The farm that Dad grew up on was located outside of Eaton, a little town a few miles north of Muncie, just east of Indiana Highway 3 and on the north bank of the Mississinewa River. Dad went to school in town, graduating in a class of less than a hundred students. Two years after graduation he married my mother. The two of them brought me into the world the next year and then eventually rented a house on Church Street in Eaton. While living there, they maintained or rekindled several of Dad’s school days friendships with friends who were also starting new families. Most of the families had kids the same age as my sister and me. Our families would often visit one another and we kids would play and carouse, sometimes to our parents’ amusement but more often than not to their annoyance.
As life often dictates, most of those friendships faded away after our family moved to Yorktown. One friendship endured for years though. The Witter family continued to be friends of ours beyond the high school graduation of the kids in each family.
Jerry and Nancy were classmates of Dad’s at Eaton High School. They married and started their family around the same time as my parents. Looking back now, the Witters seemed to be in a competition with Mom and Dad when it came to having kids. Jerry and Nancy had their oldest daughter, Jane, just before Mom birth to me. Not satisfied with a tie, Jerry and Nancy had their oldest son, Brad, a year-and-a-half after my birth. Mom and Dad wouldn’t have any part of this unbalance, so they had my sister, Susie. Sensing that my parents didn’t want to risk having another child like my sister, Jerry and Nancy had their second daughter, Holly, a year or so after Susie’s birth. This was the status quo for about five or six years until Mom and Dad had my brother, Mick. Jerry and Nancy soon fought back with their second boy, Jason. Mom and Dad threw up their arms, said “Enough is enough,” and allowed the Witters their victory.
From the time of my earliest memories until Jerry and Nancy divorced a few years after Jane and I graduated high school, our two families would get together every few Saturday nights, trading the hosting duties with each visit. Most of the visits were just random weekends when both families were free of any other activities. The guaranteed visits each year were the last three weekends of Indiana’s boys’ basketball state tournament and the night of the Miss America pageant. Each visit started out the same, with the two families gathered in the living room catching up on the events of the past few weeks. The parents would soon move to the kitchen to play cards while the kids would romp around the house or go outside to play. The host mom would break out some snacks and refreshments for everybody. Brad and I would sneak a sip or two of our Dads’ beers. Dad had a broad palate for beer, drinking anything from Falstaff to Miller High Life. Jerry was strictly a Stroh’s man.
Brad and I excelled at tormenting our sisters during these visits. Our favorite thing to do at his house was shoot spitwads at the pictures of teen heartthrobs that his sisters had cut out of Tiger Beat magazines and taped to their bedroom door. The girls would try to fight back but were no match for us with our rolled up socks. Their only resort was to run and tattle on us, bringing down the wrath of our fathers.
During these years, the Witters lived in three different houses. The first was on North Street in Muncie. There was a Methodist church about a block down the street from their house. Our moms once took us down to that church for a Sunday morning service. Brad and I couldn’t have cared less about going to church. We took some Hot Wheels and other toys to pass the time with during the service. The second house was probably my favorite one. They moved into a two-story house located catty-corner from the house that my family used to live in on Church Street in Eaton. This afforded me the opportunity to explore the old neighborhood that I was forbidden to explore when we had lived there. Brad and I would walk or ride bikes around town, stirring up just enough trouble to remain under the radar of the police in town. The third house the Witters lived in was on the farm Jerry grew up on outside of town. It was a nice farm but too far away from town and any neighbors for Brad and me to terrorize.
As Brad and I got older, we would experiment to see what all kinds of high jinks we could pull without getting into trouble. Our favorite time of year for his family to visit mine was in the fall when the corn from the nearby cornfield and the old, rotten tomatoes from various gardens in my neighborhood were at their best for throwing at cars. I knew the best spots along Nebo Road for throwing corn and tomatoes from. We would take our ordnance of veggies to the spot I had picked out and start our bombardment of unwary passersby. When it came to tomatoes, we probably missed more cars than we hit and when we did manage to hit a car it was typically just one of us doing so. Most of the people we hit would slam on the brakes then drive off, no doubt madder than a hornet. To this day I am still waiting for karmic balance.
One time though, Brad and I both managed to hit the same car. They were beautiful shots, one tomato hitting the driver’s side front door followed by the second one hitting the rear quarter panel. The driver of the car slammed on his brakes and turned onto Sunset Drive. We were throwing from behind a house on the corner of Nebo and Sunset. Rather than run away, we crouched down between some bushes and the front of the house we were throwing from. The car came to a stop directly in front of that very house. All four doors opened and five high school boys got out, shouting that they were going to kick somebody’s ass. Brad and I were scared to death but quietly laughing thanks to the adrenaline rush. We nervously watched as the teenagers looked around for us to no avail. They got in their car and sped off. Brad swore up and down that only four of the five guys got back in the car, so we waited nearly half an hour before leaving our hiding space. We quickly went back to my house, cutting through back yards to avoid any cars that might be passing through the neighborhood.
One summer, Brad was curious about Bradford Park. I took him over there to show him around that neighborhood. We just walked around and stopped to talk to a few of the friends I had there. Brad noticed the fence to the Muncie Drive-in and asked about it. We moseyed on down there and watched a few minutes of the top third of some movie. We left after a while, having given up on seeing any nudity.
As we left, I told him about the opening in the fence on the other side of the drive-in. On the way back to my house, we discussed the possibility of sneaking into the drive-in through that hole when the right movie came along.