By Mike Johnson
Back in the day, kids knew every neighborhood shortcut, garden and fruit tree. We were familiar with our mental maps and neighbors were familiar with kids in their yards.
Our two favorite sandlot sports locations were Sandy’s Field and “The Pit.” Both were owned by neighbors. We never bothered asking permission and no one ever ran us off.
Gardens were big in our windscreens because they were so common. Sandy’s Field was bordered by a small corn garden.
Our favorite football play was named “Cornfield County.” The receiver would sprint five steps up the middle then curl off to the right toward the corn. The Quarterback would time the throw to arrive at the curl, picking up an easy five yards.
After successfully running that play twice in a row, the defender was frustrated. So now we’d run the “Fake Cornfield County.”
Same sprint up the middle. Same curl to the right. But now the QB would fake pump, the defender would aggressively bite, and the receiver went deep. If the pass was accurate, it was a sure touchdown every time.
After those hot summer games, we’d come home to the fridge and drink cold water straight from mom’s bowl of celery. Then we’d go to our own garden and harvest
a stalk of rhubarb and a handful of raspberries.
The rhubarb got dipped in sugar but the raspberries were eaten right off the bush.
Our summer joys were simple and free. Play ball, crack jokes, poach food from gardens. If you weren’t with friends, you played with brothers. Or read comic books in your room.
Life was simple. Even when we added bikes and paper routes.
All was ideal until we awoke to an interest in girls. Tranquility was shattered as we tried to harvest a different type of crop.
Now we experienced a full measure of the slang definitions of rhubarb and raspberries.
Toads & Salamanders
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