Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

Summer fun in Leando

The Leando Park was twice its present size before the “new gym” was built in 1948. In the southeast corner, across from Grandma’s house, Dutch Fellows drilled holes for the rope in an inch-thick board seat and made a swing by tying the rope to a branch of a stately elm tree, about fifteen feet above the ground.

He made the swing for his children, but it was never limited to them, or later to me. Horns lived on the east side of the gravel road just south of the school yard, and Lily Salter lived on the west side of the park. It was great fun when grandchildren visited them and came over to the park to use the swing. Other neighborhood kids often came to play in the park as well. We played many games, including an improvised “bail out” game in which we measured the distances as we jumped from the swing.

Always barefoot, my summer attire consisted simply of a pair of shorts, therefore I was totally prepared for the sudden summer pop-up rain storms. Quickly finding shelter, I would wait for the driving sheets of rain and flashes of lightning to subside to mere sprinkles, then I’d run out to find the deepest water left by the storm to wade in and “swim” until it disappeared.

The lower part of the schoolyard dipped and drained toward a tube set under the southbound gravel road out of Leando. Half to three-quarters full of dirt, gravel and twigs it sometimes took up to an hour for the “lakes” of water to suck and funnel through the tube with loud swishing sounds.

The fresh cool “pond” water took some getting used to, as it first produced goose bumps on the skin. Close to the tube the water was deepest, but the current was also strongest. We made stick and leaf boats to float on the surface and watched them swirl quickly to the tube where they disappeared and were destroyed. Beyond the road, water meandered through Charley Benning’s field as it formed a little creek that ran eastward past his barn.

West of the school building was the baseball diamond. People would park their cars in rows on the school ground beyond the playing field, and would either bring lawn chairs or would sit on the grass to watch our Douds school team play a group from another village within the county. As many as a hundred people gathered for the games.

Painted bright red, a galvanized steel rectangular pop cooler was usually the center of attention for the kids. Someone brought a big chunk of ice and placed it inside, and then filled the container with bottles of soda pop of various flavors--Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Dr. Peppers, Hires Root Beer, Nesbitt’s Orange, Grape pop, Chocolate pop, Strawberry pop, etc. As the ice melted, the wonderful pop became icy cold.

Bottles sold for a nickel and provided a treat that everyone could afford. After we spent several nickels, we always talked the keeper out of ice slivers, which were great fun to suck on as the sun boiled down on us during the three or four hours we were out at the ball field.

Hiking in a farmer’s timber, climbing trees, berry picking, walking along grass covered abandoned roadways, visiting cemeteries, going out onto the island in the river, or catching and keeping lightning bugs in quart jars were among the many outdoor activities of the past that added to our summer fun in Leando.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick