From Chapter 1 - Memories of Childhood

When I was a boy of 10, I had an overpowering fascination with what might be below the ground. I imagined there to be great adventure and mystery inside the Earth, and that if I kept digging and did not give up, whatever might happen, I would come out the other side. For sure, I would re-emerge from the ground in China, where people spoke a strange language, would wear different clothes and have unusual customs.

Naturally, this musing lead to hole digging. Imagine my father's puzzlement when he saw his backyard pockmarked with half dug holes resembling the craters on the moon. You see, although my resolve to dig deep was great, each time I began to dig I would get to hard, rocky ground after a foot or so and would give up to try again in a new spot in hopes of finding softer digging. At some point, my father's desire not to totally lose the beauty of the yard must have overshadowed his indulgence of his son's eccentric behavior and he put a stop to my efforts.

Undaunted, I mobilized three other boys on the block and we began what turned out to be an ambitious digging project in one of their backyards. I don't remember what it took to convince the other boys to throw in with me, but it probably didn't take much as boys will do a lot of mischief for no good reason at all. We made good progress through the clay layer and the ground was softer in this yard. The digging went on for a few days and the hole got deep, way deeper than the height of a boy. We used a bucket attached to a rope that the boy in the hole would fill up. The boys on top would haul it out and dump the soil, then lower the bucket again.

As luck would have it, some hecklers appeared and stood at the border of the property, verbally abusing us. They taunted us and threatened to wreck our project when we left on one of the days. When they were gone we carefully covered our work with sticks, leaves, and dirt in an effort to hide the hole. One of these boys did come back in the evening, fell in the hole, and broke his collarbone. At that point we were forced to fill in the hole. Thus ended my ill-starred preoccupation with hole digging.