i did a quick google search of "grumpy's pit, camillius, ny" and no one, after all these years, has ever written about it. the story must've come from somewhere but that was long before the internet and the original roots of the tale have dried up.
when i was in elementary school, junior high, even high school, the words "grumpy's pit" ignited a terror in just about every classmate and neighborhood kid. i think everyone learned about it in second grade since grumpy's pit was nestled quietly next to the playground. i'm not good with distance, but you couldn't jump across it or anything. and if you were at the bottom of it, you couldn't crawl up the sides because it was too steep. but we stayed far away from the pit. we would bide our time until fourth grade when we would finally be moved from the playground at playtime to the blacktop near the gym. until then, we endured the mental torment of grumpy's pit. the story obviously was handed down from big sibling to little sibling. it was whispered during the first days of grade school. the giant, dirt pit, loomed over us. perched on top was an old decrepit back hoe leaning menacingly on its side as if it might topple into the abyss at any moment. this was the story:
a man lived in the pit. this man's name was grumpy. hence, his pit. sometimes he was disfigured. sometimes he had a son that lived with him (no doubt an embellishment to the orginal story to appeal to the younger generation). one time, it was told, grumpy came out of the pit and ran around the perimeter of the school waving a hatchet, an ax, a hammer. the bottom of the pit was a supposed soupy quick sand devouring many curious kids over the years. that's why even the really brave would never check it out. all the tales had a conspicuous lack of teacher or adult presence. any dissenters to the story, perhaps questioning why school officials would allow a hermit to live so close to the playground, would quickly be pummeled about the head in dodge ball - this was for the dissenter's own good - if grumpy ever found out of the kid's doubt the results would be worse then a dodge ball to the head. heros emerged from the playground everyday, kids that would walk through the tall weeds to within two feet of where the dirt pit began, sometimes even grabbing a fist full. i was never one of those kids. swinging on the swings at the playground even when i was in junior high and my friend caryn and i would walk from her house over to the school, still brought up uneasy feelings. in high school i went to a party at grumpy's pit (well, next to it anyway. i think i asked someone why we weren't IN the pit, where we couldn't be seen instead of at the highest point of the slope and they looked at me as if i was just born and didn't know about grumpy). a whole beer couldn't even calm me down.
probably if i went to the school today (if the pit hasn't been filled in and covered with a row of houses) i would be amazed at how small grumpy's pit actually is. and how not scary. and how it's entirely impossible for a crazy man (and his son) to live there, for chrissake. still, it's an excellent tale perpetrated by ghosts and goblins and the quiet, peaceful suburban life of seven year old kids.