The Slide Years: Strange Creatures

By Eilene Lyon

The Slide Years is a series in which I select an image my dad took from 1957-1982 with Kodachrome slide film, then I write a stream-of-consciousness essay – a sort of mini-memoir.

Little brother had a pet mouse when we lived in Woodbridge, Virginia. It was black, with a twitchy pink nose and whiskers, and translucent ears. He played with the cute fella indoors and out, sometimes with the rodent perched on his shoulder.

One day, he decided to give the mouse a ride on his tricycle…on the handlebars. Not surprisingly, the critter’s claws could not find purchase on the slick metal. Before brother could react, his darling had fallen to the ground and the front wheel of the tricycle carried on its deadly momentum.

We did not have any other pets during that period, so we made do with wild animals instead. Our home sat on a steep, wooded lot. At the dead end part of the street was a deep forest with footpaths my Dad enjoyed jogging on, sometimes with me following. Below our house, a burbling creek slowly meandered down the hill. Wildlife abounded, if you knew where to look.

Witness this lovely box turtle Steve and I are showing off. How cool – a real reptile! Down in the creek, not more than a few feet wide and only inches deep, crayfish plied their trade in scavenging detritus. Oooo, little aquatic crustaceans!

I spotted other, very odd, creatures in our neighborhood that I still have not identified. I was across the street playing with my friend, Lisa. We liked to pretend her swingset was a pirate ship. We decided to head over to the side door of the house, possibly to get a snack, when what looked like a giant, mutant ant crossed the concrete stoop, straight out of a B horror movie. What was that?!

Apparently, Lisa didn’t see it. The best explanation I’ve come across so far is that it may have been a queen termite. I know that as a small child, things may have seemed larger than I would perceive them now, but that ant was HUGE.

I recall distinctly a nightmare I had, perhaps around that time, of an adult-human-sized wasp grabbing ahold of me and shoving another (perhaps six inch) wasp down the back of my shirt. Yikes!

Phil and Eilene Halse, Woodbridge, VA
Our home in Woodbridge. Because of the steep lot, it had a walk-out basement. The hill led down to a small creek.

Another time, I dug up something worm-like in our back yard. It was two or three times the diameter of a night crawler but had a different skin pattern and was solid gray, not red. Probably about eight inches long. Very creepy.

But the strangest creature of all was the little boy next door. Woe was me if he found me down at the creek by myself. I loved to play down there, amusing myself endlessly, listening to the musical tinkle of the flowing water. I looked for crayfish and water striders magically gliding across the surface. Examined decomposing sticks sprouting mushrooms. Marveled at colorful stones.

Then HE would show up. Brandishing a stick. Threatening me. “Pull down your pants!” he’d snarl at me, “or I’ll hit you with this.” Then after I complied, “Go stand in the creek and don’t move until I’m gone!”

I’d stay down at the creek until my tears and shame subsided before going home. I told no one, hoping, just hoping it wouldn’t happen again. But it did.


34 thoughts on “The Slide Years: Strange Creatures

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  1. I’m so sorry that happened to you!! In those days you just didn’t tell. I was reading this thinking what an idyll place for a child to live…and then!! Unfortunately that memory for you would be tainted.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah well, I did wise up after the second time. He was horrid to do that, but in hindsight I realize he was probably growing up in an abusive home. I hope someone intervened and he didn’t become an abusive adult.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Bullying didn’t seem an every day thing, but it comes in many forms. I got bullied out of a job as an adult. Nor was I entirely innocent. I remember being part of a group of middle school girls who bullied a new girl. I was ashamed about it afterward. But no, people didn’t really talk about it. You were just expected to be tough.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Until last year when I change jobs, I was teaching adults with children, as well as paraeducators, and I was shocked at the prevalence of the bullying among children and adolescents.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. There was a boy like that on our block too, and as you said in a comment above, I’m certain there was abuse in that house. Terribly sad how many it can affect.
    The turtle pic is adorable!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh no, poor mouse! The neighbour boy sounds dreadful too. I would have kept far away from him and the crayfish – crustaceans give me the creeps. I had to dissect one in science class in middle school, and I’m still not sure how I managed to do it without freaking out, but I do remember that I procrastinated so much I didn’t have time to finish during class, so my teacher told me to take the body parts home with me to finish labelling them. Nope! Instead, I shoved them inside my textbook and managed to forget about them until the next day, when that crayfish had been smashed flat by the cover and leaked out juice all over the pages. That book smelled like rancid lobster for the rest of the year, and I’m still terrified of everything with pincers.

    Liked by 1 person

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