Interstate 27 in Texas runs from Amarillo down to Lubbock. Back in the 60’s, it was just known as “the e-way.” One usually took it to the small town of Canyon. It passed about four blocks from our house on Hall Street. When we needed a break from the fields we used to play in, we headed off to play at the e-way. No, we did not play ON it but UNDER it. This was probably among the dumber things I ever did.
There was a system of rain culverts that ran under the e-way. They were about four feet high so a little boy could easily run through one. Well, we would run through this dark pipe whose design was to channel rain water and not kids underneath the six lanes of I27 to the other side. The other side had a terminal of sorts where rain was conveyed to wherever the designers wanted it to go. There were four more culverts that ran from that. Three were very short and one was long and very, very, dark. Why in the world we ever wanted to run around down there I’ll never know. It was only by the grace and mercy of the Almighty Himself that I was not drowned like a rat or attacked and devoured by an otherworldly creature.
The long dark culvert was a real source of fear for us. I only went into it once and only for a short distance. Some of the older boys talked us into going there AND had us take the lead (you know, the threat of being called a chicken at the age of ten is a huge motivator). We got a little ways down the pipe only to hear the footsteps of the older boys as they abandoned us to oblivion. Panic was probably an understatement. It was so dark, and, if we didn’t turn around right then, we would be doomed. I froze in the knowledge that, if I stayed, I’d be a hero. If I ran, I’d be a chicken. The possibility of being eaten alive by a large something or other outweighed the shame of being a chicken. I ran. And ran and ran. I set the land speed record for movement in a rain culvert. I am happy to report that I lived to tell the tale. I never ventured into the underground culverts again. Those older boys who talked us into that disappeared. I never saw them again. Hopefully, they were eaten.
Now, those culverts ran into drainage ditches. We played there too (who knows why). Back then, we ran around bare foot a lot of the time. Yup, I went off to play in the drainage ditch one day with no shoes on. That was real smart. As luck would have it, I stepped on a glass beer bottle. Never in the history of man has anybody hollered with more exuberance that I did on that day and at that moment. I ripped and shredded the bottom of my foot something terrible. It looked like hamburger. My brother picked me up and hauled me home. Mom and dad took me to the hospital and patched me up. Dad and I had a longggg talk about the places I played at.
I have never been back to the culverts or the ditches. (The more I think about the days we played in the culverts, the more I cringe. It was a very dangerous place and we went down there without lights or anything to protect ourselves. There is no way I’d go there today without a flashlight and a large gun).