Friday, April 1, 2016

Summer Jobs in the California Suburbs...50 Years Ago.

When I was a kid, 'bout 10 or so, we lived in a 'normal' suburb, 30+ miles east of San Francisco. Not much wild life left in those areas, maybe an occasional lizard or snake, but few and far between. My job was to go out at first dark with dads' HUGE flashlight and go STOMP on snails. I guess I was cheaper than snail bait. I can't remember if I got an allowance for that or not, but I hated the crunching sounds AND the slime. One night I was out there, doing my California Girl thing, stomping on those otherwise French delicacies. I would swing that baseball bat-sized flashlight (I am sure it was a relic from WW2) to find any strays. One night, that huge beam landed on a pair of beady black eyes, attached to a giant...SOMETHING. "DAAAAAADDD!!!! THERE'S A GIANT RAT OUTSIDE!!!" Of course, the ADULT is thinking, "Wha?? We don't have giant rats here. Crazy kid." Out the front door walks dad with that look, you know the one, "Yeahrightshowme" look. So. I did. I swung that 13kabillion watt beam over to that creature and sure enough, "SEE DAD??? A GIANT RAT!!" "Oh my gosh, Janie, that's not a rat, that's an opossum!!" " What the heck is a wild animal doing in our front yard??" Well, seems that there was a 'wild' park area (actually an old ranch) about 2 miles from our house, it used to be called The Horseman's Association, for those local folks who wanted to keep their horses close, a rodeo here and there and people who wanted to ride. On this ranch, a creek ran through it, the one that went by Hillcrest Elementary School. It was wild down there in that creek; overgrown trees and bushes so thick you got lost in 5 seconds. Birds flitted all over and snakes and mice and rabbits and who knows what else lived in there. And it was the place your parents told you NEVER. EVER. EVER. GO THERE ALONE.
One day came when the ranch was sold and the surrounding area was turned into a city park. All the trees and bushes were chopped down and removed, rolling green grass laid down and picnic tables dotted throughout. I don't recall if they left the stream alone. But, the animals had to go somewhere and so they roamed and wandered for 4 to 40 days and nights. And sometimes, they would sneak out from behind a house, late at night when a young girl was doing her garden Stomping Chore, and scare the beejeebers out of her.