Lightning Bugs Are Safer

It’s summer, smotheringly hot days followed by hot hot nights, the kids still out on our street after dark, playing tag and riding bikes.  It was a night just like that back in 1961, no DVR’s, no cell phones or computers, but kids entertaining themselves outside all day until the street lights came on.  Then it was time to go inside or your Mom would  come after you.  With a switch from the maple tree!

Since we were our own entertainment it often fell to our fertile imaginations to provide something really different.  We had been swimming all afternoon in the neighborhood pool; we came home after swimming  and played canasta and rummy with Dad’s playing cards and every game we could think of until Freddie decided we had to play 52 Card Pick-up.  That ended that.

Then the girls retired to my room for a bit, and dressed the kittens up in doll clothes.  They weren’t cooperating too well, so we went to the back yard and lowered them with my brother’s toy crane down into the window well (a below ground window, surrounded outside by a galvanized bay-type lining with gravel covering the soil at the bottom–a perfect little cage for errant runaway models.

This enterprise was interrupted by supper–we all had to go in and eat, or wait outside for the other guys to eat and then come back out again.  Once we were all back again, dusk was approaching, but it wasn’t quite time to catch lightning bugs yet.  We had our empty mayonnaise jars ready, with holes punched in the lids standing by.

No, the night called for something really different.  We started telling ghost stories, but it wasn’t working ’cause it wasn’t quite dark yet.  Somebody got the idea to make a life-sized kid.  I snitched a pair of my jeans and an old flannel shirt of my brother’s, and a ball cap with a “P” on it–he played for the neighborhood Pirates little league team.

We got paper grocery sacks and filled them with newspaper, stuffed the pants and shirt, and pinned a pair of keds where the feet should be.   Billy brought his bike over–it was the most beat-up looking.  We perched the little guy on Billy’s bike, and Billy held onto the back of the seat as if Stuffy were riding it.  Just then a car turned the corner, and the brainstorm hit.

And that’s how we all got grounded for the weekend.  As the car drew nearer, Billy gave his bike a little push and it wobbled into the street and crashed.  Whatever possessed us to hold our heads and scream like a bunch of idiots I’ll never know…but we just about caused a one-car wreck in the middle of the street.   We all scattered and hid for awhile until the car was gone.

By then, it was too late for lightning bugs and the moms were calling us, so we called it a night.

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