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Our caravan trudged onward; trees and summer brush, gravel and twisting roads, vines and oak trees encroached on our journey. This land seemed untamed and undiscovered and thrived on the wilderness. I sat, a young boy just weaned from his home school life, clinching my pillow with excitement. Indian Creek. The name bore a certain mystery, which only heightened with the inexorable longevity of the road. Supposedly it was a small cabin as old as the earth and had beatings to show. My only impressions were photographs of young ladies with elegant hats basking by the crystal creek sipping their Bloody Mary’s and indulging in endless cigarettes smoking.
My mother was a light blonde with similar hair to mine; she was a woman who loved Dolly Parton and Jackie Chan. Although she was not from the south, she kept our house smoldering in a southern homebody flavor. Famous for her kitchen, she was always found leaning over succulent brewing pots. My father was a tall man with a thundering but kind voice. He was a product of the 70’s and had never fully left his hippie teenage life behind. Both my parents were raised in the company of excellent storytellers and consequently learned the skill. My family history was passed down around fires and good meals, not graphic lineage or over detailed ancestry books.
The minivan lurched forward as we turned off the uncharted highway and onto the gravel road. The trees slithered in, and the dust spiraled around the car. Then on the west side of a steep downward slope nestled into the Missouri rainforest stood Indian Creek.
It was not a cabin, not even a house really. It was something you would find deep in Potosi, Missouri. It was shrouded with white chipped paint, and rust completely covered the tin roof and de-hinged shutters. The gargantuan screen porch wrapped around all four corners of the shabby house. Encompassing the plot of land was a hand carved fence; it was every third grade boys dream. I foresaw new species of songbirds I would discover, the creepy crawlers waiting to be found under the logs and old pieces of tattered housing.
Two cars were already parked in the grassy area that played as a driveway. My marveling eyes moved to the movement of my aunt Beth bustling towards us. Close behind, noses high in the air, my grandma and Aunt Meg marched down the raggedy path, indisputably upset with the condition of the cabin.
Aunt Beth was a short stout woman with chopped dirty blonde hair. By day a math teacher, by night owner of every stray dog from Jefferson City pound. She was the type of woman who found complete enjoyment from kayaking in hurricanes and skinny-dipping, which she had already done multiple times.
My aunt Meg was quite the opposite. The lawyer from Washington D.C. wore long brown hair that covered her pale skin. She finished top of her class, and was not the type of woman you would find in a summer heat.
My grandma was a spitting image of Aunt Meg. She had little time for wrong answers and boring stories. She was a learn-ed woman with a high IQ and a low tolerance for mischief. She took great pride in her ability to make conversation with anyone, especially complete strangers. My sisters and I often wondered if my dad and aunt Beth had any real relation to the two of them.
As we began unloading sleeping bags and my mom’s travel kitchen I noticed a house across the gravel road from us. It was covered by an eerie haze, and seemed tainted with evil. It had no windows and part of the roof was missing. The screens had been all ripped out from the porch, and distant hum of heavy metal music could be heard, the kind you would imagine drug attics shooting heroine too. The pastures were dried up and the ground cracked, as if something beneath it tried endlessly to claw its way out from the depths of hell. The horses in the pastures were raggedy and emaciated. The front yard was filled with a hoard of tacky yard ornaments and backward facing plastic deer, their dirty white butts blared in the visitors face. The drive way was filled with flea bitten inbred dogs. It was completed with miscellaneous broken down kitchen appliances, and a few pieces of cars and dirt bikes. It was although hell had popped up right next to my dreamland. But my grade school mind quickly became distracted with a passing bee or butterfly, and I slipped into my little piece of heaven.
The first days of Indian Creek were paradise for some of us. Unfortunately, my Aunt Meg fled Indian Creek several hours after arriving.
“This type of heat and humidity is only found in Missouri, and that’s where you won’t find me,” and with that she was gone.
I marveled at the ol’ house’s pealing walls and slanting floors, in the footsteps of my forefathers. My dad spent his summer’s here, and so did his dad, and my dad’s dad, and it continues on to the dawn of time.
As I reminisced and daydreamed about what history Indian Creek held, my aunt’s anecdote caught my ear. The house across the road, the devil’s lair, Satan’s haven, hell on earth.
The Dean’s were meth dealers, convicted several times. The father, in his mid 40’s, was in jail. The oldest son lived in his father’s footsteps and followed him to the penitentiary. But my aunt told me not to worry; he had only run over a young girl with his truck. The mother and the remaining inbred children were stuck in the hell whole.
Most of my time there I scurried through the wilderness and played in the rushing creek, trying to create water flows and channels with pieces of driftwood and boulders. My massive amounts of childish play fueled a massive appetite. Every night mounds of succulent delicious food awaited us.
Late one night we all sat on the screened in porch, awaiting the remedies of a hard day of country cooking. Entranced by the floating plates of tender smoked barbeque and succulent corn I failed to notice anything but my plate and fork.
A menacing voice resonated in the darkness flanking the screened porch, “Want Company?”
Several corn cobs came smashing down on devoured plates as all eyes slowly shifted. He wore ripped jean shorts, no shoes, and a plaid button down shirt with cut sleeves. He was wet, as if he had just fallen in the creek. He was carrying in one hand a Milwaukee’s Best, and in the other a black pistol.
Charles Dean: Meth head, abuser, and murder. My eyes bulged.
“Quickly children I need all your help, all of you, yes all three, Adam, Emily, and Ruth… in the kitchen now.” My mother took no time to evacuate my sister’s and I. We all followed swiftly with no complaints.
She quickly shut the door and loudly whispered “no locks, no locks, I can’t believe there are no locks at a time like this.” She speedily turned to the only thing she new, her supply of cooking utensils. She moved at lightning speed jamming forks, knives, spoons this way and than into the empty lock hooks in the door. She exited one door and looked at us with bewildered caring eyes, “I am going to meet this nice man, while I am gone Emily please fix up this door.” As she was about to close the door behind her, she ran back in and grabbed a hatchet, of coursing smiling as she left.
I peered through the cracks of the house to see the famous Charles Dean. My grandma, completely obtuse, abused her talent to make conversation with strangers, and chatted effortlessly with her new dinner partner, unaware of clear and present danger. His pistol was black as steel and lay on the dinner table as if it belonged among the peach cobbler and smoked pork. The man had a bit of a sailor’s mouth; actually I had never heard most of his words, and I’m guessing they couldn’t be found in Weber’s Dictionary. My mom was nervously tapping her foot. She had passed our only wave of defense to my father; he held the puny hatchet tight against his back.
Charles Dean started, “Well, I got s*** faced and was wonderin’ over her to start s***t with them Deans. See I thinkin’ that they gone an’ used this cabin as another meth cookin’, coke sniffin’, pot smokin’, party house. Them damn fools pay off them pigs so that they ain’t get arrested, and then come down here and trash this place.”
Slowly heartbeats slowed, and what stood before was not a penitentiary breakout, but the most friendly and kindhearted man I have ever met. His stories were crammed with offensive slang and inappropriate mannerisms. But he lived a life he enjoyed, something not often done in this day and age. In societies eyes he was an uneducated redneck, but it was obvious he didn’t care. His life was full of simplicity, and I learned a valuable lesson from that man. That happiness is not found in the street’s of Venice, skyscrapers of New York, coral reef’s of Australia, but in the peace and tranquility of our own lives.
We have gone back to Indian Creek eight summers in a row. Every summer Mike and his family, and usually his new girlfriend for the season, come over and eat dinner. They are, as my mom puts it nicely “the most colorful folks you’ll ever meet.” Mike has on countless occasions threatened to shoot the “f*****-up meth heads” across and up the road. He says, “they destroy God’s good earth”.
Indian Creek has not changed one bit; it grows older and more delightful with every passing day. It has savored nearly seven generations of kids. Indian Creek is a legacy, a place to escape the world and live in the turmoil and beauty of rural Missouri. I will take my kids there, and they will take there’s, and through commitment Indian creek will live forever.