Devils Lake Journal - Devils Lake, ND
Let's Run Away by Danny Batson
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By Gary Thomas
May 4, 2013 6:38 p.m.

"Let's run away tomorrow. Let's see if you can stay all night with me. Then we can get up early in the morning and head down the railroad track. We'll have to be back by supper though."
That's how we would work it when we were young. There was a railroad going out of Chillicothe in every direction and we knew the first stop for each. Some were further away than we could go in a day's journey, but we would go at least four or five miles away from town.
We wouldn't get far before we were side tracked by something interesting to see or do. A good "dump dig" was a gold mine of treasures for kids. After a little exploring, it was back to the track. Walking the rail without falling off was always a challenge. The bridges took the most time to explore and were the scariest. When a train came we did not want to be in the middle of that bridge!
Throwing rocks off the bridges into the water was the most fun of all. We became good at rock throwing. If you've never hung from under a bridge while the train sped just over your head, you have never lived. Trying to catch the animals we saw along the way was the next best thing.
Putting pennies on the track and watching the trains run over with those heavy wheels was cool. We would take the flattened coins to school and show them off. I know all this was "child's play" and might sound boring; but we were young and had to make our own fun back then.
We respected private property. But we just thought that if no one saw us, it was OK to go on in. We just wanted to see new places, animals, and have fun. Sometimes we would run into the farmers and talk. Once they found out who we were and what we were doing they left us alone to do as we pleased.
Some would even tell us stories of their young life. You know, I think that helped us later on in life (we learned how to listen).
BB guns were a lot of fun to take along and as we got older we took our 22s. Of course, as young kids we never checked the weather before leaving home. We never had enough food or water either. That's how we learned to drink rain and river water. Maybe that's why I remember some of those trips so well!
Lightning and rattlesnakes were the top fears, it was the sign to leave the area. Coming home ringing wet, cold and muddy was the norm. If we got home late, which happened often, my parents would always ask where we had been and we would always have the same answer "Oh, just down the track aways."
Living next to the rails was a good life. Even when the house shook and my bed moved from the vibration. When a train came through you couldn't even hear each other until it had passed. It seems now that I'm older I can see why they call the past the "Good Ol' Days." Most people will always make do with what they have.

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