Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.
When I was about 11 years old, I had a friend named Bill Porter, who was a year younger than me. I have written about Bill previously, about his unique relationship with animals, especially young animals.
He always had some sort of animal he was nursing at his house, maybe a young rabbit, whose nest had been destroyed by a neighborhood cat, or a baby bird that had fallen from its nest. He even had a horned toad at one time, and a garter snake he found along the banks of Mill Creek. That kid just had a special way with animals. He was attracted to them, and I think they were attracted to him. It was a special kind of relationship.
One day, Bill and I heard some older boys talking about a 14-mile hike they had just completed. It was part of a Boy Scout project. They said they first had to practice on shorter hikes, gradually working up to the 14-mile trek.
Neither Bill nor I had ever been on a hike, but it sounded like fun, so we started to make plans for our own. We decided to hike to Milford Center. That would be about 10 miles, round trip, and we were pretty confident we could do that. We saw no need to start out with shorter hikes.
On the following Saturday morning, I was to meet Bill at his house on South Maple Street. We both would pack a sandwich to eat along the way, maybe at a campfire we might build somewhere along the road. It sounded great.
When I started getting dressed Saturday morning, I knew my parents would want me to wear my old shoes, not my school shoes. But the right shoe had a hole in the sole about the size of a dime. That was from playing basketball on Elwood Sawyer’s asphalt tennis court.
Oh well, it wasn’t raining, so I just cut a piece of cardboard to fit as an insole inside my shoe. It worked like a charm. I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, put it in a brown paper bag, and stuck it in my coat pocket. Then I was off to Bill’s house.
We immediately headed south on Maple Street, toward the Milford Center road. It was getting really cold, well below freezing, and the wind was picking up. It had snowed a bit the day before, maybe an inch or so. It didn’t take long to realize that the snow entering the hole in the sole of my shoe was melting, turning my cardboard insole, as well as my sock, into a wet, soppy mass. My right foot was like an ice cube, as we headed toward Milford Center.
Maybe 100 yards down the road, the wind picked up a lot, and it started to snow a bit. We were both cold, and my wet right foot was freezing. There was a building on the right, about 20 yards or so from the road. It looked like some sort of business, so we decided to go inside for a while and get warm.
Boy, was that building nice and warm. I think it was probably warmer than most buildings because it was a hatchery, and they kept it warm for all the baby chicks. You should have seen Bill’s face light up when he saw all the little chicks.
The man working inside was nice, and after we warmed up a bit he let us play with some of the chicks. They were really soft and fuzzy, and I could see why Bill had so much fun with young animals.
We were both having a great time. I had no idea that hiking would be so much fun. But hiking can make a kid hungry, so we both pulled our sandwiches out of our pockets and had an early lunch. The man even gave us a couple of paper cups and a bottle of Pepsi-Cola for us to share.
We ate our lunch there, as we played with the chicks. I still remember Bill sitting in a chair with a baloney sandwich in one hand, and a baby chick in the other. We finished our sandwiches, and I think we both could have eaten another one. I guess hiking makes a boy hungry.
Then that man asked us if we would like to see some baby ducks, and he took us into another room, where a lot of duck eggs were hatching. So we spent the next half hour or so playing with those ducklings. That was even more fun.
When we left the building, the temperature was dropping fast, and my right foot was still soppy wet. Bill and I talked it over, and decided to head for home. We didn’t make it for the full 10 miles, but then those older boys had told us we should start with shorter hikes.
So my first hike wasn’t really 10 miles. It was about 100 yards down the Milford Center road, and 100 yards back. I think that’s not bad for a boy’s first hike … especially if it is a really cold day, and he has a hole in his shoe.