Saturday, March 29, 2008

2 Years in the Suburbs

Okay, maybe our tree houses weren’t quite as nice as this but they were close. It seemed like wherever I lived highway 44 was under construction in my back yard. In 6th and 7th grades I lived in the suburbs.

We lived in a small unincorporated area between Webster Groves and Kirkwood called Oakland. For a city kid it was idyllic. There were a lot of trees and creeks. We found real fossils in the creeks.

The construction sites made building materials available to us. The first tree house we built was in my friend Brad’s yard. It started in a tree but expanded until it finally reached the ground. We painted it green so you couldn’t see it through the trees.

It had electricity, beds, and screened windows you could open by pulling a rope. It was so nice that Brad’s older brother ran away from home for a week and rented it from us. He stayed in there with his girlfriend.

We smoked cigarettes in there. We were curious about alcohol and talked some older person into buying a pint of Jack Daniels and a bottle of Mad Dog.

We laughed all night but wondered when we would get drunk. We were so excited we didn’t realize we already were. Kids are naturally giddy and it didn’t occur to us that alcohol did more of the same.

I had a tree house outside my second floor bedroom window complete with a trap door to its roof. I used to jump across from my window.

Our gang consisted of Greg, Brad, Jeff, and Don Belk. I can use Don’s full name because he died a few years ago. Maybe this story will be his legacy.

Don talked us into stealing a small bike and a lawn mower to build a mini-bike. The lawn mower had to have a horizontal shaft and somehow we found one. From that point we began to steal more bikes. It got out of control.

One day Brad was riding one of them and, without looking where he was going, ran into a light post. He ended up in the hospital. His little sister rode the bike and was stopped by a cop. She spilled the whole story.

I was in a department store in Sunset Hills when I heard my name come across the store’s sound system. I had a belt on I had just shoplifted. I went to the counter to find my mother waiting for me. She was in tears. “How could you do this to me?” she asked.

We ended up going to several townships identifying and recovering bicycles. I was put in a cell for a moment at the Webster police station just to see what it was like. At juvenile court they couldn’t believe we weren’t a ring led by an adult. We had recovered something like 75 bikes. I remember being interrogated good cop – bad cop style at the Kirkwood police station. We were put on probation until we became legal adults.

I wonder now why I didn’t think about how bad the kids we stole from felt. It had happened to me when I was younger and I was devastated.

Some of my friends’ parents blamed me because I was from the big bad city. I wasn’t allowed to see them anymore.

Some of these kids eventually did time for selling drugs and armed robbery.


Anonymous said...

i remember oakland well, it seemed like much longer than 2 years you guys lived there. i remember the whole bike stealing incident. also going to sunset hills shopping center and seeing the free got a tick there once in a very unpleasant spot and had to sleep on an old army cot for a while.we used to make gunpowder with your chemistry set and we'd try to make rockets Geo

Anonymous said...

Hey Skinny,
Remember the silver 10 speed we took from in front of what is now walgreens in Kirkwood? Was the name of that store Cats? It was the lincoln of bicycles. That rich kid chased us for blocks. Parts from that thing ended up on about 10 bikes. I think I had to go with you and your Mom to return that kids bike to him. A big box of parts. You had balls of brass. J.

Doggie said...

Come to think of it. I think the reason we were at Katz in the first place was to shop lift Potassium Nitrate for our gun powder.

Doggie said...

Man am I glad you're reading this stuff. You're one of the stars. I think they spelled it Katz and then changed it to Skaggs. I got the recipe for gunpowder Geo was talking about from you. We ran out of charcoal once and Geo figured out burnt matches were carbon. Sure enough it worked. I have a few stories about you and me and I know better than to use your name. Did we do anything legal? I was going to tell about your, M.s, and my failed attempt at being big time drug dealers. Man, lots of stories are coming back to me all of a sudden. that silver bike looked beautiful but it was as heavy as a tank!!!