Time for a trip back in history, to when I was a senior in high school, and getting in TONS of mischief!
My last month of high school seemed so full of things that I did that should have either killed me, sent me to prison, or at the very least left indelible marks on my person.
I'll tell you about one of them..
My first car was a 1971 Volkswagon Super Beetle. It was painted bright orange, so that the rust wasn't easily visible. The heaters worked.. ALL THE TIME.. And one headlight would never stay adjusted right.
This car became a rolling ball of fun that year, as me and my friends would use it to regularly get into all sorts of teen mischief.
On this particular night, we'd decided that we (all 10 of us) were going to go out and "cut cookies" in as many school fields as we could find.
The night started out ominously. I went and picked up all 10 of my buddies, and they piled like sardines in the back of my VW Bug.
For those not familiar with the "Bug", it seats 4, but very uncomfortably. Now imagine two 6' tall guys in the front seats, and 9 guys piles like firewood in the back of this little tin can. (I'd made the modification so that my back seat would fold down flat, and make a type of cargo bed if needed).
Anyway, on our way to pick up some more vehicles, I was pulled over by one of our city's finest.
Everyone was in shock. They didn't know what was going to happen, and they for sure thought we were busted before the night could begin, and confession to potential mayhem to the parents now seemed to be an inevitable conclusion to this night.
However, my cool head prevailed, and I took charge.
"What are you boys doing out this late at night?" the officer asked me.
"My brother and his friends were over at my house this evening, and I'd told their parents that I'd bring them home before 10. As you can see, I fell asleep, and I'm trying to hurry to get them home before they or I get in any more trouble, officer!" I responded in my panicky big-brother voice. (The panic didn't have to be faked, I nearly pooped myself when I'd seen his overhead lights)
I and my passengers got the fish-eye from the officer, and then he handed my ID and info back.
"Get them home, and stay out of trouble" he admonished me. Little did he know how much trouble we'd get into that night.
Promising my eternal diligence, I put the car back into gear, and headed to the first destination.
Three kids got out, and one truck was picked up from a parent's workplace.
Next stop, four more kids and a suburban were acquired.
Now we had three cars, all pretty full, and kids just raring for some mischief.
The town I grew up in is pretty small. However, there are quite a few gradeschools and city parks spead throughout the area. These then became our targets.
My little machine was the pick of the litter for this, as I could drive it up a wheelchair access with no difficulty. Because of this, I was able to get into parks that nobody else could.
I ran bases around baseball diamonds with my car.
I created 25 foot long turf tears trying to create the longest skid.
And I nearly killed us all when running the bases once, I hit the grass outfield, and flipped the car onto two wheels for what seemed like an eternity.
The guys still talk about that one.
But the one thing they always remember is... The Jump.
Near the end of the night, we were headed back to my house to get some drinks, and plan the next night. While on the road home, I noticed a road that joined onto mine that had to come up at least 3 feet before it could join the pavement.
Harps rang, and angels sang when I saw the potential in this one intersection.
I grabbed the maglite that I kept in my glovebox, and asked who was going to "stand watch" at the intersection while I jumped the road.
At first, I didn't get any volunteers, because EVERYONE wanted to go.
Then, when I informed them that I could only take three at a time, in order not to weigh down the car, they drew straws. This also meant that I would be jumping this three times.
The first jump, I only got a 20 foot start. it was decent. Wheels came off the pavement, the landing was a bit rough, but all in all, a good start.
First group climbs out, next group piles in.
For the second jump, I got the car up to about 45 miles an hour. Good takeoff, decent landing, and everyone had a great time pretending to be one of the actors right out of "The Dukes of Hazzard".
Exit group two, enter group three.
For my final jump, I pulled back about 180 feet. I gunned it, and was doing about 80 miles an hour when I hit the jump.
Now, two things occurred to me when I hit the jump the last time.
One, the last group was made up of older and heavier guys.
Two, I hit the jump a bit crooked.
There is no better way to describe it. If you've seen Top Gun, and the way the catapults shoot the jets off that aircraft carrier, then you know what the Bug looked like taking off from this last jump.
Now, with there being heavier guys in the car, it did something I hadn't dealt with before.. It started to tilt to the heavier side while in the air.
Add to that the complication of being turned a bit when we took off, and you've got a car that's leaning and tilting, and not coming in at a good angle for landing in one piece.
Not only that, but we'd drifted a bit, and we were headed directly for a concrete fountain and pond in someone's front yard.
I held on for dear life, while everyone else just screamed at the top of their lungs.
Luckily for us all, when the car hit, the tires caught, and I was able to turn us away from the fountain while digging a 15 foot furrow in the yard.
Needless to say, I had to spend the next two weeks working on the suspension, in order to clear all the grass and dirt out of the undercarriage, and replace a spring that had broken. But I had accomplished something that night.
Complete infamy in the memories of the fellows who went with me.
It never fails to come up in conversation when I meet one of those guys, even if it has been nearly 20 years since this happened. I think it lives on forever fresh and frightening to know how close we came to making an indelible mark on our lives.
Ah, young boys and their escapades!
My only hope is that my boys don't learn about this, so that I can at least retire without having a heart attack!