My Ride on the Big Red Truck

(reading time 7 ½ minutes)

My Mother had a doctor’s appointment.  She took me to my Grandma’s house, who agreed to mind me for a few hours.  I hated it at Grandma’s house.  I don’t think she appreciated me either. She had 12 of her own children.  I’m sure she had enough of little kids. I was 5 years old.

Two boys my age lived within a few doors of my Grandma. I was restricted to playing in Grandma’s back yard in the sand box and on the swings, while I was in her care. The neighbor boys came to play with me.  They told me about an abandoned quarry three blocks away. They persuaded me to go with them to see the quarry.  We ran off to explore. I didn’t tell Grandma.  (Most likely she was taking a nap anyway.)

The quarry was really deep, fenced in from all sides to keep curious little kids like us from exploring and getting killed. The two neighbor kids knew where there was a hole in the fence, allowing our invasion.  We climbed through the fence onto a narrow ledge around the deep hole in the ground. The quarry bottom was covered with water, flooded by an underground steam, which is why the quarry was closed.   We crawled in and then made our way, on hands and knees, along the narrow walkway around the quarry edge. We steadied ourselves, by clinging to vegetation that looked like small green trees with very big leaves, growing from the sides of the quarry’s rock walls. We then decided to explore a precipice of rock.  It jutted out about three feet down from the perimeter path’s edge along a vertical wall, straight down to oblivion.  We dropped a few rocks down, as kids would do, waiting to hear the splash when they hit the water below.  It seemed minutes before the rocks splashed at the bottom.  I was the adventurous one and volunteered to go first.  Grasping the hands of my friends, they helped to lower me down to the ledge.  During this lowering maneuver to the ledge, I came upon one of the green tree limbs, which I quickly grabbed to keep from falling.  I released the hands of the other two boys.  When I put my full weight on the limb of the tree, it wasn’t really a tree. It was a plant with hollow green branches that snapped off. I went crashing over the side and down to a rocky shelf about 10 feet below, out of the sight of my fellow explorers.  They couldn’t see me now, and I couldn’t see them. The ledge was half the size of a small ironing board. I knew I was going to die if I moved even inches in any direction. I could crash a hundred or more feet to my death below. No one could see me or even know I was there.

I was getting dizzy. (This is why little boys need mothers).  I yelled to my friends, who could hear but not see me on the ledge below.  My screams echoed on the canyon walls of the quarry. The boys’ voices stopped responding to my cries. They were gone.  I screamed for help but heard nothing except the noise from the trucks and auto traffic, traveling along the road next to the quarry fence.  I kept screaming, crying for help.  Silence. Nothing heard but my own cries!  I was alone. Minutes seemed like hours. The boys were gone.  I was very alone.

The afternoon sun was casting dark shadows on my side of this gigantic hole in the earth, completely shielding me from the view of any searchers, if any.  I cried loudly and said my prayers. On the shaded inside of the wall, I was invisible to anyone.  The wind was blowing up.  I was freezing cold. Then, I realized there was a small spring dripping from over my head.  It was drenching me with icy spring water and dripping onto the foothold where I was trapped.   I was hanging by my fingers wedged in the cracks of the rocks. My hands were raw and bleeding from thorns on the bushes and sharp rocks.  I was soaked and feeling like an ice pack.

Now for the thrill.  From a crack in the side wall, a small foot long garter snake slid towards me.  Then I saw what looked like sparkling specks shinning in my direction from a crack in the rock wall.  The specks moved and emerged.  They were rats, big rats, the size squirrels. Cautiously, they emerged from the cracks in the stone wall, and moved towards the snake. They grabbed the snake and quickly divided it up between three of them, then retreated to their cavernous sanctuary in the rock with their catch.   They also drank the spring water from a puddle in the rock, inches from where I clung by my fingertips. I am now sobbing uncontrollably.

I heard a siren on the road, amid the roar of the gear shifting trucks climbing the hill next to the quarry.  It seemed to stop somewhere above me.  I screamed at the top of my voice, but nothing.  The siren stopped, then I heard,  “Hey kid, are you OK?”  I couldn’t see anyone. I screamed, “I’m here on a ledge.”  Within seconds, I saw a big red ladder telescoping out over the quarry wall’s edge. A fireman in a black suit with white stripes was lowered down the edge of the wall with a rope.  He grabbed me, threw a rope around me, and in minutes we were hoisted up to safety.  I was saved.  Apparently, my two friends had the good sense to run home and call the fire department, and here we were.

The fireman stood on the running board of the fire wagon, right next me, as I rode in the cab for three blocks to Grandma’s home. He let me ring the bell, softly. I begged him not tell my Grandma.  The fire truck slowly pulled up to the alley behind Grandmom’s house, where I got off.  She must have still been napping and never knew I was gone.  What a way to come home, on a big red fire truck.  Now, all I had to do is figure out what I could tell my mom about how I got so wet playing in the sand box all day.

This would be my secret. I felt pretty good about my experience exploring the quarry.  This is another story I never told my mom, or Grandma.  They wouldn’t have believed me anyway. I got a ride home on the big red fire truck, and rang the fire truck’s bell, just once, softly. What a great day and nobody knew what happened to me.

When my Mother came back from the doctor to take me home, she asked me how I got so wet. I told a lie and said the boys down the street squirted me with a hose.  That was my story and I had to stick to it for over 80 years.  Just before my mom went to heaven, the lie still bothered me. I told her about the quarry and the fire truck.  Just as I expected, she didn’t believe me and said,  “You are always making up stories.  You should stop that. People won’t know when to believe you, and you will end being known as a story teller.”