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  • Or (alternative title) Boys Will be Boys

    There was a piece in the New Yorker in March of 2012 called "Scars, a life in injuries," by David Owens. It is, in a word, brilliant and is accompanied by one of the greatest photographs I have ever seen...depicting the author as a young man, at perhaps seven or eight years of age, with a front tooth prominently knocked out, his right arm in a big cast and captions and arrows accounting for all of his childhood scars. Google it.....well worth the effort.

    A couple of days ago I sent that piece to my two younger brothers as well as to a childhood friend, declaring that the NY'er author clearly deserved Ralston Brother status.

    That correspondence unleashed successive email memories of certain incidents from "the day," and an hour or so ago I found myself responding to an email recalling a couple of colorful hijinks perpetrated by our friend.

    Anyway, here, presented as a major self-indulgence, is my email response (lightly edited for some of our gentler readers).

    I understand that by Coming Out like this, I may never be taken seriously again in Cowbird. But, hey, it was all worth it. Some of us will understand perhaps a bit more than others.

    In any event, thank God we were blessed with the ability to indulge our, shall we say, creative natures while young enough to really enjoy it all.

    Double-thank-God that we never hurt ourselves too seriously, killed anyone else, were seriously arrested or drove the parents to unhinged retaliatory measures. How they, in particular, survived those years is beyond me. And of course that's before we moved onto more, shall we say, interesting "escapades" that were in cultural alignment with the tail end of the 60's and early 70's.

    Things that go KABAM! were obviously at the zenith of our Wonder Years creative altar and there are so many incidents that one can scarcely remember them all, but some are still so vivid it's all quite like yesterday.

    There was the recurring "Flaming Falls," a nighttime exercise wherein we made sure the canoe was pointed directly into the river current (no gas backwash in the lee since we were such clever boys) before dumping a couple of gallons of gas into the river directly above the head falls....followed, of course, by the lobbed M80/cherry-bomb/whatever to set the whole thing off. Spectacular!

    The (one time) wondrous "Pillar of Fire," wherein we drove a long and heavy steel pipe of Dad's into the ground, filled the three feet above ground with gasoline and (technical details deleted) waterproof fuse lashed to one of Dad's heaviest fishing weights. Unfortunately, while a truly awesome effect, this stunt was undertaken a bit too close to a tree next to the parent's garage. We toasted the tree which made for a lot of extremely obvious evidence. I remember that when we were done rolling around and laughing our asses off, we began to weigh the very few options now open to us. Face the inevitable consequences OR cut the fairly spindly (now blackened) tree down and drag the evidence well up into the woods. As I recall, it was while we were discussing the viability of this (obviously more appealing) option that we heard the dreaded crunch of gravel indicating The Parents' return.

    It did not go well.

    Interesting that all three of the Ralston boys later moved into fields related to environmental protection. Karmic reparation for "youthful indiscretions"....we've all now spent decades atoning.

    Then there was the wonderful moment when, after several years of trying, the huge brass padlock on the heavy, metal Mystery Chest which Dad thought he had successfully hidden in the basement.................opened.

    Dear Sweet God!!.............the thing was filled with WW II pistols and plenty of ammo to match! We thought, (we were way to young to know the word "prophetically"), that we had died and gone to heaven. But this is a longer story for another I am now professional grownup currently laboring under a tight publishing deadline, so.....details to follow one of these days.

    ttfn all,


    p.s. I don't recall who was with me when we lobbed some sort of (fairly modest) bomb under a car parked up at the Upper of life's most wonderful moments. Middle age guy sitting strangely in the car by himself.....sort of moving, sort of not. When the firecracker went off several exciting things happened at once.....the old guy screamed, the head of a much younger man came up out of his lap and the old guy rips the exhaust system out of the car backing up at an excessive rate of speed from the trysting spot and onto Route 100. I don't know if Mark and/or David were with me for that one - I tend to think it was Bill and Chris - but I recall that we were all initially confused about what the kid's head was doing in the guy's lap. Ah, innocence. The Wonder Years indeed.

    p.p.s. then there was the time, not more than 100 yards from the scene mentioned above, when Mark and I handed David the pellet gun as it was now his turn to shoot at the next passing car's hubcaps (back when they made proper Big Ass Hubcaps). David, perhaps 8 at the time, squeezed off a handsome panning shot and as the hubcap returned the desired metallic BLANG, we were all treated to Dad's face staring up at us from our Grandmother Sweetie's black Chevy Nova.

    When we were done running (far) from the scene and had discussed how totally screwed we were, that was one long, slow walk home....think Dead Boys Walking.

    really, I MUST get back to work......
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