The Pit

My parents built what I think of as our family home when I was about three years old. I have vague memories of that time.

I remember stepping on the driveway when my father was troweling it, and I remember that I got in trouble for it, but it may have been a simple, “Don’t do that!” from my mother as she wiped the cement off my shoes.

I remember cleaning construction materials from the front yard and finding a snake under some plywood. It scared me. I was sure it was a rattlesnake (were there even any other kinds?) until my father picked it up for me to hold. I felt my panic ease as I felt its smooth scales run through my hands–and more importantly, as I could see no rattle.

I remember the boysenberry bushes which grew behind what was then the car port, and the sand box my father built for me there. I remember burying a wasp in the sand in that box and uncovering it the next time I played in it and wondering to myself if wasps can still sting when they’re dead. I thought that they would not be able to–and to prove it to myself, I pushed my thumb quite deliberately onto the wasp’s back end. Turns out, of course, that dead wasps can sting quite well, thank you.

I remember playing with the girl who lived a couple of houses up the hill, Andrea. She was my first friend after moving into the house. Her grandfather owned the sand and gravel pit on the other side of the creek from our houses, and her father worked with him. I remember that her father let us sit in the cab of the big dump trucks while they loaded it up with material, and how exciting that was. I remember that he drove us home that afternoon in the bucket of a big front-loader. Those were simpler times, of course, and we didn’t worry one bit about not having adequate seat belts for the ride.

When I got a bit older, I remember that there was a rumor among the neighborhood kids that we were strictly forbidden from playing at the sand pit. I don’t actually recall my parents ever explicitly warning me to stay away from the pit, but the rumor was of such strength that my knee-jerk memory is that we were to stay away from it. There was a darker rumor that someone had been playing over in the sand pit and had accidentally been covered up with sand and they didn’t find him until months later when they were digging out that part of the pit with front-loaders. We certainly didn’t want to end up like that nameless kid, so any time we ended up playing even just near the sand pit, we got a bit nervous. Even as a teenager, walking through the pit at night looking for bats, there was a little tickle at the back of my head that told me I shouldn’t be there.

By the time I was a teenager, the pit had mostly ceased active operation. I don’t really know a strict timeline, but I do know that it was kind of a big deal that they temporarily reactivated the pit in the spring of 1983 when the Wasatch Front flooded. Our house was not really in any danger from those floods, but many others were. I recall quite clearly showing up to church in jeans and T-shirt long enough to take the sacrament and then heading back to the sand pit where we were busy loading burlap bags with a few shovelfuls of sand.

Thirty-plus years later from most of these memories, I live in a house built very close to where I spent all those hours filling sand bags in 1983. Andrea’s grandpa passed away and his children took the old sand and gravel pit, and the rest of the land he had owned around it, and developed it for residential houses. They rolled out the fifth-acre and quarter-acre lots in phases, and gradually most of them have filled in with the kinds of houses you’d expect to have been built between 2000 and 2009. There are still a few lots left, mostly prime lots which command prime prices. The cul-de-sac in that part of the development is very near to the spot where we grew an acre of corn and pumpkins with Andrea’s parents, year after year. Those are the lots where I used to tube down the hill in snowy winters, where I used to build dams in the creek in the middle of the summer.

My lot doesn’t have much hill and doesn’t have a creek near it, but it is prime to me because I remember how I felt as I filled sand bags, hoping to stave off most of the water flowing through the city streets down by the hospital.

Most of my neighbors didn’t grow up around here, and they bristle a little bit if some of the old-timers remark that we “live in the pit.” Besides the fact that I enjoy the gentle ribbing that I can give the new-comers by claiming proudly that I live in the pit, I really am glad that I can live here. Even though the landscape has changed a bit from those long-ago summer days, my physical closeness to the pit helps to keep those memories alive just a bit more vividly.

Sorry for no pictures on this post. I truly wish I had some.

UPDATE: 1 picture

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