Indians on the one side, pioneers on the other. My dad's stories of our Native American and European ancestors worked an easy sorcery on my Huck Finn brain when I was a kid. The narrative backdrop was always the wilderness of the virgin South, which I had a stunt-double parcel of right around the corner and down the hill, a modest green paradise overhung with bluffs,engraved with streams and creeks, pocked by pools and ponds, and everywhere harboring fortresslike stands of ancient elms, oaks, and hickories all a-wiggle with grapevines. But we didn't live deep in the sticks or anything; this was just the suburban flank of Memphis, Tennessee, surely the chlorophyll capital of the USA.
So into the woods I went dreaming, whenever I could, on bike or on foot, all year long and in any weather, with friends or alone but always armed with the tools of target= practice, bushwhacking, and whittling. Primitive mechanical engineers, we fashioned tackle and maneuvered stout windfallen timber to bridge any water we couldn't make like Tarzan across. In summer, a lone great blue heron and hosts of catfish, crawdads, and dragonflies kept us company as we swam the pools and fished miles of meander with homemade "baitcasters," lost to the world of couches and cartoons.
It may have been a long-distance hike to the market or school or library from my house, but it was just a hop, skip, and a jump into another realm.