When I was a kid, I lived on a dead end street located on the edge of a couple vacant lots. This meant that if we had a mind to, my friends and neighbors had access to everyone's back yard. The shortcut to some houses was over the back fence. I use this preface to describe the practical joke we played on Jehovah's Witnesses who came to our street one autumn afternoon. I mention the autumn afternoon as a reminder that most of the grownups had found their way up the hill to the University of Colorado football game. Unsupervised urchins of suburbia. We sent our youngest representative to answer the door when we saw the evangelists coming. Once they had met the diminutive head of the house, they left a pamphlet and walked down the front stairs. We raced to the back door and headed up the street a few houses, and piled over the fence and waited for the bell to ring.
We sent the same kid to the door. A bit of unease had come into the smiles of the Witnesses, who fumbled a bit for their newsletter and handed it to our friend who tried to ignore the muffled laughter coming from just around the corner in the kitchen. By the third house, they must have had some idea of what was happening, and at the fourth when the door opened on this same little boy one of Jehovah's Witnesses finally asked the logical question, "Where are your mother and father?" To which our little friend did not miss a beat replying, "I am my mother and father." This time they did not leave any literature, but hurried off into that fall afternoon, probably making a note to skip this neighborhood in the future.
When I was a kid, we did some silly things. We made prank phone calls. We tormented each other and shot at each other with BB guns. Yes, there was a broken leg. And an arm. One kid got a dart stuck in his head. And we all survived. I say this because I believe we currently live in a world that would not tolerate such foolishness. It was the arrival of my family's lawn darts, a gift from the past from my older brother. I was pleased and happy with my wife's response: she wanted to go outside and play. A flood of memories, including those from my own fatherhood that found me wondering out loud to my son if this was such a good idea. I wear a helmet when I ride my bike these days, and the thought of a bare wire anywhere in my house gives me fits. Now I am the one coming home to chase kids out of my yard. Meanwhile, pranksters are "Swatting" one another, meaning that they make fake 911 calls about domestic disturbances to bring a police response. Or dropping bags of sand from highway overpasses on cars below.
Maybe we weren't so wicked after all.