It’s all waiting for you – in the woods

When he was about 11 years old, my brother Dan walked in the door one day after school wearing a New York Yankees ball cap.

When he was about 11 years old, my brother Dan walked in the door one day after school wearing a New York Yankees ball cap.

“Where’d you get that?” I asked him enviously. But before he had even replied, I already knew what his answer would be.

“I found it in the woods,” he said.

Naturally. That’s where kids like us found everything.

The “woods” were not far from our house in the small town we all grew up in. My siblings and I would shortcut through that sizeable patch of forest anytime we wanted to walk downtown, to school or to meet up with friends.

The woods were also a great place to hang out. After all, it was always teeming with imaginary bad guys, lions and monsters - especially at night. (What is it with monsters and night, anyway?)

The woods actually had less exotic fauna like chipmunks, rabbits, birds, and really cool insects. One of the insect types was called “potato bugs.” My brother Dan (the ball-cap guy), got the idea one day that the reason potato bugs were so-called was because they must taste like potatoes. He ate three before he got hip. Wisely, he never made the same assumption about butterflies, fruit flies or mealworms.

There were also a good number of resident lizards living in the woods. I can still remember moving a troop of my little plastic army men out to try and capture one of the “dinosaurs” alive.

But most of all, the woods were a treasure trove of, well … stuff. It was mostly stuff that other kids had discarded, lost, stolen, hidden, or forgotten. So whenever my brothers or I would stumble upon something, we claimed it. “Look at this candy bar I found in the woods,” the youngest brother said once, licking his chops. “And there’s still half of it left.” He went on to it greedily, but at least he brushed the potato bugs off first.

Among the other booty found in the woods:

1) Shoes. There was usually just one, but we always had hopes that a matching one would show up - or cooler yet, one with a foot still in it.

2) Pocketknives. My brothers seemed to find lots of them, but I never could. I did once find some toenail clippers - not as cool as a full-fledged knife, but still more of a weapon than fingernail clippers.

3) Magazines and books. Most often, there were just a few surviving pages, but my friend Steve once found, intact, what he called a “nudie” magazine. It turned out to be a National Geographic featuring an Amazonian tribe. Not Playboy, but still better than nothing.

4) We’d also find the occasional pack of smokes. We didn’t smoke them, but if they were the kind with filters, we’d remove those and make earplugs out of them.

One time, we found a magnifying glass. We figured it must have either belonged to a young botanist examining forest shrubbery - or a kid on an ant-burning crusade.

On another occasion, my youngest brother came running up with a piece of cloth that he had found behind a bush. It turned out to be an old diaper - an old used diaper - used in the worst of the two ways a diaper can be used. We never went near that bush again.

Eventually, saying “I found it in the woods” became our family explanation for anything we came home with. Once, my dad drove home in a brand new station wagon, and before my mom could say a word, he told her with a wink: “I found it in the woods.” I figured he’d found a lot better part of the woods than I knew about.

The woods were also a great place for kids to build forts, hideouts and imaginary cities. We had pretend stores, gas stations - and a city dump. It was actually a transfer station - my bedroom was the real dump.

And whenever we would find a dead bird, rabbit or chipmunk in the woods, we would take the deceased to our special animal cemetery. We made little headstones and crosses out of popsicle sticks and rocks. We thought about including a section for insects, but figured that would keep us way too busy.

Last week, while visiting my old hometown, I took a stroll nearby where our house once stood. In less than an hour, I found a rusty golf club, a Frisbee, two plastic army men and a very old Converse basketball shoe. Yes, just one.

But this time, I left all that stuff right where I found it. It’s there now, waiting for new kids to find - in the woods.

Pat Cashman is a writer, actor and public speaker. He can be reached at

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Opinion

Robert Whale can be reached at
If you're right, and you know it, then read this | Whale's Tales

As the poet Theodore Roethke once wrote: “In a dark time the eye begins to see…”

Robert Whale can be reached at
The key thing is what we do with our imperfections | Whale's Tales

I have said and done many things of which I am not proud. That is, I am no golden bird cheeping about human frailties from some high branch of superhuman understanding.

Robert Whale can be reached at
Grappling with the finality of an oncologist's statement | Whale's Tales

Perhaps my brain injected a bit of humor to cover the shock. But I felt the gut punch.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Legislature back in session next week | Cartoon

State lawmakers return Jan. 8 to Olympia.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Santa doesn't drive a Kia | Cartoon

Cartoon by Frank Shiers.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Salute to veterans | Cartoon by Frank Shiers

On Veterans Day, honor those who served your country.

File photo
Why you should vote in the upcoming election | Guest column

When I ask my students when the next election is, frequently they will say “November 2024” or whichever presidential year is coming up next.

Robert Whale can be reached at
Here's a column for anyone who loves their dog | Whale's Tales

It is plain to me in looking at dogs small and large that a decent share of them are exemplars of love on Earth, innocents who love unconditionally and love their chow.

Robert Whale can be reached at
Please protect your children from BS spreaders | Whale's Tales

Among the most useful things I studied in college were debate, and… Continue reading

It's time to change Kent's City Council elections to districts | Guest column

If you were asked who your city councilmembers are, would you have an answer?

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He is a former president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. Contact
Dear government: Hold your horses when regulating trucks | Brunell

Next to gasoline and diesel, natural gas also has the greatest number of refueling stations.