A Story ( Novel part 3)

Don’t be misled by the chapter numbers… I’ve only left out one X-rated chapter, and changed three words. Remember the prime numbers?

Pinky 7 Hooky and Other Hokum

Don’t let me leave you with the impression that our young lives were filled with days of Tuna-Tuna and other perversions. We had a lot of good clean fun, too. Take “Hooky” for example.

Hooky, loosely defined is:
1. A game of chance.
2. The act of leaving a school or workplace under false pretenses by “hook or crook.”
3. A game played on school time, out of school.
4. A state of ecstasy reached in the absence of adult supervision.
5. All of the above.

In order to play Hooky in the old days one needed the right mind-set, and a nice balmy Spring or Fall day. Let me give you an example of a particularly noteworthy experience enjoyed by Pinky, Cliffy, Freddy, and me.

The day had gotten off to a rotten start. It was 80o by 9 a.m. Neither of us could concentrate on our Bible lesson, nor did we have our homework done. Ditto for Math class.

Morning Recess however, found us with all the right conditions for a fabulous Hooky.

“Wanna play Hooky?” propositioned Pinky looking at Cliffy and me.
“Only if we leave right now before Ol’ Chromedome gets out here!” I whispered back.

With only a look of confirmation flashing between the four us, we dodged around the corner of the schoolhouse, dashed between the swings, and dove behind the privet hedge. Lumbering along on all fours we made for the teeter-totter. Mounting one end, we began the ascent to the fulcrum. We really didn’t know why, but beyond that point was a no-man’s land. To continue would bring certain “death” as the high end crashed to the ground, usually dumping us off in a mound of mangled, giggling flesh. Today was no exception as we “died” a valiant death for our country.

Quickly the portent of our mission returned, and we leaped to our feet. Checking over our shoulder for the imaginary enemy, we took off in a running crouch, dodging this way and that to avoid the machine-gun fire from the teacher/captors who wanted us back in school.

Making a spectacularly evasive move, we successfully made our getaway, and headed for Pinky’s house. We knew his Mom wouldn’t be home this time of day.

“Isn’t this great!” Pinky’s outburst was more of a statement than a question, “But what are we gonna do without our lunches?”
Then answering his own question, “Maybe we should go to your place first, it’s closer. We could make some sandwiches, and plan the day.”

We turned our steps in unison toward my house.

Some people might wonder what sixth graders could find to do all day out in the country with no TV or parks to play in. I’d say those people haven’t spent much time in the country.

On a hot day such as this, there were tar bubbles to scrape off the roadway to chew on, to blacken your teeth, to render you the appearance of an old, toothless, hunched up man. By turning up your shirt collar you could surely fool even the most observant motorist. In fact that disguise worked so well that no one stopped to ask why we weren’t in school!

About half a mile down the road, just past Roger’s house we left the pavement to blaze a new trail to my house. At first we followed an old wagon road still bearing the ruts from the earliest wagon trains headed for Oregon. After nearly 200 miles of this primitive trail we came to an Indian trail that crossed our rutted road. Turning left, we crept along for nearly two days, just minutes behind a war party. Each time we came to their abandoned campsite, we had to rush around stomping out their campfires. After all, we didn’t want our National Forests to burn to the ground!

Judging by the location of the sun directly overhead, we guessed it to be high-noon before we overtook those braves. We plundered their supplies because they had no peanut butter and jam sandwiches.

It was obvious that we were severely outnumbered. The battle was a close call. When the Braves got braver because of our plundering, we grabbed a couple of their squaws and lit out for the stockade around my place. We just barely made it with our scalps intact. We locked the squaws in the stockade and dashed into the house.

First, we had to nourish our famished bodies quickly before the vultures spotted us. Then we could creep into the root cellar to revise our getaway plans for the day.

My, but it’s easy to lapse into the freewheeling thoughts of yesteryear. I guess you can get a pretty good picture of how our imaginations ran rampant.

This day, sitting around the table munching our lunch, we decided to be Daniel Boone, King David, Davey Crockett, and his Indian friend, Chingichcook. We would set off cross-country toward Pinky’s house, which sat on the banks of Salmon Creek a days journey west of the Rocky Mountains.

In cutting across the fields past Higdon’s farm, we discovered a virtual treasure trove. There in a little ravine, was the dumping ground for several families. This was not just your usual household garbage, but real treasures! We found a silver candlestick holder that had only a small nick on one side. Pinky stuffed that under his shirt, claiming that we could melt it down into silver bars or make bullets like the Lone Ranger used. We’d be rich in no time at all. There were little colored bottles, kettles, and toys that only needed a little fixing. We left there several hours later with our pockets bulging.

We crossed several roads that would have afforded more comfortable travel, but we were seeking high adventure in low places. We dashed across another field, crossed the Continental Divide, and headed toward a line of trees that surely would be hiding a ravine worthy of our tracking skills.

We were right, but we hadn’t counted on it also hiding miles of stinging nettles that towered over our heads! Pinky discovered them first while sliding down the hillside toward a little stream at the bottom. Almost immediately his arms were on fire and itching like crazy. Then, the welts began to rise under the red patches of fire.
We sat down to reconsider our position, predicament, an
d destination. It didn’t look good for Pinky at all. While waiting for him to recuperate a little, I cut long, young willow stalks to use for spears. For some reason I began lashing out at the nettles. By striking them near the ground, they would fall like giant trees of the forest or mighty, armed knights. It was great sport, and before long Pinky, Freddy, and Cliffy had joined me in the battle.

In a moment the scene had changed and we battled for days, whacking our way to success as soldiers of fortune. It proved to be great therapy, lashing out at those mighty soldiers, then dodging them as they turned their blows on us as they plummeted to the earth in the throes of death.

With hardly a skip in our train of thought, we were baseball batting giants, Mickey Mantle, or Babe Ruth. Our willow spears became mighty bats from the dugout. By swinging low with an upward sweep we could knock a fly ball with the best of them or send our opponents sprawling to the ground.

Our adventures carried us to the bottom of the ravine where we fully expected to get a refreshing drink from a crystal clear spring. To our dismay, (if we weren’t acquainted with that word we certainly felt it) we were greeted by a swamp and skunk cabbage! The only visible water was a puddle that formed when Pinky stepped in a soft spot.

Now in the presence of undrinkable water, unquenched thirst immediately began rasping at our throats like dry corncobs. Our Scoutmaster had taught us, even as children, that if one followed a ravine downhill one could be assured of finding one of two things: water and/or civilization.

Evidently, we all thought of it at the same time. Pinky licked his finger and held it pompously above his head. “Water’s that-a-way!” he shouted, dropping his arm in a dramatic gesture toward the valley below.

“Water-r-r Ho!” I whooped, hot on his heals. We were transformed into soldiers of fortune trapped by circumstances on an African desert. We became delirious, crashing through the underbrush in a headlong dash down the ravine looking for water.
The stinging nettles whipping out at us became attacks by hostile Indians using fiery darts. Although it would be certain death if we were captured, we were forced on by our thirst. Our only hope was to outrun them.

When at last we broke into open country, we discovered we were nearly in Pinky’s backyard. Our Scoutmaster had been right after all, we had found both water and civilization.

Pinky had a really neat clubhouse in the orchard across the road from their house. Since we were not sure if his father would be home, we thought that it would be best if we went there first. The clubhouse offered a good, but private view of their house. From there we could watch for “civilization.”

Pinky’s clubhouse consisted of an abandoned chicken house on log skids. He had begged it from his uncle who owned a neighboring farm. Using his father’s Farmall tractor we had drug it over to this place in the orchard, stopping along the way to hose it out in the barnyard. We replaced the chicken wire in the windows with glass, added some furnishings from the dump. Soon we were all set with a palace of childhood privacy.

As the day wore on toward early afternoon Cliffy turned the conversation to his second favorite topic, “Wouldn’t a great big juicy hotdog taste good right now?”

Well, I wasn’t hungry yet, but considering the remoteness of the possibility of our getting one right now I replied, “Sure would!”
“We could light up the ol’ wood stove and cook’em right here.”
“Uh, huh,” I grunted.

“We could be like cowboys in a line shack. Or maybe trappers,” he was getting excited, “we’d cook our hotdogs and smoke a cigarette!”

“Yeah, and be a minor,” I chided.

He finally convinced me that it was a short walk up the hill to Bob’s Grocery. It turned out to be terribly hot along the dusty gravel road. Pinky suggested that the walk might go faster if we walked on opposite sides of the road and search for cigarette butts to be used later around our stove.

We arrived at Bob’s sometime later with our shirt pockets stuffed with butts. Thrusting his hand into his pocket, he pulled out a jackknife, 2 rubber bands, and some string. Surveying the junk brought a dumb look across his face. My look must have mirrored his as we both realized that we had just walked 2 miles without first checking to see if we had enough money for this project.

After frantically digging through our pockets we pooled enough change to get 16 franks. Sixteen big, cool dogs were wrapped fresh from the cooler by Bob himself.

“You boys have a good feed,” he called after us as we banged through the screen door of the store.

Trudging back down the road, with the sun beating mercilessly on us, we took turns holding that cool package against our bare tummies.

About halfway back Pinky allowed as how those cool dogs might make refreshing suckers.

“A meat sucker?” I groaned. But his delighted moans carried dogs to our mouths, too. They were refreshing indeed. As we sucked them they warmed up. The warmer they got the better they tasted.

“Oh, what the heck! I’m going the eat mine,” declared Pinky.
Well sir, I ate mine, too. Then I whipped out another cool one to suck on. Pinky and Cliffy followed suit, and soon another quadruplet of dogs were warm enough to eat.

One dog chased another, with skinny, hot, Pinky topping me 2 to 1. At that rate they didn’t last long at all.

We had about another 1/2 mile to go when the last of the dogs hit the pit of our guts. Then it was that the sun began to do its work of making those dogs grow and growl in their graves.

Pinky, the “mightily gorged one,” puked first. The sight, sound, and smell of his dogs coming back for an encore brought an uprising from mine. I normally never throw up, having done so only 3 times in my life. This occasion was destined to be my first. While Pinky knelt by the side of the road paying homage to the goddess of gluttons, I leaned against a Stop sign trying unsuccessfully to chase the dogs down to their proper destiny.
In the following 30 seconds to eternity, I repented many times over for even considering hooky that day. Promises flowed to the effect that if I were delivered from that experience, I’d never play hooky again.

Alas, I was delivered of my dogs anyway, and I thought I would surely die!

Needless to say, our promises during that tragic hour to never play hooky again were broken many times since, but the events of that memorable day are as clear today, over 50 years later, as though it were yesterday.

Click here for part 4