Monday, April 22, 2013

Last House on the Left

In July of 1975, my husband and I, our baby son, Andrew, and my step-son, Kendall, who'd soon turn 15, moved from our newly re-furbished home in Peoria, IL to the Duck Island Hunting and Fishing Club near Banner, IL. The club was privately owned, reportedly the oldest in the entire state. My husband had grown up in Banner watching both his grandfather and father work at the club taking wealthy duck hunters out to the blinds using push poles and in flat bottomed boats. They were called pushers, but, it had nothing to do with drugs. Eventually, my husband grew up and also worked as a pusher at the club. Once he took a bank president from Nashville out to the blind, called in the ducks for the man to shoot, picked, and cleaned the ducks for the man to take home with him. That guy gave my husband a $20.00 tip. It was the best tip he'd ever gotten. When we moved into the club and my husband took over managing it, he told me he'd found his "Place in the Sun". I, however, thought it was a hell hole. I'd grown up in the city and now I was out in the middle of the boondocks, 5 miles from my nearest neighbor. The house was indeed the last house on the left. It sat proudly on an earthen berm. It was a two-story salt box house that was built before electricity or running water were added. The outside was a dusty green and the inside walls were wainscoted boards. Electric wires and switches were stapled on the outside of the walls and the plumbing pipes ran through the ceiling of the kitchen. The main level consisted of a nice-sized living room with a free-standing Franklin stove and wall-mounted electric heaters, a large kitchen, an adjacent dining room, a laundry room and half-bath. The second level had a full bath, one master bedroom and two smaller one. There was also a large screened porch upstairs that we later closed in to use as a playroom for our family. After moving to the club, we had two more sons and they need some space for their toys. To get to our home, a person had to drive down a road on top of a dike that lead out of Banner. It was 3 miles to the gate that lead to the club. The gate was locked. So, people had to call ahead and then someone had to go open the gate for them. Beyond the gate it was another 3 miles of gravel road to get to our house. Just before our house was the large two-story clubhouse where the duck hunters from out of town would stay. After that was the boathouse and the pick shed. And finally, the manager's house. The road from the gate to where we lived was pretty rough. It ran along the Illinois River and could get pretty messy when it rained or when the river would come up. Many times during the nine years we were there the river did go over our road. There are many stories of those times that I will save for another day. But to give the reader and idea of the quality of the road, I will tell one story. We'd belonged to a pinochle card club when we lived in Peoria. After moved to the club, we hosted a card party. As luck would have it, it rained for several days prior to the event. By the day of the party, the road was impassable except for 4-wheel drive vehicles. All our friends had to park near the gate and we had to pick them up in our vehicle and bring them in to the club. One of our lady friends told Kenny, "Patty must really love you because I wouldn't live here for Robert Redford!" (to be continued)

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