Last week I told you that Mom arranged for me to spend a summer month away from New York City in 1942. So there I was at age 10, on an eight-hour train ride to tiny little Brasher Falls, N.Y., just two miles from the Canadian border.
There, I joined my 14-year-old brother Charlie, who was living with Aunt Libby and Uncle Neil, owners of the local hardware store. Then began a month of country adventures. For a New York kid who rarely saw much in the way of fruit during the Depression, that adventure included as many apples, pears, huge sweet wild grapes, and as many other natural goodies as my 10-year-old belly could hold.
On top of that, the Saint Regis River ran right through Brasher Falls, and Charlie and his friends had a campsite a mile or so downriver where they had strung a night-line across the river, one which usually gave us so many fish each day that we released most of them, cleaning only what we needed to fill our bellies with freshly cleaned fish held in cleft sticks, rubbed with butter and salt, and roasted over a slow fire until crisply brown outside and juicy inside.
Some mornings, though, we were puzzled by the fact that the night-line held not a single fish — until we found out why that was. One morning, three of us were out in our rowboat checking our night-line, when we heard the sound of a motorboat belonging to a pair of 19- or 20-year-old wiseguys. Hurriedly, we moved our rowboat away from the night-line, not wanting them to know about it.
A minute later they showed up, slowed their fancy motorboat, and stopped near us. Then, as we sat in our rowboat trying to look as innocent as newborns, one of them reached into the water, pulled up our night-line, sneered at us, and said, “Is this what you’re looking for?”
Naturally, we checked our night-line after they had zoomed off in their fancy motorboat, laughing at us. On it, we found nothing but empty hooks.
However, the path we took to and from our campsite each day ran past a little red cabin belonging to the two wiseguys. So on the way home, when we saw that their motorboat was docked and the padlock was on their cabin door, it set us to thinking about revenge.
The first thing I knew, either Charlie or his friend had discovered an unlocked window. In we went, determined to wreak just vengeance on the enemy’s citadel. However, once inside we discovered that we just could not vandalize that nice little cabin. I remember Charlie saying, “Oh, hell! We can’t wreck this place. It’s too nice. We’d feel lousy if we wrecked a place like this.”
Surprisingly, we all felt the same way. So as much as we hated those two wiseguys, we just couldn’t get ourselves to take it out on an innocent little cabin. However, when a small leather case filled with fishing flies showed up, that was something different. If they were stealing our fish, we reasoned, then it was only right for us to steal their means of getting fish — which we most happily did.
I have never forgotten that day. It really shows how kids think, doesn’t it? To put it biblically, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”
Wisdom suggests that we might all be wise to think about how we treat neighborhood kids. True?