Never underestimate a child’s imagination or determination – even a kid planning on digging a hole to China
I think I was 10 or 11 years old when my childhood friend and I saw a TV show or perhaps a Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck cartoon (I don’t recall that detail) where the characters were talking about digging a hole to China.
Afterwards, all we could think of was freshly made egg-rolls, sweet and sour chicken, fried rice and of course those delicious little fortune cookies – all made by “REAL CHINESE CHEFS”….not like the “fake” Chinese food we enjoyed from the one little Chinese take-out restaurant our small city had at the time.
Over the next few days, I think we must have talked to at least a half dozen adults, trying to determine if a hole could actually and successfully be dug to reach China.
We checked out maps, read the entire “China” section of another friend’s Encyclopedia Britannica and inspected a large world globe that was at our elementary school. But while the distance seemed far, we could see that China was in fact on the other side of the world from us and so far not one single adult had told us that it was not at all possible to dig a hole all the way to China.
That Friday before school let out for the weekend and with doubts still lingering, we happened to ask the smartest person we knew – our 5th grade teacher – if you could actually dig a hole to China. She eyed us suspiciously but just laughed and said it would be pretty hard to do but that “in theory” it was possible.
Well, that was all the assurance we needed and we started making real plans.
My mom was going away to a mountain retreat for a church conference for the weekend and I was scheduled to spend two days and nights at my friend’s house – and we figured what better time and we made up our minds that we would start digging first thing the following morning.
So, that Friday night we started gathering the basic tools we had; including a couple of shovels, a wheelbarrow, an old pick-ax, a kerosene lantern, some flashlights, rope and some other rudimentary tools our mom’s had in our garages.
As we were gathering our supplies, my friend’s mom happened to see our preparations and immediately knew we were up to something grand… something that only the mind of a child can come up with.
When she asked us what in the world we were up to we didn’t hesitate to explain we were planning on digging a hole to China.
My friend’s mom eyed us suspiciously – much like our teacher had – but when we explained our logic and reasoning she just laughed at our audacious plan and only admonished us to be careful, pack a good lunch and don’t get lost on our way there.
After her positive reaction we could barely sleep that night and our imaginations – and appetite for Chinese food – were running wild.
The next morning we were up bright and early and since my mom was gone for the weekend and my friend’s mom had already left for work and wouldn’t be back until later that evening we had my friend’s house to ourselves for the day.
So, with the sun still rising and the morning air winter-chilly, we set about digging our hole.
We first started running into problems once we hit about five to six feet deep and the sides of the hole repeatedly broke apart and we were continuously showered with dirt, which threatened to re-fill our hole as quickly as we were digging it.
The only option was to not only dig down, but to dig out as well. A few hours later our five foot diameter hole had spread first to about ten feet and then later about fifteen feet wide, which seemed to at least help in part and kept us from being buried alive.
Not wanting to take even a lunch break, we ate our soggy and dirt covered, peanut butter sandwiches at the bottom of our growing hole.
So we dug and dug and then dug some more and we kept digging downward until night was falling. Before my friend’s mom even got home for the night we were just too exhausted and it was too dark to keep safely digging, so we dragged our weary little bodies inside, cleaned up and collapsed in front of the TV and our Atari game system.
When my friend’s mom came home from work that night we all sat exhausted around the dinner table munching on delivery pizza and she asked us how our day of digging went. We told her all about our long day and all the progress we had made, but interestingly, she didn’t want to go out to check on our progress; a decision she later told officials she greatly regretted.
But that night, before the shyte hit the fan and the world came calling, she laughed at our silly stories and with little persuasion we ended up going to bed very early that night.
The following morning, with my friend’s mom gone to work again, we were up early and right back at our epic quest to visit China and enjoy all that authentic Chinese food by way of our own route.
In spite of running into and working around some big obstacles – such as two good sized pipelines that we had to dig around as well as how to get in and out of our ever-deepening pit – by the time evening rolled around and it was getting dark again, we were making excellent progress.
We were sure we would be breaking through to China any time when from the bottom of the hole we heard my friend’s mother screaming bloody murder from the back yard, high up above us.
We scrambled about ten feet across a level, horizontal arm of the hole towards the base of our route to China and looked up and out of our pit to see the wild-eyed and panicked look on my friend’s mom’s face. Unfortunately, when she saw us we wished we had already made it safety of the other side of the world.
Looking nearly thirty feet up and out of the hole, we could barely see the face of my friend’s fuming mother, but we definitely saw enough to know something was very, very wrong and she ordered us to get up and out of the hole “immediately!”
A neighbor who heard all the ruckus came over and seemed astounded at what he was seeing.
Huge, five and six foot high piles of freshly dug dirt surrounded the entire large back yard and digging equipment and other tools were scattered all over the place.
After we explained we had been digging a hole to China the neighbor was clearly incredulous and my friend’s mom was just standing there rocking back and forth looking across her once beautiful but now completely destroyed back yard, which looked like several large bombs had gone off.
The neighbor bravely and very carefully climbed down the hole; using first the ladder, then the dug-in foot and hand holds we had made when the ladder was no longer long enough, and then a length of rope to lower himself the rest of the way to the bottom – where all he could say was, “Oh my dear God, Kathy… what in the world have these little terrors done THIS time?”
Knowing she had not only known of our intention to dig a hole to China but had actually encouraged us, all my friend’s mom could do was sit there moaning, “Oh my dear God… why me God? Why me….?”
The next day we had to go back to school but we left with the admonition that the moment we got home that afternoon we would be re-filling our hole.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen quite as easily as anyone would have thought.
After we left for the day, my friend’s mom had to contact the city to come out and verify we had not damaged any underground power, phone or water lines and when we got home that Monday afternoon, we were more than a bit shocked to see burly men giving pricey estimates to repair all the damage we had managed to do.
City code enforcement, county safety inspectors, water management district officials and even the phone company were at the home as well, as were two police officers. Neighbors stood up and down the street talking in small groups and staring at all the unexpected activity and they all seemed to be watching my friend and I make the long walk of shame towards our houses.
Threats of fines and sanctions were made against my friend’s mom for allowing such a ridiculously dangerous activity in the first place and we were even told by one sour old officer with much better things to do that we might even end up in jail, a very scary threat for a couple of rambunctious ten-year-old’s.
The next day a work crew with heavy equipment had to be hired and brought in to safely and cautiously fill in the forty-some-odd foot deep by fifteen foot wide hole we had managed to dig by hand.
It took workers nearly a full week to very carefully undo all that two pre-teen boys had managed to do in just two days.
At the time, my friend and I just couldn’t seem to understand what all the fuss was about – especially considering that no less than a half-dozen adults and even our teacher had known about our plan and had even encouraged us along the way.
Of course, little could they have imagined we would have gotten so deep and come so close to that tasty, authentic Chinese food that we had looked so forward to.
Needless to say, it was a long time before our mothers let us out of their sights again.
Basically, the moral of the story for parents and adults in general is to never underestimate the determination of two bored boys, with nothing better to do than actually try to dig a hole all the way to China in their quest for a fresh egg rolls and fortune cookies.
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Trevor Montgomery, who recently moved from Riverside County to Shasta County, runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for Riverside County based newspapers Valley News, The Valley Chronicle and Anza Valley Outlook as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County.
Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident.
During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.
Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.
Trevor has been married for more than 27 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 14 grandchildren.