I grew up in Sugar Valley. We moved there in December of my 3rd grade of school. You may not find it on a map and probably can’t google it (now I’ll need to look). It was a magical place that doesn’t exist like it did then. Called Sugar Valley by the natives due to the abundance of sugar maples, it is basically the Des Moines River bottom between the Ledges State Park and Madrid Iowa. Growing up there was a wonderland that began by being able to look down from our kitchen window into the waters of the Des Moines River just a quarter of a mile away. And at times of flooding, the water would come within say 50 yards of our home. I grew up not knowing how special that world was. I thought Sugar Valley was common and that my friends grew up in the same manner. I will be sharing my Sugar Valley with you during a number of my posts. From digging for turtle eggs in the sandbar to not having phone service until I was a sophomore in high school to the abundant wildlife that existed, the stories are seemingly endless. My brother Chuck, being 3 years older, cleared the way for so many adventures.
One of our first adventures would be during the summer after my 3rd grade. Chuck and I were going fishing. Had to be his idea. I didn’t know til years later that Mom did not approve and it was Dad that said “let the boys go”. So off the 2 of us went. 4th grader and 7th grader, really! To explore the banks of the Des Moines River… ALONE! With our poles and a can of worms, down across the pasture, through a marshy hillside over the pasture fence across the cornfield and to THE BANK. The mud bank came almost straight up out of the river some 10 feet below. Birds made holes, homes and nests in that bank…we would have fun with them later. There were spots along the bank where we could find our way down to the small ledge along the water. Tying a nut from Dads bolt bin onto the line and putting the worm on the hook, we would throw our lines in. Throw them as far upstream as we could and let the current bring them back to their resting spot. Then we would set the pole on the bank and run off to find things to do. We made bows and arrows from the willow trees and twine, but never poked an eye out. We would search for treasures along the adjacent sandbar. Bones from who knows what? But, BISON TEETH were a real find. Chuck may not admit it, but I caught the first fish ever from the river. Because, when we went back to retrieve our poles, a bullhead was on mine. It seemed as though we could spend all day outside and at the river. Swam across on a number of occasions. Jumped off trees that were sticking out of the current. I had no idea that only a few have these experiences. But, perhaps all our lives are like that. Each one of us have special upbringings. Things that only we go through that make us part of who we are.
Until next time…..remember, be safe….wear your helmet!