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Steve Hansen: Thanksgivng memories? One i won't forget

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Posted: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 11:55 am

My folks were best friends with the Petersons. They had met in San Diego during the mid-1940s. Mike was a naval dental officer just like my dad was at the time. They had a son named Ricky. He was my best friend.

Different career paths took our families in different directions. But we met again in 1954 when the native Texans moved to Silver Spring, Md. They invited us for Thanksgiving dinner that year.

At the time, my folks were living in nearby Bethesda. We arrived at the Peterson home late Thursday morning. Without hesitation, Ricky and I immediately got together for some mischief and fun.

Being an only child, my friend was not short on wants and desires. He had a tin soldier collection that would rival some museums. We 10-year-olds couldn’t wait to get on the bedroom floor and set up hundreds of little hand-painted men, displaying costumes ranging from the Revolutionary to the Civil War.

We could smell the aroma of roasting turkey, as we carried out various battle operations. Ricky always seemed to have more successful tactics, as my forces were usually defeated by his clever maneuvers.

This was rather ironic since I was the one who later became an infantry officer and he a banker.

But soon boredom set in, and we moved outside on the cloudy cool day. The Peterson home was in a middle-class area, but several feet away to one side of their residence stood boxy-looking, single-story homes for lower income people.

Ricky picked up a dirt clod and threw it at one of these houses, watching it explode on the faded asphalt rooftop.

“I’m going to be a baseball pitcher someday,” he bragged, as he picked up another clod and lobbed it with the same success.

“Here, you try it.” He handed me the next earth grenade. “Naw, I can’t do that.”

“Sure you can,” as my buddy launched another successful missile. Not wanting to be seen as inferior or even worse, perceived as one who could not stand up to a challenge, I took the clod from his hand and threw it as hard as I could.

But as predicted, the object did not reach enough altitude to make a roof landing. Instead, it sailed right through the kitchen window of the affordable home with a crash of glass. We could hear the pieces bouncing off cabinets and scattering like pebbles on the linoleum floor.

Ricky let out a yelp, as we both ran to his basement door well. We waited, but there was no response from the target home. Like cats just scared by a loud noise, we soon left our “safe space” and were back playing something else in the yard.

A short time later, we heard the voice of a woman yelling from the damaged home, “Sarah! Come look at this!”

The two sly “cats” ran back into the well. But this time, we entered the house and hurried upstairs. Needless to say, I was scared stiff, as law enforcement didn’t fool around with kids in those days.

I feared this could develop into something very serious.

Just about that time, Mrs. Peterson called us for dinner. Ricky and I put on our best poker faces and took our places at the table. Our parents didn’t seem to notice anything out of the ordinary, as my father carried on about how well Mike could carve a turkey.

I could hardly eat. My mother noticed my lack of appetite. I quickly made an excuse that I didn’t feel well. Knowing what the real problem was, Ricky just looked at me from across the table with a Cheshire Cat grin.

For the rest of the evening, I counted every minute — dreading a knock on the door and knowing full well from past experiences that a 10-year-old couldn’t hold a poker face for any length of time. My prayers were answered, as the inquiry for justice never came.

It’s funny how there are some Thanksgiving feasts we remember, and others that are simply lost in time. This one from over 60 years ago sticks with me as if it were yesterday.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer and satirist.

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