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“Naked Indian” and Other Stories

We were down on the beach in the bushes playing “Naked Indian”, Kit Bradley, Mike and I. “Naked Indian” is more a state of mind than playing cowboys and Indians. Dale Bates wasn’t there because we had had a falling out. Dale had been a friend; it was his sister, Lorenna we didn’t like.

We borrowed a few clothes pins from Mom; so we could fasten cards to our bike spokes so as to make a great noise. Mom ignored our “petty” thievery most of the time. Lorenna would hear us coming down the road and would run down their driveway to ram a stick in our spokes. That’s why we didn’t like her.

Bare naked, we could barely see the girls swimming on the beach; it was my sister Molly and two Mabey girls, our neighbors to the north. The brush was thick from where we were peering out, but the girls were naked too, as we snuck up on them to take a look see. “Be quiet, they will hear us”, Kit whispered. Kit was so skinny, his ribs stuck out and stood a head shorter than me. Sixty years later he is two inches taller than I and 50 pounds heavier. They say Kit sprouted up in his teens and never stopped growing.

We were going to jump out and scare the girls with our whips of kelp and spears made from fern. We used bracken because the stalk was easily stripped of its fronds and the root on the other end was heavy, making it a good spear you could get some distance with.

“I’m going to tell Mom”, Molly yelled. She had spotted us. Our goose was cooked so we slowly slunkered back into the thicker brush and ran to get our clothes. Brother Mike grew up to be a very successful businessman as did Kit Bradley. But that wasn’t where Mike got his start. There was an old rabbit hutch down below the barn, not far from the raspberries. Mike got some chickens from the chicken farm down the road and converted the rabbit hutch, calling it his “chicken coop company”. He thrived selling eggs to all the neighbors until the raccoons broke into the coop one night and devastated the “chicken coop company”.

Dad brought a book home to read to us, inflaming our entrepreneurial tendencies. It was called “Cheaper by the Dozen”, a story of a family of twelve and every Sunday the father would contract out the house and yard chores in lieu of giving allowances. It worked for them, but it didn’t work for us. Mike would underbid a chore such as washing dishes and sub-contract it out for less money and pocket the profit.

Even the game of monopoly fell to the profit motive, when Mike and I would work deals under the table to drive our sister out of the game. Molly would start crying and call for Mom: “The boys are cheating again” and we would have to stop.
We weren’t paid for our regular chores such as mowing the grass or making a box of kindling. I hated it because Dad would bring home orange boxes that were held together by wire and staples and expect me to make a box of kindling from them. The wood was green and the grain went every which way, making it impossible to split. Ever since, I have used dry cedar rounds; splitting them into neat boards and whacking the kindling off so carefully that the kindling sings.

Another bad chore was cleaning up after the dogs, of which we had three, Boots, Pan and Mike, who my little brother had named after himself. It was called manure patrol and it’s purpose was to stop us from tracking dog doo into the house. Mom went berserk one day when I wrestled Mike down in the grass and he got it in his hair. It smelled awful.

Mom had a police whistle which she would blow when it came time to do the chores. We would be down in Bradley’s canyon swinging on the ivy or hiking the beach and pretend that we couldn’t hear, so as to get out of chores. It seems now that we were in trouble most of the time.

Take the time I threw a firecracker in Dale’s pocket; causing the firecrackers that were in there to ignite. Positively enlightening to see the condition of his pants let alone his leg. I got in a lot of trouble for that and it wasn’t even on our property.

No Name Creek came through a small canyon north of the house. There are lots of creeks on Vashon that have no name and when our creek hit the beach it spread out being 4 inches deep in the middle. We could see the cutthroat trout swimming there and it made for good fishing. After school, I would head for the beach, fishing rod in hand. Sneaking up to the edge of the creek so the trout couldn’t see me, I would cast my line out and say a prayer that a fish would bite. One day, I caught a fish every time I said a “Hail Mary” giving me great faith in the power of bait; and took home 5 nice trout, all at or near 6 inches.

Which brings me to the subject of the dogs who would pray by lying on the ground and covering both eyes with their paws. At least it looked like they were praying. Two were pedigreed, one was not. All were purebred with names that were quite long, such as Mike’s Black Panther of Vashon, Pan for short. Boots didn’t get a kennel name because she wasn’t papered. Papers made Pan’s pups worth more money which is how I bought my first car. I got $35 for a female and $75 for a male. Dad explained to me why the males were worth more, but I forgot what he told me.

I had a whole slew of pups to sell over the years but not as many as the McCormick’s had. Earl McCormick had brazed the broken firing pin in my old 22 rifle when he and his brother George had owned the hardware store. Their Labrador was a cousin or something to Pan and produced so many pups that Vashon became saturated with black labs and I couldn’t sell my pups. Old Pan could throw 9 pups at a time.

Boots was a Springer spaniel who never met anyone coming down our driveway that she didn’t have a piece of paper, gum wrapper or little stick in her mouth that she would offer to you as a gift, but wouldn’t let you take. If you tried to take her stick, she would just turn her head to the side; so we just quit trying to take Boot’s stick. She would wag her whole rear end with just a stub of a tail to do it with, her lips would curl up on either side of her mouth in a dog’s grin and make you feel your worth as a visitor.