The Story (Part 5)

Pinky 13 Living History

Pinky and I used to sit around dreaming about what it would be like to be grown up.
“Well, for one thing, I’m never going to have a job where I’d have to wear fancy clothes,” he’d moan. “I want to wear jeans with no underwear, shoes with no socks, and no shirt in the summer. Maybe there’d be some girls that would dress like me!”

I would start giggling at the way he would roll his eyes up under his eyelids at the thought of all those girls with no tee shirt on.

“When I get ten thousand dollars,” I would counter, “I want to go around the country giving it away, just to see the expressions on peoples faces when they get one-hundred dollar bills from a total stranger.”

“Well, when my ship comes in with my ten hundred-thousand dollar bills on board,” he would boast, “I’ll give away ten-thousand dollar bills.”

“Oh, you will not!” I protested.

“Will, too!”


“They don’t even make money that big,” said I.

“But I will, you just wait and see. I’m going to ride in a Cadillac with a pretty girl to drive me everywhere, too.”

At lunchtime one sunny day Pinky took a bunch of us guys across the street to the store. “I’m buying today, pick out anything you want.”
The four of us cruised around the isles picking out cookies, candy bars, and soda pop. My all-time favorite in those days was Sugar Daddy, an all-day caramel sucker. Under each wrapper was not only the most delicious candy (that lasted half an hour at most), but a small fold-out comic strip on waxed paper, and in small print at the bottom you could read your fortune.

We made our selections, and speculated as to how Pinky would be able to pay for all this stuff. Even if the Sugar Daddy’s were only a nickel, and the pop a dime, it would still be a lot of money for the pile of stuff we were amassing on the counter.

“Will that be everything?” asked Mr. Fleck.

“That’s it,” replied Pinky. “Charge it!” he said with an air of grandeur swelling his chest.

“Are you sure it’s O.K. with your folks?” he queried, peering over the top of his gold rimmed glasses.

“Sure is!” boasted Pinky. “Mom said I could charge lunch stuff anytime I wanted.”

Of course, I don’t think she meant for him to buy stuff for half the classroom either! But, it sure made him feel good, and rich. Maybe he really would give away ten-thousand dollar bills someday.

During the rainy season in our southwest corner of Washington State very often the ground could no longer hold all its allotment of water and it would be spewed back to the surface to run in increasingly larger rivulets to the nearest ditch only to run into increasingly larger ditches and from there to creeks and rivers. These intermediate stages of water dispersal proved to be both a challenge (to the adults) and a diversion to us kids. Places like the six-foot deep ditch in front of our house and the swale in the road to Georgie’s house were made especially for kids with creative minds.

I remember well the two weeks that it rained without stopping. Obviously these conditions had happened before, because instead of filling in the swale in the road for about one block, a wooden walkway had been constructed alongside the road. During these wet weeks the four or so families that lived at the end of the road just parked at the edge of the lake that was formed by the water collecting in the swale, and walked across the plank sidewalk. For some reason fifth and sixth grade boys had a hard time getting across without the customary games of tag, or jousting which usually ended in one or more of us getting wet.

This particular day, it was me that was wading waist deep in water. Reaching the safety of the opposite shore our gaming plans resumed in the relative dryness of Georgie’s tree house. Standing there looking out the window, Pinky and Georgie spotted his dad’s mortar box and deduced its potential about the same time. With a “Whoop!” of delight we swung down out of the tree and raced across the yard to begin its transformation into a pirate ship.

For those too young to remember what a mortar box looked like, I’ll say that the most common ones were made on the construction jobsite out of scrap materials. If the builder was in a hurry, it was just a simple rectangular box made of 2” x 12”s nailed together on edge to form a box that is 3’-4’ wide and 6’-8’ long, with a plywood bottom. If he was getting paid to make it and he wanted his work to be easier, he usually made the ends sloping. If there were sheets of metal available, he could make a really good one by rounding the ends and sheeting the bottom and wrapping it up the rounded ends. There were all-metal ones also available commercially.

Into this box the laborer, called a “hod carrier” or “hoddy,” would put the ingredients; sand, cement, and lime to make his mortar, called “mud.” Using a tool that resembled an oversized garden hoe with two large holes in it, he would chop through the dry ingredients, pulling small portions to a pile at one end, then moving to the other end of the box he repeated the procedure, switching ends several times he would have a uniform mixture. Sometimes there would be two hoddys working together, one at each end of the “mudbox” taking turns. Then water was added and blended-in the same way thereby making the “mud” for the plasterers or bricklayers.

Since this particular mudbox was a commercially made one, there was no wood in it. But we saw it still, as a pirate ship that only needed a Jolly Roger Flag. In order to get a flagpole to stand up, we dropped a couple of cement blocks in center of the ship, aligned their holes, dropped in our flagpole and packed stones into the hole around the pole and, “wa-la!,” a pirate ship was born to conquer the high seas.

The lake that formed there at Georgie’s house every Spring provided many hours of entertainment, and there was no better boat from there to the banks of Salmon Creek.

Another boat that occupied many hours of diversion was at Freddy’s place on the banks of Salmon Creek. This old cracked and leaky rowboat kept us busy caulking with Okum and hammering and gluing. When finished, Pinky volunteered, We should become the Pirates of Pissants. We can float down to the Columbia River and raid a ship bound for the high seas.”

“Hooray! Let’s do it!” we all shouted. Fetching up the pirate ship, two on each side we lugged it down to the bridge and launched it at the swimming hole.

We grounded within 100 feet in the riffles. The pirate gods were smiling on us for this event, for the salmon were running upstream. The sight of all those fine fish struggling along half out of the water.

Leaping from the boat, we wrestled it ashore and began looking for willows big enough to make spears. After a number of attempts, Freddy thought of the pitchforks. Racing for the barn, we equipped ourselves with the finest harpoons available.

Racing back to our boat we set about harpooning fish… pitching them out onto the shore where most of them managed to flop their way back into the water. The unlucky ones made it up to Freddy’s kitchen to be gutted, cooked and eaten.
With bellies full, we resumed our boat trip to the Columbia. Several hours and perhaps a quarter-mile of struggling down stream, our boat began capsizing for the last time. As it swirled around in the currant, it made a nosedive under a logjam.

Meanwhile, four pirates were fighting for their lives. From the bank we watch as our treasure ship rolled and groaned under the weight of the water. Suddenly, it split apart, and came out the other side in a dozen pieces.

Another of the imaginative games that we engaged in frequently was Cowboys and Indians.

“Everybody has played that as a child,” you’re thinking.
“Yes, but did you use your bicycle for a horse and BB guns for rifles, and willow branches for spears and for constructing bows and arrows?”

On one particularly hot day we were shooting at a little silver disc fastened about twelve feet up a power pole. I don’t know if you have used a BB gun enough to notice that you can actually see the BB flying through the air while you are sighting down the barrel, but you can.

We were having a lot of fun hitting and missing the target. Then, as one of my shots headed for the disc. I began thinking, “Hit number ten!”

In far less time than it takes to tell about it, it did hit and immediately began its ricochet. With my sighting eye following its course through the air. Before there was time for it to register, it had returned to my face, to raise a welt in the middle of my forehead. Then, I was rolling on the ground in surprised pain.

It was time to divert our energies to a good game of C & I (Cowboys and Indians). The cowboys saddled up their mounts (bikes) and rode off down the road to plan their attack on us Indians.

We gathered in the ditch in front of our house to cut our spears from the ditch willows. Pinky had shown us that if you cut them about four feet long, stripped them of branches up to the last two or three small ones at the top, they made a spear that could be thrown with amazing accuracy.

led the charge of the cowboys, riding his bike full-speed and cocking his BB gun with both hands. His shooting began fifty or sixty feet away. Shooting from the hip and re-cocking as fast as he could, he managed to get a couple of near-fatal hits. By the time they had passed us, circled around for another pass, I was ready. Just as Pinky drew abreast of me I stood and launched my spear.

I would like to say that I drew careful aim at his front tire and let loose with a perfect hit. But I didn’t. It was just a wild throw. A perfect hit it was, though! When the spear found its way through the front tire spokes and rotated to the fork he couldn’t have been launched more gracefully from a bucking bronco.

The lacerations to the palms of his hands and forehead pretty much ended the game for the day with the Indians winning “hands down” literally.

It’s a wonder that we didn’t lose an eye, limb or life as a result of some of our “living history” play.

Click here for part 6