When I was 11, we went to Western New York. My mom’s side of the family owns a house, named Hungry Hollow, way out in the rural mountains and hills. It’s near Salamanca and Killbuck and Great Valley. The house itself is over one hundred years old and originally only had a kitchen, one room downstairs, a cellar, and two rooms crammed into the upstairs, under a very steeply slanted roof. My grandfather’s kin added onto it a dining room with a long table made out of chestnut, before all the chestnut trees got the blight. In that room was a piano and a curio cabinet in which there sat a bunch if different small animal skulls, like a gray fox and a chipmunk. Off the dining room was a large open living room with mismatched old furniture that was so saggy that it ate you when you sat. Off of there, they had installed a bathroom, mudroom, one more bedroom and another small bathroom where the lightbulb was always so dim it made me feel dirty even when I was in the tub.
I had been to Hungry Hollow many times before 11 but that’s the one I seem to remember the clearest. I remember the cool October water in the creek that ran alongside the edge of the property… how it swept over my feet, jeans rolled up to my knees, and how the smooth stones kept wearing down, rounder, smoother, as time passed.
I remember hiking up Hale road with my grandpa and dad, going to the beaver pond and watching those busy little creatures hastily building their damn. And we went inside this little old shack that looked like it burned. There were broken mason jars and papers and agricultural type tools strewn about. And the emptiness spooked me.
That year, I shot a gun for the very first time. Off the mudroom is a small platform with stairs leading to the yard. From it, my grandfather stood behind me to steady the .22 against my shoulder. Aim for the cans, not too low. About 50 feet away, hanging from a tree, dangled old beer cans, riddled with small holes from past shooting attempts. I remember my heart racing and the heaviness of the gun leaning back into my small frame. Easing the trigger back, I was scared by the recoil but I didn’t show it. I Having always been a tom boy, I had to keep up the tough exterior, show strength and confidence at all times. I hit the can and it swayed from the intrusion of metal. I felt proud.
We drove into town to get supplies – town being Salamanca or Killbuck, where my grandpa grew up during the Depression. He let me get out at a little general store where I bought more ammo for the gun. As I walked out, I noticed there was a vending machine so i was going to buy a soda with my change. Except it was live bait!
Days like today when the air is cool and Fall is creeping up slowly make me think of these good times I had as a kid. What are some places you remember from your childhood? What made them special?
ETA: Brian’s website. I knew I had a relative who posted photos. The place has been updated, obviously, since I was last there but now you get a visual.