The Mekemson Kids Did It: Part 1… The MisAdventure Series

There were two Gold Rush era buildings from the 1800s near our house. One was the old jail across the road where Jimmy Pagonni stored his wine. Unfortunately, it was knocked down for a fast-food joint. The other was one house away from ours and is the one shown above.

Sweet Cherries

Up until around eight or nine I spent most of my wandering time with Marshall and our friends Allen and Lee. What I remember about these adventures in Diamond Springs  was that we were skating on the thin edge of trouble. Gradually, we developed a reputation. I am convinced that a whole generation of little kids in Diamond blamed their misbehavior on us. “I didn’t do it Mama, the Mekemson kids did.” And Mama probably believed them. My friend Bob Bray’s mother refused to let him play with me. I was a bad influence, guaranteed to lead her son straight into the arms of the law.

Most of our mischief was relatively innocent. For example, Jimmy Pagonni lived across the street and had a zero-tolerance policy for us.  We lusted after his cherries. He transformed them into wine and every drop was precious. He turned his dogs loose on us if we came anywhere near his orchard. Naturally his insistence on keeping us out only guaranteed our presence.  Raids were carefully planned. Few adventures come with such sweet rewards.

We would invite two or three little friends over and make a party out of it. The cover was sleeping out in the back yard, but sleep was secondary. Somewhere around one o’clock in the morning we would slip out of our yard, cross a very lonely Highway 49, climb over Jimmy’s rickety gate, and disappear up into the trees. It was all very hush-hush and cherries have never tasted more delicious. We would stuff our stomachs and then fill up bags for take-out. It was pure greed.

Jimmy’s dogs never caught us before we were able to scramble over the fence but they did catch my cocker spaniel once and almost killed him. Tickle had been out on the town visiting a lady friend and was returning home. We were infuriated. Marshall retaliated by shooting Jimmy’s bull in the balls with a BB gun. (If not fair to the bull, it was at least alliteration.) Jimmy never knew Marshall committed the heinous act but I am sure he had his suspicions.

Red, Red Wine, Makes You Feel Fine— or Not

Another Marshall story is appropriate to tell here because it reflects the theme. In this incident, Marshall’s skinniness got him into hot water, or at least wine. Jimmy Pagonni stored his fermented cherry juice in an old Gold Rush era building that may have served as a jail in its youth. It was located right in the middle of his well-guarded cherry orchard and featured a very stout locked door and one barred window. I am sure Jimmy considered it impregnable but he failed to consider just how skinny my brother was. With help from an accomplice, Marshall managed to slip through the bars and pinch a gallon of Italian Red.

He and his friend Art then headed for our treehouse in the Graveyard to do some serious imbibing. Considering that a gallon of Jimmy’s Italian Red would have knocked out two grown men, it almost killed Marshall. He told me how he and Art were lying in the dirt and peddling their bikes upside down above them when one of our teachers walked by. I remember him slipping in the back door and trying to get to our bedroom before Mother and Pop noticed. It didn’t work. In addition to stumbling and mumbling and heaving, he smelled like a three-week gutter drunk. He was one sick kid. Both parents hurried to the bedroom out of concern and I moved back outside to sleep in the cool, but fresh fall air. It was one of those crimes that incorporates its own punishment.

MONDAY’S POST: In the next section of our trip down the Colorado River, I jump off a cliff and Tom wears Bone.

WEDNESDAY’S POST: We finish our journey through the Yukon Territory.

FRIDAY’S POST: The next chapter in the Mekemson Kids Did It. Who shot Tony Pavy’s pig?




40 thoughts on “The Mekemson Kids Did It: Part 1… The MisAdventure Series

  1. Now, I want cherries. We don’t have cherry trees up here and no orchards to speak of. Wrong climate. But may lawns had crab apples trees and the apples were free for the taking. Neighbors never minded as kids could only handle a few of the sour delights at a time and crab apple trees were everywhere. I never took much food without permission. I once snuck into my gramma’s pantry and raided her chocolate chips, all of us grandkids did. But I got caught once and she chased me with a wooden spoon out the back door and off the porch. Nothing scarier then a gramma with a wooden spoon!
    And once, I snuck alcohol when I have 15 years old. Yeah…I was one sick kid too. Not funny at the time, but I laugh about it now. Funny thing was it was my gramma who nursed me back to health.

    • Fun stories. Thanks. Nothing like crabapples (or green apples) to hassle a little tummy. Even cherries can do that if too many are consumed at one time! As for grandmas with wooden spoons, scary indeed. I imagine she was laughing the whole way, however.
      And most of us have to go through that drinking recovery experience. Marshall’s worked for me for quite a while. 🙂 –Curt

  2. Curt, the stories of your childhood always have me chuckling… you retell the events brilliantly, with vividness and colour! Oh, I feel for poor Marshall! I have a feeling every no to you was a challenge!!

  3. Curt, your stories about the adventures of you and Marshall and friends are hilarious.
    Nothing as sweet as the cherries or apples from a forbidden garden. Now, as to wine
    I luckily have no experience. One has to pity Marshall, he paid a high price. I bet he didn’t become a heavy drinker after this experience. :))
    And now, just think how well you turned out…grin.

    • Wasn’t much danger of me turning out ‘normal,’ Gerard. (You either, I imagine.) Love of wandering, the woods, and reading all developed early! As well as a strong sense of independence. –Curt

    • I can still get into mischief, V. 🙂 And I still have a bit of the rebel in me. But most of my energy goes into wandering and writing. The next big adventure is the thousand mile backpack trip I am planning for this summer. –Curt

      • Half of the west coast equivalent of the Appalachian Trial, V. This one goes from Canada to Mexico following the Pacific Crest. I’ll be doing the California portion through four different mountain ranges. I will be hiking with friends and family on occasion but will be doing the majority by myself. I’ve been backpacking for 50 years. –Curt

      • I’ve done a fair share of backpacking by myself. I love packing with Peggy and friends. And for years, I led groups on 100 mile treks. But I always tried to work in at least a week every year by myself. Good for the soul. –Curt

    • Laughing. The sheriff stopped us once and we were visited by a railroad detective, chased by a watchman and a hobo. And there was the time the chief of police showed me the jail… Stories coming. –Curt

  4. That reminds Mel of a time when he was 8 or 9. At a party, he reached out to a glass of coca cola in ice… tasted a little bitter… hmm… but what the h…? And he finished it all. Mom came over… and Mel found out the brand of the cola, it was called brandy.

  5. There are times when you wonder how you ever survived the early days. I’m not sure if that’s true for everyone. There have been those few kids I once knew who never seemed to step over the line, but I suspect the mischievous ones were always far more interesting. 😀

    • I suspect you are right, Gunta. 🙂 I worry a bit about today’s crop because parents are so paranoid about letting their children run free on occasion. Or schedules are so filled with organized activities there is no opportunity for exploration. –Curt

  6. This is so funny, but my neighbor had a cherry tree in her yard and two Lhapso’s guarding her yard. They terrified me, but I really wanted those cherries! I did climb her tree once when it seemed like the coast was clear. The cherries were tart and disappointing. But now, I have a cherry tree in my own backyard and love picking them!

    • Good for you, Juliann, not letting any Lhapso dogs get in your way. Sorry about the cherries, however. We carefully monitored ours. If they weren’t quite ripe, another raid would be planned! 🙂 Home grown cherries, mmm! –Curt

  7. We were not nearly as naughty as you boys, but we had our moments. My favorite transgression was swimming in other people’s pools on hot summer nights with my pool-hopping best friend, and my poor brother had his first alcohol the night before a Sunday paper delivery route; my father found him passed out in the yard, threw him in a cold shower, and then made him get up at 4:30 am to assemble and then deliver the papers. I don’t think he took another nip for at least a few years! (And I never got caught once in all those pools!)

    • Slipping into your neighborhood pools at night sounds pretty naughty to me, Lexi. (grin) As for your brother, sounds like your father was a smart man! I suspect that is one of those stories that your brother (and other family members) tell over and over! –Curt

  8. I still can’t drink apricot brandy. In fact, even the thought of the stuff makes me a little queasy. I can recall every detail of that night, though — at least, up to a certain point.

    I only climbed our cherry trees in order to scootch down and read, but I can imagine the thrill you had when you went after that forbidden fruit. It is the challenge that counts as much as the fruit, of course. A little buckshot here, a few three-cornered tears there, and a lifetime of stories start to pile up.

    • Now, you definitely have me curious about the apricot brandy! 🙂 But it tasted so good, right?
      As you noted, Linda the midnight raids on warm summer nights, had a joy that went far beyond the taste of the sweet cherries. –Curt

  9. I can just imagine the trouble you could get into. But today, we hardly let our kids have free roam anymore. We’re too scared to. Even though I was one of the “good kids,” my sons led the same life you did – and I have gray hairs to prove it!

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