I lived in Eagan for a couple years when I was in Kindergarten and first grade. I had two friends who were essentially the real world manifestations of that little angel and devil that appear on the shoulders of cartoon characters like Tom and Jerry. Mike was the angel. Tim was the devil. (He even had red hair.)
My friend Mike lived about a block away in a cul de sac within sight of my house. Mike’s parents let me come over for dinner a lot and they always had dessert. Mike’s Mom brought us snacks and treats while we were playing and asked us if we were okay or if we needed anything. Their house was clean and organized. These were good people and Mike was a reflection of them. Always smiling. Always polite. Being Mike’s friend was easy and stress free unless Tim was involved.
Tim lived across the street and one house to the left. I got invited to dinner there once. His Dad was mad about something and nobody spoke. It was awkward. Tim’s Dad spent countless hours working on this Chevelle and very few working on his family from my impressions. He would meticulously color in the white letters on the Chevelle’s tires with White Out which was the liquid used to blot out typos on paper. Tim’s Mom was friendly to me and in hindsight I believe she was a little concerned for me. Tim rarely listened to her, but he obeyed his Dad out of fear.
Young David fell somewhere on the spectrum between Mike and Tim and, honestly, my family life was somewhere between Mike’s and Tim’s too. My Dad had mental health issues and swung between violent rage and doting Dad. My Mom was always kind to everyone and did her best to take care of us.
It was 1978 and Elvis was dead. “Keep on Rockin’ me, Baby” by The Steve Miller Band was my favorite song. Tim and I rode our bikes all over the place and explored in every direction as far as we dared to ride. Mike wasn’t allowed to go beyond a few block radius of his house.
On one hot summer day, Tim asked me to ride with him to the Tom Thumb convenience store down the hill and about a half mile from our houses. He said he wanted a Bomb Pop which was a frozen treat like a really thick and patriotically colored Popsicle, so I rode along with him to get one. When we got there, he asked me if I wanted one too and I told him that I didn’t have any money. He said that he didn’t either. As I stood there confused and trying to figure things out, Tim looked through the window to make sure the employee wasn’t looking, shoved the door open, opened the chest freezer by the door, and came back out with two Bomb Pops. He handed me one, tore his open, and jumped on his bike. I jumped on my bike too, but a short time later I told him that I had forgotten something back at the store and I secretly put the Bomb Pop back because I didn’t want to go to jail. Every moment that Bomb Pop was in my hand was terrifying.
Tim walked over to my house one summer day eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He wanted to ride bikes and I told him that I did too and I’d wait for him to finish his sandwich. He got a big smile on his face and then he turned and whipped the mostly uneaten sandwich up onto the roof of my parents’ garage. I was horrified and I wondered what would happen. I don’t think Tim wondered about anything. When I got back, my Dad was up on a ladder getting the sandwich off the roof. He asked me if I knew how it got there and I said that I didn’t. I’m pretty sure he knew.
Tim and I threw apples from our tree into the neighbors yard and against their house and I got yelled at for it.
Tim ate all of the frosting off a leftover birthday cake at his house after his Mom told him to leave it alone. He puked about fifteen minutes later and said that I should probably go home.
Tim asked me to help him mix together all of the chemicals in the laundry room at his house and from under the kitchen sink also. We poured a little bit of each bottle into bowls and mixed them up into a disgusting looking paste. Once we were done and he was bored with it, Tim picked up the two bowls and threw them into his bedroom closet. He shut the door and I never heard how that little experiment turned out.
Tim asked me if I wanted a glass of pop at his house one day and I said that I wasn’t thirsty. He came out of the bathroom with a smirk on his face and a glass in his hand a few minutes later and handed it to me. He said that he had decided to get me some pop anyway and I should drink it. It was yellow and quite warm. I’d guess it was about 98.6 degrees and freshly made. I didn’t drink it.
Tim and I had a lot of fun throwing darts at the dart board in the spare bedroom at my house. We missed the board a few times and laughed guiltily as we pulled the darts out of the wall. Then we started throwing the darts at the wall on purpose. We threw them at every wall in the room for a few weeks until my parents realized it and put a stop to our game. There were probably more holes than wall by this point. It took my Dad a few weeks to mud, sand, and repaint the room and he made his feelings about my actions quite clear, let’s say.
Tim and I collected pop cans because beer can collecting was popular at that time, but we were seven and weren’t allowed to do that. Tim asked me if he could have a few of my cans and I told him no. Then he suggested that we wash our collections in his pool, so we did that. Those cans that he had asked for, along with a number of others, were not with my other cans when I got home.
Tim wanted to show me something in his back yard one day and it turned out to be a ladder leading to the roof of his garage. He goaded me to climb up there and we both ended up on the roof. He had put a paper grocery bag up there earlier and when we both got up there he reached into it and handed me a lighter and some fireworks. I was confused because it was early afternoon and not July 4th and we live in a suburb, so it didn’t seem like the time to light off fireworks to me. Tim explained that he had called another kid, Steve, from down the block and asked him to come over to play with us. When Steve got there, we were going to ambush him with fireworks. I didn’t think that was a great idea, but soon Steve was in the driveway and Tim was hurling firecrackers and shooting bottle rockets at him. Steve said that he was going to call the police and Tim laughed at him. I got off the roof and had just started to head home when the police car pulled up. Tim and I ran and I hid in the garden shed in the back yard. I was pretty sure that I was going to prison for the rest of my life. The door creaked open letting a slightly cooler breeze into the stifling shed and a man’s voice said “I don’t see him in here. I just hope that boy realizes how dangerous all of that was and how badly he and those other boys could have gotten hurt.” That was good policing. I stayed in the shed for a really long time before sneaking out and around the block and back to my house by a circuitous route. I thought I had gotten away with it until our phone rang and it was Tim’s Mom explaining what we had done to my Dad. I didn’t get to buy the Star Wars X-Wing fighter that I had been saving my allowance to buy that week.
When we moved to North Branch, Tim rode his bike over to say goodbye and I remember waving to him through the back window of our red Impala as we drove away. My Dad made a comment about how he’d never seen that boy look so sad or upset before. I’ve always wondered what happened to Tim. When I wondered that out loud a few times, my folks both said that he’s probably in prison or dead. I hope he turned things around and put his energy into something good. And, I hope his Dad learned to love him more than the Chevelle.
Years later, I organized the theft of the North Branch town sign on Highway 95 one summer with a group of friends. We trained for the heist like a NASCAR pit crew and we each had our roles to play. We’d done our reconnaissance and we knew what size nuts and bolts were holding it on. We knew how high the sign was and that the guys with the sockets on one side and the guys with the wrenches on the other side would have to be held up by other guys to complete their work. We also figured out where to stash the sign until another guy with a pickup could come and fetch it a short time later. We rolled up in a car, jumped out, and did our work quickly and efficiently. Once we had it down, we realized how huge and heavy it was and that it would never grace anyone’s dorm room or family room. I never saw the sign again and it took whoever is responsible for that sign a few years to replace it. I heard that it ended up in somebody’s barn in Almelund and was eventually cut up for scrap.
I also stole a beaker from the science lab in my high school and used it for a pen/pencil holder for about 15 years. Around that same time, I stole a metal sign from the ski resort I worked at in high school that read “Remove Pole Straps From Wrists”.
My daughter Abby asked me where I had gotten that sign one day when we were in the garage together doing a project. She was probably about the same age as I was when I put the Bomb Pop back in the freezer at Tom Thumb in Eagan. I have always been honest with my kids, so I told her the truth. After some discussion, we decided that the best course of action was to send the sign back to Wild Mountain with an apology letter. I told her about the beaker too and we ended up sending that back to the high school with a similar letter. The whole thing made for a good family discussion and hopefully a few good lessons for the kiddos. I’m sure it also confused and/or amused the people who opened the packages.
I thought that I was going to get arrested with my band mates at Mississippi Music Fest in St. Cloud in the summer of 1989. The bass player’s girlfriend had pretended to be our manager and lied to the promoter of this festival about our accomplishments and gotten us a slot to play five songs. When we rolled up in an old pickup and my Dad’s station wagon and started unloading our gear, the promoter had a change of heart and told us that, after all, there wasn’t a spot for us anymore. The singer and the girlfriend argued with him and he finally relented and said that we could play one song. I didn’t think that it was worth it to get all setup to play one song and the singer assured me that we were going to play our whole set. I got nervous.
After the first song, the announcer/promoter asked the crowd to give us a round of applause, but we just ignored him and launched into our next song. He protested loudly after that one, but we drowned his voice out with our amplifiers and drums and another song. After that one, he threatened to call the police and we just kept going. The singer told the crowd what was going on and the crowd booed the promoter which further enraged him. While we were playing the sixth song, the police showed up and started walking toward the stage. As they reached it, the singer said to the audience, while staring at the lead officer, “And for our LAST song, we’ll be playing Rock and Roll by Led Zeppelin.” The cops relaxed a little and let us finish. So we ended up playing seven songs instead of the original five which was way more than ONE. As we got off the stage, the officers and the promoter approached us and the promoter was shouting at us and the cops and telling them to arrest us. The singer and the girlfriend explained our view of the matter and showed the officers our contract. The lead officer said “It sounds like a personal problem to me. Have a good day.” Then they left with the promoter following and yelling at them. As we were just about to leave, the promoter came back and told us that we’d never play in St. Cloud again. He’d make sure of that. One of us said “Well, we’ve never played here before, so that works I guess.” He just walked away shaking his head. It was a good day and we had a lot of fun.
My life of crime has come to an end as of this writing and I’ve managed to raise four great kids who are also not criminals. I love them more than my guitars and amplifiers or anything else in the world (even Chevelles) and I think that makes the difference for most people. The singer is now a minister with a whole pack of kids and doing great things. Mike is probably the nicest guy all of his friends and family know. I hope that Tim isn’t dead or in prison and I hope he’s found the love he needed too. The rest of us have still not been prosecuted for stealing the North Branch sign and we’re still out here doing the best we can with the cards we’ve been dealt. Be well, my friends, and keep climbing.