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China’s at the bottom of the well

Mama never believed for one minute that a man had walked on the moon. She would have bet her Christmas pig that the government staged the entire “moonwalk” out in the Mojave Desert and duped the country into thinking a man was taking giant steps up on the moon and the Russians into thinking the USA had beaten them in the space race.

I always thought that it was an odd thing that Mama didn’t believe a man had walked on the moon. She had once encountered a little naked, green man running across the pasture dodging cow patties with lightning-quick accuracy. An alien for sure.

We always teased her about that but she never wavered from her story.

Mama was the one who told me stories about the “booger man” in order to get me to go to sleep at night and about how Gypsies would take little girls off and their mamas would never see them again to keep me from wandering off. And, Mama said if you dug a hole deep enough, you could go all the way to China. She said that to keep me from digging up the back yard.

But that bit of information about China fascinated me. And, it made a lot of sense, too. China was on the other side of the world so it stood to reason that, if you dug deep enough, you could reach China.

The summer of our tenth year, Betty Kay and I decided that it was time for us to put that theory into practice. We mapped out a place on the backside of my grandmother’s peach orchard, got all the digging tools we needed – scoops, a hoe and “table” spoons — and drug up what remained of an old tarpaulin.

Every day, Betty Kay and I dedicated time to digging to China. It was more difficult than we had thought. The ground was hard and the sun was hot but we had to keep digging so we could get to China before school started back in the fall.

Every night, we would cover the hole with the tarpaulin and “disguise” it with weeds and bush branches. We got the know-how from Saturday picture shows where booby traps were made in the jungle to catch animals. Lions and tigers would come running through the jungle and not see the trap because it had been boobied and fall right in.

Betty Kay and I weren’t setting a booby trap. We were just disguising the hole so nobody would know that we were digging our way to China.

What we didn’t know was that Pink, who lived down the pig trail from the peach orchard, sometimes took a short cut through the orchard at night.

Pink was an old man and his eyes weren’t all that good and it was a cloudy night, so that’s how it happened that he fell into the hole to China and thought the ground had swallowed him up.

Lucky for him – and us – the hole was only about four feet deep and the tarpaulin kind of broke his fall — like he had been dropped into a sack.

Pink was a good, kind man. He didn’t tell our mamas and daddies. But he gave us a good talking to and said we’d better fill up the hole and find something better to do.

“You can’t dig to China no way,” he said. “Why child, China’s at the bottom of the well.”