Nora Swango Stanger: Remembering summer fun in Lawrence County

Published 8:09 pm Saturday, August 11, 2018

This time of year I can’t help but remember the lazy days of my childhood in summertime.

I was the fifth child out of eight, so there was always someone to play with. We didn’t have the gadgets or technology of today, but my mom made sure our days were filled with adventures.

We lived in a holler and would explore the hills almost daily. There were huge limestone jutting from the hillsides. We named the stones based on their unique shapes: Turtlehead Rock, Eagle Rock, King’s Palace, and more.

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I remember climbing the natural ‘stairs’ to the palace, grabbing a grapevine and swinging out over a gully 50 feet or more in the air. That ended when four of us tried to ride the grapevine at one time. We broke our swing, tumbling down the hill. (We agreed never to tell Mom about this adventure.)

We explored dens of wild creatures that thankfully weren’t at home when we visited. Mystical places were found in those hills and we were certain no other human had ever been to before us.

In the cool of the evening, we would put on a circus for my mom and sister Ruth. As acrobats, brother Garry and I tumbled, cartwheeled and danced on our pretend stage. We made a trampoline from discarded bed springs and an obstacle course by balancing a board across an old barrel.

Albert the cow wore a hat and oversized shirt across her back and front legs while Benjamin the hen, sporting a red bandana, rode Albert’s back. Our mutt dog, Ginger, carried a homemade pom-pom in her mouth as she ran around in circles.

My sister Linda would dress as a clown, while the baby sisters, Ella and Terri pulled her across the yard in a small wagon. Sister Amy was an exotic princess in flowing robes we made from old clothes someone left for us on our porch. Brother Mike made a zipline with the handle of an old lawn mower and a cable that had been thrown away in the creek.

We all would provide the a capella music, roaring our vocals so even those at the end of the hollow could hear.

We walked the mile and a half to Granny’s house at least once a day. In the summer, we seldom wore shoes and we would walk the hot black-topped road running from one shady spot to another to rest our burning feet — often getting blisters on the bottoms of our feet.

This didn’t hold us back though. We’d wade the creek bed looking for crawdads and minnows. Linda told us that if we cracked the crawdads open we might find rare pearls. We spent hours looking for such jewels and made plans on how we would spend our riches.

When gusty winds promised storms, we’d run through the yard trying to fly with sheets flowing above our heads like parachutes. We carried pillows and blankets onto the porch and made beds there, watching the storm, allowing the mist of the rain to cool our faces and lull us to sleep.

After the rain, we’d look for a rainbow. One time we could see the end of the rainbow touching the bottom land near us. We kids began running to the rainbow’s end so we could catch the Leprechaun and get his pot of gold. Mom stayed on the porch and kept screaming, “You’re there! You’ve got it!” but the rainbow kept moving ahead of us till it disappeared from sight completely. We walked home without the pot of gold but with excited hearts.

We never went on a fancy vacation or even got passes to amusement parks, but we had fun. Many times were hard. We did without most things people take for granted today. But despite our needs we created a world of our own. The ability to see past our poverty gave us the resources to become the adults we are today.

Thanks Mom, for giving us a childhood worth remembering.

Nora Swango Stanger, a Lawrence County native and Appalachian outreach coordinator for Sinclair Community College, can be reached at