None of us would step on a crack. We believed we’d fall plumb to the center of the earth! Or one of those Loch Ness monster things would reach up and get us. Nobody was gonna take that kind of chance! We’d catch up to where the sidewalk started in front of the elementary school and run, skip and jump the half mile on into town…careful as we pushed and fought our way to the Parke Theatre that we didn’t let one little toe stray over a crack. We weren’t superstitious mind you, we were afraid!
The return trip had one giant pitfall if we lingered ‘til the sun lowered its light. We had to navigate that bad stretch of woods from Mike Ferigno’s house down to Aunt Jessie’s backyard. It would remind you of that murky forest Boris Karloff plodded through in “The Return of Frankenstein.” Except it didn’t have quite as much fog. And it wasn’t in black and white. We were fairly certain there were no such things as witches, ghosts and goblins. But if there were creatures lurking in sinister, foreboding, subterranean places, those woods behind the swimming pool would house them! Leon told us about the giant Sasquatch and the fire breathing Chupacabras that lived down there. I could cover that half mile or so in 8 or 9 seconds.
And just to take extra precaution, I would rub a rabbit’s foot and spit over my left shoulder before I commenced my run. It didn’t have anything to do with superstition; we just were touching all bases in our quest to reach home without getting eaten alive!
If I made a good grade on the first test I wanted that seat for the rest of the year. If I bombed it, I’d take Pam Collins’ desk. Sometimes she didn’t want to change. I would offer her a frog or a magnet. If she’d done pretty good on the test, I’d have to threaten her. I wasn’t going to be tied to an “unlucky” seat for an entire year! Again, neither of us was superstitious, we were just trying to pass the third grade.
We wouldn’t walk under a ladder. Or purposely break a mirror. We wouldn’t dream of opening an umbrella in the house. And if one of us told you we’d been doing pretty good, we’d immediately find a piece of wood. We weren’t crazy! Nor were we superstitious. We were just optimistically cautious.
Leon wouldn’t work on Friday the 13th. He thought it gave off bad karma. ’Course, come to think of it, he wouldn’t work on Tuesday the 10th. Or Saturday the 2nd. Or Monday the 31st.
I’ll tell you something else about Leon. He’d be the first to tell you that superstition stuff was a bunch of hooey. But then we’d get the guns out, get our warm clothes on and tramp half a day over to the railroad bridge where we knew the big deer were apt to walk. We had to climb over three fences, that big gully behind George Sexton’s house and skirt around Mr. Archie Moore’s pond. We’d be almost in smelling distance and Leon would see an old skin shed by a snake. He’d turn around and go home. We’d have to go back with him! “Won’t do no good to hunt today” was all he would say.
I thought it was silly to fall prey to such a nonsensical omen. Of course, if we won a couple of Little League games and I’d played pretty well, I’d want the same socks and underwear the next game. I’d even cut a little notch in the left sock so I made sure to get it on the appropriate foot. I remember in college the guys getting on me about my torn up underwear, but listen, I had hit in 11 straight games and we had won nine of them…..I wasn’t about to be the cause of a major turn around!
We had an old black cat which I don’t reckon ever caused us any bad luck. But if I had a pretty important date that night, I wouldn’t let that thing in the house. It wasn’t superstition. I just remembered the time “Midnight” came into the bedroom while I was getting dressed to take Millicent Blackburn to the picture show. I didn’t think nothing about it until I got over to Millie’s and she wasn’t feeling so hot. Mary E. Pendleton just happened to be visiting and Millie “suggested” that Mary E. and me go on without her.
Folks, I don’t remember one thing about “Lawrence of Arabia” except it was very long, there were a lot of tents, the train was very important and most of it was filmed in a dessert. I do remember Yogi and Buddy pointing at me and laughing through the cartoon, two newsreels, the previews of coming attractions and a large portion of the feature! Mary E. ate all of the popcorn. And demanded a second Coke before Lawrence ever got on the first camel. And she insisted we go by the Dairy Bar for a burger and some fries after the epic. That darn cat is lucky I didn’t cram a horseshoe down his throat and drop him into the pond as soon as I limped back to the house!
Before the sun came up the next morning I threw half a box of Morton salt over my shoulder, caught a frog and stuffed it in my pocket, crossed both fingers and did a host of incantations to ward off any lasting effects from the night before. And I swore off dating forever! It didn’t have anything to do with being superstitious. You can’t be too careful. Mary E.’s hand had brushed against mine in that dark theater!
We are all a little older now. A little wiser. More mature. And some of the thoughts and fears we shared as teenagers seem frivolous as we reflect back. ’Course, I still step around cracks, I have my lucky chair, I wouldn’t be caught dead down in the woods behind the old swimming pool, I don’t dress around black cats and I still utter an incantation or two in the mornings, just in case Mary E. still has my number…