Those Dang Groundhogs

I don’t remember the exact year that it happened. All I know is that one day, there was a railroad track that ran through Louisville, IL and then, seemingly the next day, it was gone.

It cut across Route 45 next to the FS building and ran parallel to the city park as it made its way south towards Flora. When they decided to stop running trains on the track, they (not sure who they actually are) went in and uprooted the track altogether.

The rails disappeared but the railroad ties were pitched to the side and left in the woods. What remained was a path that cut through the woods and gave the appearance of a not often used road.

My cousin, Caleb, and I were exploring the area (the desire to explore has never left me) after this took place and took note of all of the leftover railroad ties that had been discarded by “they”.

A plan hatched…

We began dragging the ties over to a location alongside the newly minted “not often used road” The train tracks sat up on a hillside overlooking a creek bed and the woods. This would be the perfect place to build a fort.

So, we began dragging all of the ties that we could manage to move by ourselves and began stacking them in an interlocking pattern. The hillside itself provided one of the walls so we focused our efforts on building up the other three sides.

The trickiest part of this project was creating a doorway because the ties did not always line up perfectly. However, after a couple of days of dragging and stacking, we were ready to lay a roof on our fort.

A half dozen or so more railroad ties provided a solid roof for our creation. Now (since in our minds this creation would be the envy of the other 8 to 12-year-old children in town) we began piling brush and tree branches on top of it.

With our fort finally concealed and hidden, we had a perfect place to hatch all of our military campaigns against the multitude of imaginary enemies that threatened to destroy the harmony of this small town.

We spent the rest of the summer and fall hanging out in our creation. Then, winter hit and our adventures came to a close.

Months would pass without so much as a single trip to check on the wellbeing of our fort.

Our assumption was that it would be just as we left it. I mean, why wouldn’t it be. No one else even knew it was there. (This assumption was despite the fact that the fort was actually less than fifty yards from the road and people probably could see us building it)

Finally, spring came. Caleb and I made our way to the west end of the park where, to our dismay, we discovered that our fort was not necessarily as secretive as we believed it to be.

Had it been discovered by another person?

No. But, it had been discovered.

The entire floor of our magnificent creation was now gone. In its place was one HUMUNGOUS hole.


A cursed family of groundhogs had discovered our fort and turned it into their home. There wasn’t even any place to sit down once you got inside the front door of the fort.

Man, I remember being so angry at those stupid mammals that I wanted to wait outside the door for one of them to appear so that I could pelt it with rocks.

Now, looking back, I laugh at the situation (of course, who wouldn’t). I imagine the groundhog wandering through the woods, looking for somewhere to make a burrow. Being aware of its need to stay protected from predators and also to get out of winter weather, this animal needed to dig a hole that was not right out in the open.

When it stumbled across the fort, it must have seemed like a gift from God. As is often the case with children, we immediately lost interest in the fort and moved on.

Life is Strange. Live it Well.

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