In the aftermath of Cindy’s and my crime spree, we were restricted to playing in our own yards by ourselves. The mothers thought that if their precious was separated from that other child, their little angel would quickly return to the path of righteousness. Instinctive motherly reasoning, but not based in reality.
As a result, Cindy and I drifted apart, and shortly thereafter, she moved away. But, apparently, waiting in the wings was Deb. She had become a friend of Cindy’s, was a year older than me, and was the typical Old Mission cover girl. You may be wondering, weren’t there any boys for me to play with? Well, they were all a bit older or younger than me. I was doomed.
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Having put some days behind me and gained some wisdom, I was now four years old and allowed to go and play up in the school yard. One hot sunny day, I arrived there early and waited for the kids from across the road to join me at the playground.
I observed Deb in the front yard of the little log church, the namesake of Old Mission. It looked like she had a rifle like I saw on TV westerns. She waved at me and yelled, “Come see what I got!” Smitten as usual, I ran immediately over there. Apparently, wisdom is fleeting.
She was holding what I later would know as a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun. Perhaps her brother had left it unattended and she “borrowed” it. She then proceeded to demonstrate how to operate it, having observed her brother do it many times. She pointed the gun at the door of the log church and pulled the trigger. I saw a little round copper ball bounce off the door and fall on the ground. She held out the gun for me to try.
I struggled to pull the lever to cock it. The door had three little windows in it at that time, and even though I didn’t know how to aim it, I pointed it at the door, pulled the trigger, and as fate would have it, I hit one of the windows. The Daisy must have been old and well worn, as I could actually see the bb fly through the air and hit the window, make a mark and bounce off.
I remember saying, “Uh oh,” followed by a reassuring voice saying we can wipe the marks off later. Even though we managed to make more marks, we soon tired of pulling the lever. The gun was left on the ground and Deb went home for lunch.
I went over to the store to sit on the bench that sat between the post office door and the door leading into the store. This was where the action was. An old pickup pulled up and out stepped Roy Holmes, an old farmer from down the road. Roy was a jovial fellow and always had something funny to say to me.
He said, “You are going to melt sitting in the sun like that. How would you like a nice cold soda pop?” I said yes, and he said, “Follow me.” He went into the store, and I got up and followed him in.
He was already talking with his friend George, who was standing behind the counter and reaching down for something. George said, “I hear you’d like a soda pop. Tell you what,” as he handed me a balloon, “You blow that up ’til it pops and we’ll give one.” Roy picked me up and sat me up on the red Coca-Cola cooler.
I started to blow up the balloon, and it got harder and harder to do. As my face started to match the color of the cooler, Roy and George were now in a fit of uncontrollable laughter, when all of a sudden there was a loud pop as the balloon burst. I guess the startled look on my face was enough to make them laugh even harder, slapping their thighs and guffawing all over the place.
Roy set me down and asked what kind of pop I wanted. I told him Boughey’s Black Cherry. The Bougheys were our long-tale kin and owned a bottling plant in Traverse City. Their claim to fame was that they doubled the amount of flavored syrup used in their soda pop. It was the best.
Roy opened the bottle and handed it to me. I thanked them and ran out the door followed by more of their laughter. I went behind the store and cut across the field behind the old school to the dirt road that led to my house.
As I walked down the road, I thought about what a great day I was having. Thanks to Deb, I learned what it felt like to be a cowboy, I got a free soda pop, and the sun was warm on my shoulders as I observed sailboats darting back and forth on the bay in front of me. Life was good! At that moment, if I had looked over my shoulder at the little log church, I would have seen that storm clouds were gathering on the horizon.
The next day, I was playing in the yard when a car came down the road and pulled into our driveway. It had a colored glass thing on the roof and a design on the door. A man got out who was wearing a uniform and a gun!
I heard the screen door slam behind me and my mom asking, “Can I help you, Officer?” He asked if she had a son named Tim. My mother replied yes and called me over to her. I instinctively knew I didn’t want any part of this. She stood behind me with her hands on my shoulders and pointed me towards the man.
What happened next was kind of a blur. He described the incident up at the replica of the little log church the day before, and apparently, it was a bad thing. He had come out to talk to the parties involved and had already learned the whole story. He went on to say to me that my parents were going to have to pay to replace the windows. Apparently, they weren’t just smudged, but ruined.
I could feel my mom’s fingers tightening on my shoulders. The more he spoke, the less I listened as I slowly realized that somewhere along the way, a vague notion was implied that perhaps it may have all been my idea. To put it in the terms of “The Untouchables” crime drama radio show that I often listened to while eating my lunch, someone had ratted me out and pinned the whole stinking rap on me. The next thing I knew, the car was pulling out of the driveway and my mother was directing me into the house where, apparently, the storm clouds had come home to roost.
But my mom was a kind and lovable warden. She allowed me unlimited time in the yard where I could breathe the fresh air, get a little exercise and feel the sun on my face. My older brother was doing a similar stretch for bringing a cherry crate full of snakes he had caught on the beach into the yard and introducing them to my mother and little sister who were sitting on a blanket there.
One afternoon, he said, “Don’t worry, a week from now no one will even remember, and besides, you’ll be starting school soon. You are going to have a whole room full of kids you can play with and make new friends.” That put a smile on my face, and I spent the rest of my sentence daydreaming about school.
A few days later, I was sitting on the steps of the old abandoned school house waiting for some kids to come over to play. I waited, but the only person I saw was Deb playing in her yard across the road. I guess bad girls get longer sentences than bad boys. She was sheepishly trying to ignore me.
I looked over at the little log church, then over to the store. Roy’s truck was not there. I looked back at Deb and then down at the ground. There was no joy in mudville that day.
All the boys in Old Mission became choir boys down at St. Joseph Church. It seemed to everyone that after these incidents, plus the bell situation, I was not headed in that direction. I was now up for consideration to be the village black sheep, its resident gangster.
As I sat there, I remembered what my brother had said and thought how much fun a roomful of guys to play with would be – and girls, too! I looked over at Deb, and trepidation crept in as I looked towards the future and kindergarten.
Below is a video of the scene of the crime in present day (March 2021) – the Old Mission school house, log church replica, former Bee house across the road, and Old Mission General Store (formerly Lardie’s Grocery). Behind the school house at the end of the road is where the Boursaw’s lived.
Post Script: I discussed this story with Cindy and Deb before publishing it here in the Gazette. Cindy agrees that her part of the story is a correct recollection. Deb, however, thought that part of her story was fiction until further discussion started bringing up memories she had forgotten. She vaguely recalls that we may have not been alone at the church, but if so, can’t remember who, nor can I. Sixty-five years is a long time ago. So, if you are out there, I suggest you remain anonymous or we will rat you out and pin the whole stinking rap on you, absolving us and allowing Deb and I to live even more happily ever after.