub at the far end of the room, my mind went blank. I mean, totally blank. I'm not even sure if my heart and lungs were still functioning at the time.

My babysitter stared back at me, equally stunned but infinitely more naked. This is where the story gets real interesting. We both stared at each other like two deer in some kind of weird headlight standoff. After what seemed hours, I finally pried my eyes from the sight and backed out of the bathroom like like a poor comedian booed off  a vaudeville stage. The image, or rather, the thought of the image of this incident left a permanent mark on my psyche.

Hmm, this might explain a few things.

Anyway, nothing was said about the incident and my brother did not even ask questions as I returned to the room and lay down on the bed. I can only imagine that the look on my face told him something had happened that he best not ask about.

Nonetheless, my brother and I both received an excessively harsh whoopin' that night. The reason given, of course, was because of the large hole and shovel we'd left in the dirt roadway.

Fast forward about five or six years, and our nearly forgotten shovelling skills were put to the test. We were in the midst of remodeling our home and my dad had plans of raising the house up and turning the crawlspace under the house into a full-sized basement. But first, given the rains on the Western side of Washington state, there had to be proper drainage around the foundation of our home. After comparing the cost of having the drainage line professionally dug or having it dug manually using his own family construction crew, he decided on the latter.

For an entire Summer my brother and I had the ongoing chore of digging a three-foot wide path around our entire house at a depth of at least six feet. Through this, we got really good at operating a shovel but, you know, we never did reach the devil. Although there were times when I think he was coming to meet us. And, we had no babysitter to break up the monotony.