Gully Running

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I think it begged for busy feet
To scratch its back, so to speak.
We were gully runners then –
Quick to scatter rusty leaves and rend
Whatever lay upon the path.

Looking back, I have to laugh
A little at our foolishness.
Few, if any, would confess
To fires and fights and broken glass.
Most of us were twice as fast
With alibis as with our feet.
(I know that I should sooner weep)

The gully was a hiding place
For those who didn’t mind the taste
Of stickered socks and bruising bark.
There was definitely an art
To keeping quiet in that sea
Of itching grass and oak debris.

If we were brave (or fool) enough,
We’d set our course and try to rough
It to the river through the scrub,
The manzanita and the mud –
Always in the shade of oaks,
And Mother’s saying “No,” and folks
Along the bank who wondered who
We were and doubted if we knew
Where we were going.

Gully running to the store
Provided all the thrill of war
And race that we would ever need
It seemed.  We were a breakneck breed
Whose lightning speed was only stopped
By falls and fences neither sought
Nor seen before it was too late.

I still can see and feel the way
It used to be – feet, head and heart
All wildly anxious at the start –
Down the hill – zig, then zag
Around the mossy, moldy hag
Who tried to catch our flying hair.
(Some of us were barbered there!)

A little farther was a jump
That jarred us with a jerking bump
And chattered teeth and shook the sand
And made us fall upon our hands.
The other bank seemed twice as steep,
But up we’d go, trying to keep
Our balance as we scrambled to
The top like monkeys at the zoo!

A few of us are still around –
Shouldn’t we be duty bound
To pay respects when we’re in town
To our old gully running ground?
Let’s get together just for fun
And trace the gullies where we’ve run
And share the most of what we’ve done
Since leaving our old Home Sweet Home!

4/6/1983

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