The End of Childhood

I think Jack Nicholson copied Obert

There can be a lot of discussion about this. It happens to every person. One day, you are a child, the next day you are not. It certainly is not a calendar thing, or a particular age. It may also be different for every person. For some it might be an event, not necessarily an event that causes the change, but an event that brings the change into focus. For me, it was Halloween 1964.

It was the first Halloween that it seemed too ridiculous to dress up and go trick-or-treating. It was an end to a decade of crafting the methods to scam the neighborhood out of candy. It wasn’t just a full grocery bag, it was multiple full bags of candy. Enough candy to last through the winter and perhaps some stale candy corn into the summer.

Now, that was all in the past, and we were adrift, not old enough to drive, and too old to ride bicycles. What to do on Halloween?

It was the three of us; Jack (the athlete), Obert (the musician), and myself (undetermined). We thought it would be a good idea to walk the neighbor, and perhaps beyond. Actually, we thought it would be a good idea to walk by the house where the cutest girl in high school lived.

We certainly didn’t have eggs to throw, we weren’t planning any mischief. If we had a car, or a driver’s license, it would have been like “dragging the main”. We wanted to see, and to be seen.

Only one thing was unusual. Obert was wearing a shiny, deep blue football helmet. It may or may not have had a face guard. Later he did remove the face guard, but it might have been attached at this time. This was Halloween, but Obert was not dressing up as a player. Every time Obert left his house he had to wear a football helmet. Sometimes even in the house he had to wear a football helmet. It depended upon what he was doing.

Obert had a hole in his head. Specifically, he had a half-dollar sized hole in his skull with a thin layer of skin over his brain. When he had the helmet off, you could touch the spot with your finger to feel his brain pulsing, probably not with thought, just blood. Also the stubble of his hair was growing back.

That summer Obert had lived in Battle Mountain, Nevada. Not much to do in Battle Mountain but drive around. Obert didn’t have a driver’s license but he could be a passenger in the back seat. I can’t remember who was in the front seats but it is safe to say they weren’t careful drivers. On a long uphill incline they decided to pass a slower vehicle. They had done this several times. This time, near the crest, another vehicle was in the lane, and it was a head on crash. I don’t think anyone was killed, although everyone should have been seriously hurt. Obert was in the backseat without seatbelts. They didn’t often exist at that time. No one is quite sure exactly what happened, but Obert flew over the front seats head first, and perhaps hit one of the radio knobs, and punched a hole in his skull.

The surgeons removed the bits of broken skull and sewed over a flap of skin. The intention was to allowed the skull to grow, causing the hole to shrink and -provide a ledge to drop a steel mesh to protect the brain. In the meantime, go home and take two aspirin.

So, Obert came home and joined us on our stroll through the neighborhood. Everything had gone very well, especially considering one guy seemed to partially dressed as a nondescript football player. We did not beg for candy, nor did we trick anybody.

We were several blocks from our destination (the pretty girl’s house) when we heard a car come to a quick stop. Three or four guys jumped out and proceeded to jump on us. There was a lot of pushing and shoving. No real fists swung, but they were armed with cans of shaving cream. Jack resisted, so at least two of them were wrestling him to the ground. Obert had the attention of one guy with the shaving cream, and I was free to run up the nearest porch to bang on the door. No one answered.

Jack had broken away and ran up on the porch next door to bang and yell, “Mom, Dad! Open up!” Looking back I could see that the guys were heading back to their car, but not before they had all emptied their shaving cream cans into the holes of Obert’s helmet. Jack yelled something about Obert being hurt, but they didn’t listen. Obert lay half in the street trying to scoop out the shaving cream from behind his glasses. We both came down to help him stand up. We could see the car about halfway down the street with their brake lights lit up. I don’t know if they were intending to turn around, or just stopping for another victim.

Jack stood there with a lot of anger building up. Frustrated, he reached into his pocket and found a decent sized pocket knife. Without unfolding it, he heaved the knife down the street at the car. To me, it looked to be at least a football field away, 100 yards! It was dark so we couldn’t really see if Jack’s aim was correct, or that he could throw it that distance.

Seconds later we heard glass breaking. Apparently the pocket knife had hit the back window of the car and shattered it. For a second no one moved, then we turned and ran, zig zagging around the corner and hiding in the bushes. We believe the cat turned around the follow us, but we hid so well that they didn’t see us.

Making it back to safe territory, home turf, took a long time, especially hiding from any oncoming headlights. Then we thought that they might have been searching on foot, so we hid from anything moving. Halloween was a busy night, we hid every few minutes.

We finally made it back, we had vestiges of shaving cream, a lost pocket knife, and a right of passage from our childhood. It was a good night!

About johndiestler

Retired community college professor of graphic design, multimedia and photography, and chair of the fine arts and media department.
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