My big brother and I had a thriving transport industry when I was small back in 1957. Our Dad sold construction machinery so our interests often led in that direction. Our new white brick house in the Gardenside neighborhood of Lexington, Kentucky had a basement below ground. To allow natural light into the basement, there were windows which were slightly below ground, and had corrugated wells or shells that surrounded them. These mysterious apertures were always lending themselves to mischief and made great hiding places.
The Christmas when Mike received a crane and dump truck was unexpectedly warm and a temporary reprieve from the snow temporarily so we played outside every day. After learning to maneuver the crane and operate the bed of the dump truck, we had to find ways to put them to use. We gathered sticks, and piles of leaves and were making a general mess when we discovered the gravel down in the window wells. We hauled the gravel out of the well bucket by bucket, filling up the dump truck, till Mom said we had to stop and put it all back and smooth it out again. This stymied our plans so we had to get really resourceful for new materials to haul.
Our cat had kittens a few weeks prior to this, so it occurred to Mike to go into the Kitten Delivery business. He set up shop in the back yard, making all those amazing mouth noises that little boys devise for their major machines, cranking it out and running it around with vigor. He would call out the orders as they came in from our demanding imaginary customers and get ready to deliver his product without delay.
It was always my job to jump down into the well, which seemed 10 feet deep to me at the ripe age of 4. I would kneel down and capture a squirming kitten (placed there earlier by yours truly much to the chagrin of their Mama cat), then yell to the foreman (much older Joe Mike the master craftman–who was 7) to reel the bucket down. He loved that steel Tonka Crane that he’d received from Santa that year, and he would turn the hand crank that lowered the black steel basket down into the well with enthusiasm–sometimes cracking a kitten in the head, or plopping onto the unsuspecting little critter like a giant black claw.
I would close the claw, tuck the little creature into the basket that it made, and yell, “Geronimo!” releasing the basket to watch it go toddling skyward to be dumped into the bed of his dump truck for hauling away. This was a slow and precarious process, as the cargo tended to pop out out of the truck bed almost immediately to go exploring.
We kept at it until the Mama cat had enough, coming to rescue her little band Her bleating meows alerted our Mom, who caught us and put a stop to our innocent feline torture trials. We found other uses for the crane and dump truck after that, just as adventurous as you’d imagine would come from the mind of a precocious 7-year-old. But that Kitten Transport Delivery service was probably the best time we had that Christmas and a memory that hasn’t faded in almost 60 years.