Wilmingtonians pre-2002, this one is for you!
The Wilmington of my youth was a magical place. It was a tiny city by the sea. Southern accents were common, locals were abundant, and traffic was the worry of some distant place like Atlanta or DC.
Bands of children roamed the streets. We climbed trees, rode bicycles, and drank from water hoses.
We grew into teenagers who snuck out bedroom windows and ran wild in the night.
Today, memories of moonlit swimming sessions at Shell Island float to the surfaces of our minds. We all remember buying cigarettes from the little corner stores downtown – and Breaktime serving up beers to minors.
The clearest of those memories are probably of the Wilmington shroom field. Y’all know the one I’m talking about. It was off Military Cutoff between Eastwood and Ogden. Now it’s known as Mayfaire.
But in the time before Mayfaire, from the 1940s through 2002, it was Oak Ridge Farm. Few of us knew the farm’s name – or who owned it. Yet, all of us were familiar with it.
Teenagers from one generation to the next passed down the secrets of the field. We’d catch our parents talking about it while reminiscing with their friends – or an older cousin would whisper in our ear as we drove by.
We all knew. Out in that pasture, magic mushrooms sprouted from the cow pies the cattle left baking in the sun.
More than once, I found myself in the Wilmington shroom field. Friends giggling at my side with flashlights in hand. Those are some of my best memories – even when we crawled back to the car empty-handed, caked in mud and smelling of manure.
I’d almost forgotten about those nights until a fellow Wilmingtonian, Ellie, messaged me on Instagram.
Ellie and I got to chitchatting and realized we were about the same age. We mused how strange it was that we’d never met – and then she dropped a bomb: Ellie grew up on Oak Ridge Farm.
She shared stories of her family finding people shrooming in the pasture. Sometimes, they’d be hallucinating from eating as they picked. Kids in high school called her the “shroom queen.”
When I asked if I could write this post, she was delighted. She even sent me the above photo. The cattle are standing behind the same barbed wire fence I rolled under so many times as a teenager.
That picture makes me realize I owe her family a sincere apology. I’m sorry for the times I tagged along with someone who carried a pair of wire cutters with them – and the times people left Boone’s Farm bottles behind.
But perhaps more importantly, I want to say thank you. Thank you for the beauty that once existed on Military Cutoff. Thank you for the memories. And thank you for making hundreds, if not thousands, of Wilmingtonian’s teen years magical.