Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bronxville Days, Part 5

Building stuff. Sleeping out. These were our responses to boredom. Sometimes we would even build stuff to sleep in. We'd find large cardboard appliance boxes, tape them together, cut windows and doors in them, attach old sheets as awnings, then drag our sleeping bags into the makeshift mansion for the night.

Although the front yard with its rose and tulip beds was off-limits to us kids, my parents allowed us to do as we pleased in our back yard, which was not visible from the street. There we dug underground forts, built huge, unfloatable rafts and assembled rockets from cardboard storage barrels. I built a shack from old doors and sheets of plywood, covered it in tar paper to keep out the rain, and painted a skull and crossbones above the entrance. An extension cord from the garage provided electricity for a light and a radio. It was the perfect clubhouse and a place to camp out at any time of year, but it didn't last long.

One night in early March, four of us were spending the night in the shed. My father came out to say goodnight and told us to quiet down and not to leave the shed. But we did anyway. It was a mild night, but snow still covered the ground. We walked toward town, then climbed a hill and started lobbing snowballs toward passing cars below. The snowballs weren't having much effect, so we packed them hard and added gravel. One of the missiles scored a direct hit on a driver's-side door, and the car braked to a stop. We ran laughing back into the woods for a few minutes, then emerged again and resumed our assault.

Suddenly, something grabbed the collar of my coat, and I was yanked to my feet. The driver had stopped his car, then circled around and crept up into the woods and caught Jimmy Paulus and I by the scruff of our necks. The other two kids took off like startled fawns. The man dragged us down the hill and put us into the backseat of his Rambler station wagon, along with his own wide-eyed, terrified children. He made us tell him where we lived, then drove us to our houses, called out our parents and told them what we'd done.

The punishment I received was severe and wide-ranging. I was forced to rat out my fleet-footed friends. I was deprived of allowance and television and sleeping out for months. Worst of all, I was ordered to tear down the shack.

You'd think that would have been enough to teach me never to deceive my parents or do something really stupid like that again, but I was, regrettably, a slow learner.

1 comment:

Brant said...

When I was a kid, we had a big yard complete with a barn. (Even though we lived in town - the metropolis of Claysville - it wasn't unusual for people to have barns or other outbuildings on their properties.) We would "camp out" in the loft of the barn, where we stashed our smokes, chewing tobacco, nudie mags and other "contraband." We didn't smoke IN the barn. A single hot ash would have sent it up in flames in about 10 seconds. Just one problem with sleeping out there: In the dead of summer, it seemed like it was about 400 degrees in the loft. But, somehow, we had no trouble sleeping. Now, I'm so spoiled by air conditioning that if it gets about 75 in the house, I'm miserable. No pioneer spirit here.