The Forest of No Return

By Guest Blogger Dianne Crilly

There were woods down the street, between my house and my best friend’s. Dad called it The Forest of No Return, which of course meant we would wander into it as often as possible. It was really just several lots of private property where no homes had yet been built. But to us, it was magic.

To enter The Forest of No Return, the bravest would crawl between pricker bushes and the rest of us would follow, though not necessarily through the same tunnel. We entered into a McGregor’s garden bursting with vegetables. I remember Dad saying, “They don’t want you stepping on their lettuce.” We never wanted to be seen, or caught!

The big kids once showed us the big wire cage at the back of the garden where They trapped trespassing kids and would leave us to starve… Or maybe, They would burn us alive inside the cage! Or, They would use an axe to chop our heads off!

We didn’t stay in the garden very long.

Leaving the garden, we walked through a line of towering white pines into a dim-lighted space maybe eight feet wide and bordered by a parallel line of more towering pines. Walls of branches stretched on forever to either side and grew into a roof over our heads. This was our space, our hideout. It was the one place we could sit out the intense heat of summer and feel cool, secret, safe.

We sat around a large tree stump and listened to the big-kid stories told in whispers… Jimmy McGinnis was caught in the garden and got trapped in the cage for days until we got him out! They shot Joe Mazzuca in the foot as he was dashing his escape!

And sometimes we just lay quietly in the dense bed of pine needles, surrounded by its weighty scents and hypnotized by distant summer sounds.

Photo by Dianne Crilly

Other times, feeling courageous, we wandered into the clearing on the other side of the towering pines. The vastness of manicured lawn inspired us to twirl with our arms extended and faces pointed to the sun. Slipping from our pine sanctuary released trills of young voices and frequently a regret that no one had brought a ball. Imagining a football field, we could run for yards, but never for long — we didn’t want to get caught! And besides, it was hot in the sun and so nice to get back to our pine den.

One day a group of us, looking for something to do, ventured to The Forest of No Return. There were no big kids around, but we were getting big ourselves and knew the way. I rode my tricycle to where the sidewalk ended two houses from home and followed the gang through the prickers. I don’t remember spending too much time admiring the garden; eventually, I wandered under the pine branches.

I found my friends and my big sister standing.

I never saw anyone do that. We either sat around our story stump or lazed upon the pine bed. But we never just stood there.

I broke my way through the crowd, wondering what was up. And there — stuck into the stump — was THE AXE.

My breath stopped. My eyes would not blink. All was quiet. Very very quiet.

green forest under white sky during daytime
This comes close to capturing the magic of that clearing. Photo by Bill White on\

Suddenly, I realized I was alone. My friends, even my sister, had run! Crying silently I couldn’t get out of there faster if I tried. Heedless of prickers, I tore home as fast as I could. It wasn’t until I terrifyingly reached my driveway that I realized my tricycle was still at The Forest of No Return.

Thinking it was lost forever, I tearfully begged my big, brave sister to retrieve it. I guess she did. I don’t remember much in my traumatized fear except Dad singing, “Those who stumble in, those who fumble in, never can get out.”

I don’t think I ever went back.

Thank you, Dianne, my dear sister, for sharing this story — better than a fairy tale! Friends, consider sharing with us a childhood memory when you lived a bit of fairy tale.

2 thoughts on “The Forest of No Return

  1. This comment is from reader Karen Troutman: “Thanks for your recent story. I had not heard the word prickers in so long. The word itself brought back great memories.”


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