Skallywags and Scoundrels

Tales of Vashon

We got our reputations as small town dealers early and carried those reputations proudly.  I got a dollar an hour cutting the grass of a 77 year old widow, Mrs. Anderson, who lived down at Cove.  I walked a half mile to get to work when I was ten years old.  Mr. Anderson had been lost at sea in a fishing boat accident, years and years ago.

I went to work for Harry Larson, building boats for 75 cents an hour, just down the hill from Mrs. Anderson’s  when I was 13 years old and got my social security card.  “I didn’t really build boats; the carpenters let me clean up the floors behind them.  It was only later that I learned how to stain the mahogany bows of the kicker boats.  I used burlap bags to apply the stain so the top would not come out muddy.”

I couldn’t write the day the government man asked me to sign my social security card; my hands were sweaty and the government pen skipped because it was almost out of Ink.  I wrote over my signature three times and it’s still readable 70 years later.

It seems that we were only dishonest with each other and not to our parents; unless we had some reason to try “to get away with it.”  “I’m going to tell Mom what you guys are doing,” Sister Molly called out.  Or, “I’ll promise not to tell; if you give me back the little black bank, you stole.”  We didn’t have much “brotherly love” between us and “ratting” on each other produced all sorts of yelling and “name calling”. ‘None of it was to the credit of any of us.  To us, the drama was real; or as real as a John Wayne swagger coming out of the Vashon Theater after a good matinee.  It didn’t matter if you ran into your girlfriend or tried to steal a “girlfriend” from your best buddy.

“Boy, if I see your arm around Kathy again, there is going to be blood in the alley behind the theater.”  “I didn’t want to see that happen.”

Early skullduggery is the word.  We used it as a tool to gain our own ends, like getting rid of Eddy and not letting him in our “gang” because he was a “snooty-nosed” prepster from Vancouver, B.C.  We didn’t want him.  Every year he came down to visit his Aunt and Uncle; Eddy would try again.  We had a short tunnel in the bank above the Cove Road.  We shoved Eddy in there and boarded up the front, telling him that we ‘Had dynamite and we were going to blow the bank up, and that he would be caught in the avalanche.  Eddy believed we could do it and never came back again.  Skullduggery.

Sometimes there was ‘collusion’ involved such as when a sixth grade bully became insufferable to enough smaller victims..eventually, several of the abused younger and less intimidating lads got together and planned revenge. Surreptitiously a significant number of wheel spokes on the bully’s 26 inch bike wheels were loosened.  In addition there may have been some ‘tampering’ with the already inadequate brakes.  Then a few of the known targets of the bully’s Previous victims performed a taunt on their bikes on the downhill side of a steep grade that had a bad curve at the bottom which was bordered by .. well you can guess!.. Blackberries!

The taunts worked and the bully chased his tormenters downhill until they slowed after the  curve and you can Pretty well guess the results as the ‘26 inch pristine Columbia flyer actually flew . .. sadly, but not exactly entirely over the heap of blackberries as the lad landed square in the middle .

The bully’s cries for help were ignored..and the bully was sullenly absent from troublemaking for months.  I’m pretty sure that several bike parts that had been taken from other bikes found their way back to the rightful owners..As the bike was retrieved and the bully left to crawl out on his own.

Other events happened more by accident than design, for example, Dale.

Dale’s pants pocket was entirely gone, revealing his red and blistered skin.  It was near the 4th of July and Dale and Kit and Mike and I were down at Harold Green’s racing his dad’s riding lawnmower around their ample yard.  I can’t remember who threw the first firecracker at the speeding lawnmower, but we were soon throwing them at each other and loving the danger of the close explosions.  Dale Bates had a pocket full of loose firecrackers when I launched mine, and didn’t see it fall into Dale’s pocket.  Dale screamed as his pants pocket erupted in a series of muffled explosions; that left Dale running for home, hanging on to his smoking pants.

We had three dogs down at Cove and invariably they did their businesses in the front yard.  I had just wrestled Brother Mike to the ground, where he proceeded to roll in dog manure and smeared it in his hair.  Mike screamed “bloody murder” and ran for the house, so Mom could wash the manure out of his hair.  “Sean, if you don’t get a shovel and go on manure patrol, your father is going to hear about it, “Mom yelled out the kitchen window.

It could have been that same summer that Kit Bradley and I were throwing darts at each other as Kit hid behind the great wooden door in the fence that separated our two properties.  “I’m going to tell Mom,” Molly yelled when I turned and threw a dart at her, sticking her in the calf.  She carries the scar to this day.  I doubt Molly ever forgot the nasty things we did to her, because we didn’t want her in our gang.

Mom came running out the front door when Molly yelled, “Mike is eating poison, come quickly.”  I didn’t see Mike take the box of arsenic off the back porch and he was now sitting on the grass under the fir tree in his t-shirt and diaper, his mouth was pink from the arsenic.  Mom quickly bundled Mike into the old 41 Chev to drive him to town and the doctor, who told Mom that Mike hadn’t swallowed any of the arsenic and was spared the ugly cure of taking ipecac to cause him to throw-up.  Ipecac is not used anymore and considered to be dangerous by the Center for Disease Control.