Daddy, Mr. Pryor, and The Big Mistake

I always connected this story with the last days of Summer, when days shorten and vacation has ended. So, as autumn begins, I start one more of Daddy’s stories, the one where he finally got caught…

It was me, and Jack, and Ick Nault, one night. We were driving around town, looking for something to do. You know how it is: late night, small town, teenagers with time on their hands. Someone always finds an idea. We found ours in an alley.

There we were…

There we were, in my Dad’s car, driving down this one alley when someone points out we’re right behind Mr. Pryor’s house. We could see his back yard, and laundry line, and his utility meter at the edge near the alley. And one of us, (I don’t remember who) got the bright idea of turning off Mr. Pryor’s power at the meter. I don’t think we’d have bothered with anyone else, except, we knew Mr. Pryor wasn’t home, and he always seemed to have it in for us. Anyway, we grabbed one of the wrenches Dad always carried in the car, twisted the power off and drove on away.

I didn’t think anything about it until the next week at school, when one of my girlfriends started talking about her job at the phone company. Those were the days when people didn’t dial a number direct, they called the telephone operator and asked her to connect then. My girlfriend worked part-time as a phone operator and she said, “I got the strangest call Saturday night. Mr. Pryor called the utility company to see why his lights were off when everyone else on the street had power. Isn’t that odd?”

I tried to act real cool, but I think she guessed I had something to do with it. Anyway, we all laugh, and the joke worked so good, we decided to try it again next Saturday. But that idea wasn’t good. We barely had ducked out of sight from shutting the power off this time, when here comes old Mr. Pryor, with a wrench in his hand, to turn it back on again. That wasn’t any fun. So we decided to up the ante.

Our Big Mistake…

Now I’ll admit we’d have been smarter to quit right there, but “smart” wasn’t in our vocabulary back then. Planning was, so we made a plan. We found out when Mr. Pryor and his family would be out of town next. We packed up our tools. And we bought a combination lock. Sure enough, when the superintendent next came back from out of town, the power was locked off at his house. Cutting the lock off meant getting the utility company and the Sheriff involved which uncovered our big mistake: buying that lock at the local dime store, a place we called, “The Wide Awake”.

The Sheriff went down to The Wide Awake with what was left of our lock and showed it to the cashier. Of course, she identified it. Yes, they sold that model lock, they were the only store that did, and they’d only sold one that year. She didn’t have to look up any records to see who bought it, she remembered that very well. It was Ick Nault, and Bob Zumwalt and their buddy, Jack. She remembered because we were laughing and hee-heeing the whole time we were buying it, and we paid for the lock with change.

How do I know what the cashier said? Because she testified to it in open court! I ended up in front of a judge over this! But how I got to court is another story right there, so I’ll pick this up tomorrow night…

Daddy & the Homemade Fireworks

It was me, and Jack, and Ick Nault…

The “Good Boy”, Bob.

(Funny, how many of Dad’s stories started that way…)

Anyway, we were hangin’ out in your Mimmy’s back yard and I was telling them about John T’s leftover chemicals. You knew John T studied Chemistry, right? He’d go to classes up at Norman during the week, and come home on the weekends with chemicals from the college lab. So, I was tellin’ Jack and Ick about John T’s chemicals: how one of them burned whenever it was exposed to the air, and how another makes all kinda sparks. Anyway, we decided to take some of those leftover chemicals and turn them into fireworks.

Now, we didn’t have any rocket launchers or things like that. But we could lay our hands on some empty tomato paste cans. So, we poured some of the chemicals into an old can, added a fuse, and covered it with ash so it wouldn’t catch fire right away. Then we lit the fuse, and Jack or Ick hauled off and threw it as high and far as he could. Then we watched it go, arcin’ and sparkin’ through the air….until it landed …in the next-door neighbor’s garden. That’s when we hid in the weeds.

See, the neighbor’s kids were also outdoors, on the far side of their yard. They didn’t hang out with Jack and Ick and me, because they were only four or five, and we were in middle school by then. They were always outside, I mean, all day, every day, and real quiet for kids. That’s because their Dad worked nights and slept during the day. But they weren’t going to stay quiet when there were fireworks going off!

Sure enough, that can landed amongst the tomato plants and butter beans and those burning chemicals shot up like a fountain. The little kids next store took one look at the sparks and started yelling and screaming their heads off. Then their back door banged open, WHACK! The neighbor, he comes running out, mad, bare-foot, and pulling his pants up over his underwear. Then he sees our fireworks display..

On the one hand, you could tell, he’s never seen a fire like this one. On the other hand, it’s burning through his groceries. So the neighbor ran for a hose. But water just makes a magnesium fire worse, and now it’s headed for his rhubarb and squash. So, then the guy gets a hoe, and tries to sneak up on the sparks like he can smother them while the fire’s not looking. About that time, the fuse hits another pocket of magnesium and the fountain of sparks shoots straight up again. And he backs away.

All through this, me, and Jack and Ick are lying in the weeds near the fence, trying not to get caught. But watching that guy with his pants undone trying to sneak up on a can full of sparks made me laugh. And then when I heard his little kids chanting behind him:

“Kill it, Daddy, Kill it!”

“Kill it, Daddy, Kill it!”

Well, that’s when all of us lost it. And the neighbor heard us laughing.

He threw down the hoe and started running toward us but Jack and Ick and I got out of there quick. It’s not hard to outrun a man whose pants are down around his knees. And you’d think I’d have better sense but we snuck back and hid under the front porch until he got the fire out and tried to complain to your Mimmy.

Now Mimmy never liked renters in the first place, even when they were renting from her. And she sure didn’t like men in their undershirts on her front porch. So when he started in saying, “Your boy, Bob..” she snapped back in his face.

“Don’t you talk about my boy, Bob. My Bob’s a good boy. You just stay on your own side of the fence and keep your tacky, cotton-picking kids out of my roses. And put a shirt on before you leave the house!