My childhood was something straight out of a Tom Sawyer novel. Western Cary in 1999 wasn’t much different than rural Missouri.
Back then, the neighborhood only had 11 houses, and our cove was an elaborate concoction of wooded forests. I remember spending my summer days with neighbors, catching crawdads in the creek that trickled through those woods.
We built forts and drew maps of our favorite landmarks – what we dubbed “the cliffs,” “the evergreens” and the “eagle’s nest.”
Four-wheeling on trails became a common pastime, and we used to dare each other to hop the fence and poke a cow in the pasture down the street. The nature that surrounded us was our personal playground and became the setting for our childhood.
My dad was known for his ongoing battle with the resident deer as he tried to protect his precious vegetable garden. By the looks of the chewed-off sunflower stalks and the munched cucumber remnants, I think it’s safe to say the deer usually emerged as the victors.
I had my dealings with local wildlife on a daily basis. We had a pool in our backyard that apparently posed as a welcome sign for unwanted critters. I can’t count the number of times my sister and I had to wrangle out snakes, frogs and even a possum or two playing dead.
Development in Cary was already a hot topic. But being in elementary school, I didn’t really think much about local politics.
Thinking back, though, I realize that I had witnessed firsthand Cary’s transformation.
It really sank in when the neighborhood kids and I had a snow day.
Granted, a snow day in North Carolina can mean a half-inch of snow, so we tried to find a big dirt hill over the creek to race down. When we crossed the frozen water, we realized that all the hills had been replaced by new neighborhoods.
Soon, shopping centers and restaurants began popping up everywhere that was once rural on my drive to school.
What used to be a strawberry farm turned into a Harris Teeter, a Christmas tree stand morphed into a commercial drug store, and the horse pasture on Davis Drive now houses a PDQ with an apartment complex across the street.
Panther Creek High School was built to accommodate all the families that were moving into the new densely populated neighborhoods.
Even the animals seemed to sense the impending growth boom and the destruction of their habitats.
When I was shopping with my mom and little brother at a Hallmark store, a crazed buck hopped through the glass window, running through the store and knocking over customers.
My dad totaled his car after a deer leaped in front of him while he was driving to the airport.
My family left for Chicago when I was a freshman in high school for my dad’s job. Last year, while I was a freshman at the University of Missouri, my family decided to move back to Cary after five years in Illinois. (I don’t think they could stand the cold anymore.)
I moved back to Cary this summer for an internship at The Cary News, and I have to say it makes me a little sad in a nostalgic sense. The rural areas that once made up my childhood have vanished, only to be replaced with strip malls and commercial shops.
I drove past my old house the other day. It was actually unintentional. I was traveling on N.C. 540 and took the exit to get to Green Level West Road. I realized the highway now passes through what used to be the forest that made up my backyard.
I do appreciate some of the growth that Cary has seen. It’s nice to have new restaurants and stores to shop at.
But at the same time, it makes me sad to think kids in Cary will miss out on opportunities I had when I was little, back when Cary still had its rural feel.
Where do we draw the line? Is it really worth sacrificing all of the rural memories of Cary that we still have left?
Taylor Wanbaugh is a rising junior at University of Missouri – Columbia. She is wrapping up a summer internship at The Cary News.