How I Became A Sociopath

I wasn’t born a loner – but I was born with a brain condition which almost guaranteed that outcome.

When I was almost three, my Mother gave birth to my brother, a sickly blue-baby which required a lot of care and attention.  I was not abandoned, but I had a lot of alone time, in a neighborhood with no other children my age.  The pattern was set.

A bit of amateur observation and analysis by others, later, in my adult life, indicates that I am probably on the autism scale, a high-functioning Asperger’s.  I could have been charitably described as ‘delightfully naïve.’  I do not read social cues.  I was intelligent, not a hick, or a rube.  I was open, friendly, inclusive – and I got shit on!

The nearest boy my age was two blocks away, just beyond a parkland with a lake in the middle. He regularly played with a boy a year older, who lived next door.  I occasionally hung out with them, but slowly realized that they only tolerated me to use or abuse me.

At our end of the little lake, the cedar trees grew closely, up the embankment, pierced by a few game/people trails.  The far end could not be reached without going out to the street, and around, because of a minor geological formation, and a field of stinging nettle that I regretted finding – until I discovered a way past.

At the far end, there were open areas of tall grass and weeds.  The cedars were in individual, teepee-sized copses.  I stuck my head into one of them, to discover that the outer foliage blocked the sunlight, and the interiors were hollow.  FORTS! Just what every 10/11-year-old boy needed.  I could hardly wait to show my companions.

When I excitedly led them to see my discovery, in the first copse we entered, there was a ‘machine gun’ – a wooden toy that some father had built, with a crank and a clacker on one side.  Suitable for a 6 or 7-year-old, the 12-year-old culprit snatched it up and shouted, “Mine!”

A week later, when I repeated my mistake, we found a homemade hunting knife.  Instead of leaving it for the rightful owner, he yelled, “Dibs,” and grabbed it, too.  Now I felt that I could no longer explore my new play area, lest a resident denizen accuse me of stealing these items.

At the edge of the downtown retail area, there was a dilapidated storage building.  I learned how to slip past the loose rear doors.  Among other things, it contained three non-functioning pinball machines.  Often coming or going, I would slip in and stand at them for five or ten minutes, popping the balls up, and propelling them up, to watch them carom around randomly, and disappear.

When I inadvertently revealed that I knew how to get in, they insisted that I show them.  Standing around, watching steel balls doing nothing, didn’t entertain them.  The older culprit pried the end railing off all three machines, slid the glass covers down, and had me remove all the balls.  Three machines – three of us – we each got five 1-inch ball-bearings.  I accompanied culprit #1 back to his house, on the way to mine.  As I walked across his lawn, I heard him call to me.

His old house had old-style, heavy wooden storm-windows that fit over the regular ones in cold weather, to add insulation value.  For rooms like the kitchen, which might become overheated, you could open the inner window, and the storm-window had a flap at the bottom, covering four round holes that could provide ventilation.

He wanted to know if the balls would fit through the holes.  They did – perfectly.  “You push the balls in, and I’ll push them back out to you.”  So I did.  I soon realized that I was poking in five – and getting back four – poking in the four – and getting back three, etc. until I had none.  Standing there, like the gullible fool I was, I said, “Push mine back out to me.”  “Nope, they’re mine now.” and he closed the flap and the inner window, so I went home with nothing but regrets.

A couple of months later, he wanted to trade comic books.   He kept his pile in a cardboard box just bigger than his comics.  As I was digging down in the box, I realized that all the ball-bearings were along the bottom.  I surreptitiously snaked them out and dropped them in my pocket.  As I was walking away, he shouted through the window, “You stole all my balls.  Give them back.”  I said, “Nope, they’re mine now.”  Even with ten balls in my possession, I couldn’t go back to the amusement site and put them back; for fear that I would be discovered and accused of damaging the machines.

I went to school with him so, one day we were walking together in a residential area that was not ours.   Twenty yards ahead on the sidewalk was a piece of paper.  It looked like an envelope.  I assumed that we would just walk up to it and see what it was.  Suddenly, he dashed forward, scooped it up and started pawing into the envelope.

When I got there, I found that it was a utility bill for a month’s electricity and water – plus enough cash to pay for it.  The owner’s name was clear on the invoice.  I felt that we should just walk over to the widow’s apartment and return it, getting a smile, a thank you, a pat on the head, and possibly a cookie.  Instead of doing that, or instead of offering to split it with me, or at least give me a small portion, he just stuffed it in his pocket.

Perhaps I read too much evil into too small a sample size, but it didn’t get any better when I had to attend high school in the next town.  Mostly I was ignored, sometimes pointedly so, but there was a short bully who loved to sneak up behind me, grab my arm and twist it behind me in a chicken-wing.  It was only because my arms were so short, that he couldn’t get enough leverage to cause me pain or discomfort.  I would ignore him, and he would get bored, turn me loose and walk away.

One day, two of the well-off guys in my class were illicitly sharing a BIG box of peanut brittle.  When class ended, I politely asked if I might have a small piece.  At next class-break, they found me and gave me a piece – which they later crowed they had both peed on.  Even today, I am amazed that people will expend so much time and energy, for no obvious gain.

I refuse to be mean.  I will not be nasty or judgmental.  I will not be an asshole.  I will not be a prankster, a troublemaker, or a criminal.  I know that there are lots of nice folks.  I’ve met many of them, but people like these seem to make up the large majority of the population.  I eventually realized that I didn’t need or want companionship badly enough to seek it from the likes of these.

To those of you who have been kind to me – and others – online, or in person, Thank You!  You are bright and shining stars in a sea of darkness.  I’m glad I could be a loner, with you.   😀  😀

Flash Fiction #285

PHOTO PROMPT © Bill Reynolds

WOW

My creative git up and go has got up and went.  (What, again??!)  😳

Much as I would like to, I can’t always rely on Fibbing Fridays to end the week with.

My writing skills have flamed out.  Rochelle’s picture this week has left them as sere and ravaged as Yosemite after a wildfire, so this will have to be a WOW post.

The Word Of the Week is

Ischia

This is a Latin word for the name of an island in the Bay of Naples.  It is called that because it resembles the bones at the back of the pelvis.

***

If you’d like to join the fun with the Friday Fictioneers, go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Flash Fiction #283

PHOTO PROMPT © Jan Wayne Fields

THERE’S ONE IN EVERY JOCKSTRAP

Yeehaw!!  It’s Canada Day, and, as usual, the city was celebrating with a big Multicultural Festival in the downtown park.

Bruce had spent most of the afternoon sampling the food and drink – perhaps too much.  He approached another food truck.  “Gimme two crispy tacos.”

I tell yu befoe, we no sell tacos.  Yu go way now please.

Okay, okay, don’t get yer serape in a twist!  Gimme a chicken quesadilla.  You got any’a that Japanzie beer, Kirin, in one of them kegs?

We no sell beer.  We sell flowah.

Sir!  Park Security. Please come with us.  You need a rest.

***

If you’d like to join the fun with the Friday Fictioneers, just go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Social Medium Humor

People say to me, Archon, Facebook is a good way to connect with old friends.
At my age, if I want to connect with old friends, I need a Ouija Board

***

My doctor gave me three days to give up drinking.  So I picked June the fifth, July 17, and October 9.
I enjoy a glass of wine each night for its health benefits.  The other ones are for my witty comebacks and smooth dance moves.  I’ve stopped drinking for good.  Now I only drink for evil.

***

Don’t bother walking a mile in my shoes; that would be boring.  Spend 30 seconds inside my head; that’ll freak you right out.

***

My wife left for work this morning, and almost immediately I got a call from my next door neighbour telling me to come around quick as she needed my help.

So, I knock on her door, and she opens the door in a robe and immediately drags me into the living room. She then drops the robe to reveal she is completely naked. As my mouth hangs open she says: “Everything you can see between my legs is yours”

Rubbing my hands in anticipation I drop to my knees and say: “Right, I’ll have your TV, Stereo, Coffee Table, sofa, fireplace…”

***

Heisenberg is pulled over by a Highway Patrolman

“Mister, do you know how fast you were going?” asks the cop.

“No,” replies Heisenberg.

“I clocked you at 87 miles per hour!” the cop exclaims.

Heisenberg sighs. “Great, now I don’t know where I am…”

***

A Canadian park ranger is giving some ramblers a warning about bears, “Brown bears are usually harmless. They avoid contact with humans so we suggest you attach small bells to your rucksacks and give the bears time to get out of your way. However, grizzly bears are extremely dangerous. If you see any grizzly-bear droppings leave the area immediately.”

“So how do we know if they’re grizzly bear droppings?” asks one of the ramblers.

“It’s easy,” replies the ranger. “They’re full of small bells.”

***

A 7 year old boy is sitting on a park bench, eating chocolate bars.
An old man next to him says, “Eating that much chocolate isn’t good for you.”
The boy replies, “My grandfather lived to 102.”
“Did he eat that much chocolate??”
“No! but he minded his own fucking business.”

***

A Hollywood producer calls his friend, another Hollywood producer, on the phone.

“Hey, how are you doing?” he asks.

“Well!” responds the friend. “I just sold a screenplay for $200,000. I also wrote a novel and got a $50,000 advance from the publisher. I have a new TV series airing next week, and everyone says it’s going to be a hit. I’m doing great! How are you?”

“OK,” says the first producer. “I’ll call you back when you’re alone.”

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

No matter how cynical you are, it’s never enough to keep up.

I learned about scams at a very young age.  My Mother obtained two successive jobs in Detroit during the Dirty Thirties, in the middle of ‘The Great Depression’.  She worked at Burroughs Adding Machine as an assembler, and later moved to a better-paying position in the kitchens of Detroit General Hospital.

Pencils could be bought in a store for 1 cent each.  On the sidewalks of the commercial district where she worked, could be seen a little Jewish man, with a mug half-full of pencils, and a sign, 2 cents each – 100% markup.  Mom said that one time she gave him two pennies, and took a pencil, as many others did.  Some dropped in the two cents, but declined to take one.  Some dropped in the occasional nickel, or even the rare dime.

She shared a tiny apartment in a huge building, amongst several more, with few trees, little green space, and no parks.  Sometimes on Sundays, to get away from the industrial blandness, she and her room-mate would take a bus to a more upscale residential neighborhood.  There they would tour the area, enjoying the shade, the grass, the flowers, and the birds and squirrels, staring longingly at the magnificent homes.

One Sunday, they passed a large red-brick manor home on an acre lot of manicured lawn and gorgeous gardens, behind a six-foot wrought-iron fence.  When they reached the driveway, there was the little Jewish man, washing his Cadillac.  😳

On my Flash Fiction about seeing a roadside beggar, a commenter from England said that a panhandler in his city has been spotted ending his day by climbing into a nice car.  Toronto had a similar scam artist.  The Shaky Lady was regularly seen in the banking district.  She had muscle tremors, a distorted face, and difficulty speaking…. until quitting time, when a Toronto Sun reporter noticed her striding up a side street, and driving away in this year’s Audi.

I’m not saying that begging as a means of support is easy, especially the roadside panhandling.  You have to stand on pavement for hours, exposed to wind, rain, heat, cold, snow, and exhaust fumes.  You can’t eat or drink on the job, or it destroys the image.  You generally can’t take a break, and washrooms are not available – unless there’s a nearby clump of bushes.

One of my biggest objections to individuals supporting themselves in this manner, is that these people are like leeches on society, adding nothing – no goods or services – to the economy and the general welfare.  My other main objection is that most, or all, of the money received is unreported, and no tax is paid on it.  This means that I (and you) have to pay more taxes for infrastructure and social services, like supporting the unfortunates who really need it. Get some ethics!  Get some self-respect! Get a job!

Flash Fiction #222

Vindication

PHOTO PROMPT © Ceayr

PRIDE OF PLACE

His fifty years of work history – half in factories, half in offices – was proudly productive, but not boastworthy. Finally, here in this little park, in his retirement, he was vindicated.

It began innocently. A young mother watching a child, wondered what ladies were like in the last century. Another day, a young boy asked if he’d driven any cars like the ones in the Cruise Night parade.

He waxed eloquent, weaving tales of similarities and differences. Soon, he had a small audience whenever he came here to sit – stories of this, remembrances of that. He had become the tribal elder.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Friday Fictioneers

It takes a village to raise a child, but sometimes it takes the village idiot to entertain one. 😉 😆

A Humor Test—See How You Do

Divorces………………..Not yet….
Children………………….2
Surgeries………………..I didn’t know there was going to be a test. I didn’t study. Let’s see…. Tonsils, hernia, shoulder, same eye twice…. Makes 5 – so far, with one little laser touch-up to come.
Piercings………………..1, an ear stud, that a dog pulled out, and has now grown over
Tattoos………………….0 – chicken-shit procrastinating
Shot a gun………………yes – Hell Yes, rifles, shotguns, pistols – May I have some more please?
Quit a job………………..yes, 18 months after I didn’t get my 3-month probationary raise
Ever been on TV………..no – well, maybe CCTV, but I was never identified. I’ve been mentioned on radio several times.
Been in a fist fight……No! Getting in a fist-fight just proves how stupid, unprepared, drunk, and/or testosterone-fuelled you are.
Hit a deer………………..No. I fed a few deer that almost climbed into the back seat of the car, in a Provincial Park.
Watched someone give birth……..I barely showed up for the conception. That’s someone else’s job.
Watched someone die……not quite – recently visited a sister-in-law in a hospice – she died the next day.
Ridden in an ambulance……….yes, the day I fell off my motorcycle and smashed my shoulder
Visited Las Vegas……no – I’m poor, and Canadian. I’ve visited Niagara Falls, it’s kinda Vegas-Lite
Sang karaoke………….no – I don’t frequent bars, especially karaoke bars.
Rode a Jet Ski…………no – I was young and stupid daring before jet skis were invented. I have walked on water with 2 large Styrofoam ‘boots.’ I’ve run an 8-foot hydroplane boat up and down a river. I’ve helmed a 22-foot catamaran for 5 minutes in calm, lake water, and piloted a 4-seater plane for 15 minutes, managing to keep it in a clear sky. I’ve also piloted several snowmobiles, both in virgin snow, and on hard-packed trails.
Ice skating……………..yes, of course. This is Canada. We’re born with skates on.
Surfing…………………… yes and no – Never with a surfboard, but I’ve body-surfed 8-foot rollers coming in off Lake Huron after a big storm.
Ridden on a motorcycle…………yes, a dozen or more, both as a passenger, and as the rider, including 5 of my own.
Stayed in a hospital…… yes – The visit after I fell off my motorcycle and had my bionic shoulder installed.   It was supposed to be a quick three-day stay. I was trying to man through the pain, but my wife and daughter both urged me to use the pain-pump, because they thought that it held Demerol. It didn’t! It was morphine sulphate, which lowered my normally low blood pressure even farther. After three days on my back, I crawled out of the bed to get dressed, and sank to the floor. I was sentenced to another three days, while they subjected me to every test to find out why.
Ridden in back of police car ……………no – I have voluntarily entered police cars, both in the front, and the back, but was always allowed to walk away. One night, I sat in the back with a cat-and-dog (him/her) team, giving a report about a theft from a car in a hotel parking structure. I was offered a beer from a six-pack on the floor in the front.

Now u know everything – or as much as I’m willing to fabricate admit.

Copy & paste, then change with your own answers.

This was interesting, nosy, and a better way to get to know a blogger on a personal basis than most of the other lists. This is more like an eye test after my second eye operation. If it was a test to find the humor in it, then I have failed. C’mon, have a go! I’m particularly interested in the responses to ‘Ridden in the back of a police car.’   🙄

 

Housecleaning Memories

This post will be a sort of guest post from Granma Ladybug.

Recently she has assisted me with our Fall Housecleaning.  She has been reluctant to do so, not because of the labor, or the allergies, but because of the need to divest ourselves of many things which bring back strong memories.

Some years ago, when she was downsized out of a job, she took advantage of a government grant to return to school and upgrade her computer and English skills.  To assess incoming students’ language abilities, the English teacher asked them to write a one-page essay.  She recently came upon a file with hers, along with some other submissions.

The prompt was, “Write about something which strongly affected you, hopefully pleasantly.”  Her mother died when she was only three, and she was raised by a succession of older sisters and an evil sister-in-law.  When we engaged, my mother took her in like her own.  Read how this affected her.

A SUNDAY AFTERNOON DRIVE DOWN THE
SOUTH SHORE OF LAKE HURON

“Welcome to Bruce County!”  This is a sign that, over the years has come to mean a homecoming to me.  Unfortunately, this spring my mother-in-law had a stroke that affected her short-term memory, and she had to be placed in a nursing home.

Every trip home means visiting my father-in-law, who still manages to live at home, and fitting in three visits with Mom over the weekend.  This trip home, my husband and I decided to take Mom out for a Sunday afternoon drive.

After getting Mom settled in the car, our first stop was The Chip Shop, for French fries which we could enjoy during the drive.  Our journey took us down the main street to Lake Huron, and a view of Chantry Island.  We then travelled along Huron Street, taking a right onto Adelaide Street, down to Lake Street, left on Lake Street past the tennis courts, and another right to Beach Street.

Lighthouse

 

 

 

 

At the end of Beach Street is Chantry Park, where the Long Dock was.  You can still see the rocks which made up the dock, stretching far out into the water.  We then continued down Front Street, which turns into Harmer Street, then becomes Harmer Road, paralleling Lake Huron.

Lighthouse II

 

 

 

 

 

The road winds along the shoreline, curving to accommodate Mirimachi Bay, where a lower water level reveals mud flats with pools of murky water that house bulrushes, and other aquatic life.  We pulled over to the side of the road and watched two sailboats rounding Chantry Island, the sailing conditions being absolutely perfect.

mini-railroad

 

 

 

 

As we continued down the shore road, the brightly shining sun made the calm water sparkle with diamonds….almost too brilliant for the eyes.  On we meandered, past the miniature gauge railroad tracks in the lakefront park, past Port Elgin’s marina, up to the main street and to the Tim Horton’s, to pick up Timbits for Mom and her roommate, Christina Eagles.

Returning Mom to the nursing home was very difficult for Mom and us; however, Christina was glad to see Mom, as she has become very attached to her, and is frightened to be left alone for too long.  We brought out the Timbits, which are Christina’s favorite treat, and had a small party to celebrate the end of an enjoyable day.

While it was pleasant to take Mom out for the day, it brought to mind past years when Sunday meant putting on a roast and loading the car with grandparents, parents and children, to take a tour of the Bruce Peninsula.  We have, in past years, gone to the flea market at Mar, seen the spring and fall colors at Lion’s Head, and investigated many, many garage sales that dot the countryside during the fine summer weather.

Outings that were taken by the Smith family include a litany of small town names such as Chesley, Tara, Allenford, Wingham, Oliphant etc.  These were memories in the making, something to bring out later, and to let the remembering heal the hurt that adverse changes can bring.  To make pleasant memories is a very important detail.

This was the bitter-sweet last time we were all able to enjoy such a get-together.  Mom remained in good physical condition, almost until her death from a virulent case of flu when she was 92.  Soon after this day though, the mental light in her eyes faded, and there was almost no spark of who she’d been.

While we may be forced to jettison some of our physical things, we hold our memories dearly.  They remain almost as bright and strong as the days they were created.  They take no room to store and, not only can we pull them out and enjoy them at any time, but we can share them with others.   😀

Five For Festing

From the early spring, when most of the snow has melted, to the late fall, when it starts coming down again, the daughter (LadyRyl) is reasonably mobile.  Whether with one crutch or two, she can catch a bus a hundred yards away, over on the main street.  On bad days, she can call up the Transit Mobility van, and be taken in her power wheelchair, to places like the big mall at the edge of town.  I’m even amazed at how far away she can get from home, with just the wheelchair’s battery-pack.

All this freedom quickly disappears when the ice and snow begin to pile up.  Unshovelled sidewalks, and piles left by plows can be quite a challenge for the mobility-challenged.  She’s been stuck a few times, outside, in the cold.  Once, she thought a quartet of teen boys on foot might harass her, but they dug and pushed her out.  Then, a quarter mile down the street, at the other mall entrance, she got stuck again, and had to call her son at his work, to leave and come over to get her out.  No-one else helped.

Other than when I drive her somewhere, she spends a lot of time indoors over the winter.  You can’t read or watch TV all the time, so this is when she stocks up on her crafts.  She spins up lots of her raw fiber into skeins of beautiful artisanal yarns, then she knits and crochets some of it into shawls, scarves, hats, mitts and socks.  She and a girlfriend turn wire and semi-precious stones into jewellery.  It gets her through the winter, but by spring she’s got a lot of time, energy and money tied up in stuff for sale.

At about this time of year, along comes a line of festivals and opportunities to recoup investment through retail.  This year, it started five weeks ago.  On a Saturday, I took her 15 miles out, to a Mennonite village, to celebrate the Strawberry Festival.  Aside from fervent thanks, and a few dollars for gas, I received a couple of pints of “picked-today” strawberries.

The wife washed and hulled them and put them on a cookie sheet.  I put that into the freezer, later transferring the frozen fruit to a Zip-Loc bag.  I will be able to thaw small bowlfuls, and add them to my cereal over the winter.

The next week I took her to her monthly BarterWorks congregation at the downtown Working Center.  While it’s open to the public on a cash basis, it needs some promotion.  Still, she made a few sales and trades, met some old friends, and had a nice day out.

The third week, the cherries were in season, (In Washington State, and Mexico) and I put her and her goods beneath a nylon-topped gazebo in her nearby Cherry Park.  She and her friend sheltered from the blazing sun in the baseball outfield, and a bit more stock was exchanged for cash.

On the fourth Saturday, I set her up in the big park for the Anti-Violence Festival.  While we set up the gazebo again, she was on a small island, and well protected from the sun by mature trees.  She brought along her spinning wheel, to attract customers.

Here are some pics of the things that she and her friends make and sell, under the name Frog Pond Collective.  Included are shots of her spinning wheel, first lonely, then, fully manned (Womanned?)

SDC10585SDC10586

 

 

 

 

 

 

SDC10584SDC10583

 

 

 

SDC10587

On the Friday night before, I had been there for the big Cruise Night.  On the way out of the park, I again ran into these.  I’m not sure if this is the city’s idea of a joke – or art.   😕

SDC10569

About 125 years ago, when the park was created, one of the buildings torn down had belonged to McBrine Luggage, on this exact spot.  They’re still in business – just elsewhere in the city.  These are made of concrete, and, like the warning on McDonald’s cups, not to juggle hot coffee with your crotch, there is a metal plaque on the grass next to them, across from the bus terminal, reminding the drunks and druggies not to try to steal them.

Last Sunday, I was to take her to a fest the Oxymorons call Open Street – when they close the main street to traffic.  At the last minute – Wed.? Thur.? – it was decided to switch it to Saturday night, to meld with the Jazz Festival being held in front of the downtown mall.

It was overcast but dry all Sunday, but began drizzling as soon as we got set up Saturday evening.  Even sitting on a thick, woven rug, the spinning wheel began to get damp.  She called me to pick it up and take it home, but, by the time I got there, several vendors had had enough, so we packed it in.

The young city workers were supposed to have distributed a survey at the end of the evening, and were now desperately yelling in car windows to find what was good and what could be improved.  Aside from the rain, being located two blocks from the Jazz Fest, the only people walking by, in the dark, were on their way to their cars – very disappointing.

This Saturday will be a small, indoor BarterWorks again, and the last Saturday in August will be another.  The city wants to try Open Street again on the third Sunday.  (Did I say Five??!)  The daughter is considering the upcoming Word On The Street Festival, and is looking for other chances to unload the last of her stash for cash.

 

Boys’ Club

When I entered Grade 7, I was still only ten years old.  My 11th birthday didn’t occur till the end of September.  There was a boy in my class who was more than a year older than me, because, back then, they failed students who did not achieve scholastically.  Early in November, as we were both hanging our coats up, he dug into his pocket, and showed me something.  It was a bright, brass, expended .22 caliber shell.  Gun nut that I was, it was as if he’d showed me the Holy Grail.  Where had he got it?

It seemed that there was a group of boys who got together every Tuesday night, to fire 10 target practice shots, but you had to be 12 years old!  The range was in the basement of a business on the main street.  It had been a lumber supply and woodworking shop, and the range was in the concrete-lined trough where the saw and planer shavings had been dumped.  With no external lighting, it was accessed from a dark alley which ran behind the stores, not the kind of place you’d want 12/14 year old boys to be today, especially in bigger cities.

I told the men running the show that I was “almost 12”, conveniently ignoring the missing 10 months.  In a school class of 15+ boys, I was usually the third shortest.  Still, there was a boy a year older, who was even shorter.  He and I had to stand on a block of wood to get up to the firing window, where we shot standing up.  After about a year, the building changed owners, and we moved to the basement gym of the now-unused high school.  This was accessed through a rear entrance with no lights until an adult with a key came to unlock a door, invisible in the darkness.  Not much of an improvement.

I didn’t think about it at the time, but there was a lot of time and energy volunteered by a succession of adult men.  The local Game Warden’s wife couldn’t have children, so we were his surrogates for years.  The president of the men’s handgun club, as well as the vice-president and the secretary, at different times, and a police chief, and later a constable, all gave of their time.

Wooden boxes with quilt pads were provided for prone shooting, and a new target holder/bullet catcher was built.  Every meeting night started off with a lecture on firearm handling and safety.  In seven years with the club, I amassed almost 350 hours of gun responsibility training.

As social awareness and political correctness began to flower in the mid-fifties, someone must have decided that there needed to be more to our little group, than just a bunch of boys firing target rifles.  Behind the high school was a city-block sized small lake.  The town had created a pathway around it, with a couple of bridges over incoming creeks, and a couple of lookout/picnic areas, but didn’t have the finances to maintain it.  It was decided that our little club would adopt it, care for it and improve it.

We mowed the grass, raked the path, cut back weeds and branches, and helped our menfolk to mend the bridges.  We put on tag-days in the summers, when the town was full of wealthy tourists, and solicited donations from local businesses.  The shoreline moved in and out because the level of the lake varied with the seasons.  We got a concrete contractor to install, at greatly reduced charge, a small dam with a controllable spillway on the drainage stream.

We cleaned out and expanded one lookout/picnic area, and got a stone supply company to build a wishing-well, with a little spray fountain.  The coins from the fountain went for further improvements.  We bought a bunch of birds to put into the lake, including a pair of swans, four farm-type geese, and some Muscovy ducks, to attract coin-tossers to our little park.

The first summer, we lost a few birds, and some of the rest lost a foot or leg.  There were lots of scenic little mud turtles in the lake, but apparently there were also some snapping turtles with a taste for fowl.  No wonder there had been no floating natives.  Someone designed and built a snapper-trapper from heavy wire and chicken screen.  I and another lad, whose father was a commercial fisherman, were given a rowboat, and the responsibility to check the traps daily.  Turtles caught were shot by the constable and sold to a Chinese restaurant which made them into turtle soup.  We finally caught the old Grand-daddy, which was as big as a washtub.  We cleared the lake and ensured safety for our birds.

The birds’ wings were clipped so that they wouldn’t fly away, although, with daily feedings, they probably wouldn’t have strayed.  During the winters, we rented space in a farmer’s barn at the edge of town.  Pairs of us were allocated two-week periods when we stopped in daily to feed and water our feathered charges.  Fisher-boy and I would get off the school bus, do our farm chores and walk home afterwards.

A couple of years after I left home to get a job, the club dissolved.  There was just not the interest from the younger lads in town anymore, and the adults had more responsibilities and less free time.  The town took back responsibility for the lake, and replaces aging waterfowl.  They have even added a floating spray fountain a hundred feet off-shore.

This was an enjoyable part of my life, when I learned co-operation and pay-it-forward type social responsibility.  I look back on it with great fondness and pride.  I helped make a difference.