Shea Carpenter is being dropped off at Grandma’s house. Grandma is getting older and finds it difficult to keep up with the demands of owning and maintaining her three bedroom home on Apple Gate Road in Cloverdale. Shea will be raking the yard, filling the bird feeders and taking in the pads off the lawn furniture for winter storage in the garage.
Shea’s older brother usually helps on these Grandma Days but today Shea will do it alone. His brother is hanging out with his friends and Shea needs to earn enough money to pay for the window he broke on the family truck.
Last Friday Shea and his three best friends were walking home from school. It was the kind of Autumn day that confuses a kid. The mornings were cold so mother made you wear your jacket to school. By going home time it was too warm to wear the jacket home so you left it at school. The next morning is cold again and you don't have your jacket so mother chews you out and calls you irresponsible. Yes, it was one of those confusing days.
Half way home Shea saw something no boy could resist. He slowed his pace falling two steps behind his friends. He reached down and picked up a perfect dirt clod lying alongside the road. Shea had to made a tough decision. Would Ronnie or Liam get plastered? Shea considered his options. Ronnie was fast and could catch him in a race. Escape was nearly impossible and Ronnie knew how to inflict terrible pain. Liam, on the other hand, was chubby but had a great throwing arm. You'd risk death if he threw a return clod at you. Ronnie or Shea, he was running out of time. One of them was sure to turn around wondering why he was falling behind.
Shea made his decision and threw the clod at full force. Liam took the hit squarely in the back. Liam dropped his books, filling the air with a string of cuss words fitting the occasion. Ronnie laughed, dropped his books and began a frantic search to find ammunition for Liam. Shea took off, running across the field toward his home and safety.
Shea didn’t get far before taking a hit that sent him into the weeds along an irrigation ditch. Liam and Ronnie doubled over with laughter while they waited for Shea to pick himself up out of the ditch. Suddenly they went quiet.
Shea stood holding softball sized dirt clods in each hand. Shea had a good arm and from that distance would definitely hit someone.
“Run,” Ronnie shouted. Ronnie headed one direction. Liam went the other. A moment later the air filled with flying dirt.
The dirt clod fight continued down the road to Shea’s front yard. Liam found safety by standing in the sheets Shea's mother had drying on the clothesline. Ronnie jumped into the back of the Carpenter's pick up truck and hid behind the tailgate. Shea surveyed the situation. He was fully armed and ready to throw but who would be the target? It was too dangerous to throw a dirt clod at Liam. If he missed and dirtied one of mother's sheets he would be redoing the wash himself. Ronnie was in the weaker position.
Shea had a special clod with a rock center for Ronnie. It would be a real stinger. He crept closer to the pick up. Ronnie peaked up over the tail gate. Shea saw him and threw. Of course throwing a dirt covered rock at someone's head was dangerous but since when did a young boy take that into consideration? This was the time of life when you did really stupid things and suffered the consequences. Many of life's lessons are learned that way. Shea's education was full of them.
Ronnie ducked behind the tail gate just as the clod streaked overhead. Then SMASH, the clod found its target - the back window of his dad's truck. Shea froze. Ronnie and Liam grabbed their books and took off running. Shea would take the fall for this one alone.
Shea walked up to the front porch, kissed his grandma on the cheek, picked up the rake and went to work on one of the biggest yards in Cloverdale. It would be nearly dark before he finished.