When we first moved to the Point, we had one car. That usually meant that I had to walk when I wanted to go anywhere.
The main drive went out the north end of the Point, past the orchard and the drive to Mrs. Basden. Then it crossed the spit at Shell Beach and headed east up the long hill through the woods. Near the top, the overgrown “Green Gate Road” went off to the left. It ran along the top of the fern hill where Dad put the deer. You took that way to walk to the Inveens. Byron Knapp once put on his logging clothes and fell an enormous dead fir right down that road, just like he planned. Since my Grandpa Johnson and his brothers had all been Loggers, we admired his skill at dropping it true. There was wood for months and months from that tree.
At the top of the hill the road took a turn to the left, then to the right (and a junction with the Chuns’ driveway), at which point it hooked left again and made a long beeline north. Along on the right there were tall stands of fir trees. On the left, through a patch of woods, you could see collapsing barbed wire fences in waist high grass, a farmstead field that the woods had slowly been reclaiming. Across, hidden on the other side, was the secret log cabin. Not a fake one like they had at Ft. Nisqually. A real one, grown over by a torrent of ivy. There was another old house there too, more recent but less resilient: it listed on one collapsed corner with the roof caved in. The drive ended by climbing a short hill onto the corner where 14th Avenue took a sharp turn from north-south to the east. Our mailbox was there, a mile from home.
You kept going straight, if you were going anywhere other than the bus stop, which was about a hundred yards down to the right, or to Mrs. Bartlett (my piano teacher), a half mile or so beyond and near the dead end turn-around. If you missed the bus, you headed straight over brim of the hill. If you were lucky, you could catch the bus with Christine (and then Don) and Benny on it’s return trip after it turned around. Down the hill from their stop you came to a “T.” I think Fosters lived at the bottom there. Left was Inveens, Swede Hill, Gopher’s Rest, and Purdy; right was Eide’s store, the ball field, and Gig Harbor.
Walking through the woods up the driveway hill could be unnerving because the trees tended to grind against each other in the wind and let out groans, creaks, and squawks that could play on the mind. That was especially true when you had to walk up to the school bus, which picked us up early in order to make its meandering banana-boat drive to Artondale Elementary. I will always remember the first time I walked the driveway in the dark. I was just in first grade, but my mom had my three year-old brother to tend, chores to do, and there was no car. So when it got time she handed me the flashlight and said, “Well, better get going.” I stopped and shined that flashlight frantically into the woods many times, and still made it to the bus stop early. I have a lot of memories strewn long that walk. Some are not so good, like when I lost my bowels on the way and had to clean up quickly with leaves and hide my underwear until I could retrieve it on the way home, and some are amusing, like the time a little girl gleefully exposed herself to me to prove that she, in fact, did not have a penis. I was dumbfounded.
The walk home was always more pleasant since there was nothing to be late for. Even if it were rainy, windy, and cold, it seemed like an adventurous trek with Mom and something warm at the other end. If it wasn’t bad weather, it sometimes took me a long time to get back, especially if I tied to kick a rock or unopened fir cone all the way home, or if I took the alternate route toward the Chun place. If you went that way, you had to make your way down the their drive and, just before their house, hang a right up a short road cut and into the woods. A path, which was all that was left of an old shore road, meandered along the edge of the southern high banks and under tall firs in which there was a Blue Heron rookery. They could let out a terrifying and completely unpredictable gargling shriek, like a hundred old men clearing their throats to spit, when you got under the nests. And then other times they stayed as silent as spiders. I tried to sneak by walking stealthily, like I had seen Davy Crocket do it on TV at my grandparents.
The path worked down the hill and emptied out onto the spit on the south side of the Point facing Raft Island. If you kept your balance you could walk all the way along the spit to the beginning on the rows of driftwood logs. At the end, a giant stump, on which Mrs. Yates had played as a girl, guarded the entrance to the lagoon. A simple log bridge crossed over the lagoon’s narrow outlet and onto part of Mr. Allen Jr’s driveway. From there, their driveway led back along the landward side of the Point to the circular end of the main driveway, the weeping willows, Mrs. Yate’s apartment, and home.