I was standing in my parents’ driveway, talking with my dad about the mess of squirrels he shot for Peony (she has been wanting to try squirrel). Dad had gone hunting on his and his brothers’ land in Caroline County, Virginia, land that is across the road from Fort AP Hill.
Dad, reminiscing, said to me, “Those woods are real interesting.”
“What? At Caroline?” I replied, thinking he meant the old graves.
“AP Hill. My father owned land there, until the government took it.”
“Took it?” I asked.
“Well, they paid him for it, but, you know, not much. They have about seventy thousand acres over there.”
“Seventy thousand acres?” I asked, amazed.
“Yup. There used to be a town, Brandywine, but I guess they took over that, too. Used to be able to walk through the empty town, look at the old buildings.”
He paused, looking up at the leaves blowing on the wind. “Me, Ronnie, Sonny, we used to sneak over there and find all kinds of neat stuff in the woods. Used to be you’d find ammo belts with ammo still in them. Knives, stuff like that.”
“Lost from training exercises?” I asked.
He looked at me and nodded, “Yup. They train ‘em there. One time we found an old tank. Tried to start it.” He laughed.
“Sometimes we’d get caught, they’d take us back to the base, feed us, then call Daddy.”
“They fed you?!” I repeated, amazed again.
“Yeah. They’d call Daddy to come get us, and we didn’t want them to do that, but they did. He’d come pick us up. He’d be mad. Cuss me up one side and down the other. He’d say, ‘What are you doing?! You’re not supposed to get caught!’” Dad growled this last part in what I think of as Ornery PawPaw Voice.
“Yeah,” Dad said, “I think he was more mad because he had to come get us. You sure couldn’t do all that today. Nope.”
I chuckled, thinking. ‘You’re not supposed to get caught.’ Most parents would say “You’re not supposed to be there.”