The Voodoo Hill Explorer Club

 by Donald J. Claxton

Happy Days

KIRK CARSON’s mom almost hits a man crossing Voodoo Hill as a lake effect snow storm moves inland off Lake Superior over K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan mid-January 1977. Kirk is on his way to meet ROSE MAXWELL for the Saturday matinee at the base theater showing of Freaky Friday. During the movie, Rose asks Kirk to buy her another Mountain Dew with lots of ice to ease the discomfort of the braces she had put on during Christmas vacation. While Kirk is at the concessions, the base bully, BILLY BANKS, takes Kirk’s seat. Kirk also encounters his best friend who is upset he has gone to the movies without telling his three best friends. One of the other two trip Kirk as he’s returning to his seat and he spills the Mountain Dew all over Billy. Billy beats the snot out of Kirk, giving him a concussion. But this begins a four-month romance with Rose and Kirk.

Broomstick Cowboy

Valentine’s weekend, Kirk’s father makes him shave for the first time. When Kirk’s little brother, Stephen, teases him, Kirk nicks his face; thus ends the first adolescent male blood-letting.

Dance with Me

At the Valentine’s Dance, Kirk thinks he and Rose are about to kiss for the first time. But he’s had pineapple juice in the punch. He sees his favorite teacher, Mr. Nunn, his wife, and Billy’s mom, all together as chaperones. As Kirk and Rose take to the dance floor, Kirk goes into shock is rushed to the base hospital.

Same Kind of Love

Kirk’s guy friends remain jealous of Rose and there are signs that she’s being wooed by Billy Banks. Danny, Kirk’s best friend, even makes an effort to warn him a breakup is coming but he won’t list. Kirk has taken to writing Rose poetry. The Maxwells ask Kirk along to Marquette to see the Ice Capades and Rose causes a disturbance when a man protests her and Kirk trying to move to seats that are not theirs. The police are called, and Kirk sees a side of Rose and Mrs. Maxwell he did not know was there.

I’m Not in Love

After humiliation over a science test and being called to work an algebra problem on the board, Kirk, now 14, gets the cold shoulder from Rose. She then dumps him at lunch. Immediately after leaving him at the lunch table, Danny and Kirk’s two other close friends, Mark and Lewis, approach him. Lewis, who is a big believer in Chippewa haints and not socially sensitive spills the beans. “Hey Kirk, did you hear that Rose is going to go steady with Billy Banks?”

Nobody Does It Better

After school the next day, Billy Banks and his goon Troy chase Kirk through base housing, warning him to stay away from Rose.

Afternoon Delight

To avoid them the next day, Kirk, who stayed late for a writing class, takes a trail through the woods. When he does, he stumbles upon his favorite teacher, Mr. Nunn and a woman who is not his wife having sex together in the Nunn family station wagon in the woods. Instead of reacting negatively to seeing Kirk watching them, the woman begins wooing him. Interested by scared by what he has seen, Kirk leaves with the knowledge that the woman is none other than Mrs. Col. Banks—the wife of the base wing commander and Billy Banks’ step-mom.

How Do You Do?

The next morning, Mrs. Banks is on the Carson back porch sharing coffee with Kirk’s mom when he wakes up. She begins flirting with Kirk while she’s standing at the back door talking to his mom and he’s eating his Wheaties in the dining room. She suggests that the boys all head to the Chimney Rock formation off base that day and Kirk takes the bait with his friends unaware later when they arrive.

Brick House

At Chimney Rock, Billy Banks taunts Kirk about jump from the Devil’s Ledge, fifty-five feet above the lagoon. Kirk declines but winds up encountering innuendoes from Mrs. Banks.

Star Wars Theme

Star Wars is released June 25th and Kirk, his mentor, and Mr. Nunn are there for opening night. Kirk is there for extra credit. The mentor and Mr. Nunn as fanboys, predicting that the movie will have lasting cultural appeal. Kirk’s mentor, Craig Hawkes, says that Billy is afraid on the inside and that the best thing Kirk could do is “just kick his ass.” Advice Kirk never takes and doesn’t believe.

Can’t Get It Out of My Head

A week into summer vacation, the boys are bored and tired of hearing Kirk pout about losing Rose. While walking around base housing, they come up with the idea to build a tree fort in the woods to get away from Rose and Billy. The fort is Kirk’s idea, as well as the name—as they are standing under the street sign at the corner of Voodoo Avenue and Explorer Street.

Jive Talkin’

The boys are searching in the woods on base and Marc and Danny offend Lewis, who goes storming off. However, Lewis returns as a Wendigo, a man-eating Indian spirit and scares the other three boys. When he reveals himself, he shows them he has found Billy and Troy Brown perched in a tree house overlooking a main trail they would have used and forfeited all of their wood to Billy. Upon finding this, even Lewis agrees they must build their fort off base and use another way to get there, one where

Kodachrome

The boys find the right place for the fort and while they are trying to hang their rope ladder, Marc freaks out about a bee hive in a tree across from theirs. He thinks they are killer bees from Leonard Nimoy’s show In Search Of… and he nearly falls out of the tree. The boys start hauling wood to the fort and begin building. Lewis insists on building the bottom of the flooring at least 15 feet off the ground so it’s higher than Bigfoot can jump. Something is troubling Kirk, but he doesn’t know what it is.

Take a Chance on Me

The first night the boys camp out in the woods the make the mistake of telling each other ghost stories by the campfire. They draw straws to decide who will keep watch in shifts. As Lewis steps away during his shift to pee, he sees a large hairy object standing upright and it begins to screech at him. He swears it looked like Bigfoot and it continues to screech as it runs off into the woods. The other boys hear the sounds but the only footprints they find are those of a man’s and they lead right into their camp. The boys decide they can’t tell anyone about it because no one would believe them, and those who might, wouldn’t let them come back out to the fort, especially at night.

Sundown

SAC inspectors have landed on the base and a general who is known for demoting wing commanders by sundown is leading the charge. This causes tension for the entire Carson family and shows a rift between Kirk’s father and Billy’s father as well.

Annie’s Song

Construction on the fort continues and the boys also learn new skills. Marc teaches them how to throw a knife so that it will enter blade first. Lewis also makes a bow and arrow, making the bow with string from a tennis racket. Danny, Marc and Kirk are in camp while Lewis has gone to Marquette to see the Ringling Brothers. He comes stomping back into camp to announce that Rose rode in with Billy and Col. and Mrs. Banks in a red Mustang convertible. The day she broke up with Kirk, he’d asked her to go with him and she’d said the circus was dumb. He walks off into the woods while Danny and Marc impose martial law on Lewis. Danny catches up with Kirk and they have a conversation showing he is still struggling to put her behind him.

Black and White

The boys are having lunch and sit down in poison ivy. Rather than go to the base hospital they’d rather find another solution. Lewis says that skunk oil will ease the pain, so they set a trap for a skunk. The next morning, they have caught one and attempt to sneak up on it before it sprays them. Just before they can kill it, they get doused. Kirk’s mom sends Maj. Carson for tomato juice. A neighbor gives them another recipe that will work instead.

#9 Dream

While quarantined to the basement, his brother says he still smells like a skunk, and suffering from poison ivy rash, Kirk slips into an odd dream from listening to John Lennon’s #9 Dream and sees Rose, the guys, Billy and ultimately is following Mrs. Banks into an empty unit in base housing when his mom wakes him up.

Fly Like an Eagle

Billy confronts the boys as they emerge from their bout with poison ivy and tells them he knows they’re sneaking off to a fort in the woods. He tells them they’d better tell him where it is or there will be hell to pay. They deny the fort exists. Mrs. Carson comes to the rescue and tells Billy his step-mom has been by asking for him to come home. When they do return to the fort they think someone else has been there and seek to fortify it and make it harder to find.

Half Breed

With the fort complete, they draw straws and begin initiation. Lewis must enter the cemetery in the woods at night and tie a scarf around the bronze statue of the Chippewa Indian Nanabozho. When they arrive at the gate, it is locked. Spooked, they hoist Lewis over the fence and tell him to proceed. They will climb over and join him once he has done the deed. After a long delay, he returns to get them and tells them to follow him to the center of the cemetery. When they arrive, he has tied the scarf, but they find the sign Lewis had made for the fort is also hanging from the statue. He tells them it was a funny joke, but they deny having anything to do with it. When the boys take the items down and return to the fence to climb over, Lewis discovers the lock on the gate is no longer there. The next morning, the sign over the door of the fort has been returned in place, too.

Your Love is Lifting Me Higher

Lewis comes up with Kirk’s initiation event—for him to take his trumpet and climb to the top of the base housing water tower as “Taps” is about to play at night and immediately play “Reveille” in each of the cardinal directions afterward—in his skivvies. First, he has to climb over a barbed wire fence, then climb nearly 100 feet up the water tower, play the tune, and then get back down before getting caught by the Security Police, who are pulling up as he is getting back to the ground. As he is coming down, the trumpet’s mouth piece falls out and he doesn’t have time to look for it because of the SPs. The next morning, when the boys return to the fort off base, it is sitting on Kirk’s stump next to their fire pit.

Seasons in the Sun

The third night the boys crawl into a cave on the back side of Chimney rock. It’s Marc’s initiation event and he has claustrophobia. When the boys are all in, something starts collapsing the cave and they are all trapped inside. They find the only way out is through a seam where the water from the lagoon seeps in. Kirk tries his way first and Lewis and Marc follow him out, but he has to go back for Danny. It takes some convincing to get Danny to follow. Once into the waters of the lagoon, Danny goes nuts and loses it on Kirk, towing him under. It takes Marc to separate the boys.

Looks Like We Made It

Pondering their alternatives, including shuttering the fort, the boys discuss the bad things that have happened and talk about going to the authorities. But they realize they can’t, namely because they took rope from the ski hill and Kirk’s climbing to the top of the water tower. They decide to be extra vigilant and proceed with their initiation ceremony two nights later in hopes that whatever has been bothering them will leave them alone. They hold their bridge crossing ceremony and swear their oaths to the club, which Kirk feels is binding, no matter what.

You’re So Vain

The boys return to the lagoon on the Fourth of July and explore the collapsed entrance to the cave. While the other boys jump from the lower levels of the cliff, Kirk watches a stranger climb the face. Not long after, Billy Banks arrives and begins taunting Kirk about jumping from the top. When Kirk hits the water from fifty-five feet up, the air is knocked out of him and he stays under. He is visited by a strange light while underneath and hears a strange voice in his head. The voice tells him he must make changes in his life. The voice tells him that if he will open his heart to the world love will come to his door. He argues with the voice in his head and when he surfaces, there is no source light where he has been looking. Marc rescues him from the lagoon again, this time again before he goes under the third time.

Hit the Road Jack

Kirk knows he’s in trouble with the other guys and proposes new projects to divert their attentions, but they show up already having made a decision. After divulging his plans to him, they tell him they’ve already cut a deal with Billy Banks for him to become the new leader of the club. Outraged, he gets up to leave, only to find Billy, Rose and Troy Brown at the edge of the camp.

The Air That I Breathe

Kirk finds a new place in the woods to find peace and before long, Susan Banks says she’d like to join him there. And she begins to on a regular basis.

Games People Play

Kirk laments what he feels is the silliness of Buckskin Rider Day, where the base leaders pretend a Soviet Submarine has made its way into Lake Superior and an invasion of the base by Soviet troops is imminent. He’s being required to put bikes, Big Wheels, and lawn furniture up and sees the futility in such an exercise. But his father issues a stark warning to him. “The game with the Soviets is real.”

American Pie

During a rendezvous in the woods on Aug. 16, 1977, Kirk and Susan let their emotions get the best of them. They agree that it’s time to take things to the next level and plan a tryst together inside his backyard tent for later that night. When Kirk arrives home, he hears the news that Elvis Presley has died that afternoon.

Rock Me Gently

Exhausted from the day and the anticipation, Kirk is sharing what he is doing with Susan in the tent when his Mom unzips the door and it’s obvious he was dreaming the whole thing. When he learns that it is way after the time Mrs. Banks said she’d be there and his mom has gone back inside, Kirk sneaks out of the tent and heads toward the Banks home to see if he can figure out what’s become of her.

Snowbird

From across the roadway, Kirk spies Mrs. Banks and Col. Banks inside their residence arguing from one end of the home to the other. An SP car comes racing up the street and stops in front of the house. The two SPs go up to the front porch and escort Mrs. Banks out, with one carrying a suitcase for her. Kirk moves toward the street corner and as the car leaves, moves out into the intersection hoping the car will stop so she can tell him what’s going on. As the car rolls out of view, he turns to look at the Banks home and sees the kitchen light turn off, meaning that Col. Banks probably saw him standing in the street at 1 a.m. as his wife left in the back of a security police car.

Sister Golden Hair

School has resumed, and Kirk goes to Mr. Nunn to confront him about what he witnessed in late May. Mr. Nunn plays dumb at first, but when Kirk says, “I saw you and Susan,” Mr. Nunn realizes Mrs. Banks has likely been intimate with the boy, too, and turns the tables on Kirk. He tells him if he doesn’t keep his mouth shut, he’ll make certain Kirk and Mrs. Banks get in legal trouble, not just him. Kirk’s faith in what was his favorite teacher erodes further.

How Do You Sleep?

On Dec. 6, 1977, after school, Kirk runs into Billy and the other three guys, (Troy Brown’s family was transferred to Spokane and Rose is at play practice) and there are words exchanged. A massive snow storm is coming, and, in the jabber-jawing, Kirk dares them to go stay out in the fort during the storm. Lewis takes the dare and leaves Billy in the position where he has to accept. The others clearly don’t’ want to accept, but now they’re boxed in because of Lewis’ big mouth. Here Kirk issues back to Billy, “Do the world a favor while you’re out there and die, why don’t you?” Kirk gets on his bus and rides off, not thinking another thing about it.

Making Our Dreams Come True

Even with the storm settling in early, Kirk’s mom still wants he and his brother to go to bed at their normal time, so they can be rested in case there is school the next morning. Kirk argues with her. While they are trying to go to sleep, their AM radio picks up broken Morse code. Snow plows make their way through base housing and the snow is falling heavy. Kirk tells his brother that conditions are good enough to be bad enough for there to not be school in the morning.

Let ‘Em In

On Day Two of the storm, Col. Banks and other officials, including SPs show up at the front door. When they come in, Col. Banks accuses Kirk of daring the others to kill themselves out in the storm. He also demands that Kirk tell them where they are. He says he doesn’t know where they are and that he hasn’t hung out with them in months. Col. Banks and Kirk’s father have words and Maj. Carson and Kirk are put under house arrest.

Go Your Own Way

Kirk goes to his room and reads a letter from his mentor Craig Hawks. It reminds him of his true obligation to self and to his friends, no matter how they have treated him. He resolves to go and save them and figures out how he will do so. When the plow arrives to clear their building parking lot and the men go out to move their cars in the drifts, Kirk sneaks off into the woods.

Bohemian Rhapsody

Kirk arrives at the fort, but his friends are not there. There are signs that they have been there. Kirk falls and contemplates writing an entry into his notebook entitled, All I Know About Everything. But it’s too cold.

Flight of the Gull

Kirk has a symbolic dream with him being a war eagle, Rose being a helpless rabbit, and the spy being a bear. The bear chases the rabbit to the top of a mountain and the rabbit is left with the choice of jumping or being thrashed to death. The rabbit jumps and the eagle descends

Love Will Keep Us Together

Kirk inspects the mysterious hut and finds a radio that sends Morse code, records tracking the number of alert planes on base, and then evidence his friends have been inside, including the bracelet he made for Rose in January. He is inspired that after all these months she is still wearing it. He also finds Marc’s knife and changes into dry clothes before venturing out in pursuit. He also radios for help.

Billy Don’t Be A Hero

Kirk follows the tracks in the snow to the lagoon and sees the spy lead the others to the back of Chimney Rock. It’s clear he’s going to lead them to the Devil’s Ledge and push them off, leaving them to die in the ice below. Kirk’s only chance of saving them is to scale the wall of rock and ice and surprise the spy before the can push the youngsters over. That’s when he realizes the man he saw climb the face in July was the spy. Kirk gets to the top just in time and Billy sees him at the last minute. Billy antagonizes the spy and cues Kirk to spring into action. As the spy readies to make the others jump, Kirk attacks with a knife. The Russian fires an errant shot and drops the gun, but hits Rose. Kirk and Billy unite to fight the spy. Kirk finds the weapon as the spy pulls the knife from his chest puts it to Billy’s neck. It’s then that Billy sees what’s happened to Rose. He flinches and Kirk fires still not knowing. In her final words, Rose tells Kirk and Billy to be friends. In her last breath, she confesses she never stopped loving Kirk..

Only the Good Die Young

The three-letter agency guys descend on the base and spend several days debriefing Kirk and his friends about the spy. Kirk suspects that all they’re doing is developing a CYA story to cover Col. Banks and dispensing with how a Soviet spy could sneak onto a heavily guarded SAC base.

My Sweet Lord

Mr. Nunn attempts to come clean with Kirk and announces he’s been let go by the school district. He’s also no longer living with his wife and daughter.

Photograph

After Rose’s funeral, Col. Banks shares information with Kirk he should not. From Rose’s death, the colonel’s revelations, and Kirk’s experiences, he no longer is bashful about love or hesitant about the coming of manhood.

(The audio files on this page are intended for the private use of those invited here. They may not be duplicated, edited, sold, copied, or broadcast without the written permission of Donald J. Claxton of Balch Springs, Texas.)

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