My Dad, Ron Paul (not that guy, even though I completely respect his stance), has been sharing parts of his childhood with his children in the last year. He’s writing and really, truly, telling stories of “days of yore,” however, since I have such a closeness with my PA upbringing, each of them fascinates me. My brother and sister were really too young to have the full grasp of the PA landscape in the 70s. I was there.
My dad’s tale this time is of his time in his shared bedroom with his brother. Now, I’ve never asked, but what about when they became nearly adults. They were still in the same house – they still had a common bedroom (I think, even though I kinda remember another bedroom on the second floor of the house in Kelly Station). But my father, his stories are great, and I wanted share with you.
“Making Mom Crazy”
by Ronald J. Paul
DRIVE MOM CRAZY
I don’t know why most kids are born, but my brother Randy and I, it seems as best as I can recall, were born to drive our Mom (and sometimes Dad) crazy — I think we did a pretty good job. Later in her life, Mom was always saying “I know I’m crazy”. I can’t tell you how many times Randy and I have heard this statement from her, but it was a regular thing.
The following are vignettes of my memories that will substantiate this belief. They are in no particular order, just written as I recalled them.
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING ARE RATE “PG”. PARENTAL GUIDANCE IS STRONGLY RECOMMENDED!
I had a Daisy Red Rider, lever action, BB gun. You would cock the gun to fire by using the lever. There was a long tube (maybe Â¼”) under the barrel of the gun which held the BBs. The BBs came in a Â¾” cardboard tube. You had to dump the BBs into the gun tube which was difficult and took a long time so I would dump the BBs into my mouth and then blow them into the gun tube (wouldn’t spill any this way). Who would have thought you could swallow the BBs — I didn’t, but Mom sure did when she saw me (you’ll choke to death). Of course I taught this trick to Randy and Mom would see him doing it too! Randy had a Daisy pump BB gun and it also had a tube for loading the BBs, but smaller, so he needed the help.
My brother and I shared an upstairs bedroom. We had a double window in that room that overlooked the backyard. We would open both windows and shoot at anything outside. Everything was a target. We would do this year round. In the winter when we were shooting, the windows would be open for hours — who would think that heat from the house would escape out these open windows. “you think we’re paying to heat the whole neighborhood?” was what we heard.
We had little plastic soldiers that we would set up in the back yard and then go up to the windows to shoot them. Best of all, in the winter we could go out and retrieve our BBs from the snow and use them again — hey, BBs cost 10 cents a tube — “you think money grows on trees?”
We were always playing games and one of our favorites was tag — BB gun tag. We would put on our protective gear — blue jeans, jackets, caps and sometimes goggles. Then we would shoot at each other. “you’re going to shoot your eyes out”. We never aimed at the eyes or the head, that was one of our rules. Remember, you can trust two boys to never break the rules.
Glass bottles and cans. We would throw them into the creek behind our house and shoot them as they flowed downstream (a moving target). This created a lot of broken glass in the creek. In the summertime we played in that creek, mostly in our bare feet (you’re going to cut yourself”.
We would put straight pins and nails in the barrel and then fire them, some times with the BBs and sometimes with just the air in the barrel. You know the straight pins would stick in the bedroom walls when you just used the air — Mom found out and then she knew.
We also had a 22 rifle and we also shot targets with it. We were really careful with though “you’re going to kill each other”. But one time we got this crazy idea it would be fun to hear what a bullet going over your head would sound like (just like in the war movies and on television). So we would lie down in a ditch or behind a tree and the one would shoot at the other. (At least I won’t have to feed you anymore)
Mom was always saying we were going to kill each other one of these days. One time Randy got blanks at Fiscus’s store. We pretended we were fighting in the back yard and Mom was at the kitchen window doing dishes and could see us. Randy shot me with the blanks and I pretended to like I was shot and fell down. Mom came running out and said “Oh my God you shot him, I knew this would happen”. We started laughing and she got so mad she started squirting us with the hose.
We had a dart board and darts. We couldn’t play with them inside because we would put holes in the walls (we weren’t very good I guess). So we would hang the dart board outside on trees, clothes post and the wooden shed. After awhile just throwing at the dart board wasn’t fun so we would think of other things to do with the darts. Again, everything was a target – toys, soldiers, birds, bottles, cans and such. We even played pitch and catch with our ball gloves (who would have thought the dart would go through leather). (who’s going to take you to the doctors, I’m not)
Lawn darts — wow, just like horseshoes but better. These were so much fun. You could throw them further than regular darts. Throwing them at the little circles got boring pretty quick so we thought of other things to do with them. They became javelins and spears. Throw them at anything. The best was when we would throw them straight up in the air to see how close we could get them fall near us. (knock it off or I’ll stick them where the sun don’t shine)
Bow and Arrows
Luckily we had a big enough yard to play in — 4 acres. One day Randy was presented with a great gift — a bow and arrows. Oh man, now the fun can start. We set up targets everywhere and at great distances. Shoot, shoot, shoot and run get the arrows and shoot some more. Never near each other, was that too dangerous — you saw what the Indians did in the movies and on TV. Whew — nothing we wanted a part of — do you remember when then pulled the arrow out of somebody (on TV) and how much they screamed? We did. One thing we were good at though was shooting them straight up in the air (remember the lawn darts). You could almost hear them whistle as they fell. (You’ll look funny with an arrow sticking out of your head)
As I said before Randy and I shared an upstairs bedroom. We had side by side twin beds. As the evil brother this presented numerous opportunities to harass him. One of the best things I can remember was scarring him with the sweeper hoses. I would connect the sweeper hoses to go under my bed and under his bed with the open end on the side of his bed away from me. After the lights were out and he was almost asleep, I would turn my back to him and grab the end of the sweeper hose on my side. Then I would make noises in it (growls, and spooky sounds). The sounds would come out of the hose on the side of his bed away from me and he would scream out “What was that?” I would say what, I didn’t hear anything. He would lie back down, I would wait a little bit and do again. Same thing would happen. I don’t know if he ever got a sound sleep as I would do this quite regularly. Even when he saw the sweeper hoses he never figured it out.
Another evil thing I did. There was an attic behind the wall of our head boards. One day I went into the attic and strung a string extending from my bed through the attic door, along the attic wall, ending behind his headboard. To the end of the string I attached a steel nut. When I pulled on the string to nut would tap the wall behind his headboard. So, when he was in bed I would be talking to him and pull the string so the nut would tap. He would stop and ask if I heard anything — naturally I didn’t. I would continue this for quite awhile and finally he would ask if he could come over to my bed. He would be shaking. (what’s going on up there)
We didn’t always get along so friendly. Sometimes we would fight, not fist fights but wrestling. One time we were fighting on the stairs and put a hole in the wall (broke through the drywall). Dad came home and looked at it, didn’t say anything and fixed it.
My brother also stabbed me twice, with a pencil both times. I still have the lead in my left hand and right shoulder.
Sometimes when we were fighting Mom would throw water on us to make us stop. It worked.
Enough of this bit – (go ahead, kill each other I don’t care) We would look at each other and then stop — so I guess it worked too.
We had linoleum flooring in our bedroom. Randy and I had a lot of marbles and steelies (ball bearings Dad brought home from the mill). We would roll them back and forth across the floor from one end to the other. We would do this for hours never realizing it made a noise downstairs. Finally, I guess Mom and Dad had enough and one of them would come upstairs (We’re going to go deaf. or Your driving us crazy) If it was Dad, he would grab the steelies (they made the most noise) and take them downstairs with him — eventually he would give them back to us — maybe he helped drive mom crazy — nah.
We had woods all around us and we mostly played in the woods across the creek in our back yard. There were some grapevines growing in the trees and we would cut them to make vine swings (just like Tarzan). Sometimes they would swing over the creek bank (20′ high in some places) or gullies in the woods. MoM would see us doing this. Sometimes the vines would break. (Stop that, you’ll hurt yourself).
We played in the creek year round, skating when it was frozen. Most of the time we played by just making dams, catching minnows and crabs or just throwing stones. There was broken glass, rusted tin cans, sharp rocks, all kinds of things to get hurt on. The neighbors’ sewers also drained into the creek and Mom would say if we got cut we would get tetanus. (Call me when you start foaming at the mouth)
Dad finally got a riding lawn mower. We used to have a push mower and it would take forever to finish mowing the lawn. Besides using the mower for the lawn, we used it for thrill or stunt driving. We made ramps and bumps and did hill climbing. Sometimes the mower would upset but we never had the blade on when thrill driving.
Bicycles were our means of transportation. We used our bikes to go everywhere. We used them to perform stunts. We used them year round. In the winter we would ride them on the icy roads, crashing and smashing, sometimes in front of cars.(stop that, you’ll break your neck or get killed)
I used to put butter on everything I ate and drank milk with every meal. At some point Mom started buying oleo margarine and powdered milk (Do you think we’re made of money). I couldn’t stand the taste of oleo or the powdered milk so I stopped using it. Till this day I still don’t use oleo or drink any milk but I do use butter.
Mom would cook the meals and put the food on our plates. She decided the amount not us. Even if the food was good sometimes you couldn’t eat it all. I would put the food in my pockets and Randy would hide his under his plate. His plate would be so crooked, one side at least an inch off the table. I guess he thought Mom wouldn’t find it when she cleaned off the table. (you know kids in china are starving)
I got a new car when I was nineteen. When I was out I would by a bottle of pepsi. When I came home I would throw the empty bottle on the lawn beside my car (I don’t know why, I would pick them up in the morning). One day Mom asked me if someone was mad at me. I said: “not that I know of, why?” She said someone must be because they are throwing bottles at my car every night. I never told her what was going on.
I would stay out late, coming home at two or three in the morning. Mom would ask me what time I got to bed last night and I would tell her I got to bed at 9 and came home at two. (She would just roll her eyes)
I was on the track team in high school and after practice or meets I would hitch a ride home or sometimes Mom and Dad would pick me up. One day it was raining really hard and after practice I couldn’t get a ride so I started walking home (it was seven miles) and I was mad. I was about a mile from home and saw Mom and Dad’s car coming so I jumped off the road and hid behind a tree. After they passed I finished walking home. After awhile they came home and saw me there and said they came to pick me up but couldn’t find me. I was so mad that I never told them what I did.
Randy never wanted to go anywhere, he always wanted to stay home. He didn’t like to be around strangers. One time we were going shopping and he was putting up a fit about staying home and Mom said “Go ahead, stay home, the gypsies will get you”. We did have gypsies in the area. They came door to door sharpening scissors and knives, and buying rags. They were always dirty and scared us.
He was real picky about his food. He wouldn’t eat anything new or strange to him. Mom would tell him “You’ll stay at the table until your plate is clean”. All the neighbors were outside playing and he would sit there and cry. This would upset me so much that when I had my own kids I would never do this to them. If they didn’t want to eat, I said okay or would make them something they wanted (PB&J, soup, cereal or whatever), I couldn’t stand to see them cry. This would make their mother so mad but I couldn’t help it, the memories of my brother were to clear.
Randy didn’t talk plain for a long time. I could understand most of what he was saying so I was the translator for the family (What did he say?). One day at the table when he wouldn’t eat Mom asked what he was saying and I told her he said “I’m not eating this shit”, so she slapped him. I used to translate a lot like this. And he would start jabbering and they would ask what he was saying and I would say something smart. What he was saying to them was “I didn’t say that”, but that is not what I translated.
We had a gas, forced air furnace but the registers only went to the first floor. On the second floor of our bedroom there were no registers so they cut a hole in the floor with a register grill for gravity flow (heat rises). It just so happened this opening was above the bathroom on the first floor. Every time someone went into the bathroom, Randy would run upstairs to look down the register. He saw everyone in the tub and on the commode. Sometimes he got caught. (WHAT ARE DOING UP THERE?) Mom had to watch him when we had company.
Randy would roll marbles down the stairs while Dad was trying to sleep. Dad worked shift work and when he was sleeping during the day Randy would roll the marbles and Dad would say “Stop it, I’m trying to sleep”.
Okay — now this is stupid but we were not the only ones doing this. Before Christmas we would search through the house for our gifts. A couple of Christmas’ we found all our gifts. Mom said “okay no surprises for you”. One Christmas this was true, we only got what we found — surprised was not enough word.
We would tie a bolt on a string and hang it out our bedroom window and swing it over so it would hit the aluminum back door. It sounded like someone was knocking on the door and Mom would go to answer and nobody was there. We would do this several times. Then she would go outside and yell at the neighbor kids for knocking on the door and running away.
What? I hear something.
I know I’m Crazy!!
Huh? Just for that we are going outside to play.