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Pollywogs, roller skates and death by poison oak

I’ve never been able to keep a pollywog long enough to watch it become a frog. But it isn’t because I haven’t tried.

Up at the old high school (affectionately known as “the pink prison” — whose idea was it to paint a high school pink?), along the edges of the football field, were red dirt mud puddles filled with pollywogs galore.

We would take our jars and look for ones that had back legs so we wouldn’t have to wait the eternity it would take for the frog to develop. But it never happened. They always died. I guess we didn’t have the knack it took to rear a pollywog. Pollywogacide!

And while we were gonna be at the high school, it only made sense that we would take our old half-strung tennis rackets to have a go at playing tennis. But we had to have balls too. Think about it. That is a lot for a kid to carry. Quart jars, tennis rackets and tennis balls.

And we never heard of using a bag — that was way before backpacks were invented. Well, way before they were popular and abundant, let me put it that way. But we had our hands full, nonetheless.

But not for long because our idea of playing tennis wasn’t about volleying the ball back and forth, it was about hitting it over the fence into the hillside upon which the courts were sustained. Heaven forbid, anything in our town was built on level ground. Why go against nature? I’m sure it was easier not to.

So, after we lost all of our balls, we would make our way around the fences and start beating the heavy bushes to try to find them. There was a lot of undergrowth in the very steepness and poison oak, which we always seemed to get no matter how hard we tried to avoid it. But we would always find lots of balls that got booted high over the fence, whose owners didn’t have the energy or the determined kind of experience that Easter egg hunters such as ourselves did to go after them.

We always found lots but were unable to carry them all, so we’d make a pile, which always seemed to be gone the next time we’d come up to play our version of tennis. So, when we counted on not having to carry balls and took extra jars instead, we always had to hit the adjacent hillside first to fetch us something to hit into the hillside again. Do you see a pattern beginning to develop? More death to pollywogs and a near-death from poison oak.

It was really cool when we realized that we could roller skate on the tennis court, because it was all paved, without rocks, and guess what? It was level! But soon we found it was frowned upon by the “real” tennis players, because of the possible damage it could do to the courts.

So, we sneaked our skates with us, because after all, they were really easy to conceal, strapped together and slung over our shoulders; we thought we hid them well, anyway. But they were easy to carry, which added to an extended afternoon trip on a creative, action-packed play day, safe in the canyon of Dunsmuir, my hometown.

Marilyn White lives in Medford.

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