Get Off My Lawn!

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

Featured Review on this writing by Criss Sole

What goes up must come down–Isaac Newton

Every neighborhood has a George McCreely, the only thing that changes is the name.  He’s that guy, the one who will yell at any kid who dares to trespass on even the remotest corner of his property.  To be fair to the male gender, Esther McCreely did the same thing.
We weren’t looking for trouble, it’s just that a basketball or a frisbee can get away from you.  In my case it was a baseball that earned my first yelling.  It stopped one step into their yard.  Enough for Mrs. McCreely to threaten me with the police.
Mr. McCreely, like many in Huntsville, Alabama in the 1960s, worked in the space industry.  Our town was known as the Rocket City.  My father worked on the Gemini and Apollo projects.  It was natural for kids to be interested in model rockets.
Estes rocket kits were cheap and for sale at Wilson’s Hobby Shop. We bought them, built them, and launched them.  They were powered by engines made of gunpowder wrapped in a thick cardboard case.
There were no trees in my front yard so we used it for some of our launches.  Like anything else, size matters in model rockets.  Small ones, such as an Alpha or a Sprite, used a tiny engine, and didn’t travel very far.  Okay to launch in a neighborhood with trees and power lines.
Large rockets differed from smaller ones in that they required a parachute in order to land safely.  My two stage Beta was an example.  It flew high and far, and I only launched it at the old city airport, with acres of open space.
Danny had just finished building a Mars Snooper.  A big, fancy rocket that used a powerful engine.  He couldn’t wait for an adult to drive us to the airport.  We scheduled a launch from my yard.
We were smart enough not to fall out of trees or get run over by cars but were far from experts at understanding weather.  Specifically, how wind can affect the flight of a rocket.  The Snooper took off, and flew straight, fast, and high.  When it reached its peak, the nose cone popped off and the parachute deployed.  Danny had done everything right when he constructed the craft.
A twelve ounce model rocket suspended under an eighteen inch parachute can and will drift with the wind.  That day, it was blowing from the southwest.  Just hard enough to carry a Mars Snooper to the McCreely residence.
We took off in pursuit.  Our progress was hindered by numerous fences, dogs were popular in our neighborhood.  From a distance we saw the rocket plummet into McCreely’s back yard.
It wasn’t Danny’s day.  McCreely was reading a newspaper on his porch.  He noticed when the rocket made landfall.We could only watch as he picked it up and went in the house.
Danny’s mother called McCreely, apologized for the inconvenience her son had caused, and politely asked for the rocket’s return.  It didn’t go well.
“Look lady, I don’t know what you’re talking about. If you accuse someone of stealing without any evidence you can be sued.”  He said goodbye and hung up without waiting for a reply.
So much for the Mars Snooper.  Danny’s parents took the easy way out, and bought him another rocket.  This time he got a Big Bertha.
We learned our lesson and didn’t shoot off rockets on windy days.  But we weren’t finished with the Snooper.  Later that summer, Danny, Steve, Mike and I rode our bicycles to Mike’s house.  He lived next to the McCreelys.
Mike’s father had converted half of the garage into a man cave, including a pool table and a pinball machine.  As long as we didn’t break anything, we had permission to play.
The two houses had garages facing each other.  It was hot and the door was up.  McCreely’s garage door opened and his car pulled in.  He grabbed some grocery bags from the trunk and went in the house.
I’d never seen the inside of his garage, there’s no way I’d pass up an opportunity to snoop.  We’d parked our bikes in the driveway, I turned mine upside down.  I crouched and pretended to inspect the wheel while I peered through the open door.  Against the wall was a lawnmower, a washer and dryer, and some shelves.
McCreely came out to get another armload of bags.  I turned the pedal slowly, like I was attempting to diagnose a problem.  As he re-entered the house, something on one of the shelves caught my eye.
Something long and thin, that tapered to a point.  With fins on the other end.  Something that had been painted the same shade of orange as Danny’s Mars Snooper.
Everyone gathered around my bike and stole glances into the garage.  We came to the same conclusion.  Danny made a quick decision.
“That’s my rocket!  I’m gonna get it!”
Any possibility of talking him out of trespassing McCreely’s garage evaporated when he trespassed McCreely’s garage.  He took off running and grabbed the rocket.  At that moment, McCreely came out of the house.
“Hey!  What are you doing?  Get back here!”  A foot race ensued.
Danny ran down McCreely’s driveway, across the street, through another yard, and disappeared into the woods at the edge of our neighborhood.  He carried the Mars Snooper like it was the baton in an Olympic relay race.
McCreely’s running style was less than Olympian.  He was old and overweight.  His hard soled shoes clattered on the concrete.  The chase ended before he made it to the street.  He put his hands on his knees and took some deep breaths before turning to us.
He pointed a finger at me.  “You!  What is that boy’s name?”
My mother always told me, “Never tell a lie.”  But my father always told me, “Never let a jackwagon push you around.”  Something had to give.
My reply was, “What boy?”
McCreely’s face got red.  I braced for his wrath, but his attention turned to Mike.  “You, tell me the name of that boy or I’ll be talking to your parents about this!”
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.  Mike said, “What boy?”
And so did Steve.  With each lie, McCreely’s face got redder.  His voice had gotten loud too, enough for Mike’s father to hear.  He exited the house and entered the fray.  “What’s going on out here?”
“Your boy is lying to me and there’s going to be trouble if you don’t straighten him out.  One of his friends stole something from my garage and I want his name!”
Mike’s dad grinned.  He’d had his share of unpleasant encounters with McCreely and knew about the Mars Snooper incident.  “So, what did this child steal?”
That was when McCreely realized his conundrum.  His argument would evaporate if the item in question belonged to the alleged thief.
He tried to wiggle out.  “I didn’t get a good look at what he had in his hand.”
“Then how do you know he stole something?”
McCreely turned and pointed toward his garage.  “See that empty spot on the shelf?  That’s where it was.”
“Where what was?”
“The thing that kid stole!”
“Well, what was it?”
A pause.  “I don’t know.”
The grin got bigger.  “You know McCreely, you’re a gigantic pain in the ass, and the worst neighbor anyone ever had.  As far as I’m concerned, you imagined the whole thing.  Last time I looked out the window, I saw Mike and his two friends working on their bikes.  No one else.  If you accuse someone of stealing without any evidence, you can be sued.  And if you ever accuse my son of lying again, I’ll skip the lawyers and let my fists do the talking.”
McCreely’s face took on a darker shade of red.  Without a word, he stormed into his house.
Mike’s father turned to him.  “I guess it’s a good thing McCreely can’t count.”
“What do you mean, dad?”
He pointed to the bicycles parked in the driveway, then at us.  “There are four bicycles, but only three kids...”  He laughed as he walked back to the garage.  “You boys are always cracking me up.”
That was the straw that broke McCreely’s back.  The next week, a crew from Valley Fencing showed up.  The shiny, six foot high chain link fence enclosed the house and almost the entire property.  An electrician installed floodlights around the perimeter of the roof.
Lit up at night, with the locked gate across the driveway, the McCreely residence had the appearance of a prison.
That was the last adventure we had with George and Esther McCreely.  Model rockets ended up in closets when Danny and Steve discovered girls, Mike got into cars, and I started hanging out at the golf course.
We all moved somewhere else eventually, as did the McCreelys.  The new owner removed the fence from the front and side and filled in to the back corners of the house with a nice wooden fence.
All of this replayed in my memory recently when Danny posted some photos on Facebook.  He’d found a suitcase containing his rocket collection and launched the Mars Snooper with his grandson Tyler.  After almost 50 years, it was still in good shape, just needed some regluing.  He’d never opened the Big Bertha kit, he plans to build it with Tyler.
Just for fun, I Google Earthed the former McCreely residence.  The fence was still there, dulled by the years and partly covered with a vine.  The garage door was closed so I couldn’t do any snooping.

Submitted: February 16, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:


Criss Sole

"What boy?" Oh that got me laughing!
That Mr. McCreely sounds like a joy to be living next to. Glad the boys managed to get their rocket back. Dad sounds like a cool guy.
"and i started hanging out at the golf course." Yup! I kinda saw that one coming , heheh.
Great story

Tue, February 16th, 2021 2:40pm


"What boy." Politicians refer to that as plausible denial. Thanks for reading.

Tue, February 16th, 2021 12:20pm

JE Falcon aka JEF

Ah, brings back memories, some distance apart, but the same stuff. Our McCreely was a retired woman marine that lived across the street from the church parking lot. --- It was the 1950's and we built our rockets made of Balsa-wood, hand carved, fins and all. Our engines were used-up C0'2 tubes filled with scrapings from wooden match heads, about a two hour process. We didn't bother with the parachutes, most of the rockets broke up on re-entry, LOL --- In the late 1960's I worked in aircraft and was forming parts for the real rockets, including the Titan-II missile. Funny how life can repeat itself, in ways. --- A Good story, and as you can see it brought back memories. --- Thanks

Tue, February 16th, 2021 4:46pm


Yup, one in every neighborhood. Thanks for reading.

Tue, February 16th, 2021 12:22pm


I can't help but feel that McCreely got what he deserved.

Wed, February 17th, 2021 8:04am


He had it coming. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Wed, February 17th, 2021 4:00am

Mark A George

Great story, Serge. I was hoping Mike's dad had gotten a good punch in and put McCreely on the ground. It would have been worth the court fees to give that S.O.B a proper beat down.

Thu, February 18th, 2021 5:08am


Thanks. I wonder how many times they had to get out in the rain to unlock and lock the gate.

Thu, February 18th, 2021 2:51am

G. Adams

Love it! It was pleasantly on an upbeat tone. It was relatable.

Sun, March 7th, 2021 12:08am


Thanks for reading. It's ironic that the odd people you meet are the ones who inspire stories.

Sun, March 7th, 2021 3:06am


Excellent writing, Serge. Glad to see Mr McCreely caught at his own game.

Sun, March 7th, 2021 3:52pm


Thanks. If this story gets turned into a movie I could play McCreely myself. All I'd need to do is grow my hair long enough for a combover.

Sun, March 7th, 2021 9:05am

Samuel Dickens

I love this kind of story--tales from the days of our youth, when we boys (and girls) lived life to the fullest. It brought back my own memories of kites, rockets, and model airplanes that flew pilotless and often landed where they shouldn't. Great story-telling, I very much enjoyed reading this.

Tue, May 11th, 2021 12:27pm


Yup, we'd get arrested if we did stuff like that now. Thanks for reading.

Tue, May 11th, 2021 10:55am

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