Three parents showed up on the day of reckoning: Lauralee Passey, Roger Davis and myself. When Roger and I arrived, Lauralee was already underground, touring the hut.

I couldn't believe how different it looked from the first time I had seen it. The open trenches had been covered. The kids explained how a second large room had been added.Lauralee's head emerged from the small opening on the far side of the hut. I had imagined she might come to the surface like a drowned gopher. On the contrary, her face was a picture of pure wonder.

"Have you seen what these kids have done?" she exclaimed. "You've got to go down there." Lauralee's stock, already high, went up another hundred points with those few words. Especially when I saw how tight the quarters were.

Just beyond the opening, the kids had rigged up a metal grid that could be locked so toddlers couldn't get in. It made for a tight passage. This juncture stopped Roger on his first attempt. It brought back too much Vietnam.

Controlling my claustrophobic instincts, I squeezed past the gate. The passage immediately opened into a large room. On one side was a fireplace with a chimney to the outside. On the other, a second tunnel beckoned to chambers further on.

Though tight, the passages were not uncomfortable. They wound about in labyrinthine fashion. At each turn, a shelf in the wall held a candle, illuminating the route ahead.

So this is what had become of the complex of trenches I had seen from ground level the week before. The kids had simply covered them with plywood and earth, creating a clever and relatively safe tunnel network. (I wouldn't want to let on that the passages seemed too safe, however, or the kids might retreat from their willingness to fill the whole thing in.) I would guess the passages, if stretched out, would extend a good 60 feet or so. Crawling through them, they seemed endless.

Suddenly, the tunnel opened into an end room, somewhat rectangular, with a makeshift table and chairs. A lighted jack-o-lantern sat in the middle of the table, illuminating several faces of kids, beaming in pride as I entered the inner sanctum.

It pained me to think we were here to tear the whole thing apart. By now, I was in such a state of amazement that I barely listened as the kids showed me around. I then wound my way back, and upon emerging to the surface, told Roger he had to go down.

Gulping once or twice, he forced himself past the grate, and for the next few minutes Lauralee and I listened to his muffled oohs and ahhs.

It was only later, however, that the full extent of our wonder matured, during the two hours it took to fill the hut in. I couldn't take my mind off the amount of work kids will go to when a vision of purpose fills their imagination. If only such energy could be bottled and released a bit at a time during Saturday morning chores. But that would be asking to much.

For the moment, I was relieved that they were excited enough about the time capsule they had prepared to memorialize the spot, that they would fill the hut back in with gestures of excitement rather than at the crack of a whip.

The time capsule itself was a 5-gallon plastic bucket with a sealed lid.

Besides personal notes and a joint letter describing the hut experience, the kids included several other items, including a 1993 junior high school paper, that day's issue of the Deseret News, a Ross Perot campaign button, Legos, coins from around the world, a horseshoe, a Batman car, a chip off the Berlin Wall, a Micro Machine, a couple of baseball cards and, from the hut itself, candles, the door lock, playing cards and play money, etc., etc.

They also made a video with comments from everybody on site. It was the last thing to go in before closing the lid.

Throughout the afternoon, there was an atmosphere of awareness, not only of what they had created in building the hut, but also of what they had created in tearing it down again. That it stayed intact was becoming not so important to them than that it had happened - a moment when neighborhood friends had touched the earth together and the realization that somewhere in the mysterious future they might touch again. That idea in itself formed a bond. They were intrigued with the thought of when they might come here again as adults and stand on this ground they had hallowed, in a time of, as yet, incomprehensible reminiscence.

That vision was enough to make the future seem real. Maybe that's what is missing in the ghettos of many children's hopelessness these days. Children need to know there is a world of wonder waiting for them beyond tomorrow.

A passage from 11-year-old Chris' letter (which he let me read and quote) says it all: "I love animals and hope the crimes stops and people stop taking drugs and that they would stop tearing down the rain forests and save the animals and save the earth because that's not what God wants."

Somehow, in the simplicity of those sentiments, the roots of a rich adulthood were beginning to take hold.