Saturday, April 06, 2013

Childhood Memory: Tic-Tac-ing


I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, living in various suburbs around Pittsburgh. From 5th Grade through 9th Grade in school, my family lived in an apartment complex where my mother ultimately became the manager. I include that last bit because some of the craziest things my brother and I did as kids happened in this complex - while my mother was manager. It's a wonder we are still alive today.

Behind the apartment complex, and down a hill or two, there lived a farmer who grew feed corn. Yes, even in the 'burbs of da 'Burgh, there are (or at least were) farmers. The feed corn was multi-colored, very tightly packed in each husk, and the kernels were as hard as, well, Tic Tacs. A group of us would sneak down to the fields and, er, procure several ears of corn. By "several," I mean dozens. We stopped gathering the corn when we thought we had enough of them or when the farmer would come out and start shooting his salt gun at us. If you aren't familiar with a salt gun, it is a shotgun loaded with salt shot instead of buckshot.  Salt burns after it wounds you. I learned this firsthand.

We would shuck the corn, strip the kernels from the ears, and put the kernels in little brown lunch sacks. Then, after dark, each of us would run down a neighborhood street (at least we were smart enough not to do it in the complex). As we passed by each townhouse, we would throw handfuls of corn at doors, windows, siding - anything and everything.  After we threw it, we would hide and watch the reactions.  People would open their doors and look around or start yelling at us.  We had great fun tormenting folks.

One night, we began Tic-Tac-ing (as we called it) a row of townhouses. Very quickly, a huge man yanks open his front door and starts yelling. And then, he comes out into his front yard after us. We scrambled like wild horses, diving behind bushes, hiding behind trees, rolling under parked cars.

My brother chose the latter. He also chose to roll under a car parked acrossed* the street from a street light. He was in plain sight of the very angry man, who trudged straight for him. The whole time, the guy yelled, "I see you! I see you under that car! I am calling your mother!"  He repeated this several times as he got closer and closer. Our solution was to throw corn at his house and other houses to distract him long enough for my brother to scooch** out from under the car on the far side, away from the guy.

By now, lots of people had come out of their houses, and we were running headlong over a hill into the weeds and woods to a clubhouse we had built out of spare plywood and random supplies.

I would like to tell you that we never Tic-Tac-ed again after that. But, I would be lying.


*I wrote "acrossed" because as a kid, we always pronounced it "acrossed" but research has shown me that is not a formal word.  I don't care. I use it much like I say "jumbo" for bologna or "nebby" for a nosy person. It's part of my growing up in Pittsburgh.

** "Scooch" is a term that means "move over a little bit." It's probably Yiddish or something.

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