This motley crew are the kids from "the block" when I was growing up. That is me on the far left and my cousin Chris is on the far right (inseparable) . As children this crew hung out together. We all lived within three blocks of the Congregational Church in Gays Mills. I can remember many nights playing kick the can and tag and finally just after dark I would hear my mom. She would stand out on the porch and yell. Just one time and that was all that was needed and the gathering would disperse.
I believe the photo was taken when I was approximately 7 years old.
Chris was a year older than me but he was socially many years older than me. We hung out together every summer and he usually ate at my house every lunch and diner. I can remember lots of crazy things we did together. Once we found some old condoms in a drawer at my house. I believe I was 13. I didn't know what they were. I am pretty sure Chris did. He had me blow them up and put them on a string and walk on main street with them. He told me they were balloons . As I think back....He didn't carry a balloon that day on a string up and down main street. He made an excuse why he had to go home. He really didn't. He watched from a distance as I paraded up and down main street with my balloons.
As we got older, Chris developed lots faster than me. He had muscles and street savvy to go with them. He protected me and actually beat up anyone who messed with me. I can remember him beating up a kid from Seneca that was a whole head taller than him because the kid shoved me to the ground. Chris was the brother I never had.
As we grew older, we got in a couple scrapes that my mother was angry at me for not showing more common sense. In middle school Chris and I hung out together also. Chris was six feet tall as a eighth grader and was much bigger than me. He out weighed me by 30 pounds. He defended me quit a few times and got a reputation for being a good fighter.
Chris told me what sex was and I didn't believe him. I thought it was impossible and he had to be lying. I asked my mom and she was flabbergasted that I had learned about it from Chris. I can remember her saying once. "He is a little too educated."
My mom didn't like the direction my life was taking. She thought I was getting in too much trouble and fights along with Chris. She kept me closer to home for a while. Chris and I hung out still but not so much. Chris worked with his dad as a plumber's assistant almost every summer and was an accomplished apprentice at age 14. I hung out a little on job sites. I had no mechanical inclinations and was actually a little afraid of tools. I had never been taught how to use them due to my father going to heaven when I was 10.
Chris and I grew apart because of him working with his dad and he found a new social group to hang with. My mother forbid me to go with the group. She said they were trouble.
Chris befriended one of the guys he got in a fight with. The guy's name was Mitch. Chris and Mitch did everything together. I was left in the dust because of being timid and was socially inept.. I didn't fit in with the crowd he hung with anymore. Chris and Mitch went off on a different road. They hung with the older crowd and were very gullible. They were often talked in to doing things that skirted normal rules.
It was fall and Chris went out for football as a freshman. He made the team and actually was getting playing time at practice. I use to watch him at practice and was jealous. I was 5'07" and 100 pounds as a ninth grader. Not a football player and NOT tough like my cousin Chris.
It was Apple Festival weekend and lots of us kids were on main street enjoying the festivities . The Sheriff's Department screamed by and an ambulance shortly there after. The gossip on the street was that two young guys were squirrel hunting and a grouse had flown up and one of the guys had shot his hunting partner at point blank range with a shotgun and one of the kids was dead.
Four days later I was carrying my cousin Chris' body. I was asked to be one of the pall bearers . Chris had been killed by his buddy Mitch. He had died instantly from a shotgun blast to his head and neck.
The years churned by slowly. My uncle needed a new plumbers helper . I took Chris' place. I didn't know which end of the tool to use. The only thing I ran ok was a shovel. My mechanical skills were nonexistent. High School flew by. I went to technical school for Heating and Refrigeration servicing. I barely passed due to being afraid of electricity and tool stupid. I was to graduate and become a plumber and furnace technician for my uncle. I was to replace Chris.
I was all thumbs and quickly figured out that it was not my calling. My road was steered for me for a while and I finally got on path again. I went in to the Army at age 20 and steered my own ship and took my own roads from then on.
I am married to a wonderful woman and it is our anniversary on June 3rd. We have a beautiful daughter. I some times wonder where my path would have led me if the DETOUR had not happened.