A Place Called Wrayville
I was lucky to grow up in an idyllic little piece of rural Pennsylvania affectionately dubbed "Wrayville" due to the prevalence of my father's family members. It is actually a half-mile stretch of Old Stage Road in Decatur Township, Mifflin County.
We kids never lacked for playmates with 18 first-cousins within close proximity, and 9 more just a few miles away. We played every game known to childhood - kickball, baseball, volleyball, tether-ball, badminton, archery, frisbee, tag, hide n' seek, Mother-May-I, Simon Says, and Red Rover.
Jumping out of the hayloft was a terrifying yet necessary rite of childhood. We made a chicken coop into a clubhouse. From our front porch, my brother and I shot BBs at the barn roof and listened for the ping. We had picnics under the cherry tree and picked sweet corn in the field. We made jump rope from baler twine, rode ponies named Candy and Sugar, and piled onto the tractor with Uncle Donnie. We rode in the back of station wagons and the beds of pickup trucks. In winter, sledding caravans could be ten sleds long, and we ducked under the barbed-wire fence as we swooshed through. Ice-skating on the pond was another cold-weather option.
It wasn't enough to live close together; we also vacationed together in a rustic cabin in Potter County. There we slept in old army bunks, hauled buckets of water, shared a 2-seat outhouse, and spotted deer as a competitive sport.
For the baby-boomers of Wrayville, every man you came upon was your uncle and likely to tease you, pinch your cheek, or throw you in the air. Real men went shirtless in summer, spit often, and peed outdoors. Every woman was your aunt with an open door, a welcome smile, and home-baked goodies.
But notwithstanding public urination, we did not step out of the cast of "Deliverance." We all married outside our gene pool. There was no cursing in Wrayville, and I never saw anyone drink alcohol. Our homes were spic 'n span and clothes clean and pressed. We did well in school, did not fist-fight, and spoke fairly proper English though somewhat "Dutchified." We went to Church on Sunday and to Bible School in the summer.
How did we turn out? As teachers, chemists, accountants, bus drivers, clerks, staff assistants, homemakers, truck drivers, business managers, factory workers, tax collectors, and financial wizards. We've married and had 50 children and 35 grand kids! Most of us have stayed fairly close to home, and I don't think anyone has been in jail.
As for me, I've always stayed nearby and finally built a house next to Mom and Dad. Why would anyone want to leave?