When I was a child of at least 8 or 9, during the hot Summer days when I was bored, I often wandered down into the woods that were behind our house. My journey would start by walking down our black-top road for about an eighth of a mile, turn left onto a little dirt road and when I reached the creek that meandered into the woods, it was there that I began my little journey.
I would climb down the small bank that separated the road from the wooded land, and then get into the creek and began wading through crystal clear water that was as cold sometimes as ice. I would take my time, climbing over the occasional big rocks some of which had that green slimy, slippery stuff on them, taking care not to fall into the water.
I was fascinated by the tadpoles and frogs that I might find, although there were no fish...even though the creek was the outlet for a pond we had that did have various fish stocked in it. No snakes either...thankfully!
I love walking under the cool canopy of the trees...smelling the damp earth...listening to the water wash lazily over the stones. Above me, birds and squirrels chattered...I never felt alone there. Just free. And cool...the Summer heat didn't penetrate through the leaves overhead.
The creek wandered though the woods for maybe half a mile total, ending up in a field kiddy-corner from where my house was, so I was never too far away from the house...yelling distance if my mom wanted me back home.
When I was through wandering along the creek, I'd walk across the little field, climb through the barbed wire...walk across a few yards of another field and be in our yard again.
I sat here thinking today about those times of my wanderings around the farm...which to me then, felt safe. But...even then, it could have been a dangerous thing for me to do, and for my parents to allow me to do.
It chills me to think that even then, there could have been a child molester or some other kind of creep around...I could have been kidnapped or wound up dead...you know? It was still a time that we were--as children--not warned of 'stranger danger', of not taking candy or any gifts from strangers...or even getting into a vehicle with strangers. (Although even then, I knew better than to get into a car with someone I didn't know, or take anything from a stranger...remember my story about my swing!)
Too--I think about the wild animals that could have been lurking in the woods...I (years) later learned that we had bands of wild dogs that ran through the countryside...it's frightening to me to even consider the 'what if' this little girl had run into those hungry and likely mean dogs.
I took chances that wouldn't consider taking today, or allowing any child to take without an adult present. The world has changed so much...and is seemingly so much more dangerous now than ever before.
Chances which could have ended in a sad story.