Nostalgia / Nostalgia

Uncle John

Uncle John

Uncle John lived a couple of doors down from us at our neighbor Bobbi Carrs house.

Bobbi ran a rooming house. the only two people I ever knew to live with her were Alec, 75 years old. german national. a very quiet, round old guy who walked around with his hands behind his back like he was contemplating something? nothing sinister, mind you? plotting? perhaps. most likely, only reliving his life through memories long past.

The other gentlemen renting a room was Uncle John. Now…John wasn’t my real uncle. I just called him that. John was in his late 60’s, early 70’s I’d guess? he was 6 foot something. to me? he might as well have been a giant.

As a boy, I thought Uncle John was the coolest guy around. former US soldier who served in WWI. a retired widower. His wife had passed of an illness twenty years prior. he never re-married. moving around the country holding various jobs to makes ends meet.  settling in Oak Park Illinois just a couple a doors down from our home at 830 Wenonah Avenue in the late 50’s.

Oak Park Illinois is located just west of the city of Chicago. a stones throw on the Eisenhower Expressway or The Ike as locals call it.

I’m not sure how it was that Uncle John and I started taking walks together?

I’d see him from the window and wave. he’d smile, waving back. I was about 4 going on 5 then.

Perhaps Mom saw it as an opportunity to watch her daytime soap operas without some ungrateful little sneak underfoot. I used to beg her to let me go with him.

Uncle John was shy and polite to everyone in the neighborhood.

I was grateful for his company. we got along. He listened to me blather about this and that. I had questions man. lots of questions.

If he had the answer. He was patient and kind and would explain things to me. If he didn’t? He’d let out a deep sigh. look at me and shrug.

I wanted to be just like him.

What I enjoyed most about our walks together was ignoring my normal boundaries. those set by my folks.

“No farther than the corner.” they’d say, “Stay on this side of the alley.”

Uncle John didn’t operate on that frequency. he wasn’t gonna be content just walking back and forth on our block.

I knew it. so did Mom I imagine?

Uncle John was a smoker, While on our walks together he always took the opportunity to light up a butt.

Sometimes we’d walk to Al’s Grill on Madison Avenue. Where he’d get a cup of coffee, I’d have a glass of water.

Al’s was a great place, typical fifties diner. long counter. several booths. if you sat at the counter you could see the cook. this big guy moving around in the kitchen. I’d watch him shoving the food through a small window to the waitress. wondering how he fit through that tiny window? did he live in there? was there another way in?

One particular afternoon as Uncle John enjoyed his coffee and cigarette, I was spinning myself around on the counter stool, content for the moment, trying to make a revolution without using my hands.

A Large Cadillac pulled up out front. A man in a black suit stepped out and headed inside.

He ordered 3 cups of coffee at the counter from the waitress. placing five dollars on it. She brought him his change. followed by his coffee to go.

I didn’t see the man from behind when I spun kicking the cups of coffee onto him and all over the floor.

He started waving his arms around. Shouting. mostly at me.

Uncle John got between the man in the suit and me.

“It was an accident. He’s just a boy. Look? I’d like to buy you the cups of joe to replace what you spilled.”

“What I spilled!?!”

My Friend held out his hands palms up. “Please the boy.”

The man glared at me.

I wish he hadn’t.

He leaned in to whisper something to Uncle John.

Who then looked at me and said, “we’re leaving.”

The man immediately stepped in front of us. Putting his hand on Uncle John’s chest.

I never saw Uncle John move so fast. he hit the man with something he’d pulled from his pocket. knocking him to the floor unconscious.

It was a blackjack he carried for protection.

The cook came out from the kitchen

“Do you know who that is? he works for Momo. you better get outta here quick. C’mon let’s go!”

Uncle John grabbed my hand and the cook led us out the back door into the alley.

“Run.” was all the cook said. “Run.”

We did. couple of blocks away we stopped. I looked at Uncle John who was breathing hard.

He kept asking me if I was OK?

“Who’s Momo?” was what I wanted to know?

“Robert, time to go home.”

He might as well have been Walt Disney for all I knew or cared.

Alec was sitting on the front porch of Bobbi Carrs house as we hurried up the street.

John said something to Alec. who got up and went inside.

We knocked on the door of our house. My Father answered. Mom came to the door behind him.

John asked if he could come inside a minute, first looking over his shoulder and up the street as we entered.

He spoke with my parents in the front room a few minutes.

I went in the next room to turn on the TV. Hoping to squeeze in a couple of cartoons or some Three Stooges. Maybe Garfield Goose was on?

I knew I was in trouble. Though? I had no idea of the severity.

I thought I’d probably get a spanking? maybe no tv? very likely have to go to my room? dollars to doughnuts going outside to play was out.

I heard Uncle John leaving and went out to say goodbye. I told him I was sorry. he knelt down, looked me in the eyes telling me it wasn’t my fault. Then he mussed up my hair said goodbye and left.

Alec met him on the sidewalk in front of our house carrying what looked like….is that a gun?

Closing the door behind him, I thought, here it comes. Dad’s gonna yell. Mom’s gonna send me to my room. only they didn’t?

Mom came over knelt down and hugged me.

Then Dad walked over putting his hand on the top of my head for a second. before he picked me up.

Something was wrong.

We all went to bed early that night.

I slept in bed between Mom and Dad.

They sent my Brother and Sister to sleep over that night at their friends.

When they got home the next morning. my brother would explain that the man I kicked coffee on was a bad man. he might come looking for us, try to hurt Uncle John and me.

In the weeks that followed, word went out. someone was looking for an old guy with a little kid.

Questions were being asked.

It wasn’t good at home. everybody was acting weird. mood was wrong.

I had to stay inside for a while. if I did get to go out? my parents, brother or sister went with me.

Mom and Dad were constantly looking out the front door or back windows of our house, scanning the street and alley. certainly no one went out after dark. my brother and sister were driven and dropped off everywhere.

it was a Friday Night, the light in the alley behind our house went out. it never went out. ever.

Dad wasn’t home, Mom grabbed my sister, brother and I, we headed for the basement.

Someone was in our house. we could hear them upstairs.

Mom immediately called the police from the phone we had downstairs.

We all huddled in the corner quietly. listening in the darkness. terrified.

The police arrived, entered and searched our entire house. they could find no sign of forced entry. no signs anyone had been there but us.

I knew better. we could hear them walking around, our floors creaked. there was no mistaking the sound. Ask my sister. we all heard it.

Eventually things seemed to calm down.

Mom and Dad acted like Mom and Dad again.

I didn’t complain, a rarity in our household at the time.

A few years later after my brother graduated high school, and went off to college. my parents sold our house in Oak Park, moving us to a suburb north of the city of Chicago. I was 8 years old.

When I got to be my brothers age, I became aware of the facts. the man I kicked coffee on worked for a man who lived on our street.

That man was Sam Giancana. The Boss of the Chicago Mob. the man in the black suit who Uncle John belted worked for one of the most powerful mobsters in America. certainly in Chicago.

Giancana lived quietly in Oak Park.

My Brother Tom explained that Dad spoke with one of his guys. telling him what had happened. that it was an accident. the guy listened. then, made a call while dad stood there waiting. after the call? he told him, no one would bother me or our family.

No such assurance was made for Uncle John.

So? Unbeknownst to anyone, Dad gave Uncle John some money, he disappeared the next day.

I never got to take a walk with my friend ever again.

Every year on my birthday I would get a post card from him. usually from some place with palm trees and a swimming pool.

When I was 14 or 15 the post cards stopped?

Mom and Dad sat me down.

Uncle John died peacefully in California in 1975. he was 81 years of age.

No one ever came looking to harm my family. and they never found our friend.

Uncle John had protected me. Dad recognized that.

For all the negatives others attached to my father over the years. this time he got it right. This man had done right with his son. And it was his job to do the same for him. In a time when things like loyalty and honor meant something.

Funny how things work out? nothing ever happened.

You worry. you wait, the bad you think is coming, doesn’t.

On June 19, 1975, 67 year old Sam Giancana was shot in the head and neck at 1147 S. Wenonah Avenue in Oak Park Illinois.

His killer was never found.

To this day.

Several times a year I take a ride to Oak Park and drive down our old street. I’ll Park. look at our old house, think of my childhood. Remembering those innocent days of my youth.

Then I drive down Madison Avenue. Al’s Grill is still there. Though, I stay in the car. I’m always afraid to look inside. maybe that old gunsel is in there? waiting for me?

I don’t take foolish chances anymore.

I just want another day. you know? another memory.

Sadly for me, Everybody is gone now. Uncle John, Dad, Mom, My Brother. Bobbi Carr, Alec. They’re all gone.

I miss my friend. I wish so very much we could take a walk and talk about that day so long ago.

I’ve got questions man, lots of questions.

You can’t ever go back. Nobody’s there anymore. You can only go forward.

We All Just Move On. We Have No Choice.

uncle-john-2

My Pally Motts.

 

My Pally Motts

“Seventh row man! for Seger! Seventh Row!”

Motts couldn’t believe his luck.

Thinking he’d just bought tickets to see Rocker Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band.

I checked. Seger wasn’t in town on that date? Wasn’t even on tour?

The night of the show. he handed it to me.

Brilliant, said it right on the ticket. “An evening with Seegar.” Pete Seegar.

The poor goof had mistakenly bought tickets to see Pete Seegar, the folk singer.

Not exactly Motts Cup O’ Tay.

We had snuck in a couple pints of Blackberry Brandy, in case we got parched.

When Seegar came onto the stage Motts leaned over and said. “Looks like Bob’s been on a diet.”

“I never knew he was that tall? What’s with the Fooking Banjo!”

It went downhill fast after that.

He opened with “Turn Turn Turn.”

His second song was  “If I had a Hammer.”

Motts spat after the applause died down. “If I had a Hammer?…I’d smash that Banjo!”

The group in front of us turned around and gave us dirty looks.

Five songs into the show, during, “On Top Of Old Smokey.”

Motts began yelling.

“Boooooo!”

Seegar being the consummate professional. kept playing.

The verbal assault intensified.

“Who The Hell Is Smokey?!?”

Pete Seegar ignored it and played on.

“This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land…From California to the…..New York Island….”

“BOOOOOOO!”

“You’re New Stuff is Shite! C’MON! Play Some Of Your Old Stuff!”

“C’MON SEGER!”

Seegar finally reached his boiling point.

Mid-song he snapped, stopping the show cold, yelling back, “I am playing my old stuff! now Sit Down and shut the hell UP!”

The crowd was beginning to close in and we were all out of brandy.

“Motts? mellow out man, That’s Not Bob Seger. wrong guy…wrong guy. mellow out man. Motts? relax man, cool it.”

He was having none of it. I’m not sure he even heard me?

“C”MON! PLAY RAMBLING GAMBLING MAN!” How about Kat-Man-Dooooo!” fist pumping the air.

“Get Outta DENVER! C’MON BOB!”

The people in front of us turned around again, this time telling us to “Knock it Off!”

Seegar pointed off stage to someone, then to where we were seated. Moments later. Two of the largest humans I’d ever seen approached us.

“Whadda we gonna do now?”

I got the words, “Guys we’re…..” out. before they grabbed us.

Down the aisle, Motts Arms kept flailing about. “Get yer….Grubby….Paws Offa Me! Hey…Hey!”

“This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land…From California to the…..New York Island…..”

Pete Seegar was in fine form. he was playing the shit out of that banjo.

“You Sold Out Seger! You Sold OUT! Gimme Back My Money!”

Seegar being the consummate professional. kept playing long after we’d left the venue.

The Tribune had a nice review about it the next day. mentioning some over served group that marred the performance just left of the stage before being ejected.

He was inconsolable. To this day he still has no idea who Pete Seegar was? He kept saying “You mean Bob?” I’d say “No Pete.”  he’d tilt his head a little like a dog does when you talk to it.

He means well. He’s not perfect. He knows it.

Truth be told. he’s harder on himself than anyone else is. making a mess of so many things. Always with the best of intentions.

One afternoon at a party, he looked at me, got really serious.

I braced myself. Here it comes, His wife is leaving him? Lost his job? Maybe he’s sick?

Motts began. “A Person’s Health is in His Feet. A Person’s Heart is in His Feet.” then he held up a finger and said. “Never Speak to The Feet while the Head is Alive.”

So I ask him, “How Come?”

He shrugged. “Dunno? Is it because a person’s feet are key to their health, keeping them active and in good physical condition? is a person’s heart in his feet, because of that inner drive to go in search of adventure? undertake the journey. follow our instincts. that if we do? we will be rewarded in the end. someone or something will be there to tell us. That we did a good job. that our lives meant something?

Is it not our heart that tells us this, or is it our mind playing tricks with our feet?”

I’ve known Motts for years. we grew up in the same neighborhood. Went to the same schools.

He’s Generous, Loyal, Big Hearted, Incredibly Temperamental, and Highly Entertaining.

He’s the guy who pulls over for the senior citizen stuck on the side of the road, helping them change a flat tire. the guy who wouldn’t accept money for any favor or help you might need. he might ask you to say a prayer for him.

He’s the guy who visits his Mom and Dad every day. a son who actually wants to spend time with his parents.  He talks with his Ma on the phone every time she calls, never making an excuse.

There’s No, “Ma can I call you back?” Game could be in the 4th quarter. score tied, time running out. if that phone rings? he’s picking it up.

“She might need something? What if she needs something?”

His relationship with his Da? is a little more complicated.

“Get in the Car Da!”

“No, I want to stay home and watch golf.”

“Get in the Car Ol Man!”

“Boyo? My Old Man never hit me once in his life, I hope to continue that trend. but so help me! You Call Me That Again? I’ll Box Yer Ears In.”

Motts Ma always tried to change the subject to keep the peace. “Didja hear the pope is coming? we’ll have to get tickets.”

“Last Chance. Ma and I are going to the movies. are you coming?”

“Go On! Go On Now You……..Scram.”

Didn’t matter. they were his family and he loved them.

Kicked out of College when he drove his car through the front window of a quick mart while in the grip of the grape. his date passed out in the front seat. rolling down his window. He looked at the frozen store clerk who thought she was being robbed. inquiring, “Are Yas Open?”

He’ll accept any challenge. especially of the financial variety. though not always financial.

On a dare, he approached a bird sanctuary dressed like a hunter. making duck calls. peering in the front windows. pounding on the glass. shouting at the birds in their enclosures.

“Come Out With Your Hands Up! I Got The Place Surrounded!”

Thankfully he was smart enough not to have a weapon on him. no felony. just a little misdemeanor. no harm, minor foul. his punishment? community service picking up trash on the side of the highway.

Motts use to love animals of all kinds. he respected, empathized and enjoyed interacting with them whenever possible.

After a Traumatic encounter. things changed.

We had hopped a fence at the local zoo to get a photograph of Motts next to an ostrich. this to win a 300 dollar bet with some guy he worked with. 700 if he got a picture of him tickling it’s foot.

You ever see an ostriches foot? it’s frightening man.

Inside the pen. quietly, we approached.

Easy, Easy, Steady Now, Steady. Steady.

He’d had a brain storm to put a bag over the birds head.

“It might keep it calm if it didn’t know it was having its picture took? I want to make this as painless as possible for the bird.” he said.

“Motts? it’s not being kidnapped for ransom? you’re not taking it hostage? its a fooking ostrich. you need a photo with it. that’s all. stop over thinking it. let’s go. I gotta work in the morning.”

At the precise moment Motts attempted to move into the birds halo? it woke. The Startled Bird staggered, falling hard in the dirt in front of us. I ran, we didn’t belong there.

As Motts and I scrambled back over the fence. big bird stumbled to his feet like a QB trying to get up after being crushed. we left in a hurry. him to reflect on what he’d just done. me so I wouldn’t get caught.

He went back the next day to apologize to the Ostrich. I did not.

His only problem was they all looked the same in the light of day.

“What if you apologized to the wrong one?” I asked him. “Maybe you should have apologized to all of them? They all deserve an apology. Don’t they?”

He agreed, they did.

The next day, man of his word. he returned to the zoo.

Yelling at the birds from just outside the enclosure. this time, he addressed them en masse.

“I’m SORRY! Alright?!? Fair Play, That’s GRAND Then. Thanks Very Much. All Of Yas. Won’t Happen Again.”

As if yelling at them? would somehow grant him absolution.

A zookeeper came out, asking Mott’s to leave immediately.

Wisely, he complied.

Today he gives all animals a wide berth.

That night in the pen with the bird? after an epiphany, Something changed in him.

He refuses to own any animal. No Way Jose. no dog, cat, monkey or marmot. telling me when the end comes. it won’t be from war, or disease, or an asteroid slamming into the earth. When the end of time comes. All animals will run amuck and turn on us.

You go fetch the stick. Kitty doesn’t want to play with that ball of yarn anymore. Polly isn’t interested in any crackers.

If I were you? I’d commence to running.

“I’m not taking any chances.” he told me. “life is too precious. it’s just not worth the risk.”

Unpredictable, Untamed, Unstable.

A Wild Animal.

Un huh. Got it.

Last Junior High Dance

Junior High Dance

Song: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.
By, Roberta Flack

Your last junior high school dance has arrived. hang on a second pal, do something about that hair.

Zip up that fly, stop looking like you’re going to barf.

Because that 13-year-old girl across the dance floor? yeah….that one, right there.

Is looking right at you.

Your mission? if you decide to…accept it? is to get up the nerve to ask her to dance.

For God’s Sakes Man! be cool. keep it together. try not to look like such a goof.

She’s looking over here. keep it together.

Oh Hell’s Bells! not them? not now.

Three of your best so-called pals are egging you on.

“Go on Maaaan! What are you Chicken?”

“Chicken Fried Fraidy Cat!”

“Hey Hogan? your fly is open.”

Quickly I reach down and check my fly. my chucklehead friends are exchanging punches in the shoulder.

She’s not going to wait forever, go on, ask her.

If that dickhead (Name Deleted) gets to dance with her first? you’re going to have to egg his house in retribution.

Wow? look at her. those eyes, that smile. She’s so pretty, wish I had a girlfriend like that.

Did I just say that out loud?

You look over and notice no visible reaction from your friends who are still punching each other in the shoulder.

I think she likes me? she say’s hello from time to time in the halls.

Hopefully? the last time I grunted in return, I didn’t sound like I had been dropped on my head.

Why does she keep looking over here?

(Name Deleted) comes over. We exchange hard punches in the shoulder.
Song: Theme from Shaft

By, Issac Hayes

I swear, if (Name Deleted) asks her to dance? he’s going to disappear forever beneath a pile of dirt clods.

I take a slow deep breath.

It’s Now or never.

I start towards her.

Unbeknownst to me (Name Deleted) is right behind me.

I never saw it coming.

I fly into the refreshment table knocking it over.

Laughter erupts.

Sitting on the floor amidst a puddle of Hawaiian punch and cookies.

One of my friends yells out, “Nice going Hogan! You idiot.”

(Name Deleted) isn’t finished.

He jumps on my back, grabs my head in his hands, ramming it repeatedly into the gym floor.

As they pulled him off me, he had his pocket knife out. and has stabbed Mr. Raley our principle in the hand.

Our Gym teacher Mr. Pro grabbed him from behind in a chokehold and knocked the knife out of his hand.

The Police were called.

(Name Deleted) brother had been killed in Viet Nam earlier in the year.

Understandably he’d taken it hard. this was just his latest incident of rage.

A month earlier he pushed Joe our school janitor down the stairs.

I would be ok. I had a bloody nose, large bump on the head, and a tear in my really cool red corduroy smoking jacket.

The nose and head would heal. The Jacket?

Mom was gonna be upset, I’d gotten it special for the dance at Just Jeans. ®

They took (Name Deleted) to the police station. No criminal charges were filed.

He was suspended for the rest of the school year.

As he was being loaded into the back of the police car?

He spotted me. I have bad dreams remembering the look he gave me, even today.

From the backseat of the squad. He shouted.

“Will you wait for Me?!?”

I thought he was talking to me? I pointed to myself.

“Not You Asshole! Her!”

“Don’t dance with him! You’re suppose to be with ME!”

She looked right at him and made a face like she had eaten something that didn’t agree with her.

Shaking her head, she said, “No!”

Powerful word. no. get’s right to the point. no.

After that? he got quiet, remaining very still, until the police car took him away.

I turned to look at her, her eyes met mine. I smiled.

She didn’t smile back.

Several of her friends surrounded her.

I was crushed.

Why didn’t she smile back?

I heard my friends laughing.

Why didn’t she smile back?

Shaking it off, I walked over to them. pretending not to notice. after all. they’re your friends.

The dance was over.

One of my Teachers, Miss Bass asked me if I was alright?

I nodded that I was.

I wasn’t.

I’m hurt, I’m pissed, my new red corduroy smoking jacket is torn!

I decide to walk home.

About half way, I hear a voice behind me.

“Robert? Wait. Robert.”

“Are you ok?”

Touching my hand to the bump on my head, I nodded, I was.

“Why didn’t you ask me to dance tonight?”

I look down at the ground paralyzed. Then at her, shuffling my feet.

” I….I don’t know.”

Only, I knew. I was afraid. Afraid she’d say no. I turned away and walked home.

No goodnight, No, see you in school on Monday. Nothing.

Song: Alone Again (Naturally)

By, Gilbert Sullivan

I wanted to have that night back.. I wanted another chance.

At the time. I felt like I’d blown it!

When you’re a thirteen year old. you think that every moment is the last chance you’ll get.

Then? you find out it isn’t.

The light bulb goes on. Chances and Opportunities happen everyday.

You just need to recognize them.

And act on them. Unafraid.

I eventually got that dance.

Song: Doctor My Eyes
By, Jackson Browne


 My Last Junior High School Dance 1973

Song List

1. Hello it’s Me
Todd Rundgren
2. Lean on Me
Bill Withers
3. Theme from Shaft
Issac Hayes
4. The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Roberta Flack
5. I’ll Be Around
The Spinners
6. Me and Mrs Jones
Billy Paul
7. Mother and Child Reunion
Paul Simon
8. Everything That I Own.
Bread
9. Rockin Robin
Michael Jackson
10. Brandy ( You’re a Fine Girl)
Looking Glass
11. Your Mama Don’t Dance
Loggins and Messina
12. Right Place Wrong Time
Dr. John
13. Saturday in the Park
Chicago
14. Nights in White Satin
Moody Blues
15. Heart of Gold
Neil Young
16. Dancing in the Moonlight
King Harvest
17. It Never Rains in Southern California
Albert Hammond
18. Long Cool Woman (in a Black Dress)
The Hollies
19. Crocodile Rock
Elton John
20. Reelin’ in The Years
Steely Dan
21. Morning Has Broken
Cat Stevens
22. I Can See Clearly Now
Johnny Nash
23. Day After Day
Badfinger
24. Go All The Way
Raspberries
25. The Witch Queen of New Orleans
Redbone
26. Drift Away
Dobie Gray
27. Troglodyte (Cave Man)
The Jimmy Castor Bunch

Up at the Lake

L to R: Roach, Robert Hogan, Tom Hogan.

L to R: Roach, Robert Hogan, Tom Hogan.

Roach had me by the collar. He flung me like a sack of potatoes.

I landed in the lake. My older brother dove in and fished me out. We called the kid across the lake Roach. I’m Not sure why? Maybe that was his name or just some nickname he got tagged with? Roach meant to toss me in the direction of the Bear that charged us. unfortunately for him. I slipped out of his hand as he windmilled me, and I flew into the lake, not into the path of the bear. sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes? the bear? he eats you. I was 4 going on 5. I don’t remember much? I remember the lake and the cabin. But not that day. though others would.

Our family spent the month of August that year in Northern Wisconsin in a rented cabin on a chain of lakes vacationing. My older brother Tom and I would find all kinds of stuff to do that summer. Dodging Bats in the attic, Fishing for Tadpoles and Listening to the Loons.

I looked up to my big brother. he was cool. I wanted to tag along everywhere he went. I’m sure that day he would’ve rather hung around with Roach across the lake? instead of his pesky little brother. Can’t say I blame him. There was a ten-year age difference between us. after a while you have to get exhausted listening to a 4 year olds relentless questions? on the rare occasion they would tolerate my company.

We were walking from our cabin to the Roach’s cabin on the other side of the lake by taking a path that skirted along the lakes edge.

I didn’t understand the concept of wild animals back then. Not that I would have thought that the beast charging at us was Yogi Bear.

The Bear we found out later was only trying to protect her cubs. we startled it. and it did what bears do. protect their young.

Roach never liked me much. I was just a nuisance to him. a little brat. my brother was put in charge of watching me that day. my parents were going out shopping. he had no choice, he was told, “Watch your little brother.”

When you’re young. you don’t get up in the morning and make plans to do anything. you just hit the ground running and see where the day takes you. hopefully you have some fun, laugh and find some trouble to get into that won’t necessitate a trip to the hospital.

That day I got lucky, I just swallowed some lake water. Roach? he didn’t fare so well, he lost a lot of blood. ending up with a huge bite out of his right arm and left leg. the bear bounced him around like a rubber ball. I’m not sure how many stitches he took? my brother tried to explain it to me. after trying to count the number on my fingers? I lost track, anything after ten to a 4 year-old? might as well be in the hundreds.

I realize how fortunate I am that I slipped out of Roach’s hand.

At first, he was considered a hero. Then he spilled the beans. he meant to toss me at the bear, hoping it would go after me instead of him. I was nothing more to him than cannon fodder. Sorry kid? wrong place, wrong time.

Our family would visit Roach in the hospital, bring him gifts, offered to help his parents with their medical bills, we believed he all but saved my life. they politely refused. after he was released. he was confined to their cabin for the remainder of the summer. We’d go over every day. bring him cookies. hang out, drink coca cola sitting in the shade of his screened in porch looking out at the lake. it was fun, good times, easy living.

Until a couple of days before our vacation ended. while goofing around. my brother made growling noises at Roach. and he snapped, he started to yell and scream, his arms were flailing about. I don’t think my brother intended to scare him? although? this was the same guy who told me the Boogie Man lived in our bedroom closet.

Once Roach calmed down. he came clean with the real story. We never saw him again. My Dad was fit to be tied when he heard the truth, Mom calmed him down, he figured it wouldn’t do any good to make a stink. His kids were OK. There were no bite marks or scars for them on this day. Those would come later for his boys. And not at the hands or claws of a bear.