Baboon Pirates

Scribbles and Scrawls from an unrepentant swashbuckling primate.

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Location: Texas, United States

Friday, April 07, 2006

Blockades & Embargoes

More Tales Of Juvenile Knuckleheadery

I jumped over to Dax's blog last night, and saw Yabu's post on blockading a road, Burmese-fashion. It sounded awfully familiar...

Back in the day, when boys were boys and didn't spend all day parked in front of an Xbox, we used to amuse ourselves by finding unusual and distinctly different ways of getting into trouble. Usually trouble appeared after hours of diligent exploring on bikes, or by 15 minutes of being where we were not supposed to be.

Back around the odometer flip from '79 to '80, my family lived in an apartment complex out in far west Houston. Nowadays, Houston stretches another 15 miles west, but back then when you crossed Eldridge Rd. heading west on Memorial Drive, you were out in the fargin' sticks.

Dad had just taken a job in Houston, which got us out of our 3 year exile in the Frozen Wasteland up north, and back into the arms of Sweet Mother Texas. Rather than wait to find a house, we pulled up stakes, hitched the wagons and looked for the first available place to live. Dad got us into a 2 story townhouse in a mixed complex, about 1/2 townhouses & 1/2 flats.

It was my first experience in an apartment complex, and I didn't see the problems that Mom always griped about. I had a swimming pool a block away, there was no lack of kids about, and there was little development in the area, leaving lots of woods and creeks and a nearby bayou to explore.

There was a cemetery across the road, a little church in some dense woods across the creek, and very few streetlights. Here is where our adventure begins.

I was out goofing around with my new buddy Heckyll one afternoon, and we decided to go nosing about the cemetery. We were sure if we could make it to their dumping area unseen, we'd find everything from empty coffins to random thighbones and maybe even a skull or two. The cemetery staff had little truck with snot-nosed youngsters, though, and diligently enforced their no-trespassing policy. We would therefore have to be all sneaky in our visitation.

We camo'ed up in our sneakin'-around gear, stashed our bikes under the bridge, then crept along the muddy creekbed crossing Memorial until we were deep inside the cemetery's boundaries. We then popped up over the gully and low-crawled until we were inside their brushline. Half an hour's careful progress got us behind the motor pool area where they kept the backhoes and landscaping equipment. Behind *that* was the dumping area. It was a florist's dream. Piles of plastic flowerpots, mounds of styrofoam crosses, wreaths and vases. Years and years of floral arrangements that had graced a gravetop met their final end here in the dump once they'd wilted and dried out.

Unfortunately, there were no used coffins, bones, or anything interesting. Just piles of flower pots and moldering floral arrangements.

Not being ones to admit defeat, we conjured up possible uses for 2000 6" plastic flower pots. Nothing immediately came to mind, but never ones to squander the moment, we stacked as many as we could, and departed the same way we came in.

Now, two kids on bikes with approximately 75 flower pots each are gonna attract attention, no matter how nonchalant you are. So, we stashed them in the woods behind the little Episcopalian church, then promptly forgot about them.

Several weeks later, Heckyll and I are out late in the evening with Barney and Champ and Stumpy and a few others playing bike tag, and the game eventually lead some us over the creek bridge to the church parking lot. There's trails through the woods behind the church, but they're not good for bikes, especially after dark. Champ takes a header after running over a log, but instead of landing with a thud, he hits with a cracking sound.

"Hey, what's with all these pots?" he asks. Oh, my! We'd re-discovered our stash!

It was a hot muggy night, so we took a break to cool down, and naturally the conversation revolved around what to do with all those pots. Champ and Barney had to go home about then, which was good. Both had guilty consciences, and could never keep secrets. Stumpy, Hekyll and I were already on the road to hooliganism, and knew how to keep our mouths shut.

Since Stumpy and I were WWII buffs, it was quickly decided that we really needed to install a set of dragon's teeth across Memorial drive. We didn't have 1/2 ton concrete pyramids, but we did have 150 plastic pots.

We sat and observed traffic for a while. Past 10 pm on a summer weeknight, there would maybe be one or two cars every 5 minutes. We picked a spot not visible from the nearest stoplight, and just around a blind curve from the opposite direction.

With 50 pots apiece, we each had a goal to lay two staggered rows completely across 4 lanes of roadway. We figured we could get the pots laid and be back in the shrubbery before the stoplight changed.

The light changed, one lone car ambled by, and we dashed out and began planting our pots. It went quickly, and before long, we had them all laid down, covering about 5 feet deep and 4 lanes wide. There was about a foot of pavement left clear on either side, where the road shoulders dipped into deep drainage ditches.

Back we went into the woods to await whatever happened next. Our bikes were on the far side of the woods, and it was a short dash through the trails to get there. We knew those woods like you know your own buttcheeks. Damn good thing, too, as our first and only victim approached.

As Flying Spaghetti Monster is my witness, all we expected to happen was for someone to have to stop and clear the pots off the road while we gave a good jeer from the treeline before scampering away. Being a kid, however, means doing plenty of dumbass stunts where you have no idea of the potential consequences.

We heard the whine of the engine long before we saw the car. Something small, fast and foreign was coming hard. About the time we started trading uneasy glances, a brand-spankin' new Datsun 280-ZX comes barreling around the blind curve, and locks up the brakes when the driver sees the pots.

This is before ABS was common, mind you, and the evening fog made for some slick pavement. Looking like it was in slow motion, the Z-car drifted into the lines of plastic pots, bumped and jounced over the first rank, then popped up the nose high enough so that the frame came down solidly on the rear staggered rows. This had the effect of removing the tires from the pavement just long enough (before the pots collapsed) to send the car sliding towards the drainage ditch.

No sooner had the car squished itself hubcap deep into the muck of the ditch bottom and come to a mud-plowing halt before we were racing headlong through the woods towards the bicycles. Behind us we heard the car door slam and a VERY pissed off man screaming "YOU GODDAMNED FUCKING KIDS!!!!"

We made it home unseen by anyone, but for weeks afterward, you could see a black Z-Car prowling around the area as the driver gave any kid on a bike the Evil Eye.