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From Night Raids to Pool Hopping

As I passed through my teen years there were many things I did, which most kids were doing. There were also things me and my friends did that I doubt anyone was doing or at least not in my home town.

          The first was perhaps the more benign of the two and that was pool hopping. Now inMassachusettsthe pool hopping season is not very long, so you need to get out there and get it done while you can.

          Pool hopping is very simple. You find a pool in the back of someone’s home; you wait until dark, and then sneak into their yard. Once you are near the pool, you enter as quietly as possible. Then you swim a few laps and relax while you cool off. Pretty simple huh?

          It’s not always. For instance, what do you do if you have snuck all the way over to a neighbor’s house and find just one bedroom light on? Do you go all the way home and come back? If you were me, usually not. Another conundrum is when to go? As I waited alone or with friends, who is to say what is late enough? “Hmm… it’s eleven thirty, is this late enough? Do I really want to wait until one to be safe? Naw, let’s just go.”

          Another problem is that all pools have to be fenced in. Sometimes these fences are huge and we would usually only hit these once in a while, for we had to hit every pool in a three mile radius from my house at least once. I knew I was getting really decadent when I would carry a folding chair with me in order to hop my closest neighbor’s four foot fence.

          One night stands out very vividly for me. I would often scout out pools during my ‘raids’, which I will get to discussing in a moment. On one occasion, I had scouted out a pool a good two miles from my house. Blake, Rick, and I… well yes, we had dropped some acid and what better time to go pool hopping than while tripping?

          There we were in the back of this mysterious house. A lush green lawn stretched between us and the long lit pool. So we took off our shoes and shirts and began to jog over. For some reason just a few feet shy of the pool all of our feet encountered huge long thorns. We all withdrew in pain and sat on the grass not sure if we should laugh or wince as we removed these strange thorns. Who put thorns near a pool? Did these guys know about pool hopping?

          Once our feet were finally free of thorns, we slipped into the pool. Now this is something that always happens, but when you are tripping you really notice it and that is when your head is normal size, but your distorted body wavers in a freaky way under the water. We were trying not to laugh, but things were getting too intense. Then we noticed the ripples moving against the side of the pool. They sounded like hurricane waves crashing. We were so startled that we got out and hurried away.

          The funny thing is, I must have pool hopped at least a hundred times and I can honestly tell you that we were never caught.

          Our ‘Raids’ were more intense and certainly more unusual. In some respects we considered them training, for we were sure thatAmericawas only a few years away from a Road Warrior type of anarchy. So when the apocalypse came, we wanted to be sure that we were ready.

          So what we would do is dress in dark clothes. Sometimes we even wore camouflage or painted our faces. Then we would go out and sneak through people’s yards. If you lived onElm StreetinConcordor the outlining areas during the mid eighties, yes, I was in your yard and if you had a pool, you can bet we swam in it at least once.

          What were we looking for besides pools? Sometimes we stole things for The House, but usually not something anyone would miss, but if you had an old coffee can filled with rusty nails, oh baby, it was mine. Mostly I think we were just testing ourselves. It made us feel like warriors to be able to avoid notice.

          On one night we made it through Verny’s back yard into a section of woods behind his house. I knew it opened up into a cement circle, but was not sure how far it was. So Blake, John, Rich, and I moved quietly through the dark forest until I came upon a lighted gray circle. Outside of the circle the ground seemed very muddy, so I moved forward and took a huge step over the mud to try to avoid getting wet. My friends almost fell over when my boot disappeared into a scummy bog. Yes, I had mistaken the still bog for the cement circle.

          Later, we did make it to the street and were about to emerge when a car’s headlights could be seen coming our way. We had a rule, we assumed every car could be the police and hid every time we saw any vehicle coming. So we all hid behind trees in the last house before the woods. The problem was this car was pulling into that house! It was too late to run. So instead we each stood stalk still hiding in the shadows as a family exited their car and slowly made their way inside, if they had only known.

          On another raid Rich, Blake and I decided to push the envelope and head beyond our usual stumping grounds and explore deep into the east, using the railroad tracks to get us there. We walked for miles, until we reached a new forest. Moving through these dark woods, we found an eerie mausoleum. I can not explain to you how creepy this was for us. As we moved in closer we saw that there was an inscription upon it.

         

          “Now you stare and look at me

          But as I am

          One day soon, you too will be.”

 

          Yeah that was not creepy at all. We stole a few weapons from a nearby yard and baled out of there pretty darn quick.

          How many raids did we do? With my friends I would say at least thirty. There were times were we hid behind rock walls and waited for busy streets to clear so we could sprint across with our weapons. We always dove into trees at the first sign of headlights.

          I would often go out alone as well, testing my bravery by entering stygian forests at night. Mostly when I went out by myself, I would have a weapon along. If it was summer I would be in my shorts. It would have been a strange sight to see, a tall gangly kid carrying a club through a suburban neighborhood, wearing cut offs and an old t-shirt. If anyone ever saw me, they surely decided to leave me the hell alone.

          I remember one time; someone had left out their dog. It was the Delouse house, the home of one of the kids that had helped theConwaysget the River Bike away from me. This dog knew I was trouble and charged me right away. I had my mace-headed, metal spear with me and I turned thrusting the mace head out towards the charging dog. He saw the spear head and did a quick one eighty, not even bothering to bark.

          Yes, those days were fun and I still use some of those skills today, when I am collecting firewood quasi-illegally and the like. Also to this day, when I am walking on a forested road at night and see a car coming, I can not help but think that I should dive for cover. I guess some habits die hard, but if the apocalypse happens, I think you know who will be ready.

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