So Long, So Long Ago
When I was 6 years old my family moved into a house North of the airport, right at the corner of West Camp Sangamo Road and Ware Road--incorporated Springfield, Illinois. We lived there for 4 years. Very rural. A lot of woods, ponds, mosquitoes, and other dangerous outdoor fun for kids to encounter. It's still largely like that there actually, from what I gather. A golf course was built since then. The only major downside I noticed at the time, and which I still can sense, is the presence of garbage landfills in area. I think they put the golf course on top of the garbage. Regardless, we explored as much as possible, even the landfills, unsupervised by grown-ups and unbeknownst to the whichever municipality or company owned the properties. I have a number of stories about those places, and this is one.

I was 9 or 10 years old. Several of us--two friends and my younger brother--were exploring around a large pond, one which I guess was built by landowners for the purpose of irrigation or flooding runoff. The reason I think that is because some of the its features were the following: 1) a short waterfall at the North end, falling off the pond; and 2) beyond that a runoff ditch, maybe 5 feet wide and 30 feet long, which ran downhill through the woods and to a large concrete pipe that went underground, presumably feeding the runoff water (and whatever other stuff it carried) away, under Camp Sangamo Road to wherever human society had decided such stuff should go. The runoff ditch was not steep, per se. Maybe about a 30 degree angle to the ground. It was paved with concrete to keep it from eroding, and naturally it was coated in places in thin films of algae.

Our group's quest that day, for some reason, to cross the stream just after the waterfall. There was, I recall, a small amount of water coming over the waterfall and running down the ditch at the time. You might have a guess as to where this is going.

I watched my friends begin to cross, which they all did just fine, and perhaps I thought, "I can do this." I don't remember. I do remember, midstream, slipping right off my feet, landing on the slope, and then beginning to slide down the ditch toward the concrete pipe. The surface of the slope was remarkably slippery, which now seems unsurprising to me. At the time, in those several seconds in which I was in transit much in the manner or physical position of being on a recreational waterslide (i.e., on one's bottom facing forward) all I could do was feel grief for my friends at my own departure. My only course of action in that moment, as I heard them yell "Tim!" was this: mid-slide I turned my head, looked at them sadly, and waved good-bye in a polite fashion.

So, what else happened, right? Not much, really. Which is good actually, because what had already happened was enough. I slid all the way down to the entrance of the concrete pipe, and right there I somehow stopped myself. Unharmed, I climbed through the woods to my friends, and probably shaking it off in a little while, we then continued to roam the land on our childhood adventures.

No moral, other than the obvious: be careful!