How I Got Lost in the Woods

Once upon a time, my friend and I got lost in the woods. I was five years old, he was four. We lived next door to the local playground, and the woods came right up to the edge of it. So we wandered into the woods and by and by discovered we were lost.

By “lost” I mean totally without a clue, not the foggiest idea where we were, and quite upset by it. We weren’t old enough to imagine ourselves winding up as skeletons among the underbrush, but we were good and scared.

We stumbled around at random until suddenly we emerged from the woods into someone’s back yard, in the little village of Bonhamtown (now paved over for a highway, not a trace of it left).

An old man came out and instantly identified us as being out of place, probably because he recognized all the small boys in his neighborhood. He asked us where we lived, somehow made sense out of our distraught babblings, and took us each by the hand and led us back through the woods and back to the playground, within sight of our respective homes. I was amazed at how little time had passed: my mother hadn’t even missed me. I wasn’t even late for lunch.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t tell her where I was, lest she forbid me to play in the woods anymore.

I look back on this adventure with warm gratitude to that old man, whoever he was, and I will always have a soft spot in my heart for vanished Bonhamtown.

And I am very, very glad it didn’t happen to me in 2015.

11 comments on “How I Got Lost in the Woods

  1. That’s quite a story. It’s amazing how things have changed. In our day, this would be newsworthy, back then it was just a routine event. The adult knew what to do, it was no big deal, just part of his responsibility as a citizen. And you learned from it. I bet you never got lost again, because you knew to keep yourself aware.

    Growing up, there was a small woods nearby and we played there frequently. It’s still there, virtually identical to the way it was 50 years ago. I, and most of my neighborhood chums, had free access to it and we all survived. We learned from our ramblings. We discovered things, we learned to be confident in ourselves. With the exception of a few scratches from wild rose thorns, I came away unscathed. I’m glad I grew up in that time.

    1. Actually, I’m pretty sure I did get lost again, at least once; buy by then I was old enough to pray, and almost immediately some big kids came along on bikes and brought me home (which, again, was only a few minutes away: but everything seems bigger when you’re small).

    2. I’ve always had a strong sense of direction, so I have never been lost. It’s almost uncanny, but from my earliest memories I knew where North was and could always figure out where I was. When I was about 2, no more than 3, I left the yard and went for a walk. I was 2 1/2 blocks from home when my mother found me. I wasn’t scared in the slightest. Ever since, I’ve been nothing but trouble. 🙂

    3. My sister once toddled off to see Grandma. My cousin and I were supposed to be watching her, but our vigilance was distracted. So there was 2-year-old Alice waddling down the sidewalk along Main Street… and I think my mother was so glad to get her back, she forgot to put me and Jeffrey to death.

    4. These days you’d have had to sign up on the child-neglect offender’s list and been booed at on Jerry Springer. 🙂

      I have to amend my earlier comment, because I actually did get lost once, as an adult. I was flying a light aircraft and got lost less than ten miles from my home airport, in an area that I knew intimately from the air or the ground. Ten miles by air is, essentially, nothing:this made as much sense as getting lost between my front door and the mailbox, but somehow I managed to get disoriented in a very familiar place. I recognized the sign in front of a restaurant and got re-oriented quickly. It was no big deal, but I remember it decades later.

  2. I grew up in Fullerton, California and my home was surrounded by orange groves. That’s why they called it Orange County. By the time I entered college all the orange groves around my house were gone replaced by tract homes. I left in 1976 on a bicycle trip across America and never went back (just to visit my parents every few years until they passed away). I have no regrets about it. They ruined my idyllic childhood home but I still have its memories.

    1. I used to visit Anaheim now and then, but it has become so crowded and so hectic that I can’t bear to go anymore. Orange County was a place of natural beauty, but it’s pretty much just another asphalt and concrete wasteland, nowadays.

    2. California has gotten worse every time I’ve visited. The last time, I drove I-5 from the Oregon border to the San Fernando Valley. All the beautiful orchards were dead, because they can no longer irrigate. It was a wasteland.

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