It was the summer of 1960. I was 11 years old and almost all the neighborhood boys were going to meet early in the morning at Curtis Junior High School. The little league games at Haman Elementary were over, but we were determined to play as much as possible during the summer months before school started again in the fall. The morning routine was to pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, grab your bat and ball and throw on your favorite hat.
It was still cool in the morning as we walked to the field, picking up kids to join us on the way to the ball field. We wanted to start early and get as much game time in before the heat of summer made us pause for a few hours. Our parents knew where we were and were not worried for our safety. Besides a few bruises from having fun, we basically kept out of trouble — most of the time.
Around noon it was time for a short break to eat our sandwiches. We were lucky because we were surrounded by the picturesque view of yellow mustard greens in the fresh fruit orchards. It was the peak of the season for the trees bearing our favorites. We had pears, plums, some apples and everyones favorite — dark Bing cherries. We were raised in the most wonderful environment for active boys. We were respectful of the trees from which we gathered our desserts because we wanted them to be fruitful for future summers. We had carefully climbed high into the trees for our sweet rewards. We didn’t bother gathering them but instead slowly appreciated the taste of the cherries one at a time. It had been another good day playing ball and then going to the orchard. Life was good.
Then I heard the voice, “Young man, what are you doing up there?” There he stood, with his hands on his hips. I could see the badge on his chest. He wasn’t a police officer; he was a security guard. Just the same, the man was authority and I was raised to respect him. “I’m going to have to take you home.” I didn’t feel uneasy because I knew I wasn’t hurting the trees. We ate a lot of the fruit from the ground after it had fallen. The fruit was still good to eat, and we knew the farmer did not want them, but the cherries that were plucked from the tree limbs, the sweetness of the Bing’s were hard to resist.
I was a little nervous when we finally arrived in front of my house. The guard saw that I had two large cherry trees in my yard and asked me why I was up in his tree. The honest answer was, “I was hungry.” He reached around me to open the door and as I climbed out of his car, his final response was, “I’ll probably see you next week!” He drove away and waved out his window at me.
The security guard smiled and watched from his rear-view mirror at the young boy, who wore his favorite hat and held onto his bat and glove as he waved goodbye for now.