Any car coming down this residential street would now have to stop because the string, which looked more like a spider’s web, was blocking access. The gravel road nearby gave us plenty of rocks to pick up by the handful and throw up in the air so a rain of rocks would pummel the unsuspecting car.
Approximately 10 of us were strategically positioned in bushes, beside houses and in a very small park nearby. My best friend, whom we called “Fireball,” had a flat roof on his family’s house. Some of us would lay flat on the roof until a car arrived.
When any vehicle stopped and that barrage of rocks came crashing down on those unsuspecting cars, the driver would either speed off down the opposite road or get out of the car and chase us! We had a labyrinth-style escape route no adult could easily follow!
To unsupervised, bored children influenced by older teens, this became our idea of fun. None of us shared these mischievous misadventures with our unsuspecting parents. We lived by a code: What our parents didn’t know wouldn’t hurt us.
It all came to a halt, however, when we finally stopped an armed cab driver. When our rocks rained down on his vehicle, he came out shooting!
The first shot startled me so much I swallowed a chunk of grape popcicle that caused a “brain freeze” so severe I could barely move! All I saw was dashes of shadows swooshing through backyards and hopping fences, and more gunfire as everyone scattered!
When it was over we were all trembling and gave up that foolish game! Several of these teenage delinquents were on the fast track to becoming real criminals and later went to jail.
What made a difference for those of us 12 and under was a neighborly old man who asked if he could speak to us as a group one day. We thought he was going to chew us out about running through his backyard.
He told us if we agreed to work at becoming a neighborhood baseball team he would sponsor our uniforms. He also arranged for us to compete with other Little League teams in other communities. This gave us something constructive to do.
Let me say right off the bat we were not a very good team. Why not? Well, first of all, we were told this would be softball. Sorry. They didn’t have softballs. Everyone was playing with hardballs and that didn’t fit with our “no glove” decor.
Our games turned out to be more dodgeball than baseball. Our players were ducking and trying to stop ground balls with their feet or covering their heads as the ball fell right in front of them! We quickly became the funniest team in the league.
In our last game of the season, we played the “other” worst team in the league. Everyone was striking out or getting walked without scoring. Finally, we scored! But late in the game someone hit a pop fly right at me and I positioned my hands to catch it.
That ball hit the right palm of my hand so hard it bounced out! I quickly picked the ball up and threw it to home plate as hard as I could but a kid scored and so did another when our catcher dodged the ball instead of trying to catch it. The other team celebrated like they’d won the World Series!
It was a long eight-mile walk home. We reminded ourselves that every team there had a coach except us. Some had family support, but not us. They had gloves, fancier uniforms and more experience playing as a team.
This made us feel a lot better. So much better that we started throwing rocks at things on the way home! We had to run most of the way home because a few people were complaining ... maybe more than a few.
The following year my friends started to move away, one by one, until our family also moved. We only played baseball that one season. But that activity may have saved us from getting into more trouble and a life of juvenile delinquency.
Had that elderly man not intervened with a constructive idea for us unsupervised kids, there is no telling what would have happened to us. I’m sorry we never really thanked him for trying. I’m also sorry for the things we did in fun.
As Genesis 8:21 explains, “Every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood.” — New International Version. Experts say every day more than 14 million children go unsupervised between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m. That leaves them in danger of becoming victims or open to other delinquent behavior.
Programs provided by Boys & Girls Clubs of America and other such organizations can have a positive impact on youths when parents utilize them. Why not get more involved in your child’s after-school activities? Give them constructive things to do, monitor their association and communicate with them throughout the day.
Take it from me, you never know what they might be doing without any supervision.