As I wrote about in (this story) we boys need to pay attention and learn when and when not to fight. It’s one of our more important lessons to learn. There are times when it becomes very important to stand your ground. By that, I don’t mean that you should go looking for fights or even that arguments should result in battles. Those of you who’ve hung in there with me for many stories know that I’m not a fighter. If I have to fight, I have to feel threatened or perhaps someone I care about is being threatened. And if I do fight, look out because I will not fight fair.
I’ve shared this philosophy with my boys while they were growing up. I’m not sure what each of their thinking is on this topic, but it’s how I tried to raise them. There are times when one must fight fire with fire. I shared this recently in a story about revenge dating (here is the link if you’d like to read). Sometimes it’s necessary to display force, power and/or craziness. It’s why the United States still has nuclear weapons and keeps them maintained. No one in the civilized world wants a nuclear war. Having them though sends a strong message – don’t mess with us. We might have to go Ruppert on you (link).
So it was, that over the course of a couple of weeks in the first home we bought in Hamilton, a teenage boy in need of a little ‘guidance’ found me. If you read last week’s story about the Hubbards (link), then you understand well just how important it is for boys to receive guidance. Without some kind of guidance or lesson, some boys will end up just like Doug.
We had rented apartments and houses for the first 9 years of our marriage. With as high as 17% variable mortgage rates, we had begun to think that the rates would never again drop low enough for us to be able to buy, but in 1987 we finally moved into our first house. It was a little three bedroom ranch on a slab, located in a subdivision named Brookwood, (and in fact, the street was also Brookwood). Like all Hamiltuckians, we subscribed to the local newspaper, The Hamilton Journal (later named Journal News). The paper was delivered by a young teenager who was maybe 14 years old, fifteen tops.
We had been in the house only a few weeks when late one Saturday night while watching SNL, I thought I heard a faint noise out on our front porch. My intuition told me that we had someone out there, perhaps sitting on the glider. I was young and inexperienced. Today I likely would just telephone the police. I thought it was probably kids goofing on us, peeking through our windows, but I wasn’t sure. I grabbed a shotgun. It wasn’t loaded. Who would ask if your gun is really loaded in that situation? If it was just kids, I figured seeing the crazy man with the gun would be scary enough to to make them want to never come around again.
I quietly sneaked out the back door, alongside the house, opening our side gate, lifting it while opening because I knew that would prevent its tendency to squeak. After getting through the gate, I knew I had cornered whoever was on the porch. I walked out then across the driveway. As soon as I appeared, one of two teenage boys took off running. The other, knowing it was too late to run, kept seated on my glider, twirling something in his hand and trying to look like Cool Hand Luke. It looked simply like a piece of twine.
With shotgun in hand, “What the Hell are you doing on my porch?”
“Nuthin’, just this.” (To “this”, he meant twirling a piece of twine while I was trying to get a peak at you and your wife).
Me – “Well get the Hell off my porch”.
To which, he casually walked off and away, as if it were an everyday normal thing to go sitting on another person’s porch late on a Saturday night.
I went back into the house, crisis averted. At that point, I kinda’ thought that the cool kid on the porch was my paperboy. I wasn’t positive because I’d only seen him maybe twice, but I had my instincts. Having been a teenager once myself, one not above pulling evening pranks (read this if you don’t believe me), I kinda’ suspected that I’d end up being the brunt of a toilet papering or some other form of retribution. Trust your instincts people, trust your instincts.
My wife, (Nurse Ratched), was working part time evenings back then. Maybe a week after our peeping paperboy incident, I was in bed, sound asleep. Kim was working. Our bedroom was located in the front, behind a large blue spruce tree. CRASH! I was awakened by the sound of breaking glass. I didn’t immediately know where the window was, but I knew it was the sound of a broken window. Not immediately connecting the sound with a prank, I stayed low and felt around our bedroom first. Sure enough, our front window had been broken. I called the police to make a report. An officer arrived and we jointly walked around, inspecting things. There was no brick or rock inside the house so we concluded it had been broken by an object, like perhaps a baseball bat.
Well, it didn’t take an Inspector Clouseau to put together two and two – I had been hit by the same punk as was sitting on my porch. The problem though was that I wasn’t positive it was the paperboy and I didn’t really know where he lived. My gut was telling me that it was indeed who I suspected and I was fairly sure, (like maybe 90%), that he lived just two houses up from me.
The next few days I paid very close attention to that house. It was confirmed that my paperboy lived there and I also saw that there was no mother. It looked like dad was raising two teenage boys by himself and dad worked the graveyard shift a lot, probably at Champion Papers. I assessed the situation and decided that because I had no proof dad’s boy was out busting windows with baseball bats, I couldn’t just go up there and have a chat with dad. I needed to fight fire with fire, show a sign of force or craziness. So I plotted.
On an evening that Kim was working, I took out a sheet of paper and I hand printed, (rather sloppily), the following words on it:
I know it was you the other night.
If it happens again, I’m coming for you.
If I was wrong about who I suspected, well I figured dad would find the note and would have a little sit down chat with his boys. But if I was right?….
I stayed up late that night. Dad was working the 3am shift that night so it was perfect. I sneaked, (snuck really should be a word, don’t you think?), out after he had left for work and under the cloak of darkness, I tiptoed over to their house and quietly inched open the screen door, dropping in my note. One of the boys would see the note before dad got home, I was certain. If I had picked the right house, my instincts were telling me that little junior wouldn’t want his dad involved. I knew what my dad would have done and my gut was telling me that dear old dad would be a lot more harsh with junior than junior would prefer.
I went home that night hoping all of my instincts were right about this. I was to find out only two days later. In the late afternoon, I was sitting on my couch, halfway watching TV, halfway studying something, (I was attending evening college then). I looked up and saw 4-5 teenage boys walking past the house, out on the sidewalk. One of them was riding a bicycle and carrying a baseball bat. Something inside of me just clicked – I sensed that these were the boys responsible for waking me in the middle of the night and making me feel vulnerable for my family. Somehow, I just knew it.
I got off the couch and walked out onto the porch as they were walking beyond the house. I was trying to stay behind the spruce tree, out of their sights, but I wanted to see if by chance they were going to the second house up the street. As they reached that house, all suspicions were confirmed for me when I heard one of the teens shout down to me – “leave another note at my house and I’m going to come down and kick your ass!”
That was it! Trust your instincts people! I was livid. I had guessed right and I had nailed the culprit. There was no other way of connecting me to the note other than my broken window. Remember, I was young and inexperienced too – I felt my family was threatened. Who goes around breaking out bedroom windows other than future terrorists and criminals? I just yelled out in force the first thing that came to mind, “RIGHT NOW, ASSHOLE!”
Down came big brother and his beefy sidekick along with the paperboy. Big brother was thin, (like me), and was maybe 18 or 19. Beefy sidekick was maybe 20, built pretty well. Big brother and I had a conversation that went something like this:
BB – Did you threaten my little brother? Did you leave this note in our door?
Me – Nope.
BB – He said you did, he said he recognized the writing from your checks.
Me – Let’s see the note. (Shows me the note)
Me – This looks like printing to me. (I had caught paperboy in a lie and incriminated him in the process).
And this is where Beefy came in – Man, if it was me, I would’ve just came down and wiped your ass out.
Keep in mind readers that I was furious. I was protecting my babies and my wife, our home. On any other day and in a fair fight, I’m sure Beefy boy could have taken me…but not on this day. I just took 3 steps forward so as to get into his space and I said – I don’t know how tough you think you are, but we can find out right now! At this, Beefy backed up a step and just said “I know how tough I am”. I turned around and turned my attention back to big brother. Beefy stayed quiet.
BB – man, this is a threat.
Me – really? A note? So what do you think about a window getting broken out?
BB – he said you pulled a gun on him.
Me – he was sitting on my front porch at midnight! You don’t go around doing shit like that unless you want to get shot. (And at this point, I made up a story to stress the crazy man angle). I was sound asleep the other night and bam, my window is busted out. I’m a pretty light sleeper and I sleep with my pistol under my pillow. I got right up and saw a couple of kids running through here up towards your house. I even had my gun aimed at one of them. All of this was a spur of the moment fabrication on my part, but the kids wouldn’t know it. For all they knew, they were confronting a young gun crazy.
By now, paperboy had already left and walked home. Big brother now was much more calm and so I tempered myself back and I just said to him – look, I’m new here in the neighborhood and I’m going to be here a long time. We can either be good neighbors or we can be enemies, it’s your choice. We can even go up the street and talk to your dad if you’d prefer that. You just tell your little brother that what he did was wrong and he better be careful who he messes with in the future. The next guy might not be so understanding.
BB was fine at that point. He saw my side and after hearing about the window and the circumstances for my carrying a gun, he got it, he understood. He said he was going to talk to his brother and explain things. He even gave me the sob excuse of not having a mom in the house. I let him talk. I figured at this point, all I wanted was to make my point and I had. We shook hands and BB and Beefy walked away.
The next time I saw the paperboy was perhaps two weeks later when he came around collecting the paper fees. He was docile and polite. I never again had an issue with him or anyone else there. After learning that I was one of the crazy adults, everything was fine and we all lived in peace.
My objective for writing these stories is never an attempt to sway the opinion of the reader. My purpose is simply to document my memories and then hopefully a few of you out there smile, laugh or cry. Perhaps a story even helps to bring back a memory of your own.
I am not a fighter, but I believe that (unfortunately) without Stop Signs, some people will not stop in the intersections and other good people will die as a result. Rules have to be enforced and this was one time in my life that I became an enforcer. Had I not taken action, I would have left myself open to further attacks. Paperboy wasn’t going to be satisfied until he knew that I knew he had gotten the better of me. If he started with a broken window, just how far would he go?
We didn’t do that crap on Prytania, but we knew how to deal with those that did. I like to think that I changed his life, that I altered his path in life for the good. I hope so.