If I close my eyes and try real hard, I can still picture my first construction site. I am not referring to the one in California that I was assigned to when I was 5 weeks out of college…at age 38. That one was interesting…sort of…87 acres of dried lakebed in the high desert region, just 60 miles north of LA. I’m thinking way back in time…It was 1968 or 69. It was the first site that was completely unmanned and unfenced. Or, in other words, it was my very own. I was not alone, however. My twin brother, Earl and I were traveling together. That’s as good a term as any I can think of, to describe our activities. Since we were old enough to walk, that’s what we did: At least until we were old enough to ride around town. (And if you’re picturing an automobile carrying twin boys, you’ll need to adjust your “picture maker” or your imagination). I am referring to riding on bicycles.
From the time my brother and I were old enough to walk around in a fairly competent manner (I guess we were 3 or 4 years old), we wandered the streets and alleys of Baltimore City in the great state of Maryland. It seems my father was a diligent employee and was known to hold at least 2 jobs, trying to be a good provider for his young family. That would be considered a good thing by almost anybody in any situation and in any walk of life. And I would not be so presumptuous as to be critical of my dad’s decision regarding the number of hours he worked. After all, we needed to eat. The only hitch is that my mother struggled to meet our basic childhood needs, such as supervision.
My father, in recent years, has informed me that, on multiple occasions, he has returned home from working hard all day only to notice that his twin boys were nowhere in sight. Upon investigation, he learned that his wife had no idea of the whereabouts of their three-year-old boys, either. Incredulous, my father turned to the neighbors in an attempt to locate his progeny. Typically, at this point, we were blocks, or even miles, away: tired and hungry. And asking a grown-up how to get home. Remarkably, these adventures turned out OK in the end. We either managed to find our way back. Or, we put ourselves into the hands of a trustworthy and considerate human being. What are the odds?
By the time Earl and I were 9-years old, we were seasoned travelers. We would regularly wander more than a mile from Home Sweet Home. Mom didn’t seem to care what we did, provided we did not make messes or prevent her from watching her “programs.” Of course, by this stage in our development, we learned to try to be close to home by suppertime. I suppose by today’s standards, my mother would be considered negligent, at best, or even downright abusive. But we didn’t notice. On this particular occasion, we wandered a little more than a mile from home to a place that was to be called, “Dutch Village.”
Dutch Village in Baltimore, MD was a planned community, of sorts…it was planned to house the lower-class families of Northeast Baltimore. Maybe not at first, that is. There was a very nice swimming pool attached to the development. They were groups of 2-floor town homes with pitched roofs in the style of the “Dutch” buildings I had seen in storybooks. I think Phase I was complete and consisted of 3 to 4 buildings with 10 to 15 units in each building. At the time of our arrival, I think Phase II was just under way. Hence, the construction site.
There wasn’t much to the site, really. Just the concrete footers in the shape of the building footprints, some underground utilities (already buried, I think), and a lot of orange-colored mud. But there was one thing lying in that mud that had the potential for lots of fun: a huge (at least 6 feet in diameter) tractor tire. It probably came off of a front-end loader. And I’m sure it must’ve been all done in. But that didn’t matter to me. Moreover, it wasn’t doing anybody any good lying there in the mud. So I asked my brother Earl to help me to stand it up on its edge. It probably took just about all the strength a couple of 9-year olds could muster. I mean, it had to weigh at least 100 lbs. without the mud.
My construction site was very level. But there was a definite tendency for the tire to roll towards the golf course. Of course, between my construction site and the golf course, was a highway of sorts called, “Perring Parkway.” And just a little north, and on the same side of the road, was Baltimore’s Northern High School #402, I think. Also, a little more northward, there was a bridge that crossed over Perring Parkway. I didn’t know it then. But this was the Northern Parkway bridge. Earl and I continued to keep the tire up on its edge and rolling towards the road until it came to a stop. When the tire drew near the crest of the slope, an idea entered my mind.
Of course, the idea of rolling the gargantuan tire down the steep hill had occurred to me almost immediately upon seeing the tire embedded in the mud. But this new idea didn’t occur until Earl and I led the tire closer to the edge of the slope. Out of the corner of my left eye I noticed a smallish-looking car making its way toward us. At this point, I thought it’d be a good idea to roll the tire down the slope into the smallish-looking car. I expressed my latest idea to my twin brother. He didn’t seem to object to it. The only question was how to accomplish this feat. Earl seemed indecisive. So I took control. I did my utmost to time it correctly. Due to the time-constraint, we simply rocked it back-and-forth as I counted out loud, “one…two…THREE!” And it was on its way. Being 8 or 9 years old, we had no idea what might happen if the tire hit the car…But we were about to learn exactly that…
The behemoth-like tire bounced down the hill in 2 or 3 bounds. But it was perfectly at ground level when it met with the passenger door of that Rambler. I imagine the occupant of this classic automobile was rather startled, since the car was initially in the right lane doing 45 mph, or so…at least, that was the posted speed limit. But after it was introduced to our rolling mass of black rubber, he found himself in the left lane almost instantaneously. The old car must’ve made contact with the curb of the median because it slowed-down considerably upon impact. It smashed in the front-right door just as perfectly as you could imagine.
At this time, Earl and I realized we might be better served if we hid behind some nearby bushes. We watched the crippled Rambler as it limped onto the Northern Parkway exit ramp in front of the school. We laughed so hard, and for so long in those bushes, that we finally realized the driver of the wounded Rambler was circling around trying to discover our identity. For we saw it ride over the Northern Parkway bridge…back and forth. We could just make out the face of the operator as that of a white, middle-aged male. We just waited until he was out of sight and took off like a couple of kids.
No hard feelings, I hope…