As I look back at my youth, I remember the summer days seemed to hold onto the light with clenched fists much longer that it does now. But darkness would still eventually push daytime into night and that’s when the ‘Mother’s Commandments’ would take over. I think its rule #3 that said, “You’d better be in this yard when the street light comes on.” It was right behind ‘Never lie’ and ‘Never steal’ but before “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about.”
After the homework was finished, the chores of the day completed and moms and dads settled in for an evening of Gun Smoke, the kids were let loose upon the town, pretty much free to do as we wished as long as we obeyed the commandment. As twilight began to stretch across the empty streets of Wakenda small groups of children would gather into their respective cliques. The boys of our end of town, which mostly was just us brothers in one yard and the girls, again mostly sisters, would gather in another. But this hot August night had something different going on. There were some new faces in the girl’s group, a couple of friends from out of town visiting their grandparents.
As you can imagine, this was a rare occurrence and word spread quickly throughout our little village. We had to act fast to show our warrior skills. Time was of the upmost importance. We didn’t want any rival tribes from the other side of town invading our space. It started off simply enough. The boys raced each other down the length of the block. The losers, usually me since I was the youngest, followed along behind the winners as they strutted back to the starting line to begin a new race. A few races passed and it became evident that the same people were going to win every time. But this fact must have been lost on the girls because they stuck their noses in the air and turned away, uninterested in the ways of men.
It seemed we needed a new strategy. There was an old apple tree in the yard across the street. Its apples were never much good for eating but they made descent projectiles. So we chose up sides for a friendly game of ‘see if you can hit the other person with an apple and make him cry’. Kind of like dodge ball…only with small green apples.
Ah, we had their attention now. As the smell of sweat and testosterone hung heavy in the evening air, they crossed the yard to join in the games. Before long, they were throwing apples at us boys as we ran across the street and jumped into the ditch in a true display of our physical prowess.
Suddenly, my brother disappeared into the ditch and never returned. At first we yelled out to him, calling him various feminine body parts and heckled him for his lack of manly appendages. Then panic set in as he still had not climbed up from the ditch. A frantic search, found him lying in a puddle of blood at the bottom of the ditch, his knee cut open to the bone by a hidden brick. The blood was still pouring between the fingers of his hand as he clenched his knee. Our sisters all flocked to him. They ripped his shirt to make a bandage. The new girl hugged his neck and kissed his cheek.
He smiled at us as we carried him to the house. The emergency room gave him 27 stitches and he had to walk with a crutch for a month. But he had won this summer’s prize. All hail Chief David.