The neighborhood we lived in during the 1950s was great. There were kids my age to play with and my parents got along with everyone. Everyone, that is, except Lester N. and his evil old wife, whose name escapes me now. She was so mean and miserable even Lester didn’t like her.
During this time my 2 best friends were Chuck and Ted. The three of us were inseparable from about 5 years old on and through high school. Lester was Ted’s great uncle; Ted and his father couldn’t stand him. Chuck couldn’t stand him, nor could his parents. My Dad worked with him driving the city buses for about 5 years in the 1950s. He said that Lester had no friends because he had a hateful personality which caused everyone at work to dislike him. Unfortunately these miserable people lived right next to us. Our driveway bordered their lawn, which was the largest lawn in the neighborhood.
When we played ball sometimes an errant throw would end up on their lawn. Going on their lawn was forbidden even to retrieve a ball. If the mean old coot could get to it first you lost your ball. We lost several to him, and when we beat him to it, we got screamed at us, threatening to call the cops. He did that a lot. The cops were sick of coming to our part of town because we were not bad kids. I told the cops one time that he steals our ball every chance he gets and screams at us. The cop asked him if he had balls that belonged to us; when old man Lester said he did have our balls, he had to produce about a dozen baseballs and 2 footballs.
The cops asked us to try keeping off his property, and he ordered the old coot to quit stealing our balls. Due to the cops not taking his side, old Lester hated us kids even more. You never should mess with kids because they will always win in the end.
This confrontation with the cops happened when I was about 9. Since the battle with these old people never ended we would plot new and devious ways to get even with them. One day I heard the old woman had died. My reaction was happiness, but it soon became apparent Old Man Lester was happy too. He bought a new car and retired from work. He must have had the old bat heavily insured.
Now retired, he had even more time to spy on us kids. He yelled at me once in my own driveway telling me to make sure I stayed off his precious grass. I yelled back at him that I wasn’t on his grass, I told him to shut up and I called him a bad name. If you know what a gaseous emission from one’s colon is, then you know what I called him.
He came over to complain to my father, who had just gotten home from work in a bad mood. When Dad heard what I had done and why, he told Lester that he agreed with me and that if he didn’t get off his property immediately he’d kick his butt all the way back over to his property. I was never prouder of my dad as I was then.
The war went on, and one night around Halloween I thought the proper thing to would be to throw eggs at his 2 story house. Four eggs sailed through the darkness and landed with a nice thud up against the upper story of his house. Of course the cops were called, and all local kids were questioned, but nobody knew anything. I told nobody at all for nearly a year, so speculation grew as to who may have done this. Since nobody knew, nobody could rat me out.
By now we were about 11 and my parents went over to an aunt’s house with my little sister, Charlene, to play cards. I was considered old enough to stay home alone and watch TV, so on this night I was home and minding my own business. Chuck came over to visit. His dad had recently died and his mom was working the 3-11-shift at the mill where she worked and he was home alone and bored.
Chuck and I got to talking, and the subject got around to Lester. He wanted to do something to him, but I thought it was a bad idea. I told him that Lester would only call the cops again; I said to forget it. In a few minutes he said he needed to go to the bathroom. I told him to go, he knew where it was; he didn’t need me.
In a few minutes he emerged from the bathroom with a big brown paper grocery bag that he apparently had found in the bathroom. I asked what was in the bag; he giggled. I asked again and he opened it to show me a big soft runny turd! “Oh my god! Get that out of here,” I yelled “what’s the matter with you?”
“You stay on your back porch, watch this.” And he ran over to Lester’s newly painted porch and set the bag on fire! He then knocked loudly on his door and ran for cover. The miserable old coot started swearing and stomping the fire out in his slippers. He must have stomped 30 times before he had the fire out then he realized what he was stomping in. I had all I could do to not give away my position; I was only 100 feet away in the dark watching this hilarious performance.
When it was all over I went back to watching TV, and about that time my parents came home. They found me sitting there nice and innocent and when the cops came, nobody knew anything. I remember my dad snickering when the cops told what had happened. He informed the cops that there are dozens of kids around and they all hate him.
My last dirty trick against old Lester was the time I caught 3 bullheads in the canal and deposited them in his mailbox. Nobody would ever write him a letter so he only checked his mail about once a week. When he did he found a stinky maggoty mess and he had to buy a new mailbox. Speculation abounded as to who might have done it, but since nobody knew, no one could rat me out.
Yes, it might be said that I was a hellion when I was young, but now that I am an old coot I am starting to feel bad about it. Well not that much, really, but it’s probably the proper thing to say. For feeling so badly I sure started giggling a lot as I recalled this story for you.
An afterthought: Fifty years and more have gone by since my last dirty trick. You know what happened to Lester’s precious lawn? Well the old coot died and new people have had his house for 45 years. The lawn has been planted with trees and shrubs and you would never recognize the place. I think that is a good thing.
This memoir is published by Courtesy of Ralph Saville