James’s Excellent Adventure

Map of Womelsdorf, click to enlargeMap of Womelsdorf, click to enlarge

Map of Womelsdorf, click to enlarge

While there were lots of advantages to living on a farm that was well outside Womelsdorf’s borders, there was at least one big disadvantage: playmates were few and far between.

So one day I decided to rectify that and take a walk into the town to visit Ricky, a new boy who lived on the outskirts of Womelsdorf but not on the side near our farm.

As best as I can date this, it must have been in early fall of 1956 when I was seven. So one day, shortly after I had been brought home from school, I set out to walk back into Womelsdorf to see Ricky. I didn’t tell anyone about it, not even Ricky, as I was certain I would not receive any encouragement from my parents, having already learned that if one doesn’t expect to like the answer, don’t ask the question. I estimate that the distance from our Great Stone House on the farm to Ricky’s place would have been about a mile and three quarters, give or take, so the walk probably took me a bit over a half hour.

There were two problems. The first was getting across Route 422, a busy four-lane highway. And not only that, but at the place that I’d be crossing, there was a hill, so cars could swoop down seemingly coming out of nowhere at 50 or more miles per hour. It was scary, but I managed to get across it in one piece.

Then there was the second problem. In order to get to Ricky’s house, I had to walk past the house where my aunt and uncle Jane and Allen were living.

Which reminds me: Since Jane and Allen lived so close to the Womelsdorf school, I would sometimes go there after school was over if my parents weren’t able to pick me up right away. One time, I think this must have been in first grade, school was letting out early for some reason, and our teacher, Mrs. Ray, knowing that I lived on a farm, asked if I had someplace to go. Oh, yes, I replied, I could go to Jane and Allen. Would they be expecting me, asked Mrs. Ray. “No, but they’ll be very happy to see me!” I answered.

In later years Jane would often laugh as she retold that story.

Anyway in order to get to Ricky’s house, I would have to walk directly past Jane and Allen’s place. What if they happened to look out and see me? They might put a quick end to my adventure.

Happily, I solved that problem. As I walked past their home, I just ducked down low. I was sure they’d never notice me then.

So I got to Ricky’s place and knocked on the door. Alas, here was the problem with not coordinating with him in advance—he wasn’t at home.

Thus, I walked back to the farm without having achieved my goal. I have no idea why I didn’t think to try to visit one of the other kids in my class, as I knew where quite a few of them lived.

Still, I was undaunted. The next day I conferred with Ricky and he assured me that he’d be at home and accepting visitors, so that day after I got home, I set out again.

Only this time as I was making my way along the long lane that led off our farm, I ran smack dab into my father driving home from wherever he had been. There was no getting past him, so I hopped in the car. I don’t know if I ever told him where I had been planning to go or what I had done the day before.

After that, I never tried it again.

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