The Buddy System

Big mounds of dirt. My most memorable field trip was when I was in 3rd grade, and we went to see big mounds of dirt.  One of the mounds was around 50 feet high and flat like a plateau.  There was a metal staircase stuck to the side of that mound, and we took it single file all the way to the top.  Once atop, we ran all around (the mound is nearly the size of a football field) and looked out at the rather plain, southwest Georgia landscape of grass and trees.  My “field trip buddy” (we were partnered-up for safety) was a boy.  I don’t think this was a random pairing.  I think he liked me, and we chose each other.  We had to hold hands as part of the “partnership”, and I’m pretty sure he could have let go once we got back to the bus, but he didn’t.  We were young and innocent enough that, although I had an awareness of his boy-ness that was obviously strong enough that I remember the hand-holding experience thirty-some years later, there was no nervousness or sweaty palms (other than from it being southern springtime).  Sweaty hand-holding didn’t happen until 5th grade. But later that evening my aunt, who must have gotten word of the scandal from my teacher, told me that next time I went on a field trip I should choose a female partner.

During the trip though, being a kid and also maybe distracted by my budding sexuality, what I’m certain I didn’t appreciate was that my partner and I were holding hands and tromping around on the raised, earthen pedestal of a long-gone ritual temple and, from that vantage point 2000 years before, we would have been looking out over the largest Native American society north of the Aztecs.  In the small visitors’ center, which had an underground feel since it was built right into the excavated side of one of the mounds, we learned that the smaller mounds were used for burial, sometimes of human sacrifices.  In the dimly-lit, air-conditioned hall I walked hand-in-hand with my partner along the railed platforms, peering over at the artifacts scattered around the ground, a few only half unearthed as if someone had just been digging them up and maybe stepped out for a bathroom break.

There was pottery galore, but I’m pretty sure the highlight of the trip was seeing the replica human skeleton lying half-embedded in ancient, red Georgia clay, the real skeletal remains having been re-buried. I don’t remember anyone telling us they were replicas during that trip, and maybe they weren’t at that time. After seeing them and emerging from the cave back out into the hot, bright, humid day, the mounds dotting the hazy horizon looked mysterious indeed.  And from how I feel thinking about the trip, it was downright eerie.  I was eight years old, so not an age that I could truly conceptualize death, civilization, ritual and antiquity, but I can still feel today how I felt being there.  The best way I can describe it now with my adult words is that I had an ethereal feeling…of things not feeling all there…maybe like the trees and grass and sky were a thin mirage concealing something empty.  Or maybe I’ve watched too much Indiana Jones since then, and it’s flavoring my memories. Or maybe I should have been on medication as a child. But that’s the feeling that made me think Kolomoki Mounds when I saw this prompt.  That and the holding-hands business.

–RemembeRED prompt– A memorable childhood field trip

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One thought on “The Buddy System

  1. Oh sighs for the pretty pottery and big mounds of dirt. But the really story here? Is so the hand holding! Love that!

    This line: ” I think he liked me, and we chose each other.” is so sweet and innocent, memorable and lovely. Forget the dirt- all of my sighs go here! 🙂

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