Ours was a typical middle-class neighborhood; cookie-cutter houses with about ten feet between them, one tree along the curb, surrounded by a freeway behind us, and two major roads running alongside and in front of our street. All of the above were off-limits to us kids, but you know how that goes. One really interesting feature of our block was that all of the houses were interconnected by a cinder block wall that stood approximately five and a half feet high (I know the height because Dad could barely look over the fence, and he stands six feet two). You might think that this wall gave every house on the block plenty of privacy, but you would be wrong, considering the four of us. The wall was plenty high enough for normal kids (I said normal kids), but we somehow found a way to get up on top of the wall. In order to climb the wall, you had to jump as high as you could, grab a hold of the top (sometimes, the top brick came loose and would cause you to fall back and try again), and push yourself up with your feet, digging in on the cinder blocks (stubbing one’s toe was common, and scrapes and cuts on the arms and upper body were inevitable). For little sister Kathy, who was too small to climb up alone, one of the older kids would reach down and pull her up to the top of the wall.
Once on top of the wall, we would make our way, in either direction, from one end of the block to the other. Can you imagine the neighbor’s musings?
The neighbor man, casually relaxing in his lawn chair turns to his wife, “Honey, there are four kids walking on top of our wall! I wonder who they are and where they’re going.”
His wife, just as nonchalant as her husband replies, “Dear, I believe those are the Bay kids from the other side of the block. They’ve recently been appearing on the wall.”
“Well, why are they all barefoot?” he wants to know.
Venturing a guess she responds, “I don’t know for sure, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen them with shoes on. Should we tell their parents?”
Not wanting to be bothered he answers flippantly, “No, maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll fall off and break something.”
We became pretty adept at traversing the top of the wall, which was wider than our foot, but not by much. Because of this, you had to travel single file, one kid behind the other. Occasionally, a neighbor would yell at us, “Hey, you kids get off the wall!” (Why, the nerve!), and the turning around part became a little dicey (we did pass each other on the wall, but that took the best of our balance and dexterity to pull it off and normally didn’t happen unless the front person had encountered something that they were afraid of and the ones behind hadn’t yet figured it out). Vicki was usually in the lead and on one such occasion offered this to the rest of us following single file behind her, “Turn around and go back. The neighbor is yelling at me. Hurry up!”
During those times when we did lose our balance and fall, we would be back up on the wall within seconds of hitting the ground, especially if there was a dog in the yard. It might take me thirty seconds to climb the wall on a normal day, but if there was a dog in the yard, bolting toward me, barking, with slobber dripping out of its mouth, I could scale that wall in five seconds flat (dogs scared me). There was a section of the wall that was impeded by a large bush in one of the neighbor’s yards. The branches were lying across the top of the wall, and getting past them required much balance and the mobility of a mountain goat.
The wall became a problem for us when we were playing any game when there was a ball involved (the ball had a tendency to leave our yard and land in the neighbor’s). What to do? It was obvious we had to get the ball, but how? In addition to the wall, there was a bigger problem with retrieving our ball; each of our neighbors on all three sides had dogs! The neighbor to our right had three Chihuahua dogs. These were not your normal Chihuahua dogs; they were huge, vicious, long-toothed, some type of hybrid breed of Chihuahua dog. Timmy and I were scared to go over there and get our ball (it never occurred to us to walk around to the front of the house, ring the door-bell, and ask for our ball). Simultaneously, we came up with the same plan (send Kathy over the wall!). But, how would we convince her? Initially I tried to bribe her and said, “Kathy, I have some candy I’ll give you (I don’t mess around), if you’ll go get our ball next door.”
Timmy chimed in and begged her, “Pwease, pwease, pwease Kathy, would you go get ow bawh?”
Kathy would not fall for either ploy and responded, “No. I don’t want to. Besides, ahn’t theh dogs next doah.”
I’ve been known to lie and said, “Kathy, those are little Chihuahua dogs that couldn’t hurt a flea. I’ll give you all of my candy. Please?” “Okay” was her response and I had to assume it was that final bribe that put her over the edge.
I know what you’re thinking: what a cruel thing to do to your little sister. I never felt guilty about it until the event was over; besides, we didn’t have a choice. Timmy and I got Kathy up on the wall, and we could see our ball across the neighbor’s yard. No dogs in sight. As we slowly lifted Kathy down, we told her to hurry up before the dogs were the wiser. As she grabbed the ball and headed back to the wall, out of nowhere, the three amigos, I mean Chihuahuas, bolted toward her. As Kathy tried to get up on the wall, the dogs were jumping all over her, biting her bottom and pulling down her pants. Up on the wall, Timmy and I were pretty helpful.
“Kathy, thwow the bawh ovah the fence,” Timmy offered.
I followed up with this encouragement, “Kathy, don’t worry, those dogs aren’t hurting you. Timmy and I will pull you up, but you have to throw the ball over the fence first.” The only words out of Kathy at this point were, “Waaahhh!”
We finally got Kathy to throw the ball back into our yard, lifted her over the fence, pulled her pants up, told her not to tell Mom, and then went to the tree in the front yard to pull a switch for the discipline that surely would come. In all future endeavors involving balls in neighbor’s yards, Kathy was not involved.
This is another excerpt from Little Heathens and a chapter titled “I Love This Neighborhood”. Little Heathens released in June of 2013 and the sequel, Always a Little Heathen was released in October of 2014. Here’s the author’s page from Amazon.