A Child of the Fifties

by Paul Schroder

Chapter 12

Me n' Jimmy tried to get Sam interested in playing cars with us in the big sand-pile. But she said it was just plain boring. But then Jimmy dragged out his big construction toys and she got interested. He had three ginormas toys that didn't fit with our miniature car sets. One was a huge dump truck that had a bed that would tilt and dump. The other was a bulldozer with a blade that would raise and lower. The last was a back-hoe. The back-hoe was like a shovel or scoop on a metal arm that stretched way out.

In the beginning, Sam didn't pay attention to anything we did on the sand-pile. She would just sigh once in awhile to let us know she was about to die of boredom. I was about to tell her to go play "dollies" with Jimmy's little sister when she just, idly, started digging in the sand with the back-hoe. She scooped up a big load of sand and started burying Jimmy's cars with it. Jimmy plunked down his dump truck next to the back-hoe and pointed at it. Sam grinned and took the hint. She dug a big old hole and filled up the dump truck. Then she drove the dump truck to the top of the sand hill and dumped out the sand. She watched as the sand rolled down the hill and buried even more of Jimmy's cars.

Jimmy looked at me like it was my fault. All I could do was scrunch up my shoulders. What did he expect me to do? I figured she could kick my butt without even scuffing the shine on her shoe.

Then I got an idea.

"Hey, Sam. Why don't ya dig up a basement here for us" and I pointed to a spot on the back of the sandpile.

"Why way over there?" she asks.

"Well, cuz we want you to use the heavy equipment to build us a road over there and we will make a garage for the cars.

She sort of 'ho-hums' her acceptance and uses the bulldozer to make a road over to where I pointed at. Then she drives the dump truck and back-hoe over there.

Jimmy's watching this and turns to look at me. He points to the spot I picked to have her dig our basement and grins at me. I grin back at him. We've both pretty much stopped playing cars and are just watching Sam now.

I have to admit, Sam makes some pretty good truck noises as she drives the dump truck over there, stops, and then backs up to the back-hoe. She even has a back up alarm. Then she starts scooping up sand and dropping it into the back of the dump truck. The third scoop has her pulling up a log that was buried in the sand-pile. She looks at it questioningly and then dumps it into the truck. Next scoop she pulls up three logs. Again, she looks at them questioningly. Now she's just digging and dragging sand up to the surface and not bothering to dump it into the truck. She has found a regular petrified forest!

"Ewwww..." she exclaims. "This is cat poop! I'm digging up cat poop!"

Me n' Jimmy had both covered our mouths when she pulled the first log up. That was to keep ourselves from laughing out loud. But when she said she was digging up cat poop... we just lost it!

Two boys were on their backs laughing. Once again, poop wins the award in the funniness category.

Sam stands up with a big frown on her face, clenches her hands into fists, turns, and starts walking away. She isn't walking so much as stomping.

This immediately puts the kibosh on our laughter. We look at each other and both say "oh-oh".

I thought having Sam dig up the cats' poopy graveyard would be pay back for pestering us and burying Jimmy's cars. But this is a girl we are talking about here. They operate on a whole different level, you know. If we'd done this to Barry or Craig they would have laughed right along with us.

"So," Jimmy says, with furrowed brows, "what do we do now?"

"I dunno, Jimmy."

I think for a minute as we watch her disappear into the distance.

"I guess, maybe, we should go talk to my Mother. She's a girl, so maybe she knows how girls work. I think we broke ours and I dunno how to fix her."

"O'tay" Jimmy answers.

Well, it seems Mother was in the middle of a canning project with my Aunt Rowana. They have all sorts of canning stuff on every flat space in the kitchen. Luckily there were two chairs vacant and me and Jimmy plunked ourselves down in them and tried to be inconspicuous or we'd surely be kicked out of the kitchen.

We sat quietly, long enough to make my mother nervous, I guess. Finally she says, "okay boys, let's hear it." And she's standing with her hands on her hips. My aunt is copying her.

"Well, we teased Sam a little bit and she got super mad and walked off in a big ol tizzy. She had tol us not to treat her like a girl but she's acting just like one."

"How is she acting?" my aunt asks.

"Like a girl!" We both respond together.

"I mean, how is she acting that is like a girl?"

Jimmy answers. "She got all huffy cuz we played a little joke on her and she stomped her feet and went home."

"And, you mean, if she had been a boy she wouldn't have gotten all huffy at the joke?"

"Yup," we respond together. I continue..."A boy would have seen the joke and would have laughed his ass... I mean, he would have laughed with us. Girls are just TOO sensitive."

My mother looks at my aunt and asks "you have things under control in here for a bit?" My aunt nods her head and goes back to canning.

"Boys, come into the living room with me."

We follow mother and she sits us down on the couch.

"Paul, when you hurt yourself, do you come running to me or to your father?"

"To you, mother." What a silly question, though I don't voice my opinion.

"Do I seem to feel your pain when you hurt yourself?" I nod my head because she really, really does.

"If you went to your Dad you know what he would say, don't you? He'd tell you to just be strong and not cry?" Again, I nod my head. Jimmy is looking from one to the other of us as we speak.

"So, Mommy seems to feel things right along with you, right?"

Me and Jimmy are both nodding our heads yes.

"Well, my boys, that is the difference between men and women, boys and girls. Girls feel things very, very deeply. And it's easier to make a girl feel bad, like she isn't appreciated. She might pretend to be angry, but she is actually very, very sad that people she likes don't seem to respect her."

I look over at Jimmy and he has a tear rolling down his cheek.

"Paul," he says, shaking my shirt sleeve. We have to tell Sam we're sorry."

I sniff and nod.

Mother interjects. "I understand she likes you to call her Sam. But, when you apologize, I think it would mean more if you called her Samantha."

Me and Jimmy both leap up and hug my mother. I just knew she was the one to ask.

"C'mon, Jimmy. Let's go to Sam's. I mean, let's go to Samantha's."

We don't feel silly at all as we hold hands walking over to Sam's house. We are brothers on a mission. I suggested we knock on the back door... the kitchen door. I think we will stand a better chance of getting inside by talking to Mrs Humphreys. Jimmy knocks but it's awful soft. I knock next and try to make it loud enough to be heard.

Sam's mother opens the door and looks down on two miserable appearing six year old boys. She pauses for a minute while she tries to connect our appearance with her daughter seeking her bedroom and slamming her door.

"Are you the reason that Samantha came home crying?" she asks us?

Me and Jimmy look at each other and the flood gates just open wide. We are both nodding our heads yes but are in no condition to talk about it.

Mrs Humphreys quickly decides that we are the medicine her daughter requires and she ushers us inside.

"Follow me boys." She leads down the hallway to Sam's room. We've both been in there lots of times before so we know where she's leading us.

She knocks gently on the door and waits a minute. With no response she knocks again.

"What is it Mama?" from beyond the door.

"I'm going to come in sweety. I think I have something to make you feel much better."

"Okay, Mama."

The lady turns the doorknob and pushes us both into the room and closes the door behind her. I'm thinking... "OMG... It's Daniel in the lion's den!"

Sam is laying belly down on her bed and Jimmy rushes over and just plops right on top of her her and gives her a gigantic squeeze.

"What the..." she intones, and then feels a second body plop on top of her and turn it into a double squeeze.

"Umph... umph... umph..." she says, quite plainly, into her pillow.

She wrestles her way over onto her back and says... "what are you turd birds doing here?"

But one look at our faces tells her that we brought the appropriate emotions with us.

"Why did you guys have me digging up cat poop?" She asks.

"Cuz we're bad, bad people," Jimmy says, squeezing tighter.

"Let go..." she gasps.

Jimmy lightens up.

"Samantha," I explain, "we ain't really bad. We're just really dumb. Will you still be our friend?"

She grins and wraps her left arm around Jimmy and her right arm around me and squeezes like crazy. Now it's our turn to gasp.

"Yeah, I guess so. But I'm not playing stupid cars ever again."

Two red faced boys are nodding yes, in total agreement. Anything she says at this point, as long as she lets go!


Me, Sam, Jimmy and Barry are riding our bikes in the field. Older kids have built up a circular track with a couple of jumps on it for racing their bikes. We are roaring around the track on our bikes until we reach the jumps and then slowing down enough to coast over those big hills and down the other sides. The though of actually sailing through the air, over those jumps, makes my little pucker string tighten up so tight that if I needed to fart it would have to be out of my ears!

However, in our imaginations, we are truly daredevil racers, hell bent on acts of daring do that has our fans, in the galleries, cheering and hollering our names. As it turns out, the fan we hear yelling is Barry's big brother, Craig. And he's yelling, "jump... ya little yellow-bellied shit birds!"

Now, what he's yelling at us is hurting some young egos and the four of us pull up together as a group. Craig rides over to us and sighs.

"Ya don't slow down when you hit the jumps. Ya speed up. Ya go as fast as you can. Then you shoot up the first hill, fly over to the second hill and down the other side. Don't be scart. I ain't seen nobody killed doing the jump yet."

The four of us look at each other like we're being led out in front of the wall in front of an execution squad. We are hearing him, we just aren't believing him.

"Sigh... watch me. Just do what I do."

He pedals over to the bottom of the jumps to start his run. He stands up on his pedals and stays standing as he pumps and gets his momentum up. He goes into the first turn with a good head of steam built up. Now he's on the straight away and hauling ass. Here comes the second curve and he barely slows down as he sails through it. Now he's kicking in the afterburners as he is approaching the bottom of the jump. He reaches the jump and sails up, up and over the hollow between the hills and lands on the the other side of the second jump. Taking his feet off his pedals he slows down gradually and then pedals over to us.

"You see guys. You do it the first time and it's no longer scary. Now who is gonna give it a try?"

Sam verbalizes pretty much what we are all thinking at this point.

"Craig... go fuck yourself. I ain't risking my neck for no stupid jump."

Me and Jimmy are nodding like a couple of bobble heads. These aren't words either of us would share but, she certainly sets the right tone for us. Barry, however, is a different story. This is Barry's big brother who will likely push poor Barry until he gives in. My brother Dick calls it "growing some stones." I don't know what stones have to do with anything though.

"All right" Barry says, in a total, dead-pan voice.

Barry pedals over to the starting point and then pretty much copies his brother's movements through the first and second curves. In the straight away, before the jump, I swear his face is white as a ghost. He probably imagines himself in a tangled, twisted, perhaps even decapitated, heap at the bottom of the second hill. But then he is air-borne.

Barry didn't flip end over end. He didn't twist to the side. He didn't let go of his bike. Instead, he arched over and down to the downhill slope of the second hill and kept his balance until he rolled to a stop. With eyes wide as saucers, he pedals over to us.

Craig is going cock-a-doddle over his brother. He is pumping his fists and yelling. "Way to go, Barry! That's my little brother!"

Barry looks over to his big brother and says "you know what, Craig? Sam is right. Go fuck yourself. I just shit my pants and now I'm going home."

With that said, Barry just rides off towards home. Sam looks at me and Jimmy with a tremendous grin on her face. Then she looks up at a clearly disappointed Craig.

"Don't feel bad, Craig. If me or Paul or Jimmy feel the need to shit our pants, why we'll come look you up for sure."


Me n' Sam n' Jimmy are sitting on Jimmy's steps. We listen to him sigh and give us the bad news. "My mother says I don't spend enough time with Suzie. I have ta start spending more time with my sister.

Just then Suzie comes out to the top step, holding one of her dolls.

"Come on Jimmy. We're going to have a tea party." She looks down the steps to Sam and me and asks, "do you want to have tea with us? I can make extra. It's only water you know."

Well, I can tell you how I feel about that. I'm shaking my head in an emphatic no but Sam speaks up.

"Sure, we'll play with you Suzie. But wouldn't you rather ride bikes with us than play dollys?"

"Well, yeah! But I don't have a bike. My brother sawed my bike all up."

She was speaking of the tricycle we dismembered to build a go cart with.

"Oh, I was thinking more of having you ride with one of us... on our big people bikes."

Suzie took a sharp intake of breath and grinned. "Okay. I think I'd like that. Will I ride with you, Samantha?"

"You will for awhile, she answers. But we will take turns letting you ride with us."

Me n' Jimmy look at each other, having the same thoughts. We've only been riding a two wheeler since last Spring. And we've only had our training wheels off for a couple of months. I've never had anybody ride with me and I know Jimmy hasn't either.

I think Sam can see the doubts registered on our faces because she says. "Lets take my wagon and tie the handle to the back of our bikes. We can switch back and forth when we get tired. Come look at it."

All of us, including Suzie, walk over to Sam's. Their house is one of the few in the neighborhood that has an actual garage built on the property. It's not attached to the house. You didn't see that a lot yet in the 50's. However it gives them a lot more storage than our old garden shed does for us.

Sam lifts up the heavy wooden door and the springs on it twang and complain about their age. Then she steps inside and pulls out this neato wagon. It isn't just the Radio Flyer, it's the Town and Country model with the wooden slat sides all the way around! You could haul a ton of stuff in one of these babies. Jimmy and me look at each other with big grins on our faces. I know we're both thinking the same thing... racing against our soap box car!

"Sam, Sam, Sam! Why have you been hiding this beautiful thing?" I exclaim.

Kellogs had just come out with Tony the Tiger to advertise their frosted flakes and Jimmy bastardizes it's theme..."Youuuu're...GREAT!"

Sam looks at us like our flakes are way too frosty. But she hasn't seen our soap box car yet cuz we keep it at Steven's. And she doesn't know Steven yet because he spends his summers on his uncle's farm.

Well, Suzie has already climbed aboard the wagon and given her nod of approval. Sam pulled her bike over to the wagon and then found a rope we could use. She tied the rope to the handle of the wagon and then to her seat column. She rang her bell "dring dring," and her and Suzie were heading down the street.

Me and Jimmy ran home and grabbed our bikes and caught up with them.

"Follow us Sam. We wanna show you somethin." And me and Jimmy both head over to Steven's house. We pull around into the back yard and there is our pride and joy, our soap box car, just waiting to be entered into a racing contest.

Sam sorta tilts her head as she looks it over. Then she tilts her head in the opposite direction. Then she looks at me and says "there must be a thousand pounds of nails in that thing."

That was exactly the wrong thing to say to the co-builder of that beautiful racing beast. I was expecting oohs and ahhs and then we get that comment? Jimmy looks at me with a seriously curled under lip. He obviously feels the same as I do.

"Oh yeah?" I exclaim, because that is always the go-to expletive when your mind is racing to come up with an adequate response. Which I immediately followed by another "oh yeah?"

But Jimmy saved my bacon. He spoke up and told Sam, "trust a girl not to know a fine racing machine when she sees it."

Sam rears her entire body up. "Racing machine? I'm sure it could do a hundred miles an hour... if you drop it out of a plane! And that might just be a good use for it too."

Jimmy's grinding his molars right now, just like he does when he sleeps. My aching jaw informs me that I'm doing the same. But I'm intent on maintaining my decorum because mother says girls are easily hurt. But then I figure... screw that. I'm gonna give her one of brother Dick's expletives!

"Sam, you knock-kneed, pigeon-toed, cross-eyed wiener dog . You wouldn't know a racer from a fridge!"

She makes a sharp intake of breath.

"I'll tell you what; I think my fridge could beat this sad racer of yours. And I know my wagon can. So let's race!"

Next week, emotions run high. Write to me and we won't talk bad about you behind your back.

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