For one thing, we were heavily armed children. Slingshots, BB guns, bows, arrows, rifles, shotguns, traps, knives, we had it all. Wearing our Buck knives to school was just sort of ordinary. On boyscout meeting day everybody got to wear their special scout knives to school. And when we got to school, guess what? More weapons. Archery, riflelry, shop class where you could actually build new weapons. Nobody raised an eyebrow. We were encouraged to do as we did.
And I didin't realize it as a kid, but the trouble we would get into today for our favorite passtime, explosives. It didn't matter what kind of firework we got our hands on, we took them apart to make bigger ones. The scale went from zero to infinity on that one. If we'd have got our hands on a case of dynamite, we'd have built one hell of a bomb. We even had our own test-facillity. It was called "the sand pits". It was the perfect place to build a bonfire or set off bombs because nobody particularly cared what happened there. People used it as an informal dumping ground and we used to hunt and fish around the several local ponds. We ate a lot of fish growing up.
I just loved the outdoors. It was a culture, a value system. We all knew the names of each and every tree species, most of the plants and all the animals. Some of these animals are so reclusive that you probably never even heard of them much less seen them. The Marten. The Fisher. On breaks from school, we'd stomp home, raid the cabinets for all the canned food and dissapear for days at a time even in winter. We'd come home when we felt like it. How many parents today feel comfortable with watching your 11 year old son dissapear into sub-zero temperatures for a few days?
It was no big deal to us. I think the folks enjoyed the break. And were we good kids? Not particularly. Depends on what you call good. We were very athletic. We excelled at beating each other bloody for the least of offenses. We could all swear like sailors on Saturday and look like perfect angels in church on Sunday, at least until another fight broke out.
It's kind of ironic. Nobody ever got shot or stabbed. The worst thing that happened to my little clique growning up is we all had to do summer school one summer. I remember being so enraged by this that in truth I contemplated a real act of terrorism. Well, it was a basic school-boy fantasy, but I wanted to get my hads on a tommy-gun and spell "school stinks" in bullets on the wall of the gym. I think Alice Cooper's "School's Out" was supposed to be the background music. But I can't remember the name of that girl I liked who, in my movie event, would be looking out the window of Mrs. Drislane's class (that evil old crone Mrs. Drislane). Ah but now I do remember her name. Christine Fennel. Her family was from England. I think my infatuation for her was some sort of idea that she sounded classy. And I think my brother Drew liked her older sister so basically it was a competition to see who gets their English girl first.
But at any rate, the bit with the machine gun was the difference between fantasy and reality and no matter what happened on the school yard, it never even occurred to anybody to use a firearm or blade on a human. Not in the whole town. Not even Mr. Finch the town drunk. Mr. Finch was a part-time Constable and he was also the school janitor. And when I say THE town drunk, it wasn't like he didn't have competition for the title.
See, that's another thing that just doesn't happen these days, but back then, you didn't persecute the town drunk and ostracize him, you give him a gun and a badge and a job around young school children. What better an idea? It was perfectly logical back then, so what happened now? Did logic change or did America?
Something changed here folks. Something changed bigtime. What else about what used to be perfectly normal in America could get you arrested today? Screw it, I'll argue from the converse: what single thing that was perfectly normal for me as a kid CAN'T get me arrested today?
I heard that kids can get in trouble for DRAWING PICTURES OF GUNS in school these days. Man, we catalogued all of military history in school. We did it in crayons, and markers and watercolors. WTF?
These days if a kid is rambunctious you call him "ADD" or something and knock them up on drugs when we used to just put them on the hockey team. And we continued to pile on more weapons, more bows and arrows, more slingshots, more ammo and you give them a tent and their first winter sleeping-bag. This is beyond a system of "benign neglect", it's actually taking neglect to an art form.
It was a kickass way to grow up. Looking back, I really do see a golden time when almost everybody seemed to be happy. I guess it takes the eyes of an adult to see this because if you asked me if I was happy as a kid, I would have told you that I was perfectly miserable because everybody had a motorcycle or a horse in the whole family but me and it's just not fair. I was the youngest so it just took an abnormally, un-naturally and un-necessarily punitive time for me to get the motorcycles. Justice was delayed for me and I naturally resented it, but I lived through it.
Now getting back to Mr. Finch, the town drunk with the gun and the day-job around young and impressionable tots. See every story needs character and Mr. Finch, boy, he was something else. I guess the story goes that he was one of those guys who had gone off to fight in WW2 and he just didn't come back quite right. So basically the whole town was covering for him. And it wasn't like he wasn't a good janitor, the school was always spotless. And it wasn't that he wasn't a good constable, he was freaking awesome! He would wake up day or night, there wasn't an event in town that he missed. He was always there when needed. It was just that he was so much more than this. The guy, in every sense of the word, was a performer.
We had this intercom system in the school and Mr. Finch would occasionally start playing music and run around to all the classrooms hitting all the buttons that make the intercom play. And all educational activity in the whole school would stop. Basically, this was Mr. Finch's unilateral way of declaring a spontaneous holiday. To say it was surreal is kind of putting the adult eyes on a child. To us, it was just party time.
And as the teachers frantically tried to contain us, we spill out in the halls and there's Mr. Finch dancing to Sinatra, dancing with the children, drunk off his ass. But at that moment, Sinatra is playing in every room in the whole school and the look on Mr. Finch's face was sometimes pure bliss. And we didn't know he was drunk, we were too young to know. We knew Mr. Finch was fun. We did also know to fear him because as a disciplinarian, he would pull out that military thing and just dress you down to size. The cool thing about Mr. Finch was once you took your lumps, you were back in good graces. Come to think of it, I've used this technique in my own fatherhood skills to this day. Once you take your dressing down, all is well with the world. It's forgot. It's like it never happened. You are forgiven.
All of this was just so normal. Everything worked. We had a fire department, all volunteer and since practically no fires ever happened, all the firemen in town, they were drunks too. We didn't even have a judge or a court really, but if we did, they would have been drunks. How many towns do you know now with no court-house and no judge? There was a town coucil and a bunch of old church ladies would go there and argue about what kinds of flowers to plant in the rotary and the same ladies would get together in church to agrue about other things such as temperance and the need for chastity among our youth. And we didn't have a mayor or a governor. The highest official we had was called a "Town Supervisor" and there was only one of them the whole time I was growing up, a very kindly old gentleman named Fred who lived in a house in the same part of forrest where I used to hunt and fish and camp. The only competition for office I ever knew about was another neighbor, but I don't think anybody ever took him seriously. There's no winning political platform for a people who want nothing more and nothing less than everything to stay exactly the way it is. Who in their right mind would screw with paradise?
I guess the last thing we had for infrascture was the road guys, the guys that fixed the roads and plowed the snow in winter. Notorious drunks. Mythical and legandary drunks. Pretty much everybody on the town payroll, educators accepted were just heavy into the sauce. We really did have top-notch educators so I don't want everybody to get tarrred with the same brush here.
Mr. Finch might have been this or that but he had this daughter Lincy-Anne who was a knockout. Even the old men in town would just go silent when she walked by. And she had this sweet and adorable smile. With a smile like that you don't need brains in this world. And this was when "Daisy Dukes" were in fashion so man, the whole town, I do believe the trees themselves swooned when Lincy came bouncing by.
Well, of course the competition started up and my brother Drew almost instantly transformed himself into the town badass because the one thing he knows is basically, every single guy in town from the youngest to the oldest now wants to kick his ass. I think he's like 17 years old at the time. The guy is still riding a bicycle to get around town. So he gets a hold of a leather jacket from someplace and turns himself into a regular outlaw. Which instantly disgraced my church-going family. Heck, as I remember it, both my parents were deacons at the time, so this was a mortal shame to us. A leather jacket after all! Who does this guy think he is, Fonzy or something?
And it soon became apparent to the shocked and august community that not only was a son of a proud house living in sin, he's practically FLAUTING it in front of the whole community with his leather jacket. But if anybody had a reason to draw and fire on anybody, Mr. Finch might have been justified in shooting my brother Drew because he caught caught bare-ass and he wasn't doing pushups. our understanding of law held that a man's house is his castle and he's likely to get lethally pissed if he catches you with his daughter.
And you know, that might have been the catyslist. The straw that broke the camel's back. Maybe that's when our formerly quite mountain town where all the kids were armed to the teeth became unacceptable. Maybe if we'd all just stuck with flannel shirts everything would be fine, the town would still raise highly armed bruisers who are awesome at catching fish and hunting and fixing cars who really don't give a fig for the outside world except for Sinatra. The place where the minimal government was a bunch of comical boozers and nobody ever got shot or stabbed and remarkably few fatal car accidents happened. The place where everybody used road signs to sight in their rifles because the guys that put them up were using them for that same reason.
What happened to that America? I'm not a terrorist, I'm an over-grown mountain kid. And I already passed down practically everything to new kids. I mean, I'm at the least-armed and least intimidating posture of my life! I ain't got a slingshot ner a bow ner arrows, I sold all my traps and even my .22. I got a couple old rifles I never use and one of them is black-powder and it's not altogether common for me to have a lot of rounds on hand. The most threatening thing about me is probably the dog and if you have a doggie-treat on hand there's not much reason to fear my pitbull. In fact one some days, you could probably sneak into my house and steal my beer and I'd never even know it. I tend to get pretty absorbed into my work.
Whatever happened to America happened when I wasn't looking. I know about 9/11, I saw it with my own eyes. I was in Jersey that day on top of a hill. It was a sneak-attack. It seems to have been very well planned and the results could have been worse, but I never felt like out territorial hegemony was every in any danger. Heck, we're the most highly armed people in the history of the universe, ask any kid in the mountains.
Now I guess I could take this thing into a typical argument for gun rights and just remind you folks that any external army can't be bothered to fight us here because even if they beat us, we'll turn the whole place into a pile of melted slag before we ever surrender to any foreign flag and nobody has any motivation to pay for that. What I'd like to do now is just blame my brother Drew.
I'd find it very convenient to blame the passage of our peaceful and quiet way of life on my brother Drew. And I'd invite all people of all cultures and tribes to join with me in blaming my brother Drew and his stupid leather jacket for screwing everything up. Because up to that point, we were perfectly happy with things just the way they were. And a whole culture, a people who would have normally passed from existence without anybody noticing, well now we're terrorists. And if this isn't all his fault, it might just as well be. Because there's a precedent for hating this guy. He nailed Lincy. You know you want to kick this guy's ass. He's the guy that beat you up in high school. Just take my word for it, this whole thing is his fault. Somebody's gonna take the fall on this one. Might as well be somebody who's been paid in full.
Drew old boy, you are going down. Chin up, take it like a man. Hit one for the home team. Always knew you could do it sport.