Submitted by John L. Lincicome.
“What da ya wanna do?”
Could a been any given day in the life of kid when those words were said.
“Let’s go to the store!”
“Nah, I ain’t got no money…”
Boredumb was, and has always been a challenge for a kid. Yes boredumb. Ain’t a mis-spell.
Doin’ what ya often did before sometimes falls short on the fun meter of a kid that’s bored and ookin’ for stuff to do, or two of ‘em for that matter. And with no jingle in the pocket it’s even more of a challenge.
“What da you wanna do?”
The kid claws a rock out of the earth beneath his feet that’s been embedded in the earth since time began and chucks it off into the distance. Clearly contemplating the facts of life as they currently exist and weighing options. The rock smacks on the trunk of a big-ole fir tree and ricochets into the bush.
“I dunno, what-da-you wanna do? Wanna go to the Villa?”
“Nah, I told ya, man, I ain’t got no money.”
Some folks are always difficult. Short one is always missin’, somethin’ ain’t never quite right. We all know folks like that. Knew ‘em when we was kid’s, too. Fact is, we might-a-been one of ‘em now and again.
“How ‘bout we go down to the swamp and mess around?”
The swamp was a good place, a safe place. The sort of place a kid could lose him/herself for hours. Found a giant turtle one time at the swamp on 83rd in Lake City, took it to school, to ‘show and tell”, the sucker peed on me when I held it up in front of the class.
“Nah, lets just get out of here, ride around.”
Riding bikes through the neighborhoods, passed so and so’s house, passed the places that were places to be at other times, places where stuff happened that don’t matter no more. Passed the one armed lady’s house where I picked cherries for $0.35, passed the Phillips 66 and Mobile gas stations on Washington Blvd…
The Philips 66 on Washington Blvd was a good place. One time I had a flat on my bike and stopped in the place and one of the fella’s there fixed it for free. That sort of thing sticks in the mind of a kid.
The other station, the Mobile station was where the old man always “gassed up”. Horan’s? Moran’s?
“Ten gallons” the old man would tell the fella that came out to tend to him at the Mobile.
The old man always paid with a check after the fella lifted the hood and checked the oil and delivered the ten to his tank. Don’t think my old man knew how to “lift the hood”. But he knew how to write a check.
The checks were light blue and white, the bank was The Pacific National Bank of Washington, or somethin’ like that. The bank was the flat roofed building at the Villa. It stood apart from the main part of the Plaza, out near Gravelly Lake Drive, but still “in” the Villa. The building had white rock siding, and somethin’ “green”, too, comes to mind. A fancy place for a kid to be. I remember opening up an account there when I got my first paper route. The old man said it was a good place to do bankin’ business. So I did what he said.
Further on down the road was Brunson’s/Varleys. The fella that ran the place when it was Brunson’s had a bum hand. An accident? From birth? Don’t know. Never asked him, but always wanted to ask. That sort of thing messes with the mind of kid. You know…
As life turned out for me, I lost my left thumb at 16, and my left index finger at 27. Funny how life turns out. After those two incidents I often thought of Mister Brunson, and wanted to visit with him to swap stories, but by the time the thought occurred to me Mr Brunson had gone to where ever fella’s go when they’re gone.
The bike ride led us to the edge of North Fort Lewis. There was a shabby, barbed wire topped fence there that a kid could get beyond quick fast like. Kid’s know how to breach fences and stuff, it’s part of bein’ a kid to know that stuff.
It felt kind-a-spooky to be on the “other side’ of the fence the first time. Sign nearby said the area was off limits and had a bunch of other words written on it, too, but the off limits thing was all I recall.
Once we’d both dragged our bikes to the other side, I remember wonderin’ why the place was off limits. It was nothin’ but tall fir trees and scotch broom and dirt tracks laid by tanks and Jeeps and stuff. Perfect sort of a place for a kid to mess around. Off limits? Pfft…
Came a time we got to some large holes. Fox holes, I spose. Never understood why they called ‘em “fox” holes. There weren’t no foxes in any of ‘em. But you know what was in some of ‘em?
Big, long bullets. They were long and brassy, but without the “lead” bullet thing on the end. Inside of ‘em I remember seein’ a “cap” of some sort.
My buddy and I collected all of the bullets we could find and made ‘em our own. Jeans’ pockets filled as full as could be with the booty, we made haste for home, and once there, laid ‘em out on the ground. To take a better look-see.
“What’s that thing on the inside?”
One of us grabbed a twig and poked at the thing on the inside. The “cap”. Nothin’ happened, but there was stuff on the inside, the other side of the “cap”. We dumped it out on the ground.
“That’s gun powder!”
We popped the “caps” on all the bullets we had and made a pile of all of it.
“We need a match…”
Neither of us had a Zippo or a match to confirm, but that was just a rascal away…
I ran back to my house for some match’s. Both my folks smoked. Winston’s. The old man had a Zippo, but the old lady (mom) always used matches.
“Are you done playin’, Liebchen?” mom asked.
“Naw ma, I just came back for somethin’ I forgot.” She didn’t question me no further, just went on about her business.
I grabbed a pack of matches from the coffee table and scrambled out the back door almost as fast as I came in it. Maw was doin’ mom stuff and paid little mind.
“Got ‘em!” I said as I slid in next to my buddy like I was slidin’ into home plate.
We looked at each other for a beat.
“Ya think it’ll explode?”
Our minds went back to the times we watched cartoons, how when a fella in the cartoon would lay a path of powder like a giant fuse, then light it.
“Naw, I don’t think so.”
I folded back the cover on the book of matches and pulled one out. Struck it to the friction thing on the match book and the match lit.
“let’s do it…”
The pile of powder went up in a flash!
“Wholly crap! That was cool!”
After that day, goin’ out to North Fort Lewis became a thing. A thing to do. Bullet Safari comes to mind.
“Did a have a good day, Liebchen?” maw would ask when I came home.
“Ya hungry?” she’d ask.
“Lick salt and you’ll be thirsty, too…” she’d say and let out a laugh at the same time.
Pfft. Damn mom’s…
John L. Lincicome lives in Tacoma and you can read more Kid Life stories on the You Know Your From Lakewood, WA If… Facebook Page. The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.