Pop (my father) was a volunteer fireman for Diamond Springs. As an electrician, it was his job to show up at burning houses and shut off the electricity. When the siren wailed, he was off and running, as were all the other volunteer firemen in town. It was serious business.
For Mother, and for us, it was a break in small-town routine and, I hate to use this word, entertainment. We also took off at the sound of the siren, jumped in whatever old car we had, and sped along behind the fire truck. The time of day and activity of the moment didn’t matter. If it were three in the morning, we would jump out of bed and throw on our clothes; if we were eating, the meal would be abandoned; if we were playing, the toys would be dropped. Nothing could compete with a fire. Our devotion to disaster was right up there in the same league as it is with today’s television crews.
The star performer was someone’s house. There was excitement, danger and pathos. Firemen blasted away with their hoses in a desperate attempt to save the home while the unfortunate family looked on in dismay. But the climax, the Fourth of July finale, was when the roof and walls would crash down and shoot sparks and fire high into the sky. I did keep my oohs and aahs to myself. Somewhere in the back of my mind a small voice whispered that our family outing was not totally appropriate.
“Your mother chases fire trucks,” one of my little buddies jeered at me in an argument.
My response at the time had been, “So…” But later in life I would ponder what the towns-people thought about Mother, two or three kids, and a dog always showing up when the flames were high. Pop must have been embarrassed. I remember him telling Mother once to stay far behind the fire engine and far away from the fire. He did it under the guise of being concerned for our safety and our need to stay out of the way. I now suspect he hoped we wouldn’t be recognized. But he never did have much success in telling Mother what to do. The siren’s call was not to be denied.
Bob Bray Shoots Out a Window
I grew out of my mischief causing phase but I was able to pull off one final coup and live up to Bertha Bray’s expectations. Remember, she wouldn’t let her son play with me because she was afraid I would corrupt him.
For some unfathomable reason, Bob’s parents bought him a Wham-O Slingshot. I mean, how in the world can you expect a kid to be good when he starts playing with his Wham-O? The fact that I owned a Wham-O as well, almost guaranteed trouble.
Bob and I agreed to meet for a clandestine hunting expedition. It had to be clandestine because I was still on Bertha Bray’s ‘do not invite’ list. Our only rule for the adventure was that anything that moved or didn’t move was a valid target. Things were going great until we came upon the old abandoned bum’s shack that was just off the Southern Pacific railroad track about a quarter of a mile away from Bob’s home. Typical of such structures, it had been created out of anything that was available for free: old aluminum roofing, miscellaneous boards, an occasional nail, a thrown away mattress, etc. It had one crowning glory, a window. Bob and I looked at each other and had a simultaneous thought. Out came the ammo for the Wham-Os, a shiny new marble for Bob and several BBs for me. We took careful aim, counted down, and let fly.
To this day, Bob claims he saw his marble harmlessly strike the windowsill while my BBs were smashing the glass to smithereens. I of course saw Bob’s marble hit the window dead on while my BBs formed a neat pattern around the edges. The current occupant of the not abandoned home, who was washing dishes behind a willow bush in a small stream, saw something entirely different: two little boys smashing his pride and joy. He let out a bellow and came charging up the trail. As he should have. Once again the Mekemson Gang, along with its newest recruit, was on the run. The good news is that we escaped. The bad news was that the bum/hobo/homeless person who lost his window, recognized Bob. He went straight to his house. Mrs. Bray’s worst fears had been realized.
Monday’s Post: We are getting close to the end of our trip through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River. I even get to row a bit and take on a couple of death-defying rapids. (True… except for the death-defying.)
Wednesday’s Post: Big brown bears!
Friday’s Post: I wrap up the Mekemson Kids Did It.