My parents moved to Avon Lake before even the highway stretched that far west from the city. Over the years, it slowly evolved from a farm community to a full-fledged suburb.
The first sign I ever saw that one day the woods would be cleared and farms would be paved was when my neighbor friend, Jacob, and I stumbled upon a tractor at the edge of our blueberry spot in the woods behind where we lived. Our blueberry spot was pretty much a secret. My family used to go back there, regularly, and pick until we filled one or two buckets each, Dad had four. The blueberries came in all sizes. Our freezer was crammed with plastic bags-full all winter long. Mom made plenty of blueberry pies. My sister and I later turned picking blueberries into a business. We picked fresh blueberries for Mom’s boss and co-workers. We even sold some to a nearby orchard so they could resell them.
Our woods were a paradise. Often, I woke up in the summer when Dad was leaving for work, which was around 5:30 a.m. He had to drive to Cleveland. Sometimes, I went downstairs when he was still there. It always seemed to surprise him. But once he left, I left too. I’d run to a friend’s house and we’d go back to the creek to catch crayfish or just explore deeper reaches of the woods. We’d only come home when called.
Our mothers used to stand on the back steps and holler at the top of their lungs something like, “Ro-o-o-ockyyyy – suppertime!”
Voices carried far, echoing off trees and over open fields until we stopped, shushed each other and listened carefully for the second call to see whose mom it was.
Waking up to see the sunrise allowed for about six hours of uninterrupted time to do what we wanted and go where we wanted, no questions asked.
On this morning, we decided to hit a different stretch of creek than normal so we cut through the blueberry fields. And there it was; a backhoe-loader. Of course, we climbed all over it, got in the driver’s seat and pretended to plow things over. Almost without warning, Jacob started it and smoke gurgled from the pipe right in front of my face. We were moving.
We were in a state of pure joy motoring deeper into the field, laughing all the way. It was surreal – until we wanted to stop. For some reason, Jacob couldn’t turn it off. We panicked. The machine slowly marched on. We watched the machine smash over brush, a wall of blueberry bushes, and it was headed for a tree line and just beyond that was the creek. I wanted to jump out.
Jacob messed around with some controls and I gave a play-by-play of things we were running over. He only looked up when we made a severe roll downward and then back up as the terrain turned wavy due to an old grape vineyard that used to stretch across the land.
About 20 feet from the trees and creek, Jacob brought the tractor to a complete stop and turned it off. We sat there like two farmers on a break, legs kicked up, laughing our nerves back to normal. What was most comical to us was the long path we made with the tractor through …everything.
“Imagine when the workers come to find the tractor way out here,” I said.
We laughed and laughed at the thought of it.
Then, the imagery in our heads appeared before our eyes. There they were, far away but you could tell they were not happy.
We casually jumped down from the tractor, waved bye and disappeared into our shrinking paradise.
By Rocco Satullo, author of a memoir and novel