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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Wild in the Streets

I don't remember my friends and I ever being aware of any sort of boundaries in Neillsville.  We went wherever we felt like going, through peoples yards, into abandoned buildings, we would even go through the city's storm drain system, underneath the entire town.  Up until a certain age, none of these things seemed wrong.  Neillsville was our playground.  Over the years we had dozens of  forts, all on someone else's property, we didn't know, we didn't care.  I would be gone all day, come home, and tell my Mom that we had spent the day at our newest fort.  She would casually ask about the whereabouts of this newest fort, and I would tell her what I felt she wanted to hear.  I don't know if she ever really wanted to know. One of those forts was built near an old train track, a fort made mostly out of different doors, solid oak and screen doors.  The abandoned train track was like the main street to our fort, and we put a jump ramp for our bikes that was nothing more than a door, leaning on a three foot tall piece of wood, that was propped against it.  No nails even holding the two boards together, they were just leaning against the other, on that rocky old train track, that you could barely ride your bike on in the first place.  Every third or fourth attempt, the ramp would collapse just as the rider was cresting the top of the jump.  It was considered good style to hit that jump and collapse it, stall in the air for a second, and land back on top of the flattened door, then calmly ride away. One time we were terrorizing the neighborhood on our bikes in the fall, ripping through the piles of leaves that everyone raked to the boulevard.  One of my neighbors up the street caught us in the act, jumped into his black T-bird, and chased us down.  He made us go back and clean up our mess.  That dude was scary to us.  I remember he called himself Billy Con, like the boxer from the 1930's.  There were a lot of shady characters living up the street, another was this woman known only as the Dragon Lady.  When I was a kid, I really had no idea what all the adults around me were up to.  When I got a little older, I learned that the things that I thought were confined to big cities also happened in little towns like Neillsville.  Drugs, violence, even murder.  We were blissfully unaware of how often we poked at the hornets nest, disrespecting the people of the neighborhood, like Billy Con.

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