To ring in the first full week of February--here's this month's guest post by Mama Ruth. This story is from her childhood, and every word of it's true.
School was out for the summer. My brother, Art, and I sat on the back steps hunched over thinking. The year was 1924. I was eight and he was six.
"What can we do, Art?"
I thought and thought. A light flashed in my brain. "Let's dig a big hole."
"Well, I've heard China is down there. But if we miss China, maybe we could find Hell."
"What will Daddy say?"
"I don't know. Anyway, he's at work, Irene is asleep, and Mama has gone to the library. We can get a lot done before they get back. Com'on, Art. We gotta do something." I jumped up and started for the tool shed where Daddy kept his different sizes of shovels. They all looked big to us, but we each chose the smallest we could find. "I think we'd better put our hole in the corner of the garden. Then nobody will fall into it on the way to the privy."
Art giggled. "Yeah, guess we better."
Though the day was hot and our shovels heavy, we had a small mound of dirt piled up by the time Mama got home. "What in the world are you kids doing?"
"Just diggin' a hole, Mama."
"We heard that China or Hell is down there."
Mama smiled. "I don"t really think you'll find either one, and when Daddy comes home, he'll probably make you fill it all up. It's good that we have nice and soft dirt for you to dig in. Some places have rocky soil." She went into the house with a load of books under her arm, but soon brought us a few crackers and a bottle of water. We knew she'd be on our side. She always was.
We swigged some water, kept digging, and before long Daddy came home. He worked in the mines, and rounded the back corner of the house every afternoon about five o'clock. He wore his miner's cap with the carbide lamp hooked over the front bill, and carried his round, double-decker dinner bucket. He stopped beside us and stood tall. "What're you kids doin'?" He didn't sound too happy.
I straightened my back so I could be tall, too. "Don't be mad, Daddy. We just want to dig a hole."
"Looks like you already did. Don't you know you're messin' up my yard?"
"Please, Daddy, don't make us fill it up. When we finish playing in it, we promise to fill it all up. We want to find China now, and it might take us a long time." I was afraid to tell him we were also looking for Hell. He might not be as sympathetic to our diabolic desires as Mama was.
He watched us dig a bit more with his heavy shovels and finally decided. "Them shovels look pretty big for you. But all right, you can dig all you want to. But you have to put all that dirt back just like it was when you're finished. And if it's a big hole, you'll have to plant some more grass on top for me."
"Yoweee!" Our visas to foreign realms were guaranteed ...