Saturday, June 29, 2013


Red Skelton as Freddie the Freeloader
When I was growing up, we were told a thousand times, we weren't to go down Third Gate, and we weren't allowed to play in the woods. My ma worked and "what your mama don't know you're mama don't mind."

Third Gate was marked by a paddock gate. There were three gates along the main road and with a field stone, rock wall held the woods at bay. Behind the gate was a worn track that dropped steeply into the woods. The Brother and older boys in the neighborhood would spend Winter days hauling buckets of water up to Third Gate to ice the track. Think a luge run. With trees crowding the track, and the ice, sledding was a wild, exhilarating, and  dangerous ride.

In the Summer, the woods behind Third Gate were filled with wild blackberry and raspberry brambles. We would snack on the berries and collect them in pails to bring home and put in the big freezer in the cellar. We would eat them frozen on sweltering Summer days.

I'm pretty sure Ma turned a blind eye to the containers of berries in the freezer. She couldn't have missed them because she ground her own hamburger to freeze, and bought zillions of boxes of frozen vegetables when there was a stock up sale.  The real reason Ma didn't want us to play in the woods was because there were hobos in the woods.

Now as many times as I picked blackberries or played in the woods, I never saw a single hobo. Not one. Not even evidence that a hobo had passed through. Not even at the glade were a small creek with its crop of skunk cabbages grew. No campfire ring, cigarette butts, or half-smoked stogies. No beer or whiskey bottles. I never saw anyone that remotely resembled Red Skelton's Freddie the Freeloader or anyone else for that matter.