Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bronxville Days, Part 2

Children do not invent bad behavior; they learn it from older kids. And we had our share of bad influences in the neighborhood.

Some of the tricks we learned were relatively harmless, like the Jar of Death. If you happened to have a really bad case of rotten-egg farts, we learned from Billy Higgins that you could capture and store one indefinitely in a tightly sealed peanut butter jar. The Jar of Death could then be taken to an appropriate event, like a birthday party, where its effect could be best appreciated.

Other stunts were downright stupid and dangerous. I knew better than to imitate two older boys who liked to stalk each other around the neighborhood with bows and arrows. The arrows had target tips but were still capable of penetrating flesh, which they did on at least one occasion, the victim proudly displaying his wound to all who would look.
I foolishly learned and practiced another stunt, though. In winter, when the streets were covered in snow and oil delivery to homes frequent, we would sneak behind a fuel truck as it was leaving a driveway and grab hold of the back bumper and slide down the street of the soles of our boots.

Older kids would visit the city and buy firecrackers in Chinatown. They'd set off whole packs of these. One day Jimmy Paulus and I found several unexploded crackers and decided to put one into a hollowed-out tree stump with some toy soldiers and light it and see what happened. We did, and ran a few yards away and waited, and nothing happened. So Jimmy went back to the stump and looked in, and that's when it exploded.
Something flew into his eye. The next day, it was still red and his vision blurry, so he had to tell his Mom. His eye was permanently damaged. He had to get glasses.

We were just 9 years old. You could say that we didn't know any better. But we did, and I'll never forget the shame, the guilt and remorse of that incident. My parents didn't punish me. They knew it wasn't necessary. A lesson was learned, and for Jimmy, it was the hard way.

1 comment:

Brant said...

There was a guy a few years older than I in high school who lost some fingers through some sort of mishap with a Roman candle. He was the subject of a cautionary tale we heard for the next few years. Remember what happened to Donnie So-and-So ... Yet, we continued to play with fireworks, blowing stuff up with M-80s and tossing firecrackers at one another.