Guest blogger Marion Spicher

Posted by Laurie Ryan

Today, my friend Marion Spicher is joining us. I’ve known Marion for a few  years. We met through local writing organizations and struck up a friendship. Marion is actively working on her writing career, with two manuscripts completed and a third celtic historical halfway done. She writes a blog designed to lift (and calm) spirits and does a lot to further the education of aspiring writers. As well, she’s written some very evocative poems. Today she’s shared a great story about life in a small town to tell us about. Take it away,Marion! And welcome to Over The Backyard Fence.

Growing up in a Rocky Mountain town of 1000 in the fifties, a girl could find mischief or create adventures … fun at the time … but in retrospect, could have been dangerous. Here’s one of those stories from my teenage years. 

Four thirteen-year-old girls, wanting to be as brave as the boys, met on my back porch. Stuffed into our backpacks, we stowed matches, food, utensils, small ax and shovel, newspaper, cigarettes, (smoking was considered mischief in the fifties) and chocolate bars.  We tied our warm jackets around our waists, donned the backpacks, and slung the sleeping bag strap over our shoulders.

We headed away from civilization before our parents could change their minds. Climbing up, up, up amidst the tall jack pines, our boots treaded over dirt, roots, and deadfall trees. The forest smelled of evergreens and damp earth. Broken only by the susurrus of breezes through the pines, boots on the trail and our chatter, the cathedral silence prevailed.

A mile from home, we found a flat place and set up camp.  We gathered firewood, dug a fire pit, and laid boulders around the rim. After clearing large and small stones away we unrolled our sleeping bags, radiating like spokes from the fire. Noisy crows perched in the high branches as the last rays of sun streaked through holes in the forest canopy.

Sitting cross-legged around our campfire, we talked about mean parents, making out with boys, and how far we should let them go. We choked on cigarette smoke and dodged the rotating smoke plume from the fire. After frying steaks over the coals, we communally ate out of the pan. Forgot the plates. Delicious.

Our faces illuminated in the dancing firelight, we told ghost stories, and every once in a while, one of us pointed, pretending to see the green reflection of cougar eyes.  The full moon high, we crawled into our sleeping bags on the rough ground, and tossed, searching for comfort.

Waking at 4:00 AM, frozen to the bone and shivering, I feigned sleep, waiting until someone else woke up and built a fire. No one stirred. I wriggled into my clothes and started a blaze to thaw my limbs.  My camp mates grumbled and pulled sleeping bags over their heads, but when aromas of bacon and eggs wafted their way, they soon joined me.

After breakfast, we cleaned up camp, thoroughly doused the fire, and hiked along power line cuts.  Hot and dirty, we reached home at high noon. Satisfied. Brave and strong as any boy. 

I stowed my gear, brushed twigs and imaginary insects out of my hair and sank deep into a hot bath. Needing a nap, I first savored the sweet clean smell of my flannel nightgown, fresh laundered and hung outside to dry, by a mother’s love. And then dove into my clean cozy bed.

In retrospect, what could have gone wrong?  

  • A puff of wind or flying sparks could have started a forest fire.
  • Storing and eating aromatic food could have lured a bear or a cougar.

I guess we just didn’t live in fear back then. How about you? Did you have any life-empowering events when you were growing up? Or something, thinking back, that makes you wonder why your parents ever let you do it?

You can read more aboutMarion and her writing at:

33 responses to “Guest blogger Marion Spicher

  1. I loved this story when I first read it, Marion. I grew up in a larger city, so never really headed for the hills as a teenager. But when you talk about empowering, I remember when I got my first paycheck from a working (as opposed to volunteering) job. I was sixteen and making $1.83 an hour. I went out and bought a skirt and that was my most prized possession for a long, long time! Hmmm. I might even have it still tucked into some memory box. It won’t fit these days (by a long shot), but I still remember that skirt fondly. 🙂

  2. Life was definitely different back when I was a teen. Like you, I did some things I think back on and realize there could have been danger but was oblivious at the time. I’ve always been pretty sensible but like all teens, did some boneheaded things. It’s a wonder we all survived to adulthood.

    Your post has brought back some great camping memories. I enjoyed it.

    • Fascinating how an article of clothing can hang in our memories, especially when we’ve worked for it in a “can do” environment. I wasn’t allowed to get a job, and that’s a whole ‘nother blog. The things my pals and I did back then would not have been allowed today. We used to cut trees and build forts, the location kept secret from the boys, but their tracking skills were pretty good. All just pals and enjoying our idyllic lives in the wildnerness. Thanks for inviting me to post today.

    • Jillian, so many times as I look back I see a force keeping me alive and well. Some lessons, I didn’t need to learn, I suppose. When I mention in front of my DH that “I grew up in the Crow’s Nest Pass” he shakes his head and says, “Actually, no you didn’t.” Spot on. Growing up for me has taken a lifetime! Glad the story stirred some some memories.

  3. What a powerful experience! Like Jillian, it reminds me of camping in my youth, but I never did it without adults present.

    These stories take on a whole new dimension when I look at my young boys. I wonder what kinds of adventures they’re going to have as they get older.

  4. When their adventures materialize, you’ll be ready with the wisdom to say yes or no. I wonder how many adventures come to boys through video games and such, and hence the popularity.

  5. Pingback: Guest Blogging « Marion Spicher's Blog: Condensing Awe, Connecting Hearts

  6. Boys still have the call to be a hero and conquer the world – and I agree, hence, the video games. Just safer conquest, for the most part.

  7. What would we do without the male heroes? Need them to strive with/against the female heroines in our fiction. Grin.

  8. Oh, I love the camping story, Marion! I did so many crazy things as a kid, like standing up on my bicycle seat and riding on the top of a pickup cab. I loved to wander alone all over my grandparents’ farm in rural southeastern Kansas, and I sometimes encountered skunks or snakes or–more dangerous–mama cows protective of their newborn calves. One time I fell into the river and floated downstream quite a ways before I could climb out. Mostly I discovered wonderful things on my rambles, though–owl chicks in a hollow tree, tadpoles in a pond, a beaver building a dam across the creek. I still love to wander in the wilderness, alone or with friends. You never know what sort of adventure you’re going to have out there.

  9. Great story, Marion! You’ve got an angel on your shoulder, for sure! Me, too, I guess. As an older teen, I used to get home from a night out right about when my mom was getting up for work. I had great adventures and nothing bad ever happened. I sure did learn to be independent, though! Thanks for sharing your story.

  10. Pam, thanks for stopping by. Anyone reading these comments, Pam Beason’s blog is worth checking if you love nature.

  11. Hi Marion and thanks for guest blogging with us. Your story reminded me of some my children have shared with me after they grew into adulthood. Some they thought we didn’t know about and we did but there were a few that were a surprise. Of course I never ever did things that my mom and dad didn’t know about, yeah like . . . .

    Great story, it brought back memories.

  12. Marcia,thanks for stopping by. A few years ago I had lunch with a high school friend, and she asked me if I was ever sorry that I was such a ‘goody two shoes’ in those days. I told her that I had known then what I know now I would have had a lot more fun. At the time, my father had convinced me that I lived in a fish bowl and the townsfolk would report to him if I stepped out of line. I was such a chicken!

  13. I was really struck by your comment that back then nobody lived in fear. I’ve often thought of how much more restrictive fear has made us (collectively), and I understand why, but it makes nostalgic for times like you reminisce when the first thing that came to mind wasn’t the bogeyman. I’ve purchased a copy of the Dangerous Book for Boys for my little guy and we’ve had a lot of fun reliving some of those less-approved activities today.

  14. I’m with you Marion, those days are long past. When I was actually a little younger, maybe 11 or 12, (this too was in the late 50’s) my girlfriend and I used to ride our bikes a couple of miles away to the national forest and ride the trails. Completely alone, we packed a lunch and were gone from early morning until dinnertime. Nobody worried about us because that’s what kids did in those days, they went off and played by themselves. I think it made us more self-reliant. I sometimes wonder if there are actually more bad guys around these days, or it’s just that communication is so much better/faster that we hear about bad things/people that were previously unknown “back then”.

  15. Lesanne, good to see you here. Glad to hear you are having fun with your little guy. He is lucky to have such a mom.

  16. Judy, thanks for your thoughts. it is hard to say what changed, but we do have instant access to troublesome stuff, and it affects us. There are more people now, so perhaps more folks have problems just by the increase in numbers. But my small town had bursts of awful things too. I don’t know if I am more self reliant, (grin) but I thrive on freedom.

  17. Great blog, Marion

    It brought back a lot of happy memories. Didn’t we have fun. We never thought about the bad things in the world. I think growing up these days is a whole lot scarier. People are led to believe there dangers are everywhere, but the statistics prove it is far safer now than it ever was. Unfortunately, the media works so fast these days, that something that happened on the other side of the world, seems like it just happened next door to us.

  18. Aren’t we lucky to have grown up in a time when the world seemed safer and we were innocently inclined to take chances. What a memorable time you shared then with your friends and how lovely to revisit it. Thanks for letting us go along too !

  19. Indeed, Patricia, growing up in the fifties, a different era, shaped us differently than later times. As I am more reflective this morning, I see values to both … and trust the order of the universe giving us gems throughout the chaos. Kahlil Gibran in his book “The Prophet” wrote regarding our children: to paraphrase, “They come through us, but are not of us. We cannot make them be like us, but we can try to be like them.”

  20. Yes, Jan, the news is instantaneous and full of tragedy world-wide. A wise woman once shared with me, “I don’t have enough tears for the whole world,” and I embrace the thought. Huge disasters bring out the checkbook for the Red Cross, but other than that, I gratefully leave the hands on benevolence (with great admiration) for the creation of gifted folks like Mother Teresa. All this said, because in my little corner of the world, positive, peaceful, and loving thoughts are my goals for each day.

  21. Great story, Marion. Yes, times were gentler, softer back in the 50s and we didn’t see fear in everything we did.

    Had to laugh about the cigarettes and it brought back memories of sneaking my first ciggie behind the bicycle shed at school with a bunch of other girls. We thought we were quite something, until we were caught by a teacher and had detention. Ahh, happy times.

  22. What a beautiful story, Marion. When I was a teen I liked to camp a lot. I was a girl scout so camping was no news to me 🙂 We never thought about bears or any other dangers. I guess, that’s just how many young people are – a bit careless, a bit adventurous, and a bit brave 🙂

    Now, as I got older I still love the nature but I prefer a hotel over a tent (chuckles).

  23. Tricia, my folks used reverse psychology even back then, and would holler as I went out the door to head for the hills, “Don’t forget your cigarettes,” and of course I had already raided the carton. Figures they wouldn’t notice a missing pack of cigarettes? Duh.

  24. Angela, girl scouting wasn’t available to me in the Canadian Rockies. Glad you had those experiences. Living life to the fullest without fear is a gift that many young folks have … contributing to the grey streaks in mom and dad’s hair.

  25. Thanks everyone for stopping by … the story was fun to write and you’ve made my visit here at “Over The BackYard Fence” blog very special. Thanks to my blog hosts as well, especially Laurie Ryan. She was my editor, and did most of the work! Writers, be sure to check out Laurie’s free spread sheet for writers on her website. Simple to use and provides great motivation.

  26. Valerie J. Patterson

    Marion … so glad to read a post from you, after all you are so faithful to come and read our posts.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. It reminded me of all the camping trips my parents took our family on while growing up. My mom would wake us up so we could see racoons eating our peanut butter. My dad would take us fishing. I fondly remember the countless campfires and marshmallows and whatnot. It’s incredible what memories stir when one shares a story like yours.

    I was a Girl Scout leader for 10 years and I’ve been a Sunday School teacher for nearly 15. Up until 2 or 3 years ago, I used to take my SS class tent camping every June. Most of the kids I took had never been camping in their lives, and I am always blessed when they share a story from my camp in their testimonies about their walk with God.

    Thank you Marion. Your trip down memory lane took me down my own.

  27. Being surrounded by nothing but natures habitat easily penetrates and enhances a feeling of kinship with creation. I’ve not forgotten one camping trip. My Dad, on a camp-out including my grandfather, put a mattress on the roof of the car while we trekked down a rutted two track road to fish at Mosquito Flats, far from civilization. That time, I did see a cougar. Glad you enjoyed your memory trip!

  28. I have many great memories of camping as a youngster with my parents, and RV’ing since then with my hubby. Isn’t it interesting how some of the things we did seemed invigorating (and totally safe) at the time, but foolhardy in retrospect? Exploring abandoned back roads until we couldn’t go any farther was a fun adventure. We never considered that we might not be able to get “unstuck”, nobody knew where we were, and of course it was long before any of us had cell phones. It’s a wonder some of us survived our youth! LOL!

  29. What a fun story, Marion! My dad and his sister have all sorts of interesting stories about the things they and their friends did when they were kids in the fifties in central California, like burning up a field and singing off his eyebrows (Dad) and driving miles on a flat tire because they were afraid to stop anywhere near Sunset City (Aunt S. and friends). I love hearing about all their adventures, and so do the teenage grandchildren!

  30. Noelle and Carol, I’m glad the story brought up the images and memories of your youth.

    Carol, I have a good laugh at myself when I realize I don’t have my cell phone with me, and find the technology of being connected at all times is habit forming. Comforting in many ways, but habit forming. Imagine what it must have been like for the pioneers? Weeks and months away from hearing from loved ones.

    Noelle, your stories sound like good blog material! Or a memoir. Finding humor is situations gone wrong. I met a fellow at a writer’s meeting the other day who writes a story about his youth and gives it to his grown kids every Christmas. He read one of them to the group and it was hilarious.

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