The root of the bracken fern is black and hard, ideal for a spear in our war in the field across Cove Road. I’m not sure if it was our property or not, as our spring was further up the hill. Every year after winter, my job was to clean out the dead rats, even though the overflow pipe was screened to keep them out of the well.
Brother Mike and I built a little wiki-up, pulling up the ferns in the middle and bringing the tops of the taller ones to the center, then weaving them into a topknot. Pals, Kit and Dale had their fort higher up the hill, where we couldn’t see them pulling up the tall ferns to make spears and using the short ones for knives. We ran naked because nobody could see us and no girls were allowed.
“Mike, you guard the door while I sneak around and try to get them from behind,” I ordered, just because I was bigger and Mike’s elder brother. I got behind them alright: when Dale spotted me. He chased me clear down the hill to the creek, where I soaked my US Keds in the cold water, and hid from Dale in the thick brush. It wasn’t practical to play naked and in bare feet.
About that time, I smelled smoke: while Dale was chasing me, Kit sneaked up on Mike with a flaming stick in his hand, which he threw into our fort to smoke Mike out. Mike choked on the smoke and ran from the fort, yelling “bloody murder.” Kit had started a fire and we weren’t about to help put it out.
Mike and I grabbed our clothes and ran for the house, cutting through Bradley’s, so Mom couldn’t see us, pried open the basement window and dived through it. We hid in my room and started playing with our Erector set. We heard Mom upstairs yelling at someone to get off the line so she could call the fire department and whoever it was, was arguing with her. There were 15 families on our party line and our phone number was ‘red-56’.
Chuck Kimmel was in the Navy in WWII and wouldn’t eat rice because of the maggots he found in his bowl aboard ship. Chuck was fire chief and both McCormick brothers, Earl and George were volunteers. The fire siren was an old air raid siren, mounted above the front door of the Hardware Store uptown. When the siren wailed, the barber Don Kellogg dropped his white apron on the sidewalk, running for the fire station.
The volunteers got the fire out and caught Kit, hiding naked in the deep brush along the creek. Of course, Kit blamed Mike and me while Dale got off “scot free.” We were grounded for a month.