Today at 1pm, a groundbreaking was held to mark the creation of the Brighton Brickyard Trail. As seen in the comprehensive website, the Brickyard Trail will be another fine addition to the expansive and much enjoyed Brighton Town Park System. (see On a stainless steel American bald eagle in Buckland Park
Right now, the parcel of land between Elmwood and Westfall Roads–a haven for deer and wild turkey–is rarely used by people. Occasionally walking the overgrown trails, I have yet to see another human being. (Although that was not always the case.) There is some concern that the habitat of the deer and turkeys will be damaged, but the new park is designed to be as environmentally sensitive as possible.
Now coming to fruition, building walking and biking trails in “The Rockpile” has been discussed for decades.
I recently found a 2000 Brighton Pittsford-Post article written by Matt Reid featuring myself and my friend Dean Tucker. Then Town Supervisor Sandra Frankel explained possible uses for the parcel while protecting the wetlands (featured picture and below). Ever judicious, Dean declined participating in the creek jumping and log walking. He wasn’t even sure why we were in article in the first place except that we knew Matt.
As seen in the article, in 2000, the Rockpile was barely used. Matt wrote: “There are few signs if human interaction, a few beer bottles, an old rusting bike frame are the only signs humans have been there.”
I also recently looked back at an essay on the Rockpile written nine years later. “Memories of the Crab Apple Battles” Brighton-Pittsford Post 2009 (below).
Similar to Matt in 2000, I wrote: “Today , the trails are overgrown. There is hardly any trash, a few old Genny cans — a brand that isn’t even made anymore. You are much more likely to see a deer than a person.”
And yesterday, 2015, when Dean and I revisited “little Little Round Top,” there was scant evidence that people went back there at all. (Ever judicious, Dean again declined being in the pictures.)
When the Brickyard Trail is completed, no doubt I will use it often and with pleasure. I am also confident the sensitive wetlands and wild animal habitats will be protected. But part of me will miss those solitary walks only accompanied by ghosts of my boyhood and boyhoods before that.
“Memories of the Crab Apple battles” (May 2009)
The boulders — 30 or 40 of them — are still there in the wetland a few paces behind Roby Drive. Brighton Town Historian Mary Jo Lamphear speculates that developers, when digging basements and building foundations, uncovered the boulders, left behind by receding glaciers, and hauled them just out of sight of the road. If you were a boy who grew up in Brighton in the 1970s, the site was known simply as “The Rockpile.”
One curious feature of the Rockpile is that the arrangement of the boulders eerily resembles parts of the Gettysburg battlefield. Stand among them and you will feel like you are at Little Round Top made famous by Mathew B. Brady’s haunting photographs. So it was, or it seemed, only natural that the Rockpile became the staging ground for the great crabapple wars of the 1970s.
Scores of boys would gather on fall Saturdays, breaking into two armies. Lord of the Flies-like, we began pelting each other with handfuls of red and yellow crab apples. The only rule I remember was that slingshots were outlawed. One tribe would defend the Pile, while the other would attempt complicated flanking maneuvers. The creek often had to be crossed, usually on precariously placed logs that too often failed as bridges. Many returned home soaking wet; all returned home hopelessly muddy.
Sometimes our war gaming was less primitive but actually more destructive. We would build model battleships and aircraft carriers with firecrackers taped inside the hull. Gasoline was sprinkled on the decks, and the ships were set adrift in the creek. Boys lined the banks, lighting matches and throwing them at the flotilla, trying to ignite the gasoline. When ignited, the fire would eventually reach the firecrackers. One by one the carriers and battleships burned, exploded and sank. We proudly imagined we were World War II American fliers annihilating a doomed Japanese fleet.
I don’t know when the last crabapple war was — probably at least 20 years ago. Actually, the wetland area between Roby, Elmwood and Westfall is barely used for anything now. Back in the ’70s and early ’80s, older teenagers snuck into the Rockpile late at night to catch fireflies, smoke pot and drink beer. Bonfires would be lit. People tried to find the hermit who supposedly lived in a tree.
Today, the trails are overgrown. There is hardly any trash, a few old Genny cans — a brand that isn’t even made anymore. You are much more likely to see a deer than a person.
We know the sociological descriptions of the changing nature of childhood and adolescence. Young Americans are sedentary and would rather watch video games inside. Their lives are over structured and over supervised; spontaneity and free play are vanishing.
My generation was raised before the most dramatic shift in gender roles. Back then, it still seemed to be expected that male development required militaristic rites of passage
In the end, the passing of the crabapple wars and the sinking of model ships is not a tragedy. Yes, it would be better if kids spent more time outside and organized their own activities. Ultimately, however, during the crabapple battles of the 1970s, on some level we imagined that we were training to be real soldiers who might fight a real war. After all, we were taught that we still faced a mortal enemy in the Soviet Union.
Happily, that war never came. Perhaps it’s right that the deer have the Rockpile to themselves.