1 One Sunday In Perry
2 What the Army Taught Me
3 Not My Mother's Shopping List
4 Brain Calisthenics
5 The Pono Nano Diet
6 Oatmeal Jim-Jams
7 A Walk in the Park
8 Escape to California
10 Printer's Devil
11 Pono - The Addict
13 Love in the Woods
14 It's a Small World
15 Culinary Crutches
16 We Want Sandin
17 Better With Age
18 Parallel Universes
19 Mårten Nilsson Finne
20 Hawaii Is A State
21 Shake-em-up Flashlight
22 The Use of E-mail
23 Normal American Schoolboy
24 Lake Gogebic Early Days
NORMAL AMERICAN SCHOOLBOY
This is not to be taken as a confessional, but simply the chronicle of a Normal American Schoolboy (we’ll call him NAS for short) experiencing his teens in the late 40s and early 50s in a small town in the Midwest.
There was a law in that time that every small town in the Midwest that harbored an NAS had to have a railroad track running through it. Furthermore that track had to have a fast freight passing through between suppertime and bedtime. Nothing acted on NAS more dynamically than a gigantic, all-powerful, fast moving freight train barreling down the track in the dark, with headlight glaring, whistle blowing, wheels clacking, ground shaking, and heart beating wildly!
The first experiments involved putting small stones on the track and then trying to find them after the train had passed. Failure soon eliminated that attempt.
Next NAS put pennies on the track and tried to find the oblong result of a jillion pounds squashing them. Since pennies were clearly different from the stones and since they tended to end up close to where they were put, this experiment was successful, but didn’t manage to excite for very long.
As NAS aged and got more “sophisticated” the obvious mismatch between him and the train began to be felt and a more aggressive approach was taken. He and the other NASs would prepare themselves for the train and pelt it with stones thrown with all possible energy. Of course, the result was not even detectable! The train was invincible!
However, once stone throwing was begun, it was almost inevitable that one stone would erratically find a window in the maintenance shack, thereby scattering the gang and leaving the track and train depot abandoned for some time to come.
It was the nature of NAS to continually invent new challenges and soon the track became the focus again. This time the enemy became a personal challenge to his burgeoning manhood and he determined to demonstrate his courage and bravery. The test was to stand as close as possible to the track as the train roared by. NAS made many tries and many times ended up giving ground to the oncoming behemoth. He may have succeeded to stand 20 feet away, but closer than that was not possible.
The tracks gave way to a larger playground. That pile of telephone poles behind the phone office was just too tempting. The tiny stakes holding them up practically jumped out of the ground, resulting in poles all across the alley.
Although everyone loved Grandpa Henry, his melon patch was just too much. NAS would raid the patch and find muskmelons sweeter than any in the stores. I guess today they are called cantaloupes.
Then, the advent of driver’s licenses and borrowed vehicles widened the horizon still further. Hallowe’en was rife with opportunity! It was the fall of the year, mischief was in the air, all the ingredients were in place. NAS and his partners visited the neighbor village and found the outhouse behind the public building unattended. Outhouses live to be tipped and tipped it was. Someone recognized the car and blabbed. All participants were confronted and had to cough up the money to untip the outhouse.
Farmers would hand cut a few feet of corn away from each fencerow and put up the stalks into shocks before harvesting the rest mechanically. Corn shocks screamed to be dealt with. One nice sized shock moved to the center of a dirt road intersection, doused with a little gasoline and lit on fire was an NAS Hallowe’en dream-come-true!
Winter provided another venue. A good 4” snowfall on the football field provided a veritable Indy 500. That flat, unencumbered space was like a playground for a hotrod and an NAS.
The old schoolhouse itself provided many opportunities. NAS noticed that the school windows had no screens. He carefully left unlocked (but closed) a few windows that were accessible to the ground and entered the school after hours. His goal was not vandalism, but enhancement of his home chemistry lab.
During the evening practices
for the Junior play, NAS and a Normal American Schoolgirl (NASg) had a break
and left the auditorium to explore the darkened schoolhouse. They found a
stairway on the second floor leading up to a trapdoor in the ceiling. Being
normal, they climbed up, opened the door, and ascended into the attic. After
“exploring” for a while, they returned to the stage and went on with the play
practice. The next day the room beneath the attic was closed and it was
learned that all the ceiling tiles had dislodged and were on the floor.
Apparently some old urinals that were stored in the attic had changed position
the night before and put pressure on the old ceiling. An old and evil janitor
had noticed an NAS and an NASg wandering the hallways upstairs and reported
same such that blame was precisely placed. I don’t recall the penalty, but
the combination of embarrassment with a smattering of pride
have been a potent brew.
Woodshop was in a separate building behind the gym. There was a classroom and office part of the building at the front and several feet lower at the back was all of the equipment for the shop. The ceiling pretty much paralleled the floors and there was a drop-down stairway at the break in the ceiling that provided access to the attic where all the lumber was kept. The shop teacher was a gentle giant of a man whose muscles were legend. He would demonstrate by pressing the anvil that no two NASs could even move. One day toward the end of class, the teacher was doing something in the attic and someone raised the stairway which was only controlled from the lower floor. No one ever knew which NAS was responsible.
Oh, and when they demolished that shop building, I have a hunch they found hundreds of dollars worth of tools inside the wall below a small hole behind the workbench.
The NAS had a twinkle of mischief in his eye, but he wasn’t all bad. He attended school, did his homework, participated in school activities, had a part time job from 8th grade through graduation, belonged to a church and sang in the choir, and was basically …….. normal!
Early teens move to late teens and interests move from trains and corn shocks and outhouses to girls and beer. NAS learned of a little bar in the next village that was not careful about checking IDs and spent many hours there. I’m not sure what it means, but the last time I drove by that place, the sign above the front door had the bar name and the designation “NASBAR”.
Eventually, NAS grew up, but being normal, the twinkle remained.
This is not to be taken as a confessional, but simply the chronicle of a Normal American Schoolboy in a small town in the Midwest. However, if I *had* done any of these things, this is probably how I would have done them.
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