Sunday, January 30, 2011

That Old Time Religion

Now, those of you who don't know me may not realize that I am a very religious man. Even amongst the dedicated Christians of the Southern United States I consider myself a devout Christian. As a result I certainly don't think of making fun of the Lord as acceptable. Nor do I like making fun of Christians or Christian ceremonies as a general rule. However, the Church is made up of people and people do funny things. I believe it is perfectly acceptable to laugh at someone who does something funny whether he's a Christian or not and whether or not he's in a church building at the time.

I mention these things because the following stories touch on that old time religion. I wanted my views known so that I wouldn't offend anyone who's religious scruples are a little more sensitive than my own. I find humor where I find it and I certainly don't intend to offend anyone. Now that I have the disclaimer out of the way we can move on the the meat of the matter.

As young men Sam, Joshua and I would often discuss things of a religious nature. More times than not these conversations led to religious mysteries that no one alive can answer. I'm sure most of you are familiar with the old “How many angles can dance on the head of a pin?” discussions. (If you aren't familiar I would suggest looking it up. It's an interesting piece of history.) We would bring up similar questions and talk about the possibilities.

Sam, like many young Christians, was obsessed with the book of Revelations. It's depictions of Armageddon, and what most people believe to be the end of the world, have fueled the fires of many a young imagination. Sam was giving vent to those fires one night as we lay on the roof of the house looking up at the stars.

It was a warm summer night and we had stayed up until after Mom and Dad had gone to bed. For whatever reason the mood struck us to head up to the roof. As we lay there looking up at the sky the conversation naturally turned to the beauty of nature and from there it was a short step for Sam to move to Revelations.

He had a flare for setting your nerves on edge while he talked about the beast and the abomination that causes desolation. We had been discussing the subject for about half an hour when I decided I wanted to take a walk. From some reason talking about the end of the world filled me with nervous energy. We all three climbed down and started out on one of our usual romps around the neighborhood. As we walked under the street lights Sam continued the discussion. He had just introduced the subject of demons when I saw two points of red light shining out of the bushes.

“One sec bro!” I whispered, interrupting Sam mid-thought.

“What it is?” He asked.

“Am I seeing things or are there two red eyes watching us from the bushes?”

Sam took a careful look and replied “No, you're not seeing things. They are there....”

“What do you think we should do?”


“AHHHH!!!!” We all three screamed together as we ran back to the house as fast as we could.

Once safely home we discussed the situation and decided that if those had been demon eyes we would have all been dead. So, there was only one thing to do: We had to arm ourselves against any animal attacks and go find the whatever-it-was. We each took something with which to fight off whatever wild animal the thing might turn out to be and headed back to where we had seen the eyes hoping to pick up the trail from there.

We returned to find the eyes still sitting there looking silently out over the night. I had seen many animal eyes in the dark before. The reflective blues, greens and reds of dogs and cats and other animals. These eyes were nothing like those. They were a deep ruby red and they glowed more brightly than any eyes I had ever seen. I was also certain that they hadn't moved an inch. They were still where they had been, almost as if they had been waiting for us to return.

The three of us stood in a tight group and slowly advanced on the unblinking eyes with our weapons at the ready. Suddenly Sam stopped, squinting ahead into the darkness. Then he burst out laughing.

“They are reflectors!” He said.

“What?” I replied.

“It's those two reflectors on the sides of that driveway back into those woods. You must have seen them a thousand times.”

Immediately I realized that he was right. I had, in fact, seen them thousands of times during daylight hours. Josh and I joined in the laughter and I blamed Sam for the whole thing. He had gotten us all worked up about the end of the world until we thought we were seeing demon eyes. It was a lesson in keeping our imaginations in check. When the end of the world comes there won't be any question, everyone will know it.

This next tale opens years before our little demon hunt. We were at church along with a number of my cousins. We would all run around in what amounted to the church parking lot after services while the adults stood around talking. We had just come out of evening services and it was dark enough that the adults who were standing on the porch of the church building couldn't see what we children were doing.

Here I need to mention the fact that we were very young at the time. I don't remember what age we were exactly, but we were young enough to think that mooning was one of the funniest things in the world. If you don't know what mooning is I have to wonder where you've been all your life. However, so there won't be any confusion, I'll tell. Mooning is the art of dropping your pants at just the right moment to make someone look at your naked butt. As I say, we were young and this was something we found very funny at the time.

Somehow the conversation turned to mooning and how funny it would be if people driving past the church building were saluted with a row of children's butts. We all agreed that it would be hysterical because of all the places you wouldn't expect to be mooned the church yard is pretty high up on the list. After a few minutes discussion we decided to do it. A row of us lined up with our backs turned to the road. The next set of headlights that came along was greeted with a number of little wagging behinds.

We did it again and again as one car after another drove by. Each time we laughed a little harder. Now, this story doesn't end with any big bang. If you have read many of my tales you may expect it to end with us begin caught or someone pulling over to find out why we were doing that, but it doesn't this time. Nothing at all happened. A number of people were mooned from the church yard one night and we children laughed until we almost cried. We never did it again. Somehow when we looked back at it the thing wasn't as funny as it had seemed before. We had outgrown it. I suppose that's the real moral. You don't always have to catch your children doing everything you don't want them to so you can stop them. Some things they will just outgrow if you give them time.

Of course, there are things that are funny no matter what age you are. I have found, for myself, one of those things is someone trying not to laugh. The moment I can tell that someone is trying to keep themselves from laughing it makes me try not to laugh myself. The result is almost always that I laugh, which makes them laugh. This only ever happens when people aren't supposed to be laughing which makes the whole situation even funnier, at least to me.

I remember once when Joshua, Sam and I were serving The Lord's Supper and Sam had to try his best not to laugh. For those of you who don't know, The Lord's Supper is something that we Christians do in remembrance of Jesus Christ. Some Christians call it the sacrament, others call it other things. We call it The Lord's Supper. It's not a particularly somber ceremony, at least to me. In a very real way it's a celebration. However, it does celebrate the last meal Christ had with the apostles before being crucified, so one does tend to turn their thoughts to the crucifixion which is a very somber subject.

In any event, The Lords Supper is a ceremony where one doesn't often hear laughter. In fact, one doesn't hear much of anything. A number of prayers are said, but other than that it is mainly silent. It was a prayer in fact that caused Sam to have to try not to laugh. Joshua was saying one of the prayers and said:

“Thank you for sending your son to be murdered for us.”

Now, that isn't really funny at all and it is something we should be thankful for. However, it's not usual in a prayer like that to use the word murdered. The normal phrases are “to die for us” or “to shed his blood” or even “to receive our stripes”. If you're not a regular church goer you probably have no idea what I'm talking about, but trust me, “to be murdered” is something you hear very rarely.

It certainly wasn't a case of Josh being wrong to put it that way, Sam just didn't expect it. As a result he started to laugh. He caught himself immediately, but I heard him make a sound like an engine about to crank. Before I knew it I was making sounds myself. I had a huge smile on my face and I was very glad that everyone's eyes were closed.

Again, Sam made a sound, no doubt in response to mine and I had to do everything I could not to snigger again. Then I head someone in the crowd do their imitation of a car that wouldn't crank and that pushed me over the edge. I laughed, but just a bit. That, of course, caused Sam to laugh. Fortunately by that time Josh had finished his prayer. He said “Amen” and was met with waves of laughter. The entire congregation burst out laughing. Everyone in the crowd had been doing their best not to laugh during the prayer. Once it was finished no one could hold back any longer. As soon as the laughter died down we had The Lord Supper as usual, but there were a few more smiles than normal.

Now, there are some people that might think it was terrible to laugh during such a serious Christian ceremony. However, I disagree. God has given us many things to be happy about and Jesus laid down his life so that we could be together forever. The Lord wants us to be happy and what we were laughing at was one another, not anything Holy. Laughter is one of the great gifts God has given to man. I think it's wrong to mock the Lord, but not to laugh when our fellow men do something unexpected or outlandish. Not all Christians see eye to eye on this. It seems to me that some of them think of Christianity as a burden rather than a gift. For myself I can't help but feel that “My soul was lifted at Calvary” and one of the things that makes my spirit soar is a good round of laughter.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bad Days For Brandyn

I've had a few bad days over the course of my life. I'm certain that most of us have. However, Brandyn Boatwright specialized in them. I've already recorded the histories of a few of his bad days. If you haven't read “Brandyn Ninja Carpenter” or “That's Gonna Leave a Mark” you may want to do so. They will help demonstrate what I mean. He often brought things on himself, but not always. The tales that follow represent a little of each side of the coin.

On the particular day of calamity in question we were all in school. Joshua and I had been put in private school shortly after I started the ninth grade. Brandyn Boatwright and Jesse Dicks quickly followed us. Since we had all been friends for years outside of school this made for a wonderful educational setting. Every day was more like going up to the clubhouse than going to school. Plus the guys at school were great and we all became close friends. Each day found us playing some sport during every one of our breaks. On this particular day tag football was the game of choice.

Now, as a general rule, tag football is one of the safest games in the world. For the two people on earth who have never heard of it I'll explain, just in case they decide to read this. Tag football is just like regular football except all the tackles are replaced by tags. That is to say you only need to touch whoever has the ball in order to “tackle” them. Now, if you are asking yourself what a “tackle” is then I can't help you. You'll have to look up some information on football. I don't have room for all that here....

In any event, we were all out playing tag football. Brandyn had gotten the ball and was flying across the field toward the end zone. I fell in behind him and ran right up on his heals. Literally. You see, I was a great deal faster than Brandyn. I had closed the distance between us in no time and was running right behind him just toying with him. My plan was to let him get within about ten yards of making a goal and then tag him. However, when I stepped on his heal it tripped me. I was so close to him that when I fell I landed right on him. The result was that I actually tackled him.

Normally this wouldn't have been a problem at all. Brandyn was as tough as nails. I had seen him take some major hits and recover without so much as batting an eye. On this particular day that was not to be the case. As Brandyn fell the ball slipped from his fingers. It hit the ground a moment before he did. He landed with his forearm laid right across it. So, when I landed right on top of him it dropped the weight of both our bodies right onto his arm which was stretched across the ball. It snapped the bones of his forearm like twigs.

To say that he screamed doesn't really convey the emotion which Brandyn displayed. He did something more than simply scream, if we have a word for it in the English language then I don't know what it is. There was the terrible sound he produced to which he added a general flailing and a kind of Curly-esk running around while laying down. (If you've never watched the Three Stooges then you don't know what I mean. Find a DVD and watch it, but only if you are male. Women seem to hate the Three Stooges for some reason...) Mrs. Lane, our teacher, tried to help him to his feet, but was met with some rather unpleasant language as she grabbed his broken arm in order to lift him up.

We finally managed to get him into a car and on his way to the hospital. The next day he showed up at school sporting his new cast. Sadly for Brandyn this was going to be another day that didn't end very well. It was the very end of the school day when things took a bad turn. As usual Brandyn brought it on himself by begin stupid.

Joshua and I would occasionally catch a ride home with one of the other guys from school. Charles Elledge had offered to give us a lift in his truck that day. Charles was a lot of fun and played music so loud that your ears would almost bleed, so we immediately accepted his invitation. If we had just ridden home with Mom or if Charles had been driving a car Brandyn might have been spared a little pain, but it was not meant to be.

Just as Charles was backing up Brandyn jumped up on his bumper, grabbed the tailgate with his good hand and began waving his broken arm above his head as if he were a cowboy riding a wild stallion. We came to a stop at the end of the driveway waiting to pull onto the road until Brandyn had hopped off. However, Brandyn just stood there waving his broken arm in the air. Charles yelled for Brandyn to get down, but Brandyn ignored him.

“What should I do?” Charles asked as he watched Brandyn in the rear view mirror.

“Drive on. He'll get down.” I said with confidence.

Charles pulled out onto the road and started getting up to speed. Brandyn continued to cling to the tailgate with his good hand and wave his bad arm in the air. We got up to ten miles an hour, then fifteen with no change in situation.

“What do think?”

“Keep going, he'll jump for it before long.”

Charles pressed the gas and we got up to twenty. Brandyn began to yell for us to let him off.

“Should I stop?”

“Nah, he had his chance. Let him jump for it or ride home with us on the bumper.”

Before the truck got to twenty five Brandyn jumped off onto the road. He hit with so much force that he rolled around on the pavement like a piece of old trash. He actually rolled off the road and down into the drainage ditch right beside our school.

“Oh my gosh! Should I stop?”

“Nah, he'll be fine. Drive on, Charlie, drive on.”

Drive on he did. The next day at school Brandyn yelled at me with everything he had in him. He had actually cracked his cast in several places from where it had slammed into the pavement. Needless to say his broken arm had not enjoyed the treatment it had gotten.

“Well, you shouldn't have hopped up there in the first place.” I said with a bit of a laugh.

“I was just playing around! You could have killed me!”

“Jumping from a vehicle that is only moving twenty five miles an hour isn't enough to kill you Brandyn. Besides, what makes you think we even saw you back there?”

“Oh, you saw me!!!!”

This discussion was met with laughter on all sides. When all was said and done Brandyn was laughing as loud as anyone. Brandyn always liked to look tough in front of the ladies. His little jump from the truck certainly made him look tough. Not very smart, but tough.

It may seem to the casual reader that we were very cruel to Brandyn. This was not the case. We were his best friends, we just liked to ruffle his feathers a bit. Had Mother Teresa been there she would have laughed along with the rest of us. Brandyn was fun to be with, but given time he would get under anybody's skin. Joshua and I were the score settlers. We made Brandyn pay the piper for all the things he did to other people. It may seem hard to believe, but Brandyn really did bring these things on himself.

It was on another day, not long after, that Brandyn annoyed Joshua and me until, yet again, he found himself in the middle of a bad day. Joshua and I were headed to the mall and then a birthday party in Aiken and Brandyn wanted to come along. By this time Brandyn was already a smoker, ever though he was a little under age. Joshua and I didn't smoke and we didn't like to be around it. Knowing that Brandyn wouldn't be able to refrain from smoking for the hours we planned to be gone we told him we wouldn't take him.

Our decision was met with pitiful pleas and assurances that he wouldn't smoke the entire time he was with us. I found this hard to believe, but figured I might as well give him the chance to prove himself. I felt that if he went without smoking that day it would be good for him anyway. A few minutes later we picked Brandyn up and a few more minutes found us all in the mall parking lot.

As soon as we got out of the car it began.

“I'm going to have a quick smoke as we walk in.” Brandyn said pulling a pack out of his pants pocket.

“No you're not. That wasn't the deal.” I said looking Brandyn in the face.

“Well, I got to have one.”

“Well, then I guess Josh and I will just have to leave you here then.”

“You wouldn't do that.”

“Wouldn't we?”

“Let him have one.” Josh said with a smile.


“I think we should let him have one. Provided... he smokes it backwards.”

“I'm not doing that!” Brandyn said indignantly.

“Suit yourself. Go without all that lovely tobacco. What do I care?” Josh replied.

“Would you let me smoke one if I smoked it backwards?” Brandyn asked me.

“Sure, I guess. It would be interesting enough to make it worth while.”

Brandyn pulled a cigarette from the pack and put it in his mouth backwards. He then lit the filter end and began to smoke. As soon as he inhaled he began to cough his lungs up. Josh stood there encouraging him to go on. Reminding him of all that excellent tobacco just one filter away. Brandyn tried his best, but I'm not sure anyone could have done it. He had smoked about half the filter when he threw it down and stamped it out.

“I can't finish it! It'll kill me!” He said as he ground the smoldering cigarette into the ground.

“Ah well, that's too bad.”

“Can I smoke one normally now.”

“A deal is a deal and you didn't smoke the filter. I'm sorry Brandy, you'll have to forgo.”

We continued into the mall with Brandyn grumbling the entire way. I know that some of you (probably smokers) are incensed by now. You would no doubt have stormed off and let me drive away. Well, in truth I would have driven away without a second thought. A deal is a deal. Brandyn was famous for making deals and then going back on them. In point of fact, I myself would let him weasel out of his agreements, I just didn't make it easy.

We wandered through the mall until we ended up in Pipe Dreams. It was a neat little store that sold a number of things that included tobacco, cigarettes and cigars. As soon as we were inside Brandyn began again.

“Hey bro, buy me a cigar.” He said as he looked over the counter.

“What?” Was me predictable reply.

“Well, they smell good. You and Josh couldn't mind my smoking one of them.”

Here Brandyn had scored a point. My Papa had smoked cigars since long before I was born and I did like the smell. Still, there was the deal to consider. Brandyn was just trying to find a way to smoke. However, in all deals there is a bit of give and take. I decided that I would show Brandyn what it was like to take too much.

“I won't buy you one cigar, but I will buy you three.” I said with a smile.

“What? Well, that's generous.” He said smiling in return.

“On two conditions. First, should you smoke one of them you have to smoke all three back to back.”

“Back to back?”

“Come on bro, you can do that. It will take care of your smoking for the rest of the day.” Josh said joining in my mischief.

“What's the second condition?” Brandyn asked mulling the first over.

“We each pick one of the three. It's the only way to be fair.” I replied, my smiled broadening.

Brandyn stood there considering the offer for a few moments. He knew it was a challenge as much as anything else. At last he decided.


Brandyn selected what one might call a normal cigar. It was a Tampa Nugget or something like that. Joshua's selection was a little more exotic. It was a thin cigar perhaps nine inches long. I myself went for the fatty, as we use to call them. It was only about four inches long, but it was bigger around than my thumb. Having made our selections we checked out and were quickly on our way.

By the time we were done at the mall it was time for the birthday party. We arrived fashionably early and were mingling when Brandyn decided he needed to get his smoking over with. The party was at a bowling alley and I suppose he wanted to get his nicotine levels in a good place before we started to bowl. It wouldn't do to loose a game because he was nick-fitting.

Several of us headed outside with him to watch. It wasn't everyday that you saw someone smoke three cigars back to back. Brandyn pulled out the Tampa Nugget in front of the small crowd and lit it to the sound of cheers of approval. Everyone had heard about the deal and wanted to encourage Brandyn in his chosen feat of stupidity. He burned the first one away to ashes like a champion. He looked like a man that had been born with a cigar in his mouth. As he smothered the butt out he was met with warm approval from the crowd.

Then next smoke-able he selected was Joshua's long thin cigar. As soon as he lit it he observed aloud that it was a little harsher than he had expected, but assured us all that he would press on. As the brown cigar changed to ashy white, so did Brandyn. The color had begun to drain out of him as if he too were burning away to nothing. About half way through he began to complain.

“I'm not sure I can make it.” He said, a bit of cold sweat on his forehead.

“Nonsense! You're half way there my friend. You can't give up now, not in front of the ladies.”

Brandyn screwed up his courage and smoked on. More slowly than before, doubtless, but one breath after another left a shorter cigar behind it. Brandyn was met with cheers once again as his shaking hand snuffed the burning embers of the second cigar butt out. As the final cigar, the mighty fatty, was pulled from the bag concern spread across Brandyn's face.

“I can't get through that one, there's no way.”

“You can and will Brandyn, it's just a matter of getting started.” I said with a grin.

“No, really I can't.”

“Well, that would be to bad. Because if you don't smoke the third one then the deal is off. That means that you just smoked two of my cigars. For that I'm afraid Josh and I will have to rough you up.”

“You wouldn't do that!”

“Wouldn't we?” Josh said with a cold smile.

Here you have to understand that once again Josh and I were just giving Brandyn a bit of his own back. He was constantly aggravating people to the point where this crowd, filled with many of his best friends, felt no sympathy for him at all. The deal was the deal and he would smoke or face the consequences.

“Fine! Give it here!” He said at last.

As he lit the fatty the crowd cheered once again. Once more Brandyn followed the example of his cigar. As it burned lower and lower so did he. He smoked for a while sitting on the curb covered in a sweat cold enough to defy the summer sun that was beating down on his face. Each puff of smoke found him closer to the ground. At last Brandyn was laying on the curb with half a smoldering cigar hanging out of his mouth. With one final effort he spit it into the street.

“You guys can kill me... I'm not taking another drag...” He said slowly.

“What do you think Josh?”

“Hmmm, I call it close enough.”

The crowd went wild. Brandyn had passed the ordeal of smoke. I'm sure he would have been jumping with joy had he been able to jump at all. As it was, he had nicotine poising so bad he couldn't stand, let alone jump. In the end we had to lift him up and carry him to the car. He moaned the entire way home. Still, there was no permanent damage done. The next day he was back to his old self and smoking as much as ever. I had hoped the experience would kill his love of tobacco, but no such luck.

It may seem that we were a cruel lot, but we weren't honestly. Brandyn dished it out plenty of times, these stories are simply centered on when he had to take it. I suppose that is the moral of the story. Don't dish it out if you can't take it and don't buy three cigars if you can't smoke em.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Jim and I

Here I have recorded a few more stories concerning Jim Melvin and myself. If you haven't read any of my previous tales about him I would suggest you take a look at “Fireworks Battle” or “Knight on a charging Schwinn” for a little bit of background. Of course, you can feel free to press on without it. Jim was a simple character to understand and it's easy to laugh at him with absolutely no background information at all.

For those of you who may not know it, I was just a little obsessed with gold and treasure when I was a child. I was constantly on the look out for hidden rooms or a secret map that was going to pave my way to riches. When I was four or five I got a book about divers bringing up sunken treasure. I would flip through the pages imagining myself in a diving suite picking up golden coins by the handful. The book actually had maps in both the front and back covers and I used to wonder if the people that made the book had printed those maps as a clue.

My mind turned toward hidden treasure and lost gold at every opportunity. When I was around nine years old I got another book. It was about rocks and geological processes. One of the pictures in it showed a rock being melted and turning into what looked like gold. What that page was actually about was super heated rock and lava and other geothermic transformations. However, to my nine year old mind it was a clue to hidden gold.

Having connected the dots in my mind I grabbed the book and headed for Jim's house. As soon as we were alone in his room I pulled out the book and began to explain.

“I've found something out!” I said as I flipped through the book looking for the right page.

“What is it?”

“It's a kind of rock that when it melts it turns to gold!”

“No way!”

“Then explain that!” I said triumphantly pointing to the picture of the melting rock.

“It does seem to be gold doesn't it!” Jim replied, getting almost as excited as myself.

Here I have to point out that neither Jim nor myself bothered to read what the book had to say about these rocks. Both of us were excellent readers and could have read the entire book in a matter of minutes, but that would have been of no use. We were looking for secrets. People don't just write secrets in a book and then publish them for the world to see. No! You have to learn to read between the lines. In this case a picture was worth a thousand of those in between words and what those words all said was GOLD!

“I have seen rocks like that before.” Jim said after a few moments.

“You have? Where!”

“In the swamp.”

“Can we reach them?”

“We can, but it won't be easy.”

Within a few minutes we had gathered our supplies and headed for the swamp. In truth, it was a few hundred acres of woodland right beside Jim's house. It did contain a few acres of swampland out in the middle of it, but it wasn't truly a swamp. We spent hours wandering in the woods as Jim tried to remember where he had seen those rocks.

The entire time I was filled with a nervous excitement. I was finally close. We were finally going to be rich. As soon as we found those rocks we could load them up, carry them home and melt them down into gold. As the hours passed I wasn't the least bit discouraged. However, Jim began to get tired and started complaining that he wanted to go home.

“What? We are practically rich and you want to give up?” I said with disbelief.

“Well, we can't find them.”

“They are here! We will find them! We just have to keep looking.”

“They aren't here...”


“I have never seen rocks like those.”

“Then why did you say that you had?”

“I felt certain we would find some in the swamp and I wanted you to come with me.”

“You could have just told me that!”


With that we headed home. At the time I wasn't sure that Jim wasn't lying about lying just so I would let him go home without fighting about it. As a grown man I realize that the volcanic rocks displayed in that picture are fairly rare in South Carolina. In any event, my dreams had been dashed for the moment. Jim didn't know where to find the secret rocks. Still, our friendship was too strong to be setback by anything as small as that. We had fun wandering around the swamp whether or not we found any gold.

Often times I ended up having more fun than Jim did in the end. My next tale, which opens years later at Wonderful Williston Weekend, is another example of that. Most small towns in South Carolina have some weekend celebration where the carnival comes to town. There are always a number rides to enjoy. There are the classics like the Merry-Go-Round and the Ferris Wheel and there's usually one that you've never heard of before. The last carnival I went to had something called the Zipper. It's hard to describe, but it scared one of my daughters so bad that she broke down crying after she got off.

One of my personal favorites was something called the Tilt-A-Whirl. If you've never ridden in one you've missed out. It consists of a number of free spinning cars attached to a platform going around and around and up and down. The result is that the cars spin at a variable rate in a variable direction. There is also a stationary wheel in the center of each car that the riders can grab hold of in order to slow or speed up the spinning of the car. Joshua and I only used that wheel in order to speed things up. We love to increase the g-forces.

In fact, as grown men we invented our own ride at some park. We had taken all the children in the family to a birthday party and, as usual, I was looking for something to do with myself while the children played. In the end I ended up sitting on a Merry-Go-Round while my brother, several of our friends, my Dad and a couple of Uncles stood around it in a circle spinning it as fast as they could. We each took a turn and all ended up very sore the next day. It was worth it. We always loved that spinning sensation.

In any event, that night we had been on the Tilt-A-Whirl a few times, but there was always room for more. Josh and I ran into Jim and we decided to run around together. After a brief discussion we decided to hit the Tilt-A-Whirl up again as soon as Jim had finished his second hotdog of the night. I didn't mind waiting because he was already half finished. He gulped the remainder down and in a flash we were all sitting together in one of the cars.

The ride began to move slowly picking us up to the top of the first little hill. We all three grabbed the wheel and waited for the first spin to start. Between the three of us we could apply a fair amount of muscle and we all intended to give it everything we had. As soon as the car began to move down the first hill it spun just a little. That was all we needed to get things moving.

We knew what direction to pull in and helped build up the momentum of the car. We fought to keep the car from slowing as we went up each hill and pulled as hard as we could to speed it up each time we went down. The other children in the car with us screamed with delight. As the g-force increased I focused all my attention on the wheel in the center. There was no ride, there was no world, there was only the wheel and my only purpose in life was to pull it with every once of energy I could muster.

(Here I have to insert a bit of a warning. Jim had just had two hotdogs and then climbed on the Tilt-A-Whirl, so you can imagine where this is going. If you easily experience nausea or find it disgusting you may want to skip a few paragraphs. I'll let you know when it's all over.)

As our speed climaxed Jim yelled to me above the general noise of the ride and the screams of our fellow passengers. “I don't feel very well!” He bellowed as loudly as he could. “Maybe we should slow the car down!” I yelled in reply. Jim didn't answer me. I think he tried to, but when he opened his mouth no words came out. Sadly a column of projectile vomit did.

Due to the spinning of the car the vomit didn't fly strait through the air. Actually I guess it did from a scientific point of view. We were spinning, not the stream of vomit that was flying through the air. However, from my point of view it looked as if Jim had spouted an arched rainbow of puke that ran directly from his mouth to my brothers chest.

For what seemed like minutes Jim continued to blow chucks in an uninterrupted stream onto my brother as Josh yelled at the top of his lungs for us to stop the ride. At last it all came to an end. The ride clunked to a halt and we climbed off. Josh was literally dripping with vomit while Jim was as clean as a spring rain. Needless to say, Josh and I headed home to get him a shower and some fresh cloths. After that night we christened that ride the Tilt-A-Hurl and we've called it that every since.

(It's over now. You can safely pick the story back up from here.)

On another occasion, not too distant in time from that night, Jim and I stood at the end of my parents driveway waiting for cars to come by. I had shown Jim that you could put alcohol on your hand and light it on fire without burning yourself. In truth, it may have been that he had showed me. It's been too long to remember which one of us first ran up on the fact, but I know for certain I was the one who came up with a use for it.

In case you don't know about this scientific oddity I'll briefly explain. If you pour rubbing alcohol on your bare skin you can ignite it without getting burned. As the alcohol burns away the process of evaporation will actually draw heat out of you. The fire will, in fact, cool you. There is an art to it and I am not recommending that any of you try it, but it does work.

That night we had gotten a bottle of Sea Breeze, which is a teenage skin care product that has a very high alcohol content. Jim poured a little on his hand and lit it on fire. As it burned away I got a brilliant idea. It was that idea that led Jim and I down to the end of the driveway.

As soon as a car came into view Jim would pour Sea Breeze all over his thumb. As soon as his thumb was sufficiently covered I lit it on fire. Jim used his flaming digit to try to thumb rides from passing cars. We stood there laughing at the thought of the drivers as they looked out of the window and saw a young boy trying to catch a ride with a thumb covered in six inches of open flame.

As a grown man I am amazed that nobody stopped to ask us what we were doing. Still, if I were driving down the road late at night and saw a shadowy figure with a flaming thumb trying to hitch a ride I might just drive on as well.

As each car passed Jim would quickly shake his hand and put out the flames. It worked well time after time right up until the point where it didn't. As the last car we pulled this on drove away into the night Jim shook his thumb to put it out. This time, however, it didn't blow out. He began waving his hand wildly as he screamed out in pain. Still the thumb burned on. Finally he had the presence of mind to rub his thumb all over his jeans. That did, in fact, extinguish his pore hand.

That was enough for both of us. Knowing that sometimes you might not go out kept us from lighting ourselves on fire again. We had gotten a few laughs and learned a valuable lesson. The only thing it cost us was Jim getting a tad toasted. All in all it was a success. It turned out a lot better than a lot of the things Jim and I had done together.

It's an odd fact of life that as you grow up you often grow apart. Jim and I were best friends for years on end. Then as we grew older we drifted apart. I ended up going to a different high school and then got married and each of us spun off in a totally different social circle. We're still friends, but I haven't even spoken to him for years now. Still, that's how grown up life is. The busy years fly by and some things simply get left behind. However, as long as we remember them they will always be part of our lives. That is why I make it a point to try not to forget.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Stunt Riding

In one of my earlier tales I said that I was eventually going to share a few more stories about my old motorcycle. The time has come at last for me to do that. For those of you who aren't familiar with any of my bike stories I'll give you a bit of background information. I was given a motorcycle for my twelfth or thirteenth Christmas. The first thing we did with it was learn to pop wheelies with some fairly amazing results. For years that bike was a source of fun and excitement. It is that very excitement that I hope to share with these brief tales.

Having had the motorcycle for a while we fell into a fairly regular routine of taking it out when the weather was nice and riding it around in the yard. The only problem was that we didn't really have a track. Dad kept about an acre of the yard mowed, but the rest was let go for most of the year. (He would mow it once or twice just to keep trees from growing in, but it was always covered in chest high weeds.) As we didn't have a track we would ride around the house again and again.

We had done it so much that we made a kind of soft dirt track of our own that circled the double wide. For the most part it worked out very well. It might not seem like much fun to ride in circles around the same spot for an hour at the time, but it was. All things considered it was a fairly satisfactory track. However, the amount of sand in the soil was a problem a couple of times.

Once, for instance, I was going around the house for perhaps the fortieth time when I decided to cut the turn as tightly as I could. I sped up and leaned into it as I came around the corner of the trailer. I was doing wonderfully when the back tire decided to slip in the sandy soil. The result was a sudden ninety degree turn that slapped me into the house at full speed.

On another occasion I had decided to take the turn around the house as widely as I possibly could. There was a hedge that separated Dad's property from the Buice's yard. My wide arc would bring me within a few feet of that hedge on every pass. Finally the moment came. The back tire slipped in the sand and I ran straight into the hedge. I hit with so much force that it threw me off the bike and into Mr. Buice's yard.

Needless to say, after a while, the going around in a circle wasn't enough to keep us interested. Now, it was more exciting than in sounds. If you have a motorcycle then you know what I mean and if you don't then there's no way for me to explain. Either way, in time I had gotten bored with it and wanted to do more. The more that stood out as most obvious was ramp jumping.

Most young men have a bit of the dare devil in them and none of the boys in our group were an exception to this rule. We all loved to take a chance for a bit of excitement. So, when I suggesting building a ramp for the motorcycle I was met with everything short of actual applause.

The spot we selected was by the old oak tree. That oak tree was something worth seeing. Three trees had grown together into one and it was massive. Before it was killed by lighting people would actually use “That oak tree on lake drive” as a point of reference when giving directions. That tree was in our yard and it was beside that tree that we built our ramp.

The ramp itself was a simple dirt hill affair with a piece of plywood on top. It was around three feet high and perhaps ten feet long. The location was excellent. We had room to get a perfect full speed start across the yard before we hit it. There was also enough room to stop before you ran into the hedge after you landed. Well, most of the time there was enough room for that.

The top of the ramp was perhaps forty feet from the hedge. Now, a normal jump at full speed would give you about twenty five feet of air time. So when you landed you still had fifteen feet or so to bring the bike to a full stop. Under normal circumstances that was more than enough room. However, for one jump we changed the circumstances just a bit.

Two friends of mine who rarely came over to the house showed up. Bucky Scott and his younger brother Seth. They watched us for a couple of jumps and then wanted to get in on it themselves. Seth was a little young for it and a little small, so I offered to give him a ride and take him for a jump. His extra weight right on my back tire gave me extra traction. I could tell as I got up to full speed that I was going faster than normal. When I hit the ramp I hit it with more force than I ever had before.

The result was spectacular. We shot up into the air like a low flying air craft. It was incredible. I was watching the ground fly by below me and getting ready to land. Then I noticed we were getting closer to the hedge than normal. In point of fact we were getting far too close. I began to feel like a cartoon character who is about to fall into something terrible. I wanted to grab the handlebars and pull us up a little higher, but sadly that doesn't work in real life.

We were dropping like a stone and headed strait for the hedge. I held on for dear life and prepared to crash land as best I could. The next moment we had actually shot over the hedge. The back tire touched the top of it, but only just. We landed right in Mr. Buice's yard and I slammed on the brakes. Other than leaving a long strip of torn up grass right in his front yard everything was fine. I turned the bike around and drove back into our yard to the sound of cheering.

That jump had been close to fifty feet. We tried again and again to match it, but we never got close. Seth had to leave right after the first jump, so we had to try it without him. I think that was the real problem. He was the perfect size and weigh. Either that or he was an alien and made the bike fly for the last twenty feet or so. I was young and it's hard to remember whether his finger tip was glowing or not. One way or the other, the Seth Scott jump was the greatest we ever had.

This next tale takes place years later. I was about sixteen or seventeen and Jesse Dicks had started coming over to the house for manliness training. Not that he would have called it that or even known that's why me and Josh had him over, but that was really what it was for. Not that Jesse wasn't a lot of fun to hang out with, he just needed a bit more in the manly category.

He had been very sick as a child and his mother had protected him just a bit too much. By the time he was a teenager he was perfectly capable of looking out for himself, but she hadn't realized it yet. Fortunately he had. As soon as he got over the “I'm going to die!” factor he became unstoppable. After years spent not being able to do this or that because of his health he was out to challenge himself in every possible way.

Any young man who was craving excitement after years of captivity might turn to motorcycles as a possible source of thrills. Jesse certainly did. For a long time he had been afraid to get on either my or my brother's bike. One day he decided that he had been timid long enough and decided to take one for a spin. After a little debate he decided to cut his teeth on Josh's machine.

Josh had a street bike whereas I had a dirt bike. His was also smaller and had a lower horse power than mine. When we had gotten them he was smaller than me, although by the time this story took place Josh was a little bigger than me. In any event, the point is that Josh's bike was smaller and less intimidating to Jesse. He hopped on and Josh cranked it for him. He revved it up and took off across our field. Of course, it was a street bike and wasn't meant to be used like that. We kept yelling for him to come back as he bumped up and down through the uneven un-mowed field. Finally he felt like he could use a break and headed back to where we were waiting for him.

He said that he had really enjoyed it, but that it had been a little too bumpy a ride. Josh and I explained that the reason was simply that he had taken a street bike on a cruise through a field. In the end Jesse was persuaded to hop on my bike behind me and let me take him for a real spin through the field. Jesse climbed on board, I cranked the engine and we were off.

I got up to speed fast because I wanted to give him a bit of a scare. Fear was part of Jesse's manliness training. He had to much of it, so I let a little out whenever I could. We were flying at close to top speed through chest high grass when Jesse screamed in my ear.

“Cinder blocks!”

Jesse had spotted a small pile of blocks right in our path. I dodged to one side as fast as I could and we shot past them.

“Plow!” Jesse screamed at the tops of his lungs.

I had actually already seen the upside-down disk harrow and was correcting our coarse by the time he yelled. We were leaned over because of the turn I had to make to avoid the cinder blocks and there wasn't enough distance to come to a stop. We had no choice but to dodge. If we had hit that thing at the speed we were going it might have killed us. As it was we barley missed it. I could have easily reached out and touched it with my foot.


He didn't have time to yell that final warning. As soon as we had gotten past the harrow another pile of cinder block popped into view. We hit it dead on. The result was Jesse and I flying a few feet and then landing in the field. We both got up laughing.

“What are the odds of that?” I asked brushing myself off.

“What is all that stuff doing out here?”

“I don't know. Dad was doing something with the plow months ago. We never ride in this field.”

“I can tell.”

Jesse and I decided to walk back to the house. He was finished with the motorcycles for the day. I couldn't say that I blamed him. He had gotten his start and that was enough. A little while later he headed home and I didn't see him until the next day. I had gone over to his house to pick him up and was waiting for him in the living room when his mother started a conversation with me.

“What did you and Jesse do yesterday?” She asked with a kind of “make conversation” voice.

“This and that, you know how it is.”

“I do. Did you take him out on your motorcycles?”

“Yes, Ma'am. He wanted to go for a ride. I figured why not.” I replied, beginning to grow suspicious.

“I see. Y'all had fun?”

“Yes, Ma'am.”

At this point she called for Jesse. He walked slowly into the room with a bit of wry smile on his face.

“Show him your leg.” His mother demanded.

Jesse pulled up his pants leg and revealed a nasty bruise on his shin. It was like a black line drawn on the bone. You could see where blood had run down his leg under the skin almost down to his foot.

“Jesse didn't tell me about your wreck. He didn't even limp and perhaps I would never have found out if he hadn't walked from the bathroom to his bedroom in his underwear. I understand that he is growing up and that he is old enough to decide if he wants to risk his life doing something. However, he is still my son. If something like this happens in future I want to be told. Do you boys understand?”

“Yes Ma'am!” was our immediate reply.

As we were heading out I asked Jesse what had happened.

“Well, my leg hit the disk harrow as we flew past. My genes kept me from getting cut, so I just got that nasty bruise.”

“Why didn't you say anything to me?”

“It wasn't your fault. Either way I had a good time. I wanted to make sure we could go riding again.”

That was one of the greatest moments in our friendship. Jesse had manned up, kept quiet about his pain and hidden his wound from everyone so we could go and do it again. I felt proud of him and a bit proud of myself. The manliness training was working. Over time Jesse got as good as any of us on the motorcycles. His first attempts hadn't been great, but his last ones were and that's what really counts.

I suppose motorcycles can be dangerous. There have been far too many injuries to argue with that. However, I feel that the risk is worth the gain. Those bikes brought us adventure and excitement and helped us along the road from boyhood to manhood. I have yet to get my sons a dirt bike. I think that is something that is going to have to change. Every young man needs the chance to let his daredevil out before it's time to settle down. A motorcycle is a good way to do that. At least, it was for us.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Raiders of the Lost Septic Tank

My Nana was a remarkable woman. For those of you who don't know it my Nana was my mother's mother, or maternal grandmother, if you prefer. She had been a grandmother for a while before I was ever born, so by the time I came along she had all her grandma skills honed. She was famous wherever we went to Church as the “gum giver”. It didn't matter whose child you were or whether she knew you or not. If you were a child you got gum, that's just the way it was.

She was generous to a fault. (Some people say that and don't mean it. I do. My poor Papa was always a step or two from the poor house because of all the gifts she was constantly giving.) This generosity with wealth was coupled with a general generosity with freedom. Much like Dad, Nana would let us do pretty much whatever we wanted provided that it wasn't a sin and that no one was going to get hurt. To all this she married the heart of a willing servant. She wanted to be helpful to all those around her. In fact, that is where my story begins.

We had just gotten out of Church in Allendale and Nana and Papa decided that we should all go out to eat. Usually we went to some fast food restaurant for a quick burger and fries, but on this particular Sunday they decided they wanted to go somewhere a little nicer. I can't remember the name of the place we went to, but we were all lead to a table and handed a menu.

After a few minutes the waiter came back and took our orders. He had taken long enough that Dad was a little annoyed. Well, that is to say, he talked as if he were a little annoyed. Dad is one of those funny people who starts to complain before he is really upset and will criticize you if you dare to murmur yourself. Had I said anything about the speed of the service I would have been told “Look around! You see how busy they are? These people have lives too! Give them a break!”

Still, in truth, the service was a little slow. It took a bit of time to get our drinks and when Dad and Papa had run out of coffee there was no sign of anyone coming to refill their cups. Nana had watched in silence and, although she would never have complained about the slow service, she decided something needed to be done. She got up quietly and walked over to where the coffee machine was behind the counter. She picked up the pot and filled Dad and Papa's coffee cups. She then went from table to table asking everyone if they wanted a refill on coffee. When she got back to our table Dad told her to apply for a job since she had already shown the management how ready she was to work.

As a child I never noticed how Nana waited on us hand and foot. Whenever I stayed with them I was given whatever I wanted for breakfast cooked just the way I liked it. In fact, when I got older I would go down to Nana and Papa's for breakfast sometimes during the Summer. She was never too busy for us grandchildren. I remember laying in the foldout couch-bed with Josh, Tara and Chris and listening to Nana read us bedtime stories to put us to sleep.

It's funny that the woman who would give us matches whenever we asked wouldn't let us touch the fairy tale book by ourselves. In fact there were a number of little rules that we children were never allowed to break. One was that we couldn't handle certain books without supervision. Another was that we could never go into Papa's study. One that applies to this story is that we weren't allowed to talk while Nana was reading aloud.

One night Chris decided to break that rule and start making funny comments about the stories that Nana was reading. After a little while I began to join in the fun myself. At first Nana just told us to be quiet and stop interrupting, but as we continued to disobey the situation escalated. Nana warned us that if we didn't stop she was going to get Papa out of bed. Normally that would have put a stop to us, but for some reason that night Chris and I felt we had to go on. At last Nana put the book down, got up and headed for Papa. All we could think to do was pull the covers over our heads and hope that Papa thought we were asleep.

When they walked into the room Papa asked “What is the problem?”

“These two won't be quiet and listen to the story.” Nana replied.

“You mean this one?” He asked as he hit Chris through the blankets with his belt. “And this one?” He added as he popped me as well.

“Those are the ones.”

“Well, I better not hear anymore about it tonight.”

Needless to say he didn't. Those little warning blows were enough to keep Chris and I quiet for the rest of our childhoods. We never again talked while Nana was reading aloud.

Now, what will surprise some people, having seen that Nana and Papa would spank us for things like talking out of turn, is what they didn't spank us for. I believe they used a couple of simple guiding principles. Did the child know they were wrong? Had they been warned? You can see with the previous spanking that we knew we were wrong and we had been warned. Of course, it's amazing what children don't know is wrong and no one can possibly warn them about everything. It was because of these two facts that I rarely got a spanking.

I remember one morning when Chris, Tara, Josh and I were all over at Nana and Papa's house. I was around nine, meaning Chris was thirteen or so and Tara and Josh were seven. We had decided to do a bit of exploring and had wandered over to the deserted lot right beside Papa's land. No one had lived there for years and it was overgrown with briars and tress. As we were pushing through the underbrush we stumbled upon a block of concrete that was buried in the dirt. There was only a very small corner poking out where the rain had washed the dirt away, but it was enough to fire my imagination.

I kicked some of the dirt off and felt certain that a large concrete slab was buried right at my feet. There was only one thing to do: we needed to dig it up. We walked back over to the house and asked Nana for the keys to the shed. She asked why we wanted them and we very truthfully answered that we wanted to get a few tools. Without any more questions she handed us the keys. We grabbed a couple of shovels and a sledge hammer, just in case. Having gathered what we thought we would need we returned the keys and headed straight for our concrete corner. We immediately set to work and in just a few minutes we had uncovered the large slab that I was expecting to be there.

“We need to break it open.” I said as soon as we had finished brushing the last of the dirt away.

“Why?” Tara asked.

I didn't know whether to laugh or sigh, the answer was so obvious. I decided the best course of action would be to explain in small steps.

“Well, we just found a concrete slab buried out in the middle of nowhere, right?”

“Yes, but what does that mean.”

“You have to ask yourself why someone would put a concrete slab out here.”

“Well, why would they.”

“To hide something of course!”

“To hide what?”

“Oh anything really, but probably treasure.”

“You're sure?”

“Can you come up with a better explanation?” I asked with a knowing smile.

Slowly smiles dawned on each of the three faces looking at me. My logic was perfect. It had become equally obvious to them. Someone had at some point in time buried a treasure here. They had poured a concrete slab on top of it to help hide it and protect it. Now, years later, we had stumbled upon it. It was our duty to break the slab and recover the treasure. Our parents and grandparents were about to be rich. All that stood between us and the gold was a few inches on concrete. That wasn't going to stop us for long.

We set to work with a will. The hammer fell again and again as we took turns raining blows on our inanimate adversary. At last the moment came. The slab broke and a large piece of concrete fell into the depths below. It quickly became obvious that there wasn't any treasure to be found at all. What we had discovered, in truth, turned out to be the top of an old septic tank. We had spent all our time and energy getting to something we had no interest in once we reached it.

Papa had heard all our noise, but sadly he was a bit too late to stop what we were doing. He stood staring at us, the tools and the tank with a dazed expression on his face and then hurried us all back into his yard. It was a while before he even took the time to explain what we had found and why we shouldn't have done what we did. I think he was a little overwhelmed with the moment and the freshly opened septic tank.

We didn't get spanked for that. Why? We didn't know it was wrong to go breaking up some concrete slab we found out in the woods. In addition we certainly hadn't been warned that we would be spanked if we broke open an old septic tank. However, Papa did use it as a teaching opportunity. We learned that there was no such thing as “Out in the woods.”, all land belonged to somebody. We also learned that you have to make sure you know what is inside something before you open it. All things considered we did learn our lesson, we never did anything like that again.

Nana and Papa were both wonderful grandparents. They were generous, caring and merciful. I have tried to show those qualities to my children and I hope to continue to show them when I have grandchildren. My Nana, much like my Dad, knew that you had to guide children without controlling every little thing they do. Sometimes it's best to just give them a match and then help them put out whatever fire they start with it. That is a lesson that most of our society has forgotten, but I think it is one that's important to remember.

The Trip Is Half The Fun

I don't know how many times I've heard that in my life. “The trip is half the fun.” is usually what people say when the trip has become incredibly tedious and they want you to stop complaining about it. However, I have to admit that when I was a child and Josh, Sam and I would walk up town the trip was, in fact, half the fun. A lot of things can happen right on the side of the road that will give you a good laugh. I hope that these stories will share a few of our laughs with you.

The trip from home to the video house was a couple of miles I suppose. We would make that walk perhaps three times a week during the summer. The video house rented out video games as well as movies and that was what we were after. If we could scrape together two dollars we were off to get something new to play. The time between our house and the games was filled with conversation, observation and whatever entertainment we could find on the side of the road.

We would often pick things up that we found. It gave us something to talk about if it was anything of any interest and something to throw into the woods if it wasn't. You did have to be careful what you picked up and how. Not everything everyone throws out of a car as they drive along is safe to be handled after it's landed. We found all kinds of things over the years. Beers that hadn't been opened and things like that.

One time a friend of Josh threw his false teeth out of a car window. He had taken them out while he was eating and put them in his fast food bad. When he was done he threw the bad out of the window. He eventually realized what he had done and went back for them. He found the bag but the teeth had flown out. In the end he had to get a new set. One has to wonder if kids walking along that road found his teeth. Either way, the moral is don't litter, it's just not a good idea.

The only trouble we had with roadside garbage happened just before we got home one trip. Josh saw a broken beer bottle and decided to throw it into the woods before someone got cut on it. Just as Josh reached down to grab the bottle Sam stepped on it. They timed it so well that Josh jerked on the bottle just as Sam's weight stopped it from moving. The result was that the bottle sliced right into Josh's hand. Fortunately we were able to get him home and cleaned up in no time. The cut wasn't very deep and we even took the time to dispose of the bottle properly.

We were all more careful about what we grabbed after that. Of course, Sam still managed to cause more road side problems over the years. He had a tendency not to think about things. One day we had been out playing with water balloons right before we decided to go up town. For whatever reason, Sam brought a small one with him when we headed out. He was tossing it from hand to hand and generally seemed to be waiting for something interesting to throw it at.

Before long his patience provided him with a target. An older boy he knew from school came driving down the road in his truck. Just before he passed us Sam threw the balloon right out in front him. It burst on the windshield and the driver slammed on brakes.

“Run!” Sam yelled and he flew off through the woods. Josh and I followed as best we could since we were being chased by someone we didn't know at all. I finally realized that the young man wasn't interested in us at all, he was only after Sam. However, Sam had vanished. I had no idea which way he had gone and after standing in the woods and screaming for minute or so the pursuer gave up and left.

As soon as he was out of site Sam popped up out of nowhere. It seemed a bit of an over reaction to a water balloon on the windshield, but you can never tell how people are going to react to things like that. After hanging out in the woods for a few minutes we continued our trip. We felt that where ever that boy had been going before the water balloon he was probably back on his way. We didn't intend his ill temper to keep us from renting a game.

Not much further down the road we ran into a little unexpected confrontation. Not with the driver, as you might anticipate, but with the police. It turned out that the water balloon had broken the windshield. The officer was convinced that someone had put a rock in the balloon and that Sam was covering for either Josh or myself.

I'm not sure what the officer's grounds for suspicion were, but he kept asking Sam “Who are you protecting?” while looking Joshua and I over carefully. In the end we finally convinced him that it had, in fact, been Sam that had thrown the balloon and that there was, in truth, nothing in it but water. The end result was that Sam had to pay for the windshield. It was another lesson and Sam never did anything like that again.

Of course, that's not to say that it taught Sam to consider everything he did before he did it. I mean to say that when most of us come up on some poor dead animal on the side of the road we have enough sense to avoid it. Only a very small percentage of the population at large would show any interest at all in some road kill cat that was swollen up like some disgusting Halloween balloon. However, Sam is not with the majority on that.

When he saw the unfortunate bloated creature lying there his brain flicked off and instinct kicked in. As we walked past it he kicked it with everything he had. It burst, like some sick twisted nightmare of a water balloon. However, unlike a water balloon it sprayed hot, festering, dead cat everywhere. To say that we were covered in it would be untrue, but it certainly felt like we were. A little dead cat goes a long, long way. Sam could never explain why he had kicked it. It was a bit like why the man had climbed the mountain. “Because it was there!”

All in all those trips up town and back provided us with a good deal of adventure, excitement and laughter. Life itself is a kind of trip. We all come from somewhere and we're all going somewhere. Most of us could use a little more slow down and relax. The trip really should be half the fun.