"My 10th Grade"
About 16 years old
Well, it was back to Appleton City for another year. The main saving grace of this was that I already had friends there, the two brothers who had the bunch of sisters. We moved back into our house which was only a few houses away from theirs. We got along quite well and visited each other several times a day, normally. And, they still had their sisters, with whom I was "quite familiar". To my consternation they had city water by now, and indoor plumbing. No more backyard baths. I was learning that life was full of disappointments. That took the edge off of having to spend another year away from Monegaw.
We also had a few arguments. Over what, I can't remember, but one day both brothers came to my house determined to beat me up. Both of them were bigger than I was, as I was a real skinny guy. I met them out in the driveway, and we set the rules for a fight. We decided that I would put a piece of wood on my shoulder, and the biggest one was to knock it off. That was to signal the start of the fight.
I got a wood chip and set it on my shoulder. He tipped it off. The instant he did, I hit him in the mouth with my fist as hard as I could! He fell over backward, blood coming from his nose. He got up and started running for his house bawling like a baby. The younger brother decided he wanted none of this, so he was right behind him. Me, I had had enough of their harassment, so I was chasing both of them. I was going to finish this fight (since I had the upper hand).
Well, their house was a "shotgun" type, the front door opened to a hall that went directly to the back door. The biggest one was in front, and running so hard, he ran right thru the screen door of the house, with his brother and me right behind him. We went thru the house, and right on out the back door. Their dad was in the back yard and stopped all three of us. We each told him our story, and he declared it was a fair fight, and that we should shake hands and be friends. Reluctantly, we did shake. And we renewed our friendship after awhile.
Dude Gets the Shock of His Life
There was an old coal strip mine to the northeast of town. It had filled with water, and was clear and nice. Several of us kids would get together and go swimming there. It took a pack of us, because we had to cross a pasture with a big bull in it, and we were afraid to cross with just one, two, or three of us. This bull was fenced in with an electric fence, which we had to either crawl under, or carefully step over to keep from getting shocked. Sometimes we accidentally got shocked, and it really hit hard!
One of the kids in our pack was named "Dude". One day, we were heading for the swimming hole, and we came to this electric fence. Several of us dared "Dude" to pee on the fence. We double dared him. He could not stand being double dared, so he did. A panther could not have let out a louder scream. He was rolling on the ground, bawling his eyes out, and we were afraid he had killed himself. No, he finally calmed down, and we went on our way, but after that Dude always gave that fence more respect. So did the rest of us.
A city block and a half to the East of my house was the MK & T railroad. Next to the railroad was a stockyard where they loaded and unloaded cattle. It had a big "L" shaped covering over a bunch of feed troughs and at night it was not unusual for railroad tramps to be sleeping in one of the feed troughs. It was covered from rain, and the hay was softer than the ground, I'm sure. (In those days, they were called "tramps", not "homeless"). They would come around during the day, knock on the back door, and ask for something to eat. My mother always fixed them a sandwich of some sort, and gave them some milk. They never hurt anyone that I ever heard about.
This stockyard roof was almost flat, and nice and long, but it was "L" shaped. However, it made a great place for us kids to use our roller skates. We did this frequently, but one day I was going around that "L", and got out on the eve of that roof. The eve was rotten, and it broke thru, sending me to the ground. That would not have been so bad, but there was a rock pile where I fell, and I lit flat on my stomach. After I got my wind back, I was hurting something awful, and went limping home. My parents took me to a doctor, they x-rayed me, and I had a bunch of broken ribs. They taped me up real tight, and I had to wear that tape for about a month or longer.
Just before it was time to take the tape off, we had a big black ice storm. We could hardly walk without slipping and falling, but for some unknown reason I thought I could ride my bike on this ice. I got out in the street and took off on the bike. I went maybe 100 feet and the bike went out from under me, the handle bar sticking up in the air, and I landed on that bar with my taped-up chest. I re-broke a bunch of those ribs, and had to wear that tape for it seemed like most of the winter. When they pulled the tape off, I think it had grown to my skin. It felt like I was being skinned. That hurt as bad as the broken ribs.
Missing the School Bus
To escape the misery of living in Appleton City, my parents would often let me spend a week or so with my cousins, Jack, Eva, Wanda, Bill, and the younger ones down on the family farm. During one of these visits, Jack and I decided we would "accidentally" miss the school bus. The bus stop was about 1/2 mile walk thru the pastures from their house. We dithered and loafed on the way to the bus stop. Alas, we did miss the bus. We went back to the house and told Uncle Leslie what had happened. He did not believe our story, so he told us, "Well, boys, you still have time to make it to school today. You will walk." "Off you go, and don't come back without going to school". It was fifteen miles to the Appleton City school, and we struck out. We wore ourselves out, and got there just in time to ride the bus back home. We never "missed" the bus again.
Stealing Prince Albert
Uncle Leslie was a smoker. He seldom went to town and when he did, he would buy cans of Prince Albert by the carton. Probably 12 in a carton. He kept his Prince Albert on top of a safe in the kitchen. Jack would have the opportunity from time to time to steal a can of Prince Albert from atop the safe from an opened carton, and we thought Uncle Leslie never knew what we were doing. One time, we were getting desperate for some Prince Albert, and there was only an unopened carton on top of the safe. Jack opened it, and got a can. We took it and went fishing in Big Monegaw Creek for the day. When we got back home that night, Uncle Leslie was waiting for us. He missed that can of Prince Albert and had noticed the opened carton. We paid dearly for that can! He had a "no discrimination" policy - both Jack and I got a good 'whuppin.
Smoking in the Barn Loft
Kids, at this age, are stupid. Jack and I were confirmed smokers at this age, against anyone's approval. So we took advantage to sneak a fast one whenever possible. If we were confined around the home place for one reason or another, it was difficult to find a place to smoke without being caught. We did find a place where we could both smoke and watch for parents or grandma at the same time. The barn loft! The barn loft full of loose, dry hay. Why we didn't burn that barn down is amazing. Talk about luck!
The Scary Place behind the Barn
Back behind the barn, about the distance of a city block, was an old graveyard. Even then, it was abandoned, with no road leading to it. It had a wrought iron fence some of the graves, and consisted of maybe eighty to a hundred graves. A lot of the headstones were in English, but a lot of them were in the German language. Some adult was in that graveyard one day and saw a bunch of snakes going down into a hole. They determined that there was a din of these snakes down there for the coming winter. Some of the men dug holes, but were afraid of the snakes. They finally dynamited that hole, and we never saw any more snakes in that area.*
*A note out of time context: Many years later I became interested in hunting for flint arrowheads and flint knives, etc., left behind by the Indians. I discovered what must have been an encampment between this old barn and the cemetery in years gone past. There is a slight knoll there, and by careful observation, I was able to find a few dozen arrowheads, some flint knives, and one good flint axe. (Which was later stolen from me.) There were indication that a very large settlement, or at least one lasting a long time, had occupied that knoll.
Bike Ride to Rockville
A while later, Jack and I were completely out of tobacco, except for some long green our grandad had grown and left hanging in a shed. We would try to use that, rolled with catalog paper, but we almost gagged when we tried that. We didn't know if it was the tobacco or the paper. It was summer time and we both had bikes. One day we got permission to ride into the town of Rockville on one pretext or another. It was eight miles one way. In Rockville we went straight to a grocery store and bought some candy, some pop, and of course a pack of cigarettes. We smoked almost all the way home - eight miles on bicycle. When we got there we probably smelled like a tobacco barn, and again we were in trouble. We had the balance of the pack confiscated.
Mid Night Snack
During one summer when I was spending time with these cousins, Jack and I were going to "camp out"in the back yard. That was fine with everyone except grandma. She insisted we let the younger cousin, Bill, camp out with us. O.K., so we gave in and let him join us. We made a tent and got all set up. After it got dark, we all three decided we would stay awake all night. To insure that, we made a pact that when the first one to went to sleep, the other two were allowed to pour cold water on him.
Naturally it was Bill, being quite a bit younger who went to sleep. It was around midnight, and Jack and I went to the well, and pumped up a bucket of nice fresh cold water. We soaked Bill. He woke up mad. He was throwing anything he could find in the dark at both Jack and I. He did find a broken fruit jar, and hit Jack on the leg. We were creating quite a racket, and woke up grandma and the other kids. She took Jack into the house, cleaned him up, and made a bandage for his leg. By now it was one or two o'clock in the morning and grandma was out-of-sorts, so to speak. She told us all to get back to bed, but Jack made the mistake of asking her, "Grandma, can we have a midnight snack". He ended up with more hurting than just his leg. And, we got no snack.