We Lived on a Hill
Our big old house in the country sat right in the middle of a hill. From the top of the driveway to the end of the yard our hill was filled with trees, wildflowers, an abandoned fish pond, an overgrown orchard and gardens and sidewalks to nowhere. What was originally Dr. Miller’s proper country estate in the 1920’s had become a magical place for the eight Koehler kids to grow.
Living on a hill could be difficult, especially in the winter after a snowfall. We spent many hours shoveling and cindering the drive, pushing and pulling the cars of our friends, foolish enough to drive down, so they didn’t have to stay till spring. Getting enough momentum up the hill onto the highway was not for the timid driver or weak of heart. Once the car started the steep incline, the only time to slow down was when you made the turn onto the pavement. Praying was definitely part of driving up the hill. Yet once Dad bought the old 4-wheel drive Willy’s Jeep we knew we would never be completely stranded.
Living on a hill though was mostly a good thing as it encouraged amazing activities at all times of the year. Of course we had sledding and tobogganing in the winter. The great snow ramps at the bottom of the hill made faster by sprays of water. Igloos and snow forts built strategically near the driveway to provide cover for sentries on guard against invaders.
The wildflowers blooming on the hill in the springtime and the rich colors of fall always captured our imagination while building tree houses in “The Big Maple” or huts amongst the sumac.
In the summer we would use wagons, skateboard or Big Wheels to propel ourselves down the hill at warp speed, spraying gravel onto anyone in our way.
But it wasn’t always the ordinary vehicles we chose. Dad must have enjoyed watching his children living with such wild gusto as periodically would bring home a new transport for us to try.
Old cardboard barrels from his friend Buck’s rice warehouse or tires in a variety of sizes would again send one of us careening down the hill with the rest of us chasing after to find out, “How was it?”
Whoever it was would stumble out, grabbing either their head or stomach and announce it was “The best ever!”
So when Dad showed up with a tractor tire we knew another launching was about to take place. We needed the “volunteer” to fit their body inside the tire while the rest of us held the tire in an upright position. The selection of the right person was critical. Some of us were too big to fit and Andy and Marty we decided were just too small (and maybe Jane and Sarah were just smarter than the rest.) It was finally decided that Kate, (number four of eight) would be the test driver.
Maggie and Mark held the tire while Pete held open the sides of the tire and Kate slipped in.
Kate held her breath as we steadied the tire while rolling it into position. Exerting all our efforts, there was a quiet that fell among us.
With a sign from Pete, we simply let go. As the tire with Kate in it rolled, it began to pickup speed. Past the “Big Maple,” past the sand box, past the old apple trees, the tire was now speeding into the area of the yard that had been left wild. Bramble bushes, thistles and brown eyed Susan covered this part of the yard that we rarely ventured. As it happened, there was one lone tree that leaned away from the hill in this part of the yard. One lone tree seemed to beckon the speeding tire.
With our mouths wide open and our eyes even wider we watched helplessly as our sister Kate, our dear sister Kate trapped inside a tractor tire, rolled down the hill and up the leaning tree. Once the tire neared the top of the tree, it was flung back onto the hill where it spun around several times before coming to a rest.
Nobody moved. No sounds were made. We stared at the tire, waiting and wondering. Finally, from inside the tire we heard Kate bravely say “The best ever.”