One of the best thing about summertime, when I was a little girl was Terry Lane. Terry Lane was a mysterious and fun place to go. Tree-lined, no houses, with just farmland and a creek half-way to a dead-end. There were never any cars on Terry Lane, just an old, old tractor pulling even older wagons, and the mysterious people who farmed the land on either side of the lane. Strange people who never said hello, looked straight ahead, and didn’t even seem to see me.
“Can I go play down Terry Lane?” I asked almost every day of summer. During the school year, I stood under the sign for Terry Lane, waiting for the school bus. I only knew about the one lane, the one from “Baa, baa, Black Sheep;” that’s where the little boy lived who got a bag of the Black Sheep’s wool. I had roads where I lived. In town I saw signs that said St. for Street and Ave. for Avenue, and once when I was in the city, I saw a sign that said Blvd. Mom told me that meant Boulevard; boulevards have trees in the middle, instead of a black and white line, like a road. If you live on a road, ‘around the corner’, means at least a half mile away; in town ‘around the corner means practically next door. Mom told me the difference between streets and avenues, but it didn’t make any sense, so I forgot, and I didn’t care enough to ask again. Terry Lane didn’t go anywhere, no cross roads, nobody lived there, just a road sign marking the name. Maybe that’s the way lanes worked.
Mr. and Mrs. Teacocks, the strange people, sometimes went down Terry Lane on their tractor and sometimes just on foot; mostly they were in the fields beside Terry Lane. Maybe they had first names, but I had to call all adults Mr. or Mrs. or Miss, because it’s disrespectful to call adults by their first name, except if they’re related. Even then, Aunt or Uncle or some I’m-related-to-you-I’m-not-being-disrespectful name went first. Mr. Teacocks wore olden-day clothes like in Wagon Train and Mrs. Teacocks worked in those fields all day long in a long-sleeved dress, way down to her ankles, and a wide straw hat. Those two got the hay up on their wagon without any baler or any helpers. Just the two of them, and a couple of pitchforks, just piling that hay on top of their wagons. My friend Nancy said the Teacocks were wicked, like witches; really mean: they ran over kids with their tractor, if you looked at ’em wrong, and you couldn’t run off the lane, ’cause then their corn and hay got all trampled, then they were double mad. Then Nancy said, “Wanna play Bloody Bones?” which was a game where everybody took turns telling scary stories. Nancy liked to tell scary stories about the Teacocks catching kids down Terry Lane torturing them and cooking them up for dinner, and stuff like that.
Mom let me and Deanna and Bonita play down Terry Lane almost anytime I asked, as long as I got my chores done, and I didn’t have to watch the Little Kids, and it wasn’t too close to lunch time. I liked to ask right after the lunch dishes were done and Mom was just getting ready to lay down with the Little Kids for a nap. For a while, I asked her when she was laying there resting, with her eyes closed. Then she said, “Mmm, hmmm,” all relaxed sounding. She’d say “mmm, hmm” to just about anything then; it was a great time to ask questions. Until she caught on, and I was in deep trouble for trying to trick her. Mom sat down in her creaky rocking chair, the one she loved to rock baby Julie in, and she pulled me over right over in front of her face and made me look her straight in the eyes. She told me what I did was the same as lying or cheating, and disrespectful, and I should be ashamed of myself. Her voice was quiet and calm, quieter than when she talked to me normal, and her eyes, the same color as that Polish amber Grandpa showed me, just drilled right down into my soul. That kind of mad was way worse than when she threw a screaming banshee fit, which was pretty scary; that way of getting mad made me feel so bad about myself. I never tried to trick her like that again. Well, almost never.
The creek was the best place to play cowboys and Indians with Bonita and Doug. Somebody ages ago, filled bags full of cement and made a bridge over a huge pipe, so the creek could run under Terry Lane. I jumped off that bridge and crouched in the cattails mud seeping down into my Keds, when I heard the Teacocks tractor coming down Terry Lane. I had a suspicion Nancy was making up the stories about the Teacocks, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I was just like a bad guys covering my tracks by brushing a branch across the lane, so the Teacocks would be stumped and lose our trail . Sometimes, I laid down on my belly and drank out of the creek, just like the Lone Ranger. That water smelled so good and cold. Mom told me that would make me sick, but it never did; neither did eating green apples or pears, or berries I didn’t know the name of. She was always telling me not to eat stuff, but I did anyway, ’cause that’s what cowboys do when they’re out on the trail.
At the very end of Terry Lane was what was left of an old house, like the ruins of ancient times, only rocks and some cement, the rest was up to my imagination. Nancy said the Teacocks burned down the house with the kids inside. That’s how evil and mean those Teacocks were. It was scary at the end of Terry Lane, no place to hide in that last stretch between the creek and the end, and a long, long way to run back, if the Teacocks came with their tractor and pitch forks. Still and all, it was the fun kind of scary, like riding on the tilt-a-whirl at the County Fair.
It turned out those scary old people were just the grandma and grandpa of one of the high school boys that road my bus. They weren’t scary at all, but they didn’t know how to speak English, so they never said anything to me and just stared straight ahead, so no one would try to talk to them. Mom told me Terry was the name of the people who lived in our house before us, that’s how the lane got its name. That old broken down house, was just the Terry’s older house. Everything scary was just in my imagination.
Most people are a lot more like the Teacocks: just people different from me, just other people a little afraid of what’s around the next bend. Life is full of Terry Lanes. Sometimes we have to go down the same path more than once, before we’re ready to find the next lane to explore. I can’t lie, it can be frightening to take that next step. Still and all, it’s always exciting to see where the next lane leads. Believe me when I say: It is always worth it.