I took Sammy out for a little much needed stroll tonight around 9:30 p.m. and the way the cold hit me, plus the moon shining so bright and the stars all glistening so pretty, along with the crunchy sound coming from stepping on the snow-coated ground brought to mind a memory of a night here many years ago.
I don't recall the year or my age -just a guestimate that it may have been the Christmas when I was either in 6th or 7th grade -mainly because my cousin Joan was with us that year. It may have been Christmas Night or perhaps the night after Christmas but it involved a walk in the cold, on a snow-covered road with two of my uncles and at least 3 of my cousins. If I was in the 6th grade, my cousin Carl would have been along but I don't remember him being with us so perhaps I was in the 7th grade that year.
Anyway, it was a very, very cold night, that I do recall. And the moon was shining so bright, reflecting off all the whiteness of the snow all around too that there was no need at all to bring a flashlight as my uncles decided it would be a really great thing to go for a walk down our road towards Peale, the ghost town.
And so, about 10 or 11 o'clock that night (most of my Mom's family all had a tendency to being night hawks, so I came by that trait very honestly, you see) Mom's older brothers, Uncle Bert and Uncle Ralph (who were always here for Christmas when I was growing up) and Uncle Bert's three younger children -Joannie, Ray and David -and I set out on this almost midnight stroll in the very, very cold moonlight.
I don't remember now if it was their intent that we would walk the distance of almost two miles in the cold and snow down to the curve in the road that meant you were entering the defunct village of Peale or if maybe they had just been thinking of a shorter stroll initially, but once we got started, we kids were having a really fun time, wading through the snow that was virtually untouched -probably at least 8-10 inches deep along our route too.
My uncles talked as we walked -pointing out things they remembered from their childhood days when there were still several houses still standing along the hillside there and they recollected too memories of the time they had both spent working in the coal mines with Grandpa -their Dad.
Their talking about working in the mines also reminded them of what had caused them to decide to move away from here and venture down to Pittsburgh to look for other employment as neither of them wanted to stay here and be relegated to a life depending on working underground, in very cold and often extremely wet territory just to barely eke out a living too.
Once we reached that particular curve in the road, we turned around and headed back home.
Ray, Dave and I were walking together with Joannie a short distance behind us and we were running, scooping up snow and tossing it around, talking, singing, joking and just, in general, having a whole lot of fun.
Keep in mind though that this road is out in the woods -no one was living in that old coal mining town by that time.
I don't know who noticed it first, but one of my cousins or I saw what looked like movement in and along the trees -lots and lots of big old pine and hemlocks -that bordered the road there and we stopped walking briefly to look and listen, but then, neither saw nor heard any movement, so we continued on our way.
We took only a few more steps though and heard the rustling sounds of something walking on top of the ice-encrusted snow there and so, stopped yet again for a few seconds, then resumed walking but much slower. Then we noticed shadows cast from the bright moonlight which showed an outline of something quite large moving along in the woods, almost beside us. At that, we began to get a bit nervous.
As we turned around to look for Uncle Bert or Uncle Ralph, we didn't see them behind us and that's when we got very nervous and started to run a little and the rustling noises got closer and louder and that shadow got larger and closer to us too.
Then, it came -a noise from the "thing" whatever it was that was trailing us and now, catching up quickly to us and we kids all let out a scream that probably could be heard up the road a mile or better a our grandparents' home!
And with that screaming we were doing, we then also heard very loud laughter and guffaws and the unmistakable voice of our Uncle Ralph as he began to holler and pick on us, calling us a bunch of babies for being afraid of a shadow -his shadow, too boot!
That little run though sure did get the blood flowing and warmed us all up too so it had a good benefit to his scaring the living daylights out of us.
And tonight, as I walked Sam up the street -away from the road that goes to Peale because I wouldn't want to walk down into those woods even in the bright moonlight as it is tonight, by myself, that much is for sure -the memory of that walk many years ago was crystal clear then in my mind's eye.
I remember it for the fun it was being with my uncles and cousins and having a little expedition like that. And today, I remember it ever so fondly as a time when life was so carefree for my cousins and for me and also, for the fun-loving ways my uncles had that they both enjoyed scaring us kids that way.
Uncle Bert has been gone for almost 46 years now and Uncle Ralph for almost 19 years and in those years in between, so have their four siblings -my Mom, Uncle Cookie, Aunt Ethel and Aunt Mamie -all joined them too. Now, it's down to my generation and already, three of my cousins have passed now too -David, Nancy and Carl -leaving the other 8 of us to remember and try to share the memories of loving, very special parents we had and the closeness that existed back in those days between the cousins then too.
I hope someday my children and grandchildren will share memories they have of growing up here that are sweet, sentimental and special to them as mine are of my family and my childhood.