We moved a temporary “bridge out” sign so we could drive our car across. Clearly, the bridge was not out, but we were—for a good time.
We had driven well across rural Lorain County in pursuit of a late October fright night like generations of Northern Ohio teens before us. It was a rite of passage to try and brave the dark valley and legend of Gore Orphanage.
Matt and Dusty wanted candy. We pulled off at a rickety old roadside store, and they went inside.
“Look, is that someone leaning out of the window above the store?” asked one of the girls in the backseat.
I rolled the window down.
“Do-o-o-on’t go-o,” the stranger lobbed down to us, face flickering in neon against the dark.
We looked at each other inside the car, silently mouthing, “What the …!”
When we looked back up, the stranger in the window was gone.
“What the heck was that?” asked one of the girls aloud.
Surely, it was just some guy having fun with us.
Matt and Dusty jumped back in the car. They didn’t believe a word out of our mouths about the stranger in the window.
Eventually, we arrived at a desolate country road that led down a steep, narrow hill. We noticed but ignored the “no trespassing” signs riddled with bullet holes. Near the bottom of the hill, a turn-off to the left veered so sharply it was difficult to see. This offshoot was even steeper and narrower and led to blackness. Our other option was to continue the main route and ascend the other side of the valley.
We chose blackness.
With windows rolled down on a crisp fall night, we listened as we puttered to “Crybaby Bridge.”
“Kill the engine!”
We listened. Then, we got out and leaned against the metal bridge.
“I heard it.”
“I don’t hear a thing!”
The legend was that long ago, there was an orphanage that burned to the ground, taking with it dozens of kids. If you listened closely, you could hear their faint cries echoing through the valley. Oh, and if you turned your car off on Heartbeat Bridge, it wouldn’t restart until you pushed it across to the other side. So, we intentionally left it out of gear to spook the girls. They even gave it a try before we pushed it to the other side. Wouldn’t you know it, it started right up. You could probably catch us winking and smirking at each other on the sly if you were looking in the rear-view mirror.
We continued down the all-but-forgotten road, winding around a bend one way and then back another before pulling over to park along the edge of the road.
“They say the foundation of the orphanage is that way,” Matt said, pointing a flashlight toward the trailhead, where woods met an open field.
Before going there, we ventured up the road ahead on foot. A lonely house was at the end of a long, wooded driveway.
“No way! Someone lives down here!” Dusty whisper-yelled.
Pushing uphill, around a bend, the road was barricaded. We went back to the car.
“Oh no, cops!” I said.
“Those aren’t cops,” Matt noticed as they neared.
They were a friendly group and led us straight to the foundation. But not before passing a lone pillar with graffiti warning, “You are now entering Hell.”
We sat on the remaining foundation blocks and befriended the new carload of strangers. They decided to leave before us, but we weren’t far behind.
As they drove away, I went for some kicks. I threw my flashlight as hard as possible, end over end, high over their windshield, freaking them out. They sped off. Pleased with my shenanigans, I ran, laughing, to pick up my flashlight. Within minutes, it died. Worse, unbeknownst to me, my car keys bounced out of my unzipped jacket pocket.
We knew we were up a creek without a paddle after our failed attempts to search for the lost keys. The other flashlight went dead. So, Matt and I left Dusty with the girls and went to the old house to ask for batteries or a flashlight. It was pretty late at night.
A freak rain shower drove down, forcing us to return to the car. Anxiety and tempers flared.
“Shut up!” Matt yelled.
“What the …”
We were all staring out the back window at a clunker of a pickup truck pulling off the road near our car.
Our car was a clunker, so it probably looked abandoned.
Peeking over the back seat, we all witnessed a man jump from the truck. He was carrying something long. He let three dogs out the passenger door, and they all ran into the field together and out of sight.
“What do we do?”
“What the hell was that?” the girls cried.
“Was that a gunshot?” I asked aloud.
“Here he comes!” Dusty warned.
The man emerged with two dogs, hopped in his truck, and slowly motored away.
When we finally peeled ourselves from the floor mats, the rain had stopped. It was past midnight. We were stranded …far from home…in an era before the public was armed with cell phones and GPS.
Amazingly, another vehicle eventually appeared. No, it was two cars carrying more teenagers. They were locals. One agreed to drive me back to his parent’s house so I could call my mom. She would have to come out with a spare key.
“Now, listen carefully, Mom. At that point, you’ll have to get out and move a sign that says bridge out, but don’t worry; you can cross. Ignore the no-trespassing signs. Go down the road that looks like a car should not go down. It gets steep and narrow…” continued my directions to my mom. As I heard myself explain, I knew I wouldn’t see the light of day for quite some time.
By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun!
Remember, Camping Out for Concert Tickets?
This generation will never experience what it took to get concert tickets back in the day!
My friend Matt was an 80s teen who defined the Generation X reputation for growing up unsupervised. His parents were avid RVers. Matt was allowed to stay home while they went on weekend road trips when he was in high school.
On Friday, I was called out of class because of an emergency in my family, and my dad was coming to pick me up in front of the school. I waited, very concerned, wondering if a grandparent had passed. A huge RV rolled up in front of me in the bus lane. The door swung open. It was Matt!
“What the heck, man?” I couldn’t believe my eyes. “What are you doing?”
“Picking you up!”
“Dude (we used to say ‘dude’ a lot), my dad is …”
“I know; hop in, sonny,” he interrupted.
Here, he skipped school (and HE was the honor student) because his parents went on a trip without the RV. He grew bored, so he pretended to be my dad and called the school, staging the whole family emergency hoax. I laughed, somewhat shocked at the magnitude of this. Then I jumped in and didn’t look back.
That day, we learned Springsteen had announced a summer concert tour, and Cleveland was one of the stops. We circled the date that tickets would go on sale and made a pact that no matter what, we’d do whatever it took to go.
It was late at night when we opened our house after a long family vacation.
I had plans to meet Matt in the morning to go downtown and buy tickets for the concert. It would be the first day for tickets to go on sale. This was back when The Boss was selling out stadiums in just hours.
A local television news station reported a line forming around Cleveland Municipal Stadium hours before the box office opened; some were already camped out for one or two days.
It was the middle of the night, and I was wide awake. I couldn’t wait. So I grabbed my car keys, and before I knew it, I was on my way to get Matt – but he didn’t know.
I didn’t want to wake up his parents, so I climbed on top of their motor home to get on the roof of their house. Matt slept on the second floor. His window overlooked the garage roof, so I navigated my way there.
He didn’t share his room with anyone but slept on the top bunk of a bunk bed. His head was right by the open window. The only thing between us was a screen. His dog Bandit started to growl – low and then louder. I tried calming the dog, letting him know he knew this cat burglar. I feared he’d wake the whole house if his growling became full-fledged barking.
It was dark inside, so I didn’t see Matt rolling to see what his dog was snarling at. When his eyes met mine only inches away… Well, talk about a wake-up call. Imagine opening your eyes from a dead sleep to see a face peering in your window inches from yours. Matt sprang from the mattress, slammed his head on the ceiling, and fell off the upper bunk onto the floor.
I almost rolled off the roof in terror myself. Then, I just tried to contain my laughter, which came in snorts as I tried to hold it in. Matt gathered his senses, climbed back to the window, and gave me an obscenity-laced greeting, albeit in a whisper-yell.
It was a small miracle that nobody else in the house woke up.
Down at the stadium, we circled the parking lot and found the end of the line where others were camping out. We parked nearby and joined the growing throng of people. Some were better prepared than we were. Leaning up against the concrete wall, sitting on the asphalt, we soon realized it would be a long night.
“Ya know, the backseat ‘ell pop right out in your kind of car,” Matt surmised.
Within minutes we were sitting in hillbilly comfort. Then a guy returned to his group behind us with so many doughnuts they shared with us. They were the best doughnuts I ever had in my life.
Hours later – most people around us sleeping – I opened my eyes and noticed it was dawn. I got up and stretched. When I did, I drifted away from the side of the building and peered around the corner – nobody was in front of us. I casually walked up to Matt, kicked his foot several times, and motioned for him to quietly check it out.
Without words being spoken, we both walked. Our pace quickened. We thought we were sly, but our movement didn’t go unnoticed. There was a chain reaction. We peeked over our shoulders. A mob was thickening and gaining. We flat-out sprinted from there. It probably looked like we were rock stars trying to outrun hundreds of rabid fans when in reality, they just wanted tickets as badly as we did. We turned another corner of the stadium and plunged into a sea of people. Police were holding everyone back.
“If you’re on this side of the barricade, I’m sorry, you’re not getting tickets,” said one cop after another into megaphones. “Please turn around and go home.”
People were disgruntled but reluctantly complying, for the most part. Some tested the officers and were met with more forceful directives. We quickly assessed the scene and bolted over a concrete barricade into some sort of cement trench. We were able to run, hunched over, avoiding being seen. I don’t know how we found this and why nobody else did, but once we were past the police barrier, we sprang from our trench and joined the mob on the other side.
There was only one gate, one turnstile, one ticket window, and thousands of people fighting to get to it.
The head of the production company pleaded over loudspeakers, “We don’t want another Cincinnati.”
He referred to The Who concert several years earlier, where people stampeded eleven fans to death as they stormed the entry doors.
“If this doesn’t get orderly RIGHT NOW, we’ll close her down, and NOBODY will get tickets,” the man shrieked at the top of his lungs.
The unruly crowd somehow demonstrated just enough civility for the mayhem to continue.
More than an hour later, Matt and I were in the final stretch. We were jammed in like sardines between two metal railings leading up to the ticket window.
“Give me your money so we can make sure we get tickets together,” Matt said.
I didn’t want to abandon him, but I had an idea. Believe it or not, the other side of the railing was relatively calm. I slipped through and then turned to help Matt. The space between the railings was wide enough for one and a half bodies. However, there were three and a half in that space, at times with nothing but Matt’s arse on the inside. He was getting crushed. Whenever that happened, he fought with flailing elbows and fists, cursing, to regain space so he could breathe. I helped by pushing and shoving people so they’d give him room. It didn’t matter that most were just as innocent as he was – just victims of circumstance. But this was survival of the fittest. Matt’s reprieve would last about 90 seconds before the shoving from others forced a repeat scenario. It was grueling for Matt on the inside. I had the easy task – shove without getting hit, mostly. Others saw the brilliance of our teamwork, and before I knew it, I had company on my side of the rail.
Eventually, Matt scored tickets. Battle-scarred, Matt more than I, we walked away from the mayhem to the other side of the stadium, which was mostly vacant now. We popped my backseat into the car and drove home, elated.
The concert rocked for over three hours, while a typical concert lasted 90 minutes. Later, a Springsteen gig made the record book for one of the longest concerts ever by a musician.
By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun
I was called into the principal’s office at my middle school along with a close friend. He told us that we were too young to work, according to child labor laws. So, that spring, we had to quit our jobs as caddies at the nearby country club. Instead of caddying there, we rode our bikes twice the distance to another country club. It was across the county line, so we figured the law wouldn’t catch up to us. After school let out for the summer, we returned to the crime scene. Anyway, you sliced it; these were long bike rides.
It amazed me how cold it could be early morning and how hot it got later in the day. And when you rode a bike, it was colder still. An adrenaline rush got my blood flowing like clockwork every morning when I neared the country house on the other side of the railroad tracks before meeting up with my friend. I pedaled as fast as I could down the slope on the other side. I had to gain enough speed to coast by the farmhouse and put my feet up by my handlebars. There he was, barking and running into the road, nipping at my empty metal pedals. No sooner than he gave up the chase did my momentum slow enough to force my feet back to the pedals. It was always a close call. If that dog stuck with it for 15 more feet, I’d be breakfast.
At the caddy shack, the caddy master called me over to a foursome ready for a loop. There was snickering behind the first tee. Later, someone intentionally matched a preacher with a repeatedly loud foul mouth. His running with the potty mouth was as sure a bet each time out as the dog who gave chase to me every morning. Not until the third hole did the foul mouth know he was in the company of a man of the cloth. That’s when everyone except the foul mouth burst into laughter. Soon, more cursing drowned out the laughter. Later, I heard people say they could hear the laughter and cursing back at the clubhouse.
My golfer was on the quiet side compared to the others. I didn’t know if he was new, subordinate, or just quiet by nature. He was a stroke or two in last place. I handed him a wedge for a chip shot out of the sand trap. He got a hold of that thing, and it screamed out of there so fast and hard that I thought I might have to yell, “Fore!”
It ricocheted off an oak branch overhead, abruptly sending it into the pin’s flag, falling straight down into the cup. It happened in the blink of an eye. I had never seen anything like it, so I broke character and roared in delight. It was a fantastic shot in my mind. When I caught the facial expression of my golfer, I was puzzled because he looked downright embarrassed.
I asked him, off to the side, “Wasn’t that incredible?”
He gave me half a smile on the sly, tasseled my hair, and walked to the next tee. Later, he tipped me the most I ever got that summer.
After my morning round, I decided to hang out for some caddy baseball and try to get a second loop after lunch. One of the caddies in this group was just plain tough as nails. He was older than me and from a much tougher neighborhood. I wondered how he got to the country club every day. His golfer was one of those who had to insult people to act like a big shot, and he demeaned his caddies.
Nobody wanted to caddy for him, but this city kid said, “I don’t care; a loop’s a loop.”
It was a scorcher of an afternoon, so we rolled up our short sleeves to try and fade out the infamous caddy-tan lines on our arms. Some called them farmers’ tans. We called them caddy tans. When the city kid rolled up his sleeves, his homemade tattoos showed.
His golfer insisted that he keep his sleeves down, “A little more class here….”
When nobody else looked, I saw the tatted caddy drop a mouthful of spit into the guy’s golf bag. He took more verbal abuse than I figured even he could stand. I began to think he must really need to make a buck. He sucked it up, rebelled behind the scenes, and marched like a real trooper.
It was somewhere along the back nine that fate and justice crossed paths.
The big-shot golfer sliced a shot off the fairway into a tree. You could see the ball fall down but not out. It rested on a branch about 15 feet high. The golfer out cursed the morning foul mouth. During his tirade, he spun around and released his iron. The golf club flung round and round, landing in a pond.
“Get my club! Then, get my ball!” he said to the tough kid.
To his credit, the kid casually walked to the pond, never uttering a word.
But then, he turned and waited for the golfer to look.
“Come on, come on, we don’t have all day,” the golfer said for the kid to hear.
When he turned toward his friends, he uttered some more insults under his breath. His friends didn’t look at him. They looked past him and nodded that he better look for himself, too.
The kid was standing with the entire golf bag and its very expensive contents over his head.
“What the …”
Before the big shot could finish his sentence, the kid spun around as the golfer did before launching his club. Only this time was the kid launching the entire bag …deep into the pond. Then, he turned, flashed two flagrant middle fingers, and walked off into the sun, a renegade and Caddyshack legend, never to be seen again.
You never knew what you’d get from one day to the next at these country clubs.
When I first started caddying, we started our training as cart runners. Like in the movies, our caddy master sometimes threatened that golf carts at the club would replace us if we didn’t do well. I didn’t understand why some people would take a golf cart and ask for a caddy. But, on my only cart running day, it became clear that it was either to make sure a ball never got lost or for unhappy people to take out their frustrations on us kids. An older kid and I were assigned to one couple and a cart each. It was two husband and wife teams.
My couple had me stand down the fairway a bit from the tee to better keep my eye on the ball. There was a creek that split the fairway on this hole. When the guy hit his shot, I thought I saw it thud into the mud with no splash into the far bank, so that I couldn’t be sure, yet I was.
He was not a bad guy, but his wife was plain mean to me all afternoon.
“Didn’t you see it! Where did it land?” She barked at me, sure that I lost it because they could not find it.
“It landed right there,” I insisted.
But the ball had completely disappeared. To my surprise, the husband shuffled down to the water’s edge and had me guide him. I knew he was over the spot, so I said it should be there.
“If you are wrong, this will be your last day here!” the wife deadpanned, glaring through me.
In my mind, I was praying. Unlike the tough kid, I was pretty shy at this time.
The husband rose a muddy forearm with a smile and the ball.
“Check it. Make sure it’s a Titleist 4,” she said with anger in her voice.
She sped off with the cart without him to find her second shot when he confirmed.
“Damn good eye, kid,” he winked at me.
Once we seemed to be caddies that’ll last the summer, we were rewarded with caddy golf day. Caddies were allowed to golf on the members’ course Monday evening. It was a big deal for us. But none of us had ever really golfed before, except maybe Jimmy. Jimmy was swinging and missing. It was with a fresh divot and not the ball when he connected. The golf pro for the country club rolled up on a cart and watched the circus for about three minutes before jumping to his feet and walking over to us.
“Look, I can’t let you tear up the course,” he said. “Somebody better show me I can trust you out there.”
I never held a club other than a putt-putt putter, but my friends gave me up to sink or swim for us all. Now, I had plenty of hours watching people golf, and I had taken some practice swings earlier. I stepped up, put a ball on a tee, and positioned myself. Silence fell across everyone’s lips.
That ball went a decent distance and bounced some more straight down the fairway. It was pure beginner’s luck, but we all contained our giddiness and looked to the pro for approval.
“That was a nice shot,” he said with surprise.
He got on his cart and moved on.
On a slow afternoon, the caddy master came to me and my friend Scott.
He wanted us to drive a rigged-up cart out onto the driving range to shag balls. It was a treat, and he promised some favors in return. Well, Scott and I together doing something like this needed very little to get a serious case of the giggles.
Scott was behind the steering wheel, and I was in the passenger seat—the only part of the cart unprotected by a cage-type enclosure to keep balls from hitting the driver. Whenever he turned and exposed my bare side to the golfers teeing off, our narrative grew louder and louder.
We were dramatizing being under attack, but I was under attack, not him.
Some balls hit the cart, and we reacted without a filter. Then one rattled into the cart and bounced into Scott. That got us to peak form.
The golfers were clearly delighted in aiming at this raucous duo for entertainment. Meanwhile, we were out there exploring George Carlin’s list of words you could never say on television …with gusto… laughing at the top of our lungs.
But we didn’t think we were loud enough to be heard by the people at the range.
Then, our caddy master raced out to us on a golf cart.
He tried to yell through his gut-busting laughter,
“You clowns are done! Head back to the Caddyshack!”
By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun
When I was seven, Dad took Grandpa and me to a ballgame. It was my first.
Grandpa told me how he fell in love with the sport when he was around my age, several years after emigrating from Sicily. Dad went to get some foot longs, and I sat beside my grandpa, holding onto my little league glove. I heard the crack of the bat and saw the ball coming closer – Closer – CLOSER. We were in the upper deck down the third baseline. When that ball whizzed in slow motion directly over my head, it looked as big as a basketball. I yanked back my outstretched glove because I wanted no part of it.
I shook Grandpa afterward and screamed, “Did you see that!”
He grunted while he looked through his binoculars at home plate, “See what, see what?”
He had no clue what just happened. Little did he know that was the moment I became a fan of the game and his team, the Cleveland Indians, just like my father before me.
It’s funny, but I don’t remember my childhood friends or classmates being Cleveland Indians baseball fans in the 1970s and 1980s. Maybe it was too painful to admit openly.
When I was in high school, the manager was probably best remembered for charging the mound at an opposing pitcher, pathetically failing to land a karate kick. To add insult to injury, the pitcher dropped our manager with one punch. But this was my team, my lovable losers. I played in a world of possibility, whereas nearly everyone else I knew played in a world of probability. Life is safer their way. But perhaps it’s with my mindset that I entered an essay contest by a Cleveland newspaper – “Why Do You Like The Indians?” Now a teenager, I read the newspaper’s sports section daily, so I wrote and sent in my essay.
Thinking back, I wonder if I was the only one who bothered with the contest.
Nonetheless, the prize was “dinner” with the Indians and a free ballgame. Dinner with the Indians meant I got to invite a friend to accompany me to the old Municipal Stadium for a luncheon that launched the team’s winter press tour. Only the manager and a couple of players showed up to talk to the room full of reporters, and afterward, I got to wait in line to shake the hand of a forgettable rookie infielder.
When Mom dropped me and my friend Scott at the stadium, we immediately seized a plush booth. It was long – very long – and center stage. It was in the back of the room next to huge windows high above the ground outside. It had our names all over it, so to speak. It was ours! Until some lackey in a suit scrambled across the room to us as some old guy, and his entourage entered.
“Hey kids, you can’t sit there!” he said alarmingly.
“Sure we can,” I said.
“We are,” said Scott, shooting a smile my way, knowing he had just slipped a cocky remark under the radar.
The man demanded we move.
“But I won the contest,” I said, as a matter of fact.
He looked dumbfounded. Then, he saw the entourage nearing and looked back at us in desperation.
“You gotta go now,” he pleaded, reaching for my arm.
I pulled away and scooted farther into the long and deep wrap-around booth out of reach.
“What seems to be the problem?” asked the old man arriving next to the table. His entourage fanned out around it.
The scared-looking man (lackey) sounded like he had diarrhea of the mouth, so I explained.
Laughing, the old man said, “You boys have a good time,” and left us to the enormous booth.
Then, he and his entourage pulled tables and chairs together in the center of the room, displacing some adults.
As they crowded around a hastily made large table by clustering together smaller tables right in front of us, we sat back and ordered meals fit for kings. I sat at one end of the long booth, and Scott sat on the far end. You could have sat half a dozen adults on one side between us.
This was our day, and nobody was going to take it away.
Later, the old man was introduced as the general manager of the Cleveland Indians. My instinct was to boo, but I bit my tongue. We all knew how the Indians were mishandled, but I couldn’t help but appreciate his kindness toward us.
On the way out, Scott and I shared an elevator with a rising star named Pat Tabler. He had a giggling girl under each arm, making him a bigger hero than just a moment earlier, even though he didn’t notice us in the tight space we shared going down.
Many years later, it was time to pass down the family tradition.
My daughter, Cara, was only four years old, and we were going to move from Cleveland to Cincinnati because of a job offer. Before we left, I wanted to take my little girl to experience the magic of Jacob’s Field.
We got on what Cara called “the train ride,” or the Rapid Transit, and settled into a seat facing backward. She liked that. I didn’t.
The man sitting in front of us had really big hair.
“Dad – look, that man has a comb stuck in his head.”
I saw the big hair shift, but it did not make a complete turn.
After that, we arrived, stood at the end of the line, and walked into the ballpark.
I didn’t give my kids a lot by modern standards, but I flat-out spoiled my daughter on that day. Program – yes. Hot dog – yes. Peanuts – yes. Cracker Jack – yes. After all this and three innings, Cara saw a man with a big tray of clouds on sticks, colors dancing in the light one section over. She followed him with her eyes. Finally, she asked about this strange sight. Now, her only mission in life was to try this thing called cotton candy.
Half an inning later, she was twisted backward, thumping my shoulder without looking, as she panted, “He’s coming, Dad. Dad, here he comes.”
I decided to make her earn this treat and said that she had to get his attention to come down to us, or she would be out of luck.
She asked how to do it, so I told her to yell, “Cotton Candy here!”
So she did! LOUDLY and REPEATEDLY.
Seeing how she handled the entire transaction herself, many in our section gave her a standing ovation.
Her head swelled.
I had to tilt my head back to contain the pooling water building up in my eyes.
When the game was over, we soaked in the experience for a while longer until we were among the last people in the stands.
“Dad, I love our team. Did they win?”
“I’ll always remember this day too, honey.”
And whether their name is Indians or Guardians, Cleveland will always be my tribe.
By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun
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
Ah, the early trips! Those first couple of times, I could feel freedom and adventure leaving home without Mom and Dad.
On my first trip, I was sandbox-age. My buddy Eric joined me. It would be a sign of the times ahead of us as we explored the boundaries of independence and our knack for mischief.
It was an early summer morning, and we wanted cookies, but my mom said, “No.”
I knew of another friend, Kyle, down the street, and his mom always had a full cookie jar in her kitchen. So, Eric and I were off to get our fix even though I knew Kyle was at his dad’s for the weekend.
I guess you could say it was our first foodie outing.
The house was locked, and nobody was awake, so we did the natural thing … and slid through the doggy door. We were little tykes, so we staggered the kitchen counter drawers to use as climbing steps.
I was on the counter, hand in the cookie jar, when Ms. E. appeared as a silhouette down the hall leading to the kitchen, “Rocky, is that you?”
My middle name is Rocco. I was named after a saint.
Ms. E. rubbed her eyes in utter disbelief as if she were still dreaming.
The next thing she saw was two tiny butts simultaneously squeezing through that doggy door.
Minutes later, my mom stepped outside to see us in my sandbox and asked, dumbfounded, “Were you in Ms. E’s house just now?”
Tasting chocolate chip on the corner of my mouth, I licked it and said, “No.”
There would be some time I had to chore off before I would get a taste of freedom again.
Three houses down, that was the length of my leash – on a bicycle. Coincidentally, my turnaround spot was in front of Ms. E’s house.
I was a beginner and loved the freedom my new wheels gave me. Our street didn’t have sidewalks, at least not down by my house. Still, it was safe. Sort of. I guess.
The third house was approaching. I was on the edge of the road traveling opposite traffic, just like I was not supposed to do. A car came behind me as I turned into the middle of the road. I was startled when the driver beeped at me. Not a hello beep but an angry one.
Back home, I came to a stop against the side steps. This was the only way I could end a bike ride without crashing. We had a long blacktop driveway. Mom was outside, and I was about to go in for a glass of water when a police car pulled all the way up to the house. This was an incredible sight for me. The officer spoke with my mom, and I didn’t quite understand what it was all about. Finally, he approached me. Mom just stood off to the side.
Mesmerized by the uniform, holster, and all, I didn’t pay one bit of attention to a word he said. But I caught the gist. It was a lecture about bicycling safety. I was intimidated, to say the least. In my mind, when you do something wrong, and the police come, there’s but one conclusion – jail!
“I have to go to the bathroom,” I squeaked out.
The officer paused, looked at my mom, and she said to be quick.
I was quick, all right. I sprinted to my bedroom, grabbed underwear, a shirt, and my favorite stuffed animal (a monkey holding a banana), and then found a towel in the bathroom to wrap it all up. I only had cartoons and kids’ shows as a guide, so in lieu of a stick to tie it to, I improvised and used a yardstick. I slipped out another door and headed for the woods.
My mom saw me.
“What are you doing? Where are you going?”
When I stopped and turned, the yardstick snapped, and my sack flung to the ground.
At this sight, my mom and the officer seemed to burst out something but quickly contained it.
Now I really did have to use the bathroom.
Instead, I had to listen to the rest of the safety lecture and then got the bonus lecture on running away. It all seemed so threatening to me.
As the black and white pulled out of the driveway, I remember being very surprised that I wasn’t in cuffs in the backseat.
After my bust, I felt on the lam, always looking over my shoulder.
Okay, one more for the foodie crowd.
I looked up from my chair, which was attached to my desk, and wondered if I had heard my teacher correctly.
Yep! She said it again – “…brownies!”
I put my pencil down from doodling on the desktop and refocused on the classroom.
“…So if you want to stay after school tomorrow for brownies, you’ll need a note from your parents,” she concluded at the bell.
When I got home, I promptly remembered to relay the information to my mom. She didn’t bat an eye, wrote a quick note, and tucked it inside my folder for tomorrow.
At the end of the next day, my mouth was watering. I gazed at the clock three times, and all three times, the long minute hand didn’t budge. One minute to go, and it seemed to take an hour.
Then, finally, brownie time!
“If you’re staying after for brownies, line up here,” my teacher directed.
Bam! I was second in line, eagerly waiting to satisfy my sweet tooth. My focus slowly turned foggy as background noise penetrated my one-track mind. It was laughter.
“Rocky wants to join the Brownies, Rocky wants to join the Brownies …” was the chant gaining volume around me.
I looked around. I was the only boy in line. My teacher looked at me with an expression of …unease.
“Rocky, boys can’t join the Brownies. Brownies are Girl Scouts.”
By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun
Sometimes vacations bring a moment of panic.
Our first family vacation that involved air travel had us flying the last leg on a small, bumpy flight with one row of single seats on one side of the plane. I sat in front of my six-year-old son, and behind him was another six-year-old. The seatbelt sign was on. We descended before our stomachs. That’s when I heard two remarkable imaginations echo through the hollow tube with a play-by-play for everyone to hear.
“We’re going to crash!” One boy yelled at the other.
“Ah, that was close.”
“Holy moly, there’s an alligator on the wing.”
The plane bucked in the air and then tilted to turn.
“The alligator is gone, but seaweed clogged the engine, and now it’s smoking.”
From the other side of the plane came an elderly voice, “Is there really smoke?”
I tried to squeeze my face between the back of my seat and the metal wall with desperate “SHHH” noises, but these two were on cloud nine all the way down.
By Frank Rocco Satullo, The OhioTraveler, Your Tour Guide to Fun