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Jul 26

Boys Will Be Boys

In Brief—The author relates some of the memorable and mischievous adventures of his childhood and youth. Memorable to him, at least.

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The Artist as a Youth—

The lovely cream-colored house next door won an architectural award and was the pride and joy of its owners. It doubtless raised the value of all the houses in the neighborhood, but the little boy next door thought something was lacking. The possible solution was that the back wall of that beautiful house was perfect for testing what would happen if those crab apples growing on the tree in the front yard were thrown against that smooth cream-colored wall. He decided to see.

Splat! The results of the first crab apple looked promising. More followed until the little boy’s esthetic sense was satisfied that a polka-dotted green and cream wall was ideal. The crab apples were the perfect paint brush. The little artist was me.

No doubt the owners were stunned and angry. I don’t even recall the punishment I undoubtedly received. It’s probable that my parents had to pay for repainting the house. By today’s standards, I would have at least been labeled a delinquent, but back then it was “Boys will be boys.”

High and Dry in New Mexico—

Early La Fonda Hotel

Early La Fonda Hotel

To cure my asthma, I was sent to a boarding school in the high, dry climate of Santa Fe. Each year, my grandmother spent the summer in the same room in Santa Fe’s La Fonda Hotel. She was a valued resident. I discovered that the hotel had stationary that when folded just right was perfect for holding water. Up I went to the top floor from which I had launched many paper airplanes. After several misses, my accuracy improved and found a passing target. Satisfied, I beat a hasty retreat to the safety of my grandmother’s room. I suffered no repercussions, but there’s little doubt that my grandmother managed to calm the manager’s ruffled feathers.

For boyish adventures you can’t beat stepping between jagged pieces of broken glass lining the top of the high wall behind the boarding school. The thought of slipping never crossed our minds. Tiring of that, we turned over old gravestones in the cemetery beyond the high wall. Snakes awaited to be stuffed into our shirts. We never considered that a rattler might be hiding there. Unfortunately, a squeamish Catholic brother killed the poor, helpless snake that was snuggled against the warmth of my stomach. He didn’t understand a little boy’s choice of pets.

Late 4th of July—

Mailbox

Mailbox

If you’ve ever lived where rural fields rub shoulders with the suburbs, you recall the mailboxes: metal tubes with a hinged door on the front. Well, the neighbors responsible for the absence of my beloved dog had to pay the price.

Cannon crackers were the powerful firecrackers that we always saved after a noisy July 4. On that particular evening, the neighbor’s mailbox suddenly looked like a misshapen metal tube with a puckered door hanging by one hinge. I could see the screaming homeowner’s legs dancing around the fringes of the low bush beneath which I hid, but he finally gave up. The little boy had scored again.

Assorted Pranks—

Fast forward to my teens. Since I wasn’t an athlete, I found myself the instigator of a cruel joke played on the much-disliked tennis coach. We enclosed my crudely carved pen in a beautifully wrapped box and presented it to him as thanks for his efforts. Flattered, he unwrapped the “gift” to find the ugly contents. To our amusement before he stalked off in a rage, he stuttered that the tennis captain belonged in an institution for delinquent boys. Not me, but the presenter.

I’ll never forget the game of “Dong” where I unintentionally knocked out all the street lights up the middle of Albuquerque’s Central Avenue. The stroke of my bat on the metal standard had such a lovely bell-like tone. Or the gooey mess a water-soaked loaf of moldy French bread made when it splattered a parked car. Wow, that must have been a big bird!

Hoist the Flag—

Olympic Flag

Olympic Flag

When I graduated from high school in 1952, I was given a trip to Europe by a wealthy great-aunt who believed travel was an essential part of education. As chance would have it, the tour leader told her charges how she prized a small Olympic flag she had purchased on an earlier trip. An idea was born.

A forest of alternating Olympic and Finnish flags was arrayed outside the Olympic stadium in Helsinki. The night before our departure was dark and drizzly, so I decided one of those flags would make a wonderful souvenir. My little pocket knife brought one of those flags down. Fearing the screech of its descent would attract the attention of people nearby, I gathered the flag up and hid behind a hedge. Then I realized how big the flag was. It was huge!

I won’t bore you with the details, but I was afraid the Customs search of departing luggage would result in my arrest. I held my breath as the agent flipped right past the flag and I was home free…not without a little braggadocio for my traveling companions, however. The irony is that a number of years later I met the son of the man who owned the factory that made that flag. He thought the story was funny. I still have that flag.

These are just a few of the adventures of my childhood and youth. There are more, of course, but this is getting too long.

Tune in next week for another piece on stuff that grabs me.

16 comments

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  1. Mh

    You were and are a delinquent after my own heart!
    Ps. I spent many pleasurable days on the roof of a four story apartment building throwing snowballs down on unsuspecting passing cars…….until the day I got caught.

    1. Don Bay

      We would both be in jail if we were to pull some of those childhood stunts today.

      I recall the time that I rolled a large (think snowman base) snowball to the top of a small hill and waited for a car on the road below. I led the car just right and sent the snowball rolling down the hill. It was quite large when it struck the car broadside pushing it onto the shoulder stopping it. I ran like hell. That would land me in jail today.

  2. Brenda

    Well, not one of those incidents had I heard before. I recall my parents telling me, “you need to be more like your brother–look at all the wonderful things he does and how smart he is.” Well, I hope they are reading this in heaven. You must have taken after Mother and her siblings.

    1. Don Bay

      Not bad for an asthmatic little kid. The beauty of it was that I got away with most of it because I was such a clean-cut little boy and got such good grades. If they had only known half of it. Took a while to outgrow it… maybe forty years or so.

  3. Jim Newton

    So taking a note from Brenda I never knew any of those things about you when we were in school together. I was tempted to say I wasn’t such a bad kid, but that would be an obvious lie. I particularly like the snake story. In my case my mother put them down the garburator, which enraged me and my own children in their turn. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Don Bay

      We weren’t really malicious kids, just rambunctious and imaginative. Your garbage disposal story about your mother reminds me a bit of my own mother. Poor snake! At least the Catholic Brother who killed my snake wasn’t gross. Good thing we turned out to be such outstanding citizens. Maybe a bit rebellious, but outstanding.

  4. Susan

    Why do you. Still have that flag?

    1. Don Bay

      I still have the flag. It was a little moth-eaten when we had it cleaned, but it resides in our cellar in a place of honor. As to why I have kept it all these years, it’s an ego thing, a trophy, a symbol of my darker side even as I appeared to be a clean-cut young person. As I said earlier, I was never malicious or mean-spirited, just quietly rebellious.

  5. Kitty Courcier

    Don, the “boys will be boys” blog was very entertaining. I especially liked the Hotel La Fonda story. As you know I will be visiting Jane there in a few weeks. To repeat the antics is appealing but I don’t think a 64 year old lady can get away with it. I might try sending a paper airplane off from the top story lounge…. xoxo Kitty

    1. Don Bay

      For crying out loud, don’t try any of this now. Jail surely awaits today’s pranksters.

      Since I practically grew up in La Fonda and knew it like the back of my hand, I have a soft spot in my heart for that hotel even though it has changed over the ensuing years. The restaurant in the middle of the hotel used to be open air, but the food has always been outstanding. Be sure to order the guacamole when you are there. They fix it to your taste beside the table. Try the Plaza Cafe’s breakfast (the piñon pancakes are to die for) and The Shed for lunch. I envy you and Jane.

  6. Donna Boe

    Aah – confession is good for the soul – even decades later. I’ll say this, at least you were creative in your mischief, and pretty daring too.

    1. Don Bay

      Confession may be good for the soul, but there could be a smidgeon of bragging somewhere in the mix. Imagination and even creativity were probably part of it, but daring never crossed my mind. It just seemed to be the thing to do at the time. And I wrote about just a few incidents. There were more, but there just wasn’t enough space.

  7. Linda

    Ah, you’re my rebel now and in the past, too! I believe the rebel in you sparks the fire that I love about you! Keep that lively spirit inside you always!

    1. Don Bay

      I understand from genealogical research that some of my forebears were progressive rebels, so it appears that genetics may have something to do with my behavior. That said, much of my mischievousness was in my childhood and youth. The adult stuff came out of my sense of justice. Genetics…maybe so? The fire in the furnace is still there, but the building is a bit tattered around the edges.

      Question: does my choice of sport activities reflect anything? I wasn’t attracted to team sports, but to activities like skiing, hang gliding and flying sailplanes. Just wondering. In any case, thanks for the support.

  8. Shelley Stockwell

    You, Don Bay, are a little rascal!

    1. Don Bay

      I WAS a little rascal, but as I’ve said, what I did seemed right at the time. Now I’m just a geezer. We all did naughty things at one time or another, but I lived in the right place at the right time. Timing is everything.

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