Causing our Parents to grow old early

Some of the things we did at that age, and into our teens, caused our poor mom, Mary, and dad, Roland (with nickname "Rollie") who were your great-grandmother and great-grandfather) to grow grey hairs prematurely.  Some were funny (at least we thought so) but many were not too smart (as we could see when we got older, but could not see then). 

For instance, one winter when we were 9 and 10 respectively, we had several days of very heavy snow and decided it would be great fun to climb up on the roof of Robin's house (using a ladder set up on the patio in the back of his house) and slide off into a big snow drift that had built up on the left side of the house. We had been doing this for almost an hour when a neighbor, who looked out the window to see what all the commotion was about, called our mom to tell her what we were doing. She came out of our front door on the run and, without bothering to put on her coat, moved quickly up the street to tell us to stop - in fact she was yelling at us all the way up the street, but we hurried to get in one more slide before she got there. Then she led your Zeus and I by our ears back home and we were grounded for the rest of the day. We came away from the experience unhurt, but realized later that we could have broken a leg - the drop was more than 20 feet, and climbing onto a roof covered with snow was not exactly smart.

We were the same age when we decided in the spring to explode a cherry bomb (a really large and dangerous firecracker) in the mailbox on the outside porch of one of our elderly neighbor's home. When it exploded it blew the mailbox right off the wall, and your Zeus and I, from our vantage point in a vacant lot across from the house, rolled on the ground laughing. We only laughed until we went home, however, because we discovered, much to our horror, that another neighbor (who witnessed the event) called our dad to tell him what we had done. Our dad made us realize that our actions could have caused the elderly couple to have a heart attack, and as punishment, he made us walk across the street the next day to apologize to the couple and pay for the damage with money from our allowance.  For boys our age, this was the worst punishment we could receive - we would rather have been spanked, but our dad didn't do that. It took us more than 15 minutes to walk that short distance, but it was a lesson that neither your Zeus nor I ever forgot.

Other winters when we were teens, we would go out after supper and "hook cars". This dangerous practice entailed dressing warmly with heavy boots and gloves, and sturdy jackets, then sneaking up behind a car parked at a stop sign and, crouching down and grabbing the bumper, get a wild ride down the snow covered streets until we let go and tried to stay on our feet for another half block.  Miraculously, none of us received more than a few scrapes and bruises. Another dangerous trick in the winter was to stand in one of the neighbor's driveways on 30th street with a pile of snowballs and hurl them at passing cars. Once, Kent Albright included a piece of ice in his snowball and it went through the windshield of a car - of course the driver stopped and chased us down the back alleys and through yards, but never caught us. Zeus and I crawled through our bedroom window, quickly took off our clothes and got into bed. We never played that trick again after that night (but as you will read in a letter below, we did this with tomatoes in the summer - but then had to stop when a taxi driver chased us).

As a teen, your Zeus worked in the St. Benedict Hospital, situated further up in the foothills very near Mt. Ogden Park. He washed dishes and pans in the kitchen and had to answer to the nuns who were residents in the hospital. Sister Philomena was your Zeus's supervisor and she was very strict and made sure he did the job correctly. He worked very hard to do it right. One day he came home with a big grin on his face, telling us that he had gone with the sisters to pick apples, and that they lifted their "habits" (the gown that covered their other clothes) to cradle the apples they were picking instead of putting them in a bucket like your Zeus did - they enjoyed themselves so much that they laughed and danced, and from that moment on, he realized what wonderful human beings these nuns were, and he loved going to his job from then until he left. This experience, and the excellent work that your Zeus did washing dishes, caused all the sisters to come to love him, especially Sister Philomena, whom he went back to visit often, from the time he quit that job through the time he finished college at the University of Utah.

What I have just described is not grey-hair inducing behavior, so why am I including it in this section?  It was what your Zeus did as a result of working at the hospital that induced the grey hair in our mom. You have to realize that our mom was very protective of our health and reacted strongly when we were hurt. On his way from work one day, your Zeus found in the trash, a box of old plaster bandages that are used to put a cast on an arm or leg so that broken bones can have time to heal. Your Zeus, however, thought it would be great fun to come home saying he had fallen from a tree and hurt himself, just to get a reaction from our mom.  So he had a friend soak the bandages in water to soften them and wrap casts on both of his arms from his wrists all the way up to his armpits.  When he walked in the house, our mom almost passed out until your Zeus laughed and said it was a joke. Then she got angry and told him that he had scared her half to death (an expression she uttered far too often as we were growing up) and grounded him for a week.  The joke was on your Zeus finally, however, because he had to go to the doctor's office and get the casts cut off - and our dad made him pay for it from his wages at St. Benedict's.

Usually, when we did dumb things like this, it was me who paid the price - your Zeus usually escaped punishment, but not always.  I will relate two such instances:

(1). When we were 14 and 15, respectively, we decided to "borrow" our sister Janet's car while she was in a meeting at the church (Janet is 8 years older than your Zeus, and is your grandaunt). We "knew" that she would be there for more than two hours, so with an extra set of keys and your Zeus at the wheel, we drove away from the church and into the streets of our neighborhood. After 15 minutes, I began harping at your Zeus to let me take a turn driving.  He finally relented and we changed places, but I had driven no more than two blocks before a police car pulled us over (it seems that Janet had left something in the car and left the meeting early to retrieve it, only to discover the car was missing - instead of calling our dad, she called the police). Your Zeus and I were both taken to jail, but because I was driving I got the traffic ticket, and Larry did not.  Our dad, when contacted by the police to say that they had recovered the car, and that we claimed to be Janet's brothers, told them to hold us for another hour to put some sense into our heads - you would think that we would have learned from the experience, but read on! 

(2). Two years later, when we were 16 and 17, respectively, we decided to play a prank on a grouchy neighbor who lived at the bottom of our street.  It was a warm summer night and he was reading the evening newspaper, sitting in a recliner in his living room in his shorts and without a shirt, something he did almost every day.  From the story I will tell you below it may not seem like we loved cats, but as you can see from the picture below (when we were about 8 and 9 years old, respectively) we did and would never do anything to really hurt a cat (can you pick out Zeus).

But on this evening, we found a stray cat in the neighborhood and your Zeus thought it would be funny if we opened the grouchy neighbor's screen door (the main door was open) and toss the cat into the house, then run across the street and climb into a big tree to watch what happened.  I opened the door and your Zeus tossed the cat in the door, but instead of landing on the living room floor (as we "planned"), it went right through the newspaper and landed, with its claws extended, on the man's chest.  He screamed and raced for the door to catch those who had caused him this trauma. Your Zeus and I (and the two Albright twins) had successfully climbed into the tree, but our less strong friend, Robin, was seen still swinging up onto the bottom limb, and the man yelled to his son to get his gun and call the police. Then he stood at the base of the tree to keep us from getting down, holding a loaded shotgun in his hands.  Before the police arrived, your Zeus slipped down the opposite side of the trunk and took off running - he, unlike our three friends and me, had the courage to run and he knew the neighbor couldn't catch him; he also knew that the man would not shoot. The police arrived and took us to the police station, then called my dad to let him know I was in custody. In the meantime, your Zeus had come home through the back door of our home and told our parents, "The police took Ernie (my nickname) to the police station, but he didn't do it."  He confessed to being the one who thought up the prank and actually tossed the cat into the house, but still it was me that sat in the jail for two hours. The police officers that drove us back home (after they found out what happened and that no one was hurt) had to work hard to keep from laughing (they had been teens once, themselves), but your Zeus and I knew we had made a mistake, and we were grounded for two weeks

 

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