I remember the day we set our neighbor’s tires on fire. Before you start thinking we were bad kids or even worse heathens, let me set the scene for you.
We were on summer vacation and as usual I felt free as a bird knowing I didn’t have to go to school, no homework, it was freedom! My grandmother had made breakfast. Granny always made a full breakfast for my grandfather and me. My mother was gone to work so my grandparents watched me while Mama was at work. This day the bacon and smell of just perked coffee filled the house. I had my favorite a bacon and egg sandwich while granddaddy and grandma had grits, eggs, bacon and toast. As a kid I didn’t like grits, they reminded me of slop and it just looked too messy to go into my stomach.
As usual I hurried and ate my breakfast because I didn’t want to miss one minute of playtime. If I had my way I would have played with my friends from sun up to sun down. Only stopping to come into the house to use the bathroom. I had grown to love my childhood friends; we had so much fun together. I had to hurry and get outside because we were going to finish playing baseball in the alley. Back then baseball meant the world to me and I loved playing it because I could hit the ball far and I could run fast!
We had one problem: a mean old neighbor. I don’t even remember his name but I know each time one of our rubber baseballs went in his yard he wouldn’t give them back! As a matter of fact he would bring his scissors from inside the house and cut the ball in half with those ungodly huge scissors. My stomach would drop a few levels as I watched him destroy our balls. Didn’t he understand we all chipped in to buy that ball? Money didn’t grow on trees Mr. Neighbor. Yet we all grew sad each time he found our balls. We tried to be nice about it, asking if he would please return our balls. Instead Mr. Neighbor appeared to delight in our suffering. No he wouldn’t give the balls back, but I will torture your young minds as I destroy your fun.
One day the baddest kid in our group of friends decided to get back at Mr. Neighbor. You see Mr. Neighbor had a bunch of old tires in his backyard. They were lined up against the fence in his yard. Keith suggested we set the tires on fire. As a group we were powerful and agreed this would be our revenge. The only problem was no one had matches. I thought quickly and remembered my grandmother had kitchen matches and I could go into our kitchen and grab some for our mischievous event.
Lucky for me my granny wasn’t in the kitchen when I slipped in the side door and grabbed some long matches from the box. I didn’t want to take the whole box because I thought it would be difficult to sneak them back in the house. I gave the matches to Keith and he took and then the other three and struck them against the wooden garage of Mr. Neighbor. Flame came quickly and Keith threw all four matches into the pile of tires. We all scattered and ran to our individual houses. My grandfather was taking a nap on the front porch so as far as he knew I was still sitting on the porch-playing Jacks.
After awhile I heard the fire truck sirens. Not moving and pretending I didn’t know why the fire trucks were coming, the loud sirens woke my grandfather. The first place he looked was to see if I was still sitting on the porch. To his satisfaction I was. The firemen were able to extinguish the fire quickly with no damage to his home or garage. I thought to myself, great no real damage, but in all is fair in love and war mentality, Mr. Neighbor got what he deserved. Only this wasn’t the end of it. I looked up and Mr. Neighbor had walked around the corner to my house. You see Mr. Neighbor was one of my grandfather’s neighborhood friends. A group of retirees who sat on the porch and talked about the troubles of the world while finding humor in many things.
Mr. Neighbor saw me sitting on the porch; I started trembling inside while trying to remain cool. My grandfather stood up and asked Mr. Neighbor what was the problem. Mr. Neighbor began accusing me and my friends of setting his unused tires in his backyard on fire. My grandfather went into ‘protect your family mode’ and told Mr. Neighbor that his granddaughter had done no such thing that I had been on the porch at all times. Furthermore my grandfather told Mr. Neighbor to get off his porch accusing his sweet granddaughter of such a terrible thing. Mr. Neighbor didn’t like it, but he knew the rule of life that you don’t go over someone’s house and start trouble. The homeowner always had the advantage.
I’ll never forget that day nor will I forget the smell of those burning tires. To this day I can discern burning rubber over all other burning materials. It’s just something you’ll never forget, like the smell of a dead body. I got away with that but decided then I would never commit another crime, it was hard work!