Our “All Ohio” Playground

This is the latest story from the blog,
“Wrong Turns Write Life”

The creek was long, and on one side, it had rolling hills. Shaped like three sides of a square, we’d pick it up at a corner where our trail led. There was nothing but a mile or so of woods between our backyards and this “playground.”

One day, we followed the creek up around another of its bends. Next to the grocery store was the American Legion. This was the time of year they would have live fire shooting ranges – turkey shoots, I think they used to call them. I imagine if you missed the target, the round ended up in the woods. They weren’t shooting, so we didn’t have to get our feet muddy in the creek. The creek on this stretch had no hills, but its earthen walls were steep, camouflaged by bushes and saplings.

We decided to venture up to the grocery store. Men were at the dock unloading huge sides of beef. Out of the truck, they would slide one slab at a time down a cable attached to a hook. It would slam into the other slabs at the end of the tilted line. We sat on the concrete ledge and whooped it up when a good slam could be heard. We went nuts when meat parts flung off. The workers were grinning as they worked, letting us carry on.

When they were done, they took a break, so we slipped inside to see what happened next. The saw noise was deafening, so when a guy yelled at us, we only saw lips moving. We exited at the nearest door and were now inside the store by the meat department and a water fountain. We strategically hit an assortment of free sample tables and actually satisfied our hunger.

Eric suggested we play hide-and-seek. The game had never been this much fun. After a while, we decided on one more round. Then, we’d go back to our playground.

I found the perfect spot. It was the cereal section. I moved enough boxes to slide my little body behind an outer wall of cereal. Then, I pulled one box over to hide my face. I was so proud of my creativity. I knew I’d never be found.

About the time I was cramping and dozing off, I thought about ditching my spot to see what everyone else was up to. That’s when I heard someone closing in. They were onto me. They must have been. Box after box was being moved to see what was behind it, I presumed. My anxiety from the anticipation of being found was off the charts high.

That last box I placed in front of my face was moved. I looked out and saw the slacks of a lady. She was holding the box between us. It looked like she was reading the back of it because staring at me was Count Chocola. I held my breath and remained motionless. I don’t know when she sensed me, but when she did, she dropped the Count and screamed so damn loud I felt like bursting from my hideout and sprinting for the exit. But my body would not move.

I got a good scolding in the manager’s office, but before he was finished, someone came in and alerted him of more boys creating mischief.

He pointed at me and said, “Don’t you move!”

He disappeared, and so did I.

Cautiously, I walked out of the office, looked around, turned the corner, and strolled right out the front doors. Once I was in the parking lot, I sprinted around the far corner of the building into an open field, heading for the woods. I kicked into overdrive when my friends flew around the opposite corner of the building and into the field. Three men were in hot pursuit. We made a “V” toward each other and the creek.

We ran right up to the edge of the creek and jumped. We knew we couldn’t clear it, and that wasn’t what we had in mind. We splat into the far bank, righted ourselves, and splashed down the middle of the creek in the direction of the American Legion. The men weren’t far behind.  They drew closer quickly, running along the upper edge of the creek, peering down when their view wasn’t obstructed.

We stopped when they stopped.

Everyone took notice of the gunfire.

One of the men made a motion with his finger for us to come his way, thinking we were at a dead end, so to speak.

My friends and I looked at each other, smiled, and then bolted toward the gunfire …and to “safety.”

Later, we took to our playground again, this time emulating the veterans at the American Legion, BB guns in hand.

We had been in position for 30 minutes, firing BBs into a hornet nest.

It wasn’t just any hornets’ nest – it was the mother of all hornets’ nests! Our BBs seemed to have no effect. We shifted our strategy to the base, where it hung in the tree, but we were just too far. Granted, it was a safe position when calculating how far the hornets were seen buzzing around the nest. However, we needed to get closer since our target went from a huge gray mass to the base, where it clung to the tree branch.

Some of us dressed in green camouflage, others in white tee shirts, blue jeans, and ball caps. We low-crawled through the waist-high, light brown brush of the open field and found a new position much closer.

It was close enough to put the slingshot into action with more accuracy.

“Wow! Nice shot!” was the consensus as the hole was visible and the flurry of hornets thickened.

Twenty minutes later, several holes torn into the nest, we realized this could take all day to bring it down. We needed a bolder plan.

“Danny, run up closer and throw this at it.”

“Screw you!” was the reply.

“C’mon, man,” the peer pressure poured on until Danny, the youngest of our group, went home.

Down a man, we re-examined the pecking order.

“Don’t look at me; you go,” Joey said to Kevin.

“Heck no,” said Kevin.

“Wimps!” I yelled as I sprinted in an arch pattern at the nest with a chunk of shale and whipped it like skipping a rock. It missed.

“Crap, I think I got stung,” I said when my adrenaline level came back down as I returned to our position.

Like a dam giving way, the throbbing-stinging pain spread across my left hand. I tucked it into my gut, bending over.

“Who’s the wimp now,” said Eric.

Joey and Kevin laughed.

Meanwhile, I spotted what looked to be a section of a telephone pole on my loop back. We low crawled to it. Weird as it was; indeed, a small cut section of a telephone pole lay in the brush. It was the perfect size to get two of us on each side and have room to spare. Plus, it was light enough to …

“Ahh, that’ll be awesome!”

“Did you fall and crack your head or something,” they replied.

But when I really wanted to be persuasive, I could usually bring my friends around to do the most stupid of stunts.

So there we were, rushing at a mega hornets’ nest with what can only be described as a battering ram. We hit it solid, launching it straight into the ground, where all hell broke loose.

We scattered, running for our lives, running for our homes – more to the point, our moms – screaming bloody murder the entire way.

At first, I was okay, running through the field. I laughed heartily, seeing Joey fall, get up and cry his eyes out; he was getting stung so badly. Just when I thought I might have escaped unscathed, it felt like I was sprayed by tiny, potent bullets from a machine gun. From my fingers waving frantically in the air, across my outstretched arms to my head, neck, and shoulders, even down my back, butt, and legs, I went from thinking this prank was hysterical to being hysterical.

I stumbled through my back gate and fell to my knees, head cocked back, arms wide in the air like a scene from Platoon, except I was crying like there was no tomorrow, as my mom ran to me.

By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun 

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“Wrong Turns Write Life”

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