|The Tough Old Tree of Treachery|
The old sugar maple in the center of this photo has a history for me. In the summer of 1958 or 1959, someone got the brilliant idea that another street could be built in our plan. A bulldozer was dispatched and for about a month it went around and knocked down all the trees in upper section of our woods. After knocking down the preponderance of the trees, the would be developer found out two interesting facts. 1) The sewage plant for our community was undersized for the existing homes. A new street would require upgrading the plant. 2) The new street would be built in an area rife with old coal mines and very susceptible to mine subsidence and sink holes. The bulldozer packed up and was never seen again. The knocked down trees were left to rot.
I was fascinated with the bulldozer and become buddies with the operator, and in a time when adults were always addressed as Mr. Jones or Mrs Smith, this guy was just Lou. Wow. Here is this important man! A grown up! Running a bulldozer! And I could call him Lou! Lou had a gallon jug for water and I would take it down to the house and fill it up for him. My mother spotted me filling the jug from the garden hose and asked what was I doing. I told her, and I guess she figured that this guy was keeping her kid entertained and out of her hair. So she took up to making iced tea or Rheemer's Blend for Lou in the morning and putting it in a couple of capped mason jars. So every day at lunch time I would take the mason jars of cold refreshment out to the bulldozer. At two thirty the ice cream man would come down the street. Lou would stop the bulldozer give me 50 cents and I would go fetch us each a goody bar or popsicle. I only needed 20 or 30 cents depending on what we got, but Lou always gave me 2 quarters. Keep the change. He gave me lessons on how the steering clutches and brakes worked and what all the neat levers did. I never got a ride on the dozer though, a disappointment, but Lou was smart. This was the late 50s, there must have been 2 billion kids in the neighborhood, if Lou gave me a ride, then tomorrow there would be a crowd of grimey street urchins wanting a ride.
Anyhow Lou managed to knock down all the trees except this big old sugar maple. He worked on it for a couple of days. He pushed up a ramp of soil so the blade would hit the tree higher in the trunk Then he would back up the hill and come down full tilt, race up the ramp, and bash into the tree. He couldn't budge it. If you look at the base of the tree to the right, you can still see the remanent of the ramp. BTW, for those of us who have a hankering for orange, the bulldozer was an Allis Chalmers and looked very much like this one (except it had blade). I even remember the AC diamond logo on the side of the engine shroud.
This tree couldn't be knocked down because it is my shrine commemorating both the un-trustworthiness and the ferocity of the female of the species. Ahhhh! I learned these lessons early in life when I was either 6 or 7 years old, several years before the bulldozer came. Long before I was friends with my brother-in-law, I was friends with a kid who lived on the same street as me, a couple houses up. He was two years older than me and was a wisenheimer as my father called him. He had a propensity for getting into trouble and taking me with him, although in this case I must share the guilt.
|How to get a wheelbarrow from downtown to Mt. Washington|
His father had a big heavy screen set up in a frame under this tree. He would sift topsoil through the screen into his wheel barrow and wheel it up to his house--a trip that would kill me if I attempted it now. That Second World War generation was tough when it come to wheel barrows. Back in the early 50s before we had moved and before my father owned a car, he bought a heavy construction grade wheel barrow from Sears on the North Side of Pittsburgh. He wheeled the thing by hand from North Side, across one of the bridges spanning the Allegheny, pushed it through downtown Pittsburgh, across one of the bridges spanning the Mon and somehow got it on one of the inclines and pushed it to our house in Mount Washington, a distance of a little over 2 miles.
|My Father's Wheel Barrow Trip Circa 1950|
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Anyhow, this kid's father had this little clearing with the sifter conveniently located about 100 yards into the woods, well out of sight of any of the houses. So this kid negotiates with a group of the young ladies in the neighborhood, he and I will do a strip tease for the girls, providing they would reciprocate. OK, but you guys go first. OK So we are singing some sort of ditty (probably All the girls France, they don't wear no underpants) and stripped right down to the bare essentials and did a dance emphasizing how the plumbing down there could sway to the music. This was full frontal nudity, no fooling around. Well the first day we produced our half of the bargain, but the girls gave us some line of bullshit that it was too close to supper time...bla, bla, and they would live up to their end of the bargain tomorrow. Now these young ladies were 2 or 3 years older than me, so I was looking forward with great curiosity to see the secrets of the female form. So the next day, after more negotiations, we reconvened around the sifter right after lunch. One of the girls brought her four year old sister along. What's this crap? So my buddy and I are ready for our show. Well you guys were so good, let's have an encore. Sure, we are old school burlesque dancers by now, all modesty went out the window yesterday. So we sing our little song and strip down again. So there we are stark naked and we are getting a little impatient and apparently a little loud. We lived up to our end of the bargain. Now what about you girls? Time to show us the goods! Yeah and we are getting a bit excited about it. Probably even got into a bit of a chant to encourage them. So here are these lovely 10 year old girls, hell damn near adults to a 7 year old, and I am licking my chops to see just what do they have down there. Its gotta to be really cool or there wouldn't be all this fuss about clothes.
Well the one girl grabs her little sister, bends her over and puts her in a head lock. She then aims the little sister's behind at us and the other girl pulls down the tot's shorts. So we got to see this 4 year old's bum. We start, still naked, raising hell, no fair! We know what bums look like. We want to see the front! No way! C'mon no fair! We are showing you our weiners, we didn't come down here to see a 4 year old's bum. Cheaters! Strip off the clothes ladies! All of sudden the pants get hauled back up on the 4 year old and the girls get real quiet, me and my buddy are still raising hell about the breach of contract. The girls eyes are as big as saucers, my mouth is shouting "cheaters" but alarms bells are starting to go off in my head, something is amiss. I suddenly hear my name spoken from behind me. I turn around and behold! My mother's best lady friend, Ann, that lived at the bottom of the street. Oh shit! She told us to put on our clothes and for every one to go home. Well kid world being what it was, I managed to avoid home until supper time. At supper time you better be home or else. I considered my options. I could run away. Become a hobo, ride the rails. Supper time is here, I balked. Why should one willing walk to his own execution? Hell, I may as well go out and start digging a grave in the backyard. My father stuck his head out the door and gave one of his two fingered whistles that could be heard all over Allegheny County. There was no excuse for not responding to "the whistle". I walked in the house expecting all hell to break loose. My mother scanned my face and I suddenly realized that she did not know. Quick, turn off the sheepish shit before you give yourself away. We ate supper and life went on as normal. My mother finished the dishes and said "I am going down to Ann's, I 'll be back in hour to give you your bath." Oh shit. I am hanging out in the front yard to keep an eye on the action, why I am not sure. What the hell am I going to do by watching?
I hope and pray that Ann can keep her mouth shut. Maybe she forgot. Maybe its no big deal. Maybe she is really cool. She didn't holler at us, or give that crap that adults always give kids about knowing better. Maybe she likes being naked, like those ladies that are on the front of the paperback books in the drugstore, all you could ever see on them were their backs and the tops of their bums, but they were naked. Yeah, that's it, she likes being naked, thats why she didn't call. I hope and pray, Oh Dear God Let Ann Like Being Naked, she will understand then.
Well I believe in retrospect that Ann did like to be naked sometimes, she had two kids then and eventually four. But alas, Ann did not forget, and perhaps while she liked to be naked, she didn't like us boys being naked that much. Well she had a daughter after all. My mother is down at Ann's for about 10 minutes, and then she comes up the street like an enraged bull. I see her coming and I start to bail out--an admission of guilt before the trial--not that there will be any trial, and she yells at me to stay put. She comes flying up the front steps, hauls both my wrists over my head and hauls down my pants right there in the front yard and starts beating my bare ass with her bare hand. "So you little son of bitch, you want to show your ass off to the girls, here let me help you!" She is speaking about God and Jesus and something about the next time I show my ass off it is going to be as bright red as a babboon's ass. Either her hand must of got sore, or she became dimly aware of the grand expose to which she was treating kid world at both of our expense. She then drags me into the house, with my pants still around my knees, into the kitchen past my amazed father who quickly returned to his paper. We went to the drawer the where the GI belt is kept. The drawer flied open with about 7 Gs of accelleration. The flashlight, knife sharpener, scissors, screw driver, small tack hammer and pliers slamed with a loud crash into the drawer front. Out came the belt and it was applied generously to my bare ass with a string of profanity featuring God and Jesus and little sons of bitches showing off little bare asses and so forth. And who catches you? Ann! For Christ sake, the whole god damned neighborhood knew about it before me, you little bastard....
Time dilated for me. That ass beating had to last for several hours, but I am sure it was no longer than a few minutes. I am almost certain that I could have read the numbers on Eagleman's chronometers. Boy was she pissed off. So after the ass beating, I wasn't allowed outside for, oh hell I don't know 4 or 5 years, or so it seemed. That couldn't be right, but it seemed that way. At least a couple of days anyhow. You know that damned Ann could have kept her mouth shut. Or least she could have got on the phone and called my mother right away. With several hours before supper, there may have been a cooling off period, Nah, she had to dump it on her during a visit. Man, I can still see my mother coming up that street like a run-a-way freight train.
As I stood under the tree admiring its presence some 52 years after it was bashed by a bulldozer and some 55 years after my ass was bashed by an enraged woman, it all comes back. The fun and excitement of taking off our clothes in front of the girls, the glorious expectation that we were going to get to see what's down there. The holy of holies for a young boy. Hell we had no idea just how holy it was but we knew it had to be really neat. Hair! It must be hair, that's what the song said.
"All the girls from France, they don't wear no underpants. When you look down there all you see is lots of hair."
Perhaps you think I am damaged. Abused by a horrific prude of a mother. It was just young children expressing their innate sexuality. There is nothing wrong with children having curiosity and acting on it. Oh the misunderstandings of the 50s. People could behave like savages with their children at times.
Oh bullshit! We knew we were doing something wrong! And we knew we would get our asses beat for it if caught. Yes, there is nothing wrong with children looking at each other's plumbing But that's not how it played in the 50s and we knew it. Sexuality was so cool back then because it was so forbidden. We had a blast with it. I have fond memories of the whole thing including the ass beating. Alas, another dozen years would go by before I really got to see what girls had down there, and by God, it was...really cool. In a way, it was a shame it didn't happen under that tree, it would have been so appropriate.
The bulldozer could not knock down that tree. It stands a monument to the treachery of lying women and ass beating mothers. I regard it fondly every time I walk by.
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