While the Pond and the Woods provided an innocent and often educational escape for me, much of my outdoor time was spent getting into mischief, especially in my younger years when I roamed around Diamond and the surrounding countryside with my brother and our friends. What I remember most about these great adventures 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. The mother of my life-long friend, Bob Bray, did. She 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 harmless. 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.
We would invite two or three friends over and make a party out of it. The cover was sleeping out in the backyard, 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 gate but they did catch my cocker spaniel, Tickle, once, and almost killed him. Tickle had been out on the town visiting a lady friend and took a shortcut across Pagonni’s property. 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.
Even more serious, an older Marshall (eighth grade I think) stole a jug of Jimmy’s wine. He stored the 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 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 his friend Art, Marshall managed to slip through the bars one night and pinch a gallon of Italian Red.
He and 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, not to mention encouraging strange behavior. He described how Mrs. Ross, my 4th and 5th grade teacher, came upon Art and him madly peddling their bikes. This wouldn’t have been strange except they were lying on their backs holding the bikes above them in the air!
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.
The question in next Monday’s post from my blogged book It’s 4 AM and a Bear Is Standing on Top of Me, is who shot Pavy’s pig? The sheriff wanted to know.
WEDNESDAY’S POST from my Peace Corps Memoirs: As I came close to graduating from Berkeley, I had a choice of how to serve my country: Either join the Peace Corps or be shipped out to fight in a Southeast Asian War.
FRIDAY’S TRAVEL BLOG: We are going for a walk in the woods— on a trail I built. There are wild flowers to admire, a gold mining operation from the 20s and 30s that suggests that there may be gold under our house, poison oak, and a buck doing strange things.