Thursday, April 30, 2015

Fort Hemlock and Run Spot Run

When I was four years old, we moved from the suburbs of Burke to the big city of Wallace. We did not initially buy the house on Cedar Street, but instead we rented a house on a street that no longer exists, Hemlock Street. Hemlock was about where the Wallace Inn laundry room is today. It dead ended at what was then the main highway, Hwy 10.There were only six houses on Hemlock Street when we moved there, and at the end of the street where it met HWY10, there were about three steps that went up to the sidewalk. At the bottom of those stairs was a perfect place to build a snow fort.

I was only a kindergarten pup, but big brother was three years my senior, and his friend was about a year older than my brother was. It was a great fort that they built, and in that fort was an arsenal of snowballs that we had spent hours packing with snow and a little bit of ice. Now, what are we going to throw those snowball at? Trucks, of course, that came along Hwy 10. We never threw at the cabs, but only at the trailer.

I, being of little arms and lousy aim, never hit anything, but Leon and Craig had already developed good pitching technique, and they hit their targets with accuracy and they hit them frequently.
Now, I, only being a  small tot, mostly watched the "big boys" practice their snowball throwing craft, and on this particular very cold Wallace winter day, I was just being a spectator. I was always afraid that someday we would get in trouble, or worse, get clobbered by some angry trucker for hitting his truck.
I had that sense of foreboding that day, and so, I was on " run as fast as you can" mode.

I don't remember who threw that snowball. All that I know was that I did not throw it. The semi came into view, and the snowball flew through the air like a Nolan Ryan fastball. Plunk, it hit something, but wait a minute, it wasn't the truck that it hit, nope, that would have been fine. Instead, it landed like a perfectly placed pitch smack against the windshield of the police car behind the truck.

Well, legs don't fail me now, I said to my shaking limbs, and off I ran as fast as I could go. My brother and his friend, being older and wiser than I was, did not run, and, of course, the cop did not chase them.Yes, it was me he was chasing. I had just committed the crime of eluding a police officer.
I ran as fast as my kindergarten legs would carry me, straight in our back door, and up the stairs to my bedroom. Of course, I was not savvy enough to realize that officer only had to see which house that I went in.

My heart was beating what seemed like a thousand beats a minute when I heard my dad's voice calling me. " Son, come down here. Someone wants to see you."
By now, the tears were rolling down my cheeks, and my whole body was shaking. I was so sure, probably from having watched too much "Dragnet", that I was going to be hauled off to jail. Perhaps a diet of bread and water was in the making.

Well, I entered the living room, and there was the officer, and my folks, as well as my brother. The officer told me that the older boys had already told him that I was not the one who threw the snowball. He then proceeded to lecture my brother and I on how such a stunt could cause an accident, perhaps even leading to serious injury for the driver. He then looked sternly at me and told me to never run from a police officer, and that he, at first, thought that I was the guilty one because I had run. He then left, and that was the end of it. Well, almost. There was, of course, the visit to our room by my dad, and the lecture of how this was going to hurt him worse than if would us. Yea, right.

The next day, Fort Hemlock was torn down, never to rise again. Now, did I learn my lesson? Well, stay tuned for the time that we were playing baseball at the intersection of Third and Bank, and a policeman pulled up, and well, you guessed it. Story at 11:00
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Leaving Hemlock Street, we fast forward to the days of or lives on Cedar Street. I was now three years older than my Fort Hemlock days, and much smarter and wiser? Hardly. We had arrived. We now lived next door to a lawyer, a store owner, and across the street from two bankers, and one block away from two doctors. We were Cedar Street snobs.

By that time I, too, had developed the ability to throw snowballs and baseballs. I hung out mostly with my older brother and his friends, so I had to play hard and be tough.

Cedar Street was not a good street to play baseball on, but right around the corner was Third and Bank Street, and Third and Bank was a great place to play baseball because there was a wall that held the hill on High Bank from crashing down to Bank Street. The wall we used as the outfield, and, of course, when we hit a ball over the wall, it was a homer.

The city fathers did not think that playing baseball in the streets was such a grand idea, and so they passed an ordinance that made it "illegal" to do so. It was to be actively enforced by Wallace's finest.
That threat did not stop our local gang of kids from daring to defy this criminal action, so one day in early June found about 6 of us playing again on Third and Bank. I was in my position in the "outfield when I looked down the street, and to my utter horror, the unmistakable markings of a Wallace City Police car was coming straight for us. Once again, without a word, I commanded my legs to run as fast as a third grader can run. Rounding the corner of Cedar Street with a sprint that would shatter any Olympic record, I ran into the house and straight up the stairs to my bedroom. Well, here we were, Deja vu all over again.

Sure enough, I soon heard my mother's voice calling my name. " Son, please come down here, someone wants to talk to you." Down the winding staircase I came, and there, sitting in our living room was Wallace Officer, Barney Fife. OK, the name was changed to protect the innocent.
Officer Fife wanted to know where I had been about an hour earlier. I was perplexed by the question. An hour earlier I had still been in the house. He then asked me why I had sped away when I saw him coming. I told him it was because of the ordinance forbidding playing ball in the street.

Now, sometimes Divine Intervention smiles on one, and this happened to be the case here. Our pastor, who made a little money on the side painting houses, had been hired by my dad to paint our kitchen, and living and dining rooms. Rev. Philp had been listening to the conversation, and spoke up, and verified that I had, indeed, been in the house an hour before. Officer Fife then told us that about an hour ago some kids had broken the windshield of car a few blocks away, and he was gong to stop and ask us if we had seen any other kids out there. Of course, when I ran, he assumed that I was the one who had broken the windshield earlier in the afternoon. We all kind of laughed. and I was relieved that I was not going to jail that fine afternoon.

When my brother came home in a bit, he asked me why I had taken off. He said that all the officer wanted was to ask about the windshield, and it had nothing to do with playing baseball in the streets.

Ok, I am a slow learner.


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