As a disclaimer, I should mention that many of the things we did “back in the day” were done before the creation of the word “stupidity” (look it up) and prior to the establishment of law & order in the territory of Arkansas. Matter of fact, should the statute of limitations on any of those acts, somehow, still be in effect, and any spunky young police officer decides to open up some “cold case” files, let me state emphatically that all of my stories are works of fiction from the overactive imagination of a semi-old man who, if truth were known, can’t remember by supper time what he had for lunch.
So, now that you kids have all those cool things to occupy your time like video games and blue tooth and 3G networks (whatever those are), you don’t have to resort to extreme acts of idiocy, like we did before the invention of electricity, to entertain yourselves. And, if you should decide to anyway, be advised that you could end up in jail or, like, dead, man.
It should also be noted that the wild bunch walking and riding the streets of Batesville in the late 60’s and early 70’s was a mere collection of wanna-bes, just trying to live up to the notoriety of those legendary ones who came before us. We didn’t think up The Great Ice Capades of 1971. We stole the idea from some older guys and were dumb enough to get caught trying to pull it off.
I could rattle off a long list of names of those older guys, dating back to the fathers of some of my friends, but, even though many of them have passed on, the truth is, I’m still afraid of them.
This story takes place in 1967, I think. Have I told you this? Stop me if I have. Directly across the street from my family’s house on Harrison Street, if you don’t count Chubby Menard’s house there between us, was Central Elementary School. Back on the west end of that property was the old school building. It seems like it was three or four stories tall – but you know how everything from your early years seems so much bigger. From the time we moved to Batesville, after the new school was built, this one was locked up and used only, I guess, for storage. The only thing I know for sure it was used for was to shield some of those 8th graders from the nosey Mr. Johnson and his meddlesome teaching staff when they wanted to have a nice relaxing smoke at recess.
One night that old building caught fire. For whatever reason, the fire department decided to just let it burn. And, man, did it burn! For days and days.
It was on one of those days that Chris’ sister, Pam, and one of her friends – Betty or Bim or Patti or Mary Jo, I can’t recall which – remembered that there was some paint stored in there that they desperately needed. The Newport game was coming up and they had to paint them some streets. So they told us they’d give us some ridiculously insignificant amount of money to go into that burning building and retrieve that paint for them. Well, we weren’t fools, so we held them up for twice the amount, maybe four bucks or so, before agreeing to their terms.
Making this short story somewhat shorter, I can attest to the fact that we both survived that expedition, maybe with some burned shirtsleeves, although I can’t recall whether or not we ever got paid.
It didn’t, at the time, seem to be any big deal. It was, after all, a rock building and we knew the walls would stay up – like those chimneys you see out in country fields.
On that same night I was sitting on the merry-go-round, watching the inferno before my mom yelled out the front door for me to come home and eat supper. I walked fifty yards or so before hearing the thunderous crash.
When I turned to look, that merry-go-round I was just sitting on had disappeared under the massive front rock wall.
But the streets got painted. Way to go Pam!