UL BANNER

3/12/2011

Eastern Boondocks: A Word About the Word

Campaign Map of the E. Boondocks



"The term boondocks refers to a remote, usually brushy rural area or to a remote city or town that is considered unsophisticated... The expression was introduced to English by American military personnel serving in the Philippines during the early years of the 20th century. It derives from the Tagalog word "bundok" meaning "mountain." According to military historian Paul Kramer, the term had attached to it "connotations of bewilderment and confusion", due to the guerrilla nature of the warfare in which the soldiers were engaged... "Bundok" as originally used by Filipinos is a colloquialism used to refer to rural areas..." 

The above is taken from the Wikipedia entry. When I was a kid I lived in rural upstate New York. It's a place my parents usually referred to as the Boondocks or the Boonies. The term has strong associations for me with my old tree-climbing days, when I would wander around the woods near our country farmhouse for hours and construct elaborate mythologies about the little places I found there. I imagined that certain parts of the woods were occupied by people who were normally invisible.

Years later when I was in high school, we would camp out about a quarter-mile into the forest that marked the far edge of our property. My friends and I would build massive bonfires and talk about girls. We'd also trade weird stories about the local Satanists (who were likely non-existent) and ghosts and other freaky things that come to mind when you're surrounded by massive pines and maple trees. 

One of the most memorable camp-outs was itself pretty uneventful. What sticks in the mind is the thing that happened the following morning, when my friend Jason and I wandered up the trail that led to an old, ruined hunting cabin. We were not very far into the woods when we both stopped short. Someone was whistling, and whoever it was did not sound too far away. We imagined it was probably one of the other guys back at the campsite. Maybe they were looking for us? So we followed the sound of the whistling. And then it stopped. We walked a bit more, and then paused to listen. The whistling began again, but from a completely different direction. It was sing-songy whistling. It had a tune, a short melody. We turned and headed toward it and kept heading out, deeper into the woods. The whistling stopped for a bit and then picked up a third time. Then a fourth. Its position was changing each time, and we never seemed to get closer to its source though we were trudging out farther into the forest all the time. Jason stopped and listened for a bit. "That's my family whistle," he said, and he repeated the tune. It did sound a lot like the noise we were following. "Maybe my dad is out here looking for me," he wondered aloud. We kept following the whistle and it continued to ping-pong through the woods. After about forty minutes, we decided to give up the chase and go back to my house. "I'll call my house when we get there," said Jason. When he called his folks' place, his dad had just come home from work. No, he hadn't been looking for him. The weird whistling was a mystery, and neither of us ever heard it again. Though other strange things happened while I lived at that house.

8 comments:

  1. Excellent map, music, and post. I'm curious: did you use mapping software of some kind to make your campaign map? It's impressive.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks, blizack! The map is a hodge-podge I put together in Photoshop. The mountains, river, and roads were part of a map that appeared in Dungeon magazine. I expanded the borders and extended things out a bit. The pine tree texture is by Jonathan Roberts who is a fantastic cartographer I have commissioned work from in the past. The marsh texture is by Robert Conley, who writes the blog Bat in the Attic and is responsible for 'The Majestic Wilderlands'. I threw the hexes and compass and other little bits on there as needed.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ah, I was afraid of that. My Photoshop skills are nonexistent. Nice work, nevertheless.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dude! You are from rural upstate New York too? Lots of weird stuff up here, eh?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yeah, Jagatai! I live in Binghamton now. I think the deep woods are weird whatever state you happen to be in. Though West VA probably takes the prize in this department.

    ReplyDelete
  6. My wife is from near Binghampton (kind of), currently we are living in Mexico, NY; which is north of Syracuse but South of Watertown, in Oswego county- pretty much straight up 81 from you. Small world isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  7. I used to live in Canastota. My ex is from that area. Went to school in Oswego. My friend George is from Mexico, NY, I believe.

    ReplyDelete
  8. No kidding! It really is a small world.

    ReplyDelete