My father had at least six or seven half brothers and sisters who were much older than him – between 20 and 40 years older than him in fact. This was because my grandfather, who I never met and who died at the age of 82 in 1962, had married twice. He was horrible to my dad and really fucked him up in a way that I could only begin to comprehend just recently, a few years after my dad passed away.
However, there was one half-brother, Taft, that my dad did have a relationship with for a number of years. Taft would have been in his 60’s when I was little and he was a very nice grandfatherly type. He lived in an area of Kelowna called Uplands Drive. Now Uplands Drive was in the section of the city where all the vineyards were located, and in the Okanagan Valley, there were many of these. Taft’s house was located on top of a hill at the end of a long winding road. His house was built on the hill so that when you went out into the back in the upper floors, you could walk out into the fields behind his property if you climbed the fence. At the basement level, there was a back yard, but it was a good 30 feet below the surface of the fields above. So there was a huge concrete retaining wall built to effectively prevent the ground from subsiding and effectively burying the back yard and every one in it.
Anyways, we loved to go exploring – me, my brother and my two cousins Marcel and Andreas. Marcel and Andreas were the sons of Taft’s daughter. We would climb the fence and just go exploring in the vineyard fields of the properties bordering Taft’s – sometimes for hours on end. Like I said earlier, the 1970’s was a very different time. Yes this was private property and we were definitely not supposed to be on it, but as long as there was no real danger, nobody really cared. If we got caught we’d be scared off the property by the owner’s most likely or taken back home by them, where they would have had a polite chat with our parents. If something happened to us while we were there my parents would never, in a million years, dream of suing the owner of the property.
This property behind the house was a large vineyard that seemed to go on for miles, but in reality, I’m sure now that it was probably only 10 acres or so. We would walk along the property towards the point where it ended in the highway that bordered it. Uplands Drive was located off this highway, so you can get some idea of what I am referring to. On the way down to highway, the property had a feature that I have never seen anywhere since: a roof protruding no more than 2 feet from the ground. Obviously, there was a subterranean building that you just couldn’t see from the ground that must have been accessible by some kind of corridor, but it was completely baffling to me, my brother, Marcel and Andreas. We came to call it the “strange roof”.
This property would be a favoured hangout spot every time we went to visit Uncle Taft and aunt Edith. One time I went exploring on the property alone with Marcel before dinner. This time we stumbled across an abandoned kid’s for that contained all kinds of interesting stuff – an old radio, pop bottles, old licence plates for cars and hockey cards. I of course was enthralled with this new find and wanted to stay and check everything out and possibly take the loot back with me. Marcel, very shortly after we got there told me that it was time to go back home for dinner. Well I didn’t want to go just yet. How could I? What with all this cool stuff to explore and check out. So I made my objections known and said that I would stay and check the stuff out. Marcel said that if I didn’t come home now the bears that frequented the field were going to come after me and would eat me if they caught me. In fact, he was going to tell the head bear about me right now and off he went.
Now, at this point I do not think I was quite 6, so my reasoning abilities had not yet fully developed, nor had my ability to judge plausibility of such outlandish claims fully developed. Also, as most of us aspies can attest to, there was a time delay between my brain hearing Marcel’s words and processing them fully. I remember that for a few minutes after Marcel had left, I continued to explore happily away until suddenly, Thud! It hit me “I was going to die! I was going to be ripped limb from limb by bears! I started to panic and cry as I ran with as much speed as my legs could muster back toward the house. The entire time, all I could think of were the bears getting closer and closer and gaining on me. Twice I tripped and fell, skinning both knees and I can remember as clearly as if it were yesterday the sheer terror that gripped me as I jumped over ditches on the property and scaled two barbed wire fences to escape the clutches of these bears. Finally after what seemed like forever and with my lungs feeling like they had been torn to shreds, I caught sight of the house. I ran with my last surge of energy toward the front basement door and pounded on the door. Marcel calmly answered and I exclaimed “quick let me in!”. He shut the door behind me and calmly said “I told him to find you, but it seems like he couldn’t.”
Another time, all of us went down past the strange roof toward the road. Across the road, we could see these two houses one of which was clearly abandoned, but the other just looked scary. There were old rusted out buses and cars on the property and even an old rusty clawfoot bathtub. We were all intrigued and had to explore what lay over there. So we all went across the road and onto the other property. It was the absolute scariest place we had been. It is hard to explain, but there was just this vibe that if anyone caught us, we would not live to tell the tale. We sensed that there was someone or something in that house. Marcel dared me to go up and knock on the front door. I reluctantly agreed.
If you have seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, you know the part in the beginning where Indiana Jones is walking in the Incan or Mayan tomb toward the golden effigy just moments before he gets ready to steal the artifact. Remember the suspense that builds as he walks along the floor and tries to avoid setting off the booby traps? Well that was exactly how I felt as I took each step toward the door – this impending sense of doom. When I reached the door, with the panes of frosted glass to the sides, and the huge brass door knocker, I just couldn’t do it. So I backed away. We eventually settled on exploring the abandoned house that was on the property and the cars and buses. It was incredible. The stuff had been there for years. The house still had overturned furniture in it and tons and tons of ivy along the floor and walls. All I could think was to wonder why it was abandoned like that.
Eventually once we were done exploring, we decided to retreat back up to the other side of the road and to watch the property from the safety of the strange roof. We sat there for what seemed like an hour and then we saw a long black car emerge from the driveway on the far side of the property. As the car pulled towards us we caught a glimpse of the driver. We saw what appeared to be a black cape lined with blood red. He was a vampire! That was our consensus as we left the property and began to walk back toward the house. We never went across the road again.