• Terry Groves

B.R.A.T.S. Turtle Creek

Updated: May 5, 2019

One of my favorite places to go while we were stationed in Clinton Ontario and living in PMQs was Turtle Creek, or, as we called it, The River.

It was a mile from the base and downhill all the way there. It was an easy walk and an easier ride, until it was time to head home. I recall heading there one summer day. My older brother Robin, we still called him that then, and I were meeting some of his friends there. This was my chance to hang out with the older kids and be involved in whatever they were getting up to. We wanted to ride but Robin's bike had a flat tire.

Fixing a flat was not a big deal, we did it all the time, but it required a quantity of time that we just didn't have. And, patches without the right amount of time to set before inflating the tire generally ended with another fix required. We decided to double on my bike.

Now, I didn't have a cool bike. No high handlebars, no banana seat, no carrier. I didn't want to ride on the crossbar because then it would be like being hugged by a boy and we were way too homophobic to permit that. It was decided that I would ride on the handlebars.

Speeding down the road that lead to the creek, wind in my face, Robin pumping those pedals, adventures ahead. What could be better? It would have been better if I didn't fall off.

With no place to rest my feet, I had to hold them out in front of me, keeping them away from the front tire. My hands could only hold the handlebars which were rocking back and forth as Robin adjusted them to compensate for my weight out front. We were only part way down the hill when I lost my balance and fell, striking the front tire and bouncing onto the road. Then Robin hit me with the bike. We walked the rest of the way while I assessed my road-rashed knees and elbows and picked stones out of my injuries.

I didn't cry. I was pretty proud of myself, if you have been following my blogs, you already know I had a habit of doing that when I was scared or needing some attention. I wanted to but, now that I was older, maybe nine or ten, I didn't want to be seen as a sissy.

By the time we reached the rest of the group at the river, I was pretty proud of myself for getting through that incident without acting like a baby.

I don't recall what we did on that specific trip, there were so many times we went, but it might have been putting firecrackers into plastic model ships we had built then setting them afloat until they exploded. It might have been swimming, we did that a lot in various parts of the river. Sometimes where the river widened and slowed into almost a pond, sometimes in the fast running water where the river was narrow and bubbling over a rocky bottom. Sometimes we just hiked around. Sometimes we threw rocks at trains.

We terrorized each other with warnings about what might also be swimming in the river. Of course, since it was named Turtle Creek, there had to be turtles, and they had to be snappers, and they had to be big snappers, always ready to bite off important parts of your body. There were turtles, we caught the occasional one, and they weren't tiny, like the red-ear we kept in a tray of water on our fridge as a pet, but I never saw a single kid get bit by one, let alone lose a body part. But I certainly furthered the legends. It was all part of the game.

There was a railroad track that crossed the river. We would use the trestle sometimes to get to the other side. Whenever we did this we would wait until we were half way across and then claim we could hear the train coming by laying our ear against the tracks. Everyone would act like they were in a panic and try to run without tripping in the spaces between the timbers of the trestle.

One time there really was a train coming. Not everyone believed it, they thought we were just playing the game. Then the train came around the bend. It was too far for those who hadn't heeded our warning to get to either end of the trestle before the train would reach them. They managed to get to a little balcony on the edge of the trestle, I have no idea what that thing was really for but it fit two terrified kids perfectly.

Sometimes we just put coins on the tracks and waited for the train to squish them. One time I put some stones on the tracks and they shot out like bullets. One time I put a brick on the track. As the train got closer I became worried it might derail. I almost ran to knock the brick off just before the train got there but I restrained myself. Of course the train just crushed the brick, probably didn't even feel it.

Sometimes we would catch frogs and dig up clams, cook them over a small fire and eat them. The days were magic. Life was so good.

Every time we headed up the hill to go home, we would look for the old witch. There was a tall stump in the farmer's field on the right that had been burned and ravaged by many years of weathering. From a distance, it looked like an old hag in a cloak, walking along. We had crossed the field once to see exactly what it was but we still always called it the witch and would tease our younger brothers that she was coming to get them.

And, on the left, there was a field, bordered on two sides by a forest of trees. In the corner where the forest was, we always said that that was where Lynne Harper's body had been found. I don't know where we came up with that conclusion, likely someone else just said it and we kept it up. Someone would always say something about that tragic event and we would launch into our versions of the events that lead to Steven Truscott being convicted of murder and sentenced to death. We always knew he was innocent, simply because he was a brat, just like us. I learned later that he had lived in a PMQ just up the street from where we lived.

Over the three summers that we lived in Clinton, Adastral Park was the mailing address, we spend a huge number of hours in and around the River. I like the fact that when I close my eyes, my memories are so sharp that I can return there in my mind. I know how fortunate I was to have that opportunity. I can still smell the grass, the reeds, the cattails, and I can hear the bugs chittering away. Sometimes I could just stay in those memories of when I was young and life was so simple.

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