Being twelve years old in this day and age of XBOX 360s, Wii and laptop computers is a whole lot different than when I was twelve waaaay back in the day. Kids these days do most of their activities indoors and they're happy about it. When I was twelve I couldn't wait to get out of the house and get on my bike to find something to do outside with my closest friends.
I grew up in a diverse blue collar town in the South Bay area of the Silicon Valley back in the1960's and 1970's. It was an era when kids didn't waste their spare time indoors. We would get together with our friends and wouldn't return until it was dinner time. I swear that the movie "The Sandlot" was based on our lives. As in the movie, we would challenge kids we knew from school to games of flag or tackle football or "pitcher's hand" baseball if we couldn't field full teams. They would get their neighborhood teams together and we, ours. Sometimes we would travel all the way across town on foot or bikes to play a team. We had our special plays that worked almost everytime. We had played together everyday for years and knew those subtle signals and code words to throw the ball to the perfect location at that precise moment. We played baseball ALL summer long!
And just like the characters in the movie "Stand By Me" we would pack our lunches and go on"journeys." It would take all day and of course, our parents didn't have a clue what we were up to. If they did, I wouldn't be able to write about it. One summer day, a group of us decided that we would go on a journey up in the hills. Our destination was going to be the Channel 36 television tower at the top of the foothills that overlooked our neighborhood (also known as "Sunnyhills"). Once at the top, we were going to write our names on rocks and possibly the tower itself to prove to the world that we were there!
None of us had ever been to the "mountain top," but some of us had older brothers who had made the trip and lived to tell about it. I'm sure there was a lot of embellishments that peppered each version of their adventure. There were tales of being chased off of private property by irate ranchers with shotguns filled with rock salt, psychopathic bulls, having to traverse dangerous ridges and cliffs and almost dying of thirst on the way up or down. These details did not discourage us-instead they sounded so cool we couldn't wait to get started. So on the day of departure, some of us packed the essentials; plastic second-hand canteens filled with the best tap water in the world, candy for energy, a bologna sandwich, and chips. The others brought nothing because they couldn't sneak the food past their mothers without raising suspicion, so they ate before leaving.
The journey was almost as advertised. We did have to traverse ridges that "could have" been dangerous, but weren't (we walked on a path). We did not encounter a psychopathic bull, but more of an apathetic cow-(it didn't care we were around), but we ran just as if it was that bull to avoid it. We weren't going to take any chances. There were some people who could have passed as ranchers, but we avoided them altogether. Again, not willing to tempt fate and get shot with rock salt. Five hours later we reached our destination! We celebrated by jumping around and pounding our chests with the wind flowing through our sweaty hair as only 11 and 12 year olds will do. (The chest bump, fist bump and high five were not invented yet...if they were, we surely would have performed them).
There was even an event we now call cow bowling that entailed digging up boulders and rolling them down the hill. It just so happened that there were some cows grazing and one of the boulders accidently hit one unlucky cow. It was unfortunate, but funny as heck. Of course, the challenge to do it again was brought forth and it did not go unnoticed. Now, digging up just the right boulder for distance and accuracy took teamwork. We divided into our regular teams and took our best shots. I think there were two other cows that ended up as pawns in our newly invented game and it was the greatest of times!
Now, to memorialize this epic accomplishment for the ages, it was time to inscribe our names, mark our territory and claim it as ours. In all of our excitement, we realized that NO ONE brought anything to paint, mark or inscribe our soon to be famous names on the rocks or the tower. After all the whining and fingerpointing was over and done with, we sat there dejected. No one was going to know we were there. Not the maintenance guy who worked on the tower. Not the ranchers who lived nearby. Not the apathetic cow. Not our older brothers. No one.
One of us had the idea of getting some leaves and using them to write something somewhere. It kind of worked, but didn't have the same effect as say, PAINT! Another one of us suggested that we mark the territory like wild animals and take a leak. It made sense, so all six of us took positions around area and took a leak. It was a symbolic gesture. (We had a long walk back ahead of us, so what the heck). Afterwards, we started our walk back down the hill and made it back in time for dinner and our parents were none-the-wiser.
It took us approximately ten hours to complete this adventure. We experienced the excitement of going on a trip without any adults and we accomplished something that 11 and 12 year olds wouldn't be able to do these days. (They probably wouldn't be able to get out of the house even if they wanted to). Although we didn't get to memorialize the event like we wanted, we, (at least I), have committed it to memory where it belongs. It wasn't just the destination that was cool, it was the journey itself. The conversation. The camaraderie. The moment. Nowadays when things get hectic around me, I sometimes reminisce about all of the good times I had as a twelve year old kid. This was one of them. Although it appears that we walked several miles to essentially take a pee at the top of a mountain, I am not dismayed. I will never get those ten hours back...nor do I want them.