The Red Path


During those seven years we lived on Flamingo, most if not all of our misadventures started out as fun adventures, then something went horribly wrong. Such is the case of the Red Path.

Now I know you English teachers (or editors) out there or would correct that last statement by replacing the “is” with a “was” to show past tense. I agree, except that the Red Path is as much in the present as it was in the past, and it will also be in the future.

Had we not walked down it so many years ago, the incident that happened last weekend for me and the Girly Girls would not have happened. (Wow, all this English stuff is starting to hurt my head.)

Our house was located at the crest of the big Flamingo Street hill. Take a turn to the left and you’d end up at Down the Street Bully Brad’s house; take a turn to the right and a steep decline eventually bellied out into a cul-de-sac.

The only house built down there was Old Ms. Crabtree’s. That was our destination to start our grand fun adventure — Old Ms. Crabtree’s house, not Mt. Olive Elementary. No one rides bikes to school in the middle of summer to have fun. (Although there was that one time we did, but Big Brother James still doesn’t want me to write about that misadventure.)

My three brothers and I took turns riding as fast as we could down Flamingo, across the cul-de-sac, down the length of Old Ms. Crabtree’s driveway, and through her backyard. We blazed down the trail in the woods that led to the ramp set up on the edge of Cripple Creek, and with so much built-up speed, it was gonna be an easy jump to make it all the way across the frigid waters.

In the seven summers we spent on Flamingo, Goofy Steve was the only one to ever make the jump successfully. The rest of us crashed and sank in the Artic Plunge bend of the creek. After a couple of hours of riding, jumping, and plunging, it was time for lunch, and that’s when it happened.

While walking back up the trail behind Old Ms. Crabtree’s house, we spotted a path hidden by overgrown bushes leading off to the right, one that none of us had ever noticed before. We took a quick vote, and after ditching our bikes, we started off to see where the new path led.

The first twenty feet or so was difficult to push through, but then the heavy brush fell away, and the way became clear. We followed the new path, sometimes so close to the creek we’d thought the bank would give way, causing us to tumble in — other times taking us deeper into the woods, losing sight of the creek altogether. Eventually the path ended at a small wooden shed.

Why someone had built a shed in the middle of the woods next to Cripple Creek, none of us could figure out, but we wanted to see what, if anything, was inside. Windows were on one side, covered up from the inside making it impossible to see anything through them. The front door was locked and nailed shut … from the outside.

Whoever had built the shed didn’t want anyone to get in — or whatever was in to get out. Deep into uncharted woods of Flamingo and long overdue to get back home, my brothers and I had a choice: turn around and go home or find out what was inside the shed.

We should’ve turned around

When pounding, kicking, and throwing rocks didn’t work, we decided that one of us had to run and slam their entire body force against the door to get it open. This time the person drawing the short straw was me. Running as fast as I could for twenty feet, I slammed into the wood door and three things immediately happened. First, the door groaned but did not yield and give up the contents inside. Second, a pain greater than I’d ever felt before spread across my entire shoulder. Third, blood streamed from the new shoulder gash caused by the exposed nail I had hit.

Sliding down the door, now on the ground screaming looking up at my brothers for help, I’d never seen them so scared. It seemed like it took forever, but somehow, we all got back down the path and home.

Mom held a bandage on the shoulder gash to control the bleeding, and Dad drove us to the hospital. We told them about following the path, the small shed we had found, and how we’d tried to get inside.

Dad exchanged a worried look with Mom, then said, “So… no one got inside?” We said no. Then he made us promise never to go down the path or near that shed again.

As we turned into the hospital parking lot, we all promised we never would. We even gave the new path a name because of my accident and the red blood streak left on the door.

The Red Path

I’ve had countless treks in the woods and have gone down many a path from the time we were back in the woods of Flamingo following alongside Cripple Creek. Call it muscle memory, or just call it silly, but since that incident I’ve never taken a path marked by red paint.

That is until last weekend.

Early Saturday morning, the Girly Girls and I took a hike in the woods at Line Creek Nature Area. At the bottom of the hill where the main path ended at the creek, we normally take a right, but not this day. The girls had spotted a lesser used path off to the left. A path that none of us had ever gone down. Low humidity, cool temperatures, and the gurgling sounds of the creek seem to welcome our decision to venture down the path.

We followed the new path, sometimes so close to the creek we’d thought the bank would give way, causing us to tumble in — other times taking us deeper into the woods, losing sight of the creek altogether. Eventually the creek emptied into a huge lake, one none of us had ever seen before. The scene was so tranquil we had to stop, take pictures, have our snack and rest for a while. We were about to continue our hike when we saw someone coming towards us from the opposite direction.

“How much further to the end of the path?” I asked. He said it was only about another hundred yards or so. Wasn’t anything there but a small old wooden shed. That’s when I looked up and realized what path we had been following. Looking closely, I could barely make out a trail marking on a nearby tree.

It was red

Gathering the girls we immediately turned around and made our way as fast as we could back down the red path and up to our car. Once inside with the doors locked, I told the girls my story about the last red path I’d been on. They asked if Dad had ever told any of us what was inside that shed. I told them, “No. He never did.”

Then they asked if next weekend we could hike all the way down our red path and try to see what’s inside of the shed. Turning out of the parking lot back onto the main road, I rubbed the old scar on my shoulder and replied, “No. We won’t be doing that.”

The Girly Girls and I will never go back down that red path, and never see what’s inside that old wooden shed. But if you do, please send me a note. I’ll read it … from the safety of my recliner.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories weekly in The Citizen since 2001.]