by Jim Harris
It was a typical Friday night
out for myself and the other "Dirtbombs" in 1965. Billy
and I entered the Ridge Pike Drive-In movie in his dad's car and
we met up with Dave and Ray, who had just climbed over the fence,
inside. This was our normal way of getting into any event that
charged admission. We always said, "It's not about the money,
it's the principle of the thing." We never actually knew
what the principle was, but we assumed that there had to
be one. Unfortunately, on this night, security spotted us and
after a brief sequence of evasive maneuvers, we were summarily
So we're cruising back down the
Ridge, playing endless rounds of "What if?":
"What if cars had ejector seats? What if we could become
invisible?" Although our motives behind the hypotheses were
usually nefarious, I'm sure that many great ideas have begun with
"what if." I hope that kids are still playing it today.
Then we remembered that we had
a pack of "loads," those little explosive charges meant
to be placed by merry pranksters into the cigarettes of unsuspecting
smokers. We decided to put them into our own cigarettes and
see if we could keep from flinching when they blew up. The
next few miles were punctuated with explosions and raucous laughter.
Our fun was abruptly interrupted
when we noticed smoke coming from inside of the back seat. When
pounding on it didn't help, we pulled over to the shoulder and
tried to remove the seat. This was difficult with four frantic
teenagers pulling in four different directions at once, but eventually
we pried it loose and dumped it on the ground.
The stuffing inside was not in
flames, but it was glowing orange and hissing and squealing like
wet logs in a fireplace. It was pretty scary. After a brief second
of stunned hesitation, someone shouted, "Let's find some
water" so we picked up the burning platform like Viking pall
bearers and took off for parts unknown.
I still remember how quiet it
seemed as we ran down the street looking for a spigot or a stream.
All I could hear was the sound of our desert boots flopping against
the asphalt and an occasional car whizzing by. Presently we came
up alongside the Eagle Lodge Golf Course and ran in there to get
away from traffic. Then we spotted something two hundred yards
away - a sand trap!
Wordlessly, we turned and ran
toward it. Our increased speed whipped the smoldering seat into
full-fledged flame. We lifted it overhead and ran even faster.
It lit the twilight with an eerie glow. I can only imagine what
it must have looked like to folks driving by. We reached
the sand and launched the seat into its final brief transit across
the night sky. It flew like a comet, then fell to earth like a
mortally wounded B-52.
We kicked sand on it until it
stopped screaming. It was definitely not salvageable, so we said
a few words in honor of its meteoric existence and left its final
disposition to those better equipped than we to handle the remains.
After all, we had done our duty. We put out the fire.
We knew in the back of our minds
that there would be hell to pay when our parents found out about
our fiery adventure, but for the moment we reveled in the fact
that, as a team, we had faced danger and prevailed. It was like
a rite of passage, and it felt pretty good. Little did we know
that within eighteen months, two of us would be in Viet Nam, and
several of our friends would die there. When I think about
all of the intervening years since then, I can't help but wonder,