In the summer of 1973 when I was twelve, my family moved from Tucson, Arizona, to Sheridan, Wyoming. One day, Mother took me and my younger brother Andy to Kendrick Park to play. We spun on the merry-go-round, catapulted down the slide, and swung higher, higher, higher with the help of Mother who pushed us. I fell off the swing when it was pushed too high, and I lost my grip on the handholds. Afterward, Mother bought us ice cream at the nearby stand, a chocolate malt for me and a fire stick cone for Andy.
Across the road was a footbridge over Big Goose Creek. We crossed it and stood on the opposite bank, tossing stones in the water. Fascinated, I watched with my limited vision, as rocks soared, then spiraled down to land with a loud splash. This was something we never did in Tucson.
The next day, I got a sense of how small Sheridan was compared to Tucson when I asked Mother if we could play at the same park where we went the day before. She laughed and said, “Of course. It’s the only one there is.”
Through the years, we also enjoyed concerts at the band shell and swam in the pool. My parents and brother played tennis on the courts. As a teen-ager, I walked through the park and up the hill to the high school. When we got a male Irish setter named Clancy, we often took him for walks in the park. Sometimes, Dad drove through the park, letting Clancy run alongside the car, his ears flopping in the breeze, his red fur coat gleaming in the sunlight.
Now, both parents are gone, and my brother lives miles away with a family of his own. I still live here in Sheridan, not too far from Kendrick Park.
I still buy ice cream and attend concerts at the band shell. Instead of throwing rocks in the creek, I walk alongside it on a cement path that winds past houses, a soccer field, and a senior apartment complex. It was here that I came up with the inspiration for two poems from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver: “Ducks on the Sidewalk” and “A Spring Constitutional.”
Sheridan now has other parks. Whitney Common is nice. I walk through there from time to time on my way downtown from the YMCA or to the library. It’s a walking park with a playground, fountain, and small amphitheater.
Thorne-Rider Park has a baseball stadium where the local VFW team plays every summer. My singing group has occasionally performed the national anthem to start a game and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the fifth inning stretch. There are two or three other parks and even one for dogs, but I’ve never visited them. No other park holds the same memories that Kendrick does. What do you remember about parks in your community?