June 16 – 22, 2017 Vol. 19, No. 2

Kick the Can or Put Out the Tire

by Rod Johnson

Which is it going to be tonight? That's the question that we few village kids would toss around when it was time to go in our respective homes for supper, knowing that we would regather after.

In the 1950s village families all ate at pretty much 5 p.m. sharp, and we kids were expected to be at the table with washed hands and combed hair. The usual question, "Got any homework?" came from mother as we gulped down our food and asked to be excused. After the usual minor interrogation as to what the day was like and our saying, "We had no homework," we'd get the o.k. to get up then bolt for the door.

Regardless of time of year or weather conditions, some regathering of 4 to 6 village kids would take place, and we'd decide on what to do for an hour or two before our parents' 7 p.m. curfew arrived. Some of our nightly indulgences included riding bikes, skating, building snow forts, playing baseball on the old hotel golf course, or ping pong in the cellar. When we needed a change someone would suggest playing kick-the-can or put-out-the-tire.

In pondering this story and my memories of the above list, I realize that sometimes we weren't exactly goodie two-shoes kids and did sometimes add a little extra pizazz to what we called fun.

The bike riding for instance, included riding bikes through a pile of burning leaves beside the road. In those days, burning leaves was not only acceptable but expected, it's what you did with leaves, period. Going in the house with black sooty pants was commonplace in the fall season, complete with a verbal scolding for riding through the fire.

Building snow forts became competitive for a few winters. As the snow banks grew from the plows winging back during large storms, we built multi-room caves in the banks. The mischievous part came from making snow balls to stockpile in the caves, only to pepper vehicles as they passed by on occasion, then hiding deep in the caves if the driver stopped to give us hell.

Kick-the-can was pretty straight forward as I recall, and it was really for the younger years. As we aged into young teens a fun/devious game we called "putting out the tire" became the craze.

In those days, new tires were wrapped in brown paper. We wrapped an old tire and placed it along the roadside after dark, with enough showing that drivers would spot it in their head lights. Probably one in ten drivers would pull over to pick up what they thought was a new tire that had fallen off a delivery truck. Just as the driver bent over to pick up the tire, we would pull the 50-foot rope we had tied to it while hiding in the nearby woods.

The vocal response from the duped driver was interesting and may have been where we learned many new swear words. We had a couple chase us into the woods but we were never caught. One guy shot his shotgun into the air and scared the daylights out of us and we quit that gig for a few weeks.

I hope this little story may bring back some memories for you, especially if you were a little on the naughty side!

Rod Johnson was born and raised in the Belgrade Lakes in the 1950s and '60s.