Sunday, February 20, 2011

Nighttime Mischief

Joshland Note: It's seems appropriate that this is the first post my newly internet-savvy grandma reads on my blog. Now I have my mother, both of my grandparents, many of my extended family, and at least one nun who roll their eyes at my youthful stupidity. Anyways, Welcome to Joshland, Grandma. :-)

There is a great speech from the movie "The Sandlot" - which you are missing out on if you haven't seen it - where 10 year old Scotty Small's mom is encouraging him to go make friends. She says:

"I want you to get out into the fresh air and make some friends. Run around, scrape your knees, get dirty, climb trees, hop fences, get into trouble, for crying out loud. Not too much, but some. You have my permission. How many mothers do you know who say something like that to their sons?"

Checkout the trailer for "The Sandlot" by clicking here!

Aaaaah, I remember when my mother gave me a very similar speech at that age. I'm pretty sure she gave it with the full knowledge I'd get into mischief, but I think she knew I had enough common sense to stay out of big trouble...with the exception of "The Teddy Bear Incident" which you can read by clicking on the link below:

The Teddy Bear Incident

I was lucky enough during my childhood to hang with a Sandlot-esque neighborhood full of kids. From the warm up of late spring to the crisp dusk of late autumn we were outside doing those same things and enjoying every second of it

One particular brand of mischief we partook in was playing games under the cover of darkness. It was a summertime tradition. You see, summertime meant no school and later curfews, which meant more time to make trouble. This nighttime mischief involved 3 stages:

First Stage: Kick the Can

What's safer than two teams running around aimlessly in the dark attempting to kick a tin can placed somewhere in the middle of an unlit yard? How about if both teams are wearing all black except for one guy who insisted tucking his sweatpants into his bright white socks because he didn't want to trip and hurt himself. And NOOOOOOOOOO, it wasn't me! It was this guy I knew..ahem...

I don't know what the real rules of the game were, but sooner or later, the following events would occur:

• We'd get through a few rounds where someone would eventually find the can and kick it. Hence the name...Kick the Can!

• Someone would get frustrated and lie about kicking the can so that everyone would think they were awesome, only to be ridiculed moments later when they couldn't prove their accomplishment. Their punishment for lying was a heavy dose of "snake bites", wedgies, or "purple nurples".

• During the game, various people would be party to full speed collisions. Heads, arms, and legs were smashed together on a regular basis. There was even the occasional groin shot that would draw snickers from the uninjured players while crocodile tears flowed from the recipient. Injuries were a badges of honor, especially when someone fought through the pain and kept playing thanks to the "encouragement" of their friends. In reality, the encouragement was for the greater good of the game more than it was for the injured participant. If someone went home, then the teams would be uneven and THAT would be stupid.

• One of the resident knuckleheads (yes, we had multiples) would find the collisions so amusing that they would convince their teammates to cause more of them by using the "Red Rover" maneuver. This genius move entailed running full bore, hands locked together in a clothesline-like position, and plowing over anything that moved. What about trying to kick the can, you say? Umm, I pretty sure the can was no longer the focus the moment the knuckleheads starting giving the orders. By the end of that round, the yard looked like a battlefield full of wounded soldiers.

Aaaaaaaaaand that usually ended Kick the Can.

Second Stage: Flashlight Tag

The leftovers that survived "Kick the Can" would stick our feet in the middle of a circle and - using the infallible method of "Enie Meanie Miney Moe" or "Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum In A Dish" - we'd pick the poor sucker that was "It" for flashlight tag. Whomever was "It" had the unenviable task of shining the flashlight on one of the other players and "tagging" them by calling out their name before the got to the safety spot. Sadly, once you were "It" you were ALWAYS "It". You see, playing a normal game of tag is hard enough, but when everyone is wearing black and no one admits when they are tagged, it's hard to prove them wrong...unless their white socks were showing. DAMN IT!

Oh, and don't forget to add the collision factor from Kick the Can, but this time it's every one for themselves. I vividly recall a time my night ended early thanks to a collision with a tree and a branch slicing my face open right below my eyeball. That was a neat conversation to have with my mother on the way to receive multiple stitches in the ER.

The squealing of rambunctious kids that echoed like piglets in the dead of night - particularly the tantrum thrown by the chosen "It" guy after 45 minutes of frustration - combined with the supposed "late" hour, prompted our adult neighbors to add to the noise by yelling "Keep the noise down, you damn kids! Have some respect!" Since that NEVER worked (and usually encouraged us to be louder), our parents would then receive phone calls which caused the summertime phenomenon of random porch lights flickering on and off and blood chilling "come home" whistles piercing the night air.

Those flickering lights and screaming threats were a dual signal. If they were from a house filled with kids, then we let them off the hook. If they were from a house inhabited with curmudgeonly fuddy duddies, well then that was like waving a red cape in front of a bunch of miniature bulls.

Final Stage: Ding Dong Ditch

We never destroyed property. We never broke mailboxes, egged houses, or left lit bags of dog shit on doorsteps. At least I was never a part of that. If it had ever happened when I was around, I would have said it was wrong and gone home to tell someone about it. No one deserves that. I don't care how dumb they are.

But, I was all for aggravating a fuddy duddy when they had it coming. We were kids enjoying our nights that never lasted much past 10:30. If you couldn't handle a little extra noise coming from your neighbors yard because their kids were having harmless fun (injuries be damned), then you deserved you a good ding donging.

We were like ninjas. Loud of which had white socks on. We'd ring their doorbell and make a ton of noise from our hiding places at least a dozen times in a row until they'd finally had enough and would come out to curse at us in the night. Then we'd ding dong'em once more and run down the street in plain sight, scattering to our various houses along the way, giggling and smiling the whole time.

This is one of my favorite childhood memories. No worries or fears, just having fun. That's what being a kid is all about, right? There are times when I wonder if I will ever become a curmudgeonly fuddy duddy, but I think that's another reason why I write this blog. So I never turn into one. :-)

Peaceful and Mischievous Things,



  1. So glad you survived your "totally normal" childhood...


  2. Ahh. This entry brought back my own wonderful memories of summer mischief! Thanks for the great story and a walk down memory lane.


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