The Devil’s Door

A story about growing up in the 1950’s By Ellery Edgeley

It could never be said, we kids were ever bored, or, had nothing to do! Regardless of the fact we lived in a smallvillage in the country, some activity or interesting diversion could always be found, to entertain ourselves, and occupy our recreational time. Typical of young children, we discovered a new and very different way of having fun, spending a few hours just relaxing, and, at the same time, touring the country side. Each day, Monday through Friday, the mail had to be delivered to the surrounding rural areas of Lyn, and this particular job belonged to a man named Mr. Ladd. Early every morning he would pick up the mail from the post office at Miller’s General Store, load his truck and head out to the back areas to deliver it. During the summer holidays one of the kids, who happened to be hanging around the store, asked Mr. Ladd, if he could go along, and assist him with the mail, and he agreed. This, as it turned out would be of great help, because now, if the mail box was located on the right hand side of the road, the truck pulled over and the helper could put the mail into the box, thus saving Mr. Ladd, from having to put the truck out of gear, hold the brake, lean over and place it in himself. The truck he drove was an old dark blue 1930’s Chevrolet with a square cab designed to hold two people, and on the back it had a large platform enclosed by front and side racks, probably used at one time to haul cans of milk. Having this helper along became a daily practice. Some of the other kids found out about these little jaunts their friend was making, so they asked Mr. Ladd if it would be all right if they could come along too, and being the good soul he was agreed. It wasn’t long before word spread, and soon the back of that old truck was beginning to fill up with anywhere from six to over a dozen kids. I honestly believe, even it there had been twenty or more kids, wanting to climb aboard and ride along, Mr. Ladd would have found some way of piling every one on. And the group was not all boys. This was one activity in which boys and girls joined together and shared the fun.

Mr. Ladd usually departed from the general store around 9:30 a.m. so everyone would have to be there shortly before then. As a rue, most kids our age are not early risers and hate to get out of bed in the morning, especially during the summer holidays, but there was always a couple who would be there at 8:00 anxious to get underway. One, by one, each of us would saunter up to the gathering place, some still half asleep, and wait, as Mr. Ladd sorted his load of mail.

There was one particular chap, named Dickie, who on many a day managed to just barely make it on time. Everyone would begin yelling for him to hurry up, and he would come running down the street, still munching away on his peanut butter and toast. His hair would be uncombed, sticking straight up, and he appeared as though he had slept in his clothes all night. Just as the truck started up, Dickie would jump up onto the back with the help of many hands.

The entire rural route usually took about three hours to complete. The long duration of time it took was probably due to the fact that very road travelled was dirt, with the exception of about half a mile. On hot, dry summer days a long cloud of dust trailed the mail truck as it journeyed along with its cargo of mail and kids. Leaving the village, we headed west into the country which contained some of the most beautiful dairy farms to be seen anywhere. In their lush green pastures, large herds of Holstein cows, along with a sprinkling of Jerseys could be seen grazing, while other fields contained clover and sprouts of corn. There were fields of uncut hay and its tall strands flowed like waves in a sea of green, as gentle summer breezes blew across them. The air had what we called, “that farm smell”, a combination of hay, silage and manure. Farmers were always busy working, whether on a tractor or driving a team of horses, but sometimes if they were near the road, they would often stop and come over for a short visit with Mr. Ladd and we kids. It didn’t take long, and after a few trips, we got to know everyone on the mail route. Not all of the homes on the route belonged to farmers; countless others were owned by people who were employed in the Town of Brockville. Besides travelling by farms the route also wound its way through heavily wooded areas, and in some places ran parallel to a couple of beautiful lakes.

During those long, hot summer days, only one thing ever stopped us group of kids from making the daily trip. Rain! On these days, only a helper went. But the rest of the time, the number always varied. As the days passed, we all became closer, like a family. We’d tell stories, make up games to play, and sing all kinds of songs. Riding in the open air with the wind blowing in our faces was thrilling and refreshing. There were a couple of spots o the route, where apple trees grew next to the road, and late in the summer they would start to bear apples. Mr. Ladd would sometimes pull off to the side of the road under them, and let us pick a few to eat. At this time of year, they were still quite green so we didn’t eat that many. No one wanted to get a stomach ache or worse. Most times, we’d just use them for target practice, throwing at a tree of large boulder in a field.

As I mentioned, the mail route ran through several heavy wooded areas, and one particular road on it was called ‘The Devil’s Door’ road. Located in the Yonge Mills area about five miles west of Lyn, it derived its name from the fact that it possessed a secret doorway to the bowels of the earth, and Devil himself. A short distance from the road an entrance to a passage-way could be seen, running between towering, deep crevice, rock edges on each side. Tall trees and a heavy concentration of thick brush shrouded the entire area in darkness, giving it a frightening, foreboding look, as if to warn any curious or daring soul, they should proceed no further. Should one be foolish enough to do so, they could be in grave, perilous danger. Wild stories were abound, of individuals, who had dared fate to enter ‘The Devil’s Door’ never to be seen again. It had been said to, that young children in particular should stay far away from the area, and never, never, venture too close, because the Devil would get them, and take them back to the centre of the earth. Each morning that old mail truck full of kids, had to pass by ‘The Devil’s Door’!

Every day, as we approached and passed by, everyone on the truck would stare at that entrance in fear, and pray that the old truck wouldn’t break down or quit right there. Once by we all breathed a little easier. Sometimes as we neared the door Mr. Ladd would slow down the truck, and holler ot and ask, if anyone wanted to get off and see the Devil. There was never any response; there were no brave takers on that truck. Still we were curious. Deep down inside, we all knew we wanted to see what was hiding beyond that entrance. The question was, were we brave enough!

Finally after much deliberation, we had all decided that the time had come. We should enter ‘The Devil’s Door’! The next morning we all gathered at Miller’s General Store, excited and ready to follow through with our planned escapade. With new found courage, we asked Mr. Ladd, if he would stop at ‘The Devil’s Door’, and take us in. He paused for a few seconds, glanced around at the dozen wide eyed kids and asked. “Are you sure you want to go in there? The Devil might get all of you kids!” At the moment we were still in village and everyone was brave, so without hesitation, a chorus of voices hollered out. “We’re not afraid of the devil, we’ll go in! There’s no devil there anyway.” With a twinkle in his eyes, Mr. Ladd agreed. “OK, I’ll stop and take you in, but remember, I warned you.” Everyone piled onto the back of the old mail truck and in boisterous, wild chatter we all began saying what we’d do when we got to the door and came face to face with the devil. As we pulled away, we secretly wondered if we’d ever see the village again.

A short distance from Lyn, we began making our first mail drops. ‘The Devil’s Door’ was still about a half hours drive yet, but the closer we got the more silent everyone became. There was no more brave talk or singing. Each person was quietly wrapped up in their own thoughts. As the truck turned onto ‘Devil’s Door’ road, all the bravery suddenly seem to dissipate. Everyone’s mind went into high emotional gear, conjuring up all kinds of wild notions and scenarios, about what may lie in waiting ahead. With intent eyes, we scanned the woods, expecting at any moment now, for a red man with horns, goatee and long sharp pointed tail, to leap out and pounce on all of us defenceless children. With his three pronged spear, he would force us deep into the bowels of the earth. The old truck rounded a slight bend in the road and came to a stop. There it was! The ‘Devil’s Door’! Now, as we stood in the safety of the truck, it looked more foreboding and sinister than ever before. Mr. Ladd turned the motor off, and got out of the truck. The silence was deafening. What if it wouldn’t start up again? Maybe we should leave while there was still time. Besides, I don’t recall seeing a rural mail box here on the side of the road with the name ‘Satan’ emblazoned on it, indicating a stop. “All right, who’s coming”, Mr. Ladd invited us. For a few second, no one spoke or moved. “I’ll go” came a voice, not exactly exuding a tone of courage. One by one, individuals climbed down from the truck, until a meagre total of seven brave soles gathered beside Mr. Ladd. Four boys and three girls. “What’s the mater?”. He asked, “Doesn’t anybody else want to come?” As the rest of us cowered in the back of the truck, I said “No Thanks, I can se it fine from right here.”  No sense in chancing fate, I thought; all of those stories we heard, might just be true. I wasn’t about to be taken by the devil, down into the dark abyss of the earth, and hell below, sentenced to an eternity of stoking furnaces or worse. I was almost certain I hadn’t committed and sins recently, but then, maybe I had. Just to be on the safe side, I’d better not go. Better safe than sorry. As I looked around, it was relieving to see, that I was not the only smart person on board that truck. Or should I say, coward! Someone should stay behind anyway, in case something terrible did happen, we could go for help or let relatives know what had happened, when the others failed to return. All we could do now was watch, as Mr. Ladd, led the seven foolhardy, ‘would be’ adventures, into ‘The Devil’s Door’, and beyond. Slowly, they moved ever so carefully along the front of the towering stone walled ledge which ran up to the door and disappeared into the darkness beyond. This was probably, the last time we would ever see our friends again. We waited for what seemed an eternity. “Maybe we should holler and see if they’re OK!” someone peeped up. “No! Keep quiet! Do you want the Devil to know we’re here?” So we waited. Sitting there I knew that I had made the right decision not to go. Suddenly, screams came from somewhere deep in ‘The Devil’s Door’. Now, the screams verified I had been right. “What are we going to do?” Somebody yelled “Let’s get out of here!” All eyes were focused on the door entrance. “No. We have to wait for them.” The terrified screams continued, and before we could move someone came bolting out from the entrance. It’s always been said that boys can run faster than girls, this day proved it. For boys came blasting for dear life, out from the darkness and towards the safety of the truck and their waiting comrades. “Where’s everyone else?” Then came the three screaming girls, scrambling like the devil himself were chasing them. “What happened?” we demanded. Everyone was trembling with excitement! Still huffing and puffing to catch their breath, they quickly related their horrifying experience beyond the door way. Once they were deep inside the dark passage-way, surrounded by hugh trees, someone though they had seen what might have been the Devil himself. Mr. Ladd had seen the person or object first and warned the rest and, it was then that everyone began to scream and run for their lives and safety. “Oh no!” someone shouted. “Where’s Mr. Ladd? The Devil got him!” Now we were all doomed for sure we thought. Suddenly a relieved voice cried out. “There he comes, he’s OK! The devil didn’t get him.” Funny but Mr. Ladd didn’t seem to have the same urgency to run fro the entrance that the others did. As we watched him walk toward the truck, everyone was wishing he would hurry faster so we could get as far away from that spot as quickly as possible. “Where’d everybody go?” he asked.” I though you wanted to see the Devil and his passage-way.” No one spoke a word. We just stood in the back of the truck and stared at the entrance, waiting to see if the Devil was coming after us. As Mr. Ladd opened the door, and climbed into his truck, I could not help but notice a wide mischievous grin on his face. It was then that I began to wonder, just who the real devil might be. Much to our relief, the old mail truck fired up and slowly we crept away from “The Devil’s Door”.

We kids continued to ride along on that mail route for the rest of the summer, but every day when we passed by ‘The Devil’s Door’, everyone fell silent. To compound our fears, and apprehension, every so often, Mr. Ladd would slow down as if he were going to stop, and then ever so slowly drive on. The subject of ‘The Devil’s Door’ was never brought up again.

It had been a fun and mist unforgettable summer, but it came to an end. September meant we kids had to return to school, leaving Mr. Ladd to drive the rural mail route alone, without our help and company. In some ways it was probably a relief for him, not to have a bunch of noisy kids along, but then, being the kind of man he

Arthur and Hazel Ladd in 1940

was, I think he truly missed us. And now, the dark old blue mail truck, with its load of carefree children and our eerie, creepy visit to ‘The Devil’s Door’, are happy memories, from a time long ago.

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