Days of the Schutzhelm

Jeff Morgan’s home was located jus’ east of my home. Inside, he had a World War II German helmet and my friend, Robin Kohse wanted that helmet. I agreed to get it for him because our life-long friendship was falling apart and I was willing to do most anything to save it.

Watching a friendship fade is hard on the heart and isn’t necessarily guided by common sense.

Getting into the Morgan’s home turned out to be more difficult than I thought it would be. I smashed a large rock against the sliding glass door, only to watch as the rock exploded into a thousand pieces.

While hiding in the nearby woods, I studied the situation. I noticed a window that wasn’t fully closed.

All that stood in my way was a window screen. After struggling with the screen, I finally got it off the window frame. Unfortunately I bent the screen so badly out of shape that it was unusable from then on.

Within a few minutes I had the helmet in hand and rather than going back out the window, I left through the front door. I also collected the damaged screen and left the scene of the crime.

That screen eventually found its way into a small pond in the middle of the pasture. It was the only thing I could think to do with it, even though there were acres and acres of forest surrounding me.

On my way home I was stopped by my next door neighbor, Marilyn Coke. She saw the helmet and wanted to know where I had gotten it.

Being put on the spot, I lied, telling her it was a mail-order item. Her husband, Bill would later ban me from coming over to his home or even speaking to his wife without first being addressed.

Two days later I still had the helmet in my possession when the dreaded knock on the front door came. It was Deputy Walt Woodstock and Jeff’s dad, Earl.

They knew I had the helmet as several neighbors watched me as I crawled into the Morgan’s home. Mrs. Coke also confirmed this since she had seen me with the helmet.

Mr. Morgan had with him the crumpled up screen as well. He was very angry with me and rightly so.

Never have I felt so low in all my life.

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Fort Knocks

Adam and I were in the pasture picking black berries when we discovered a square-shaped hole dug into the ground. It was about 3 feet by 3 feet at the opening and around five feet deep.

It was located near the left field fence of the old baseball diamond, partially covered by brambles and other brush. We quickly turned it into our secret hiding place, dragging a piece of discarded plywood over to create a lean-too roof.

All the rest of the summer, we played combat and cowboy and Indians using the hole as a fort or fighting hole. Later we found a stack of old bricks and painted them gold in order to make them look like gold bars.

We stashed them in an old metal box in the bottom of our hiding place. Because of this, we started calling our hide-out, “Fort Knocks.”

Then one day, as summer was fading, an older neighbor boy named Steve Wolcott found us playing there. He ruined our fun by informing us what the hole really was and if we cleared back the rest of the brush behind the hole we’d know he was telling the truth.

After poking through the tangle of blackberry vines, tall weeds and grass, we found what he was talking about. In the vegetation, laying on its side, were the weathered and broken remains of an old outhouse.

Getting the Point

Mom had jus’ purchased six lugs of apples from the traveling fruits and vegetables salesman. They were neatly stacked up in what had been our garage, but renovated into a family rumpus room.

Both Mom and Dad were gone to Eureka as it was a few weeks before Christmas. They left Adam and me alone while they were gone.

It was a mistake. We were bored as it was raining and we weren’t allowed to go out in it—even though we had already.

So, looking for something fun to do, we decided to take a green tomato stake and some fishing line and make ourselves a bow. The remaining stakes became our arrows.

Next we needed to find ourselves a suitable target. It turned out to be easier than we thought it would be.

When our folks got home and saw how badly we had shot up the apple boxes, we got one butt-whipping each. Then we spent most of the night peeling apples for Mom to turn into pies and sauce.

Hard Head

The sun had dropped behind the Sages Riddles by the time I came to the last deliveries in my paper route. They were down a steep, gravel road, 100 yards south of Redwood Drive.

Once finished and knowing I had to climb back uphill, I shifted to the lowest gear on my 10-speed. Then I stood up on my pedals and pumped as hard as I could.

A few seconds after reaching 101 and turning up the hill, a speeding pickup truck came over the rise. Leaning from the truck’s bed was a large cream-colored dog.

The dog and I had jus’ enough time to make eye contact, before our heads clacked together. The dog yelped, my jaw clicked shut and over the side of the hill I rolled.

My eyes were black, nose bloodied, lips like hamburger and my ears ringing. It took me a while to retrieve my bike and limp home.

And after explaining what happened and why I was later than normal, Mom responded, “Good thing you have a hard head.”

Trading Up

Both of my sisters, first Deirdre in 1967 and then Marcy two-years later, were born at Seaside Hospital in Crescent City. In order to pay for their births and Mom’s hospital stay afterward, Dad paid Dr. Kasper with a whole cow for each child he traded for with my Grandpa and Uncle.

What did our dad trade? Child labor — in the form of my brother and me.

Blackwater

The building at Redwood Drive and Highway 101, next to the former Yurok Volunteer Fire Department was originally used by Judge Hopper. But the good Judge had retired a few years earlier so the building was left unused for a while.

After a couple of years it became the business office for Bob White Realty.

However in the interim it was the community center for the small neighborhood. The center had a pool table, two or three pinball machines and a juke-box with all the current music in it.

My friend, Robin Kohse and I used to cop a few coins from my Dad’s cuss-jar and go down the street to the center to play pool and listen to tunes. Robin had even figured out how to turn the juke-box up so we could really enjoy the sound.

One late afternoon, the two of us were shooting a few rounds of pool and playing 45s from the juke-box. One of those 45’s was “Black Water,” by The Doobie Brothers.

It was one of my favorite songs and the only time I was able to hear “rock music,” besides at school or on the school bus. My parents only allowed two-kinds of music in the house: country and western.

When the song came on, the game of pool stopped and Robin and I started using our pool cues as guitars. As we strummed and sang the song at the top of our lungs, we also started dancing around the pool table.

We were so caught up in the music that we didn’t notice the figure standing in the doorway of the center. However as the music started to fade, I looked over to see Deputy Walt Woodstock watching us.

He had his arms folded across his chest, trying real hard to look tough.

Walt couldn’t hold himself back from smiling though as he started laughing. Then without a word, he turned and walked back to his patrol car.

Robin and I stood there watching out the windows of the center as Walt drove away. Then we looked at each other and started laughing until we couldn’t laugh anymore.

Evidently we didn’t have sense enough to be embarrassed about getting caught dancing around, playing air guitar.

Scareborne

We were doing exactly what we were not supposed to be doing: playing on the roof of our home. But since mom and dad were at work, we figured we could get away with it.

Dad had already warned Adam and I about climbing around on the roof. He found out we were playing on the roof after I had jumped from the house top to the redwood picnic table below and it collapsed.

One would have thought the butt-blistering I got that day would have taught me a lesson. Nope.

As I walked back and forth along the ridge of the roof, I could hear Adam calling me. He was standing on one end of the teeter-totter Dad had built a couple years earlier.

Adam wanted me to jump on the end with the hope of landing on the roof. I told him it wouldn’t work but he insisted.

He was a very good insister.

Adam shot straight up 30 feet or more then in the blink of an eye, tumbled head-over-heels into the ground. The sound of his body hitting the earth was like a plastic basket of wet clothes.

He jus’ laid there unmoving.

My first thought was that I had killed Adam — my second thought was Mom and Dad are going to kill me. In response, I ran from the backyard and into the field across from out house. I hid in the trees thinking Adam was dead.

Then I saw him in front to the house. Adam was drinking a soda as if nothing had ever happened.