It was the summer of my sixteenth year, and because most my friends and I had already earned our driver’s license, we decided to go camping down a backroad somewhere out in the middle of nowhere. One of my friend’s had a spot already set up that he guaranteed would be free of anyone else, so we packed our vehicles, bags and drove roughly an hour out to the spot. We did typical things that 16 year old boys do: threw items in the campfire just to see if they would burn, dared each other to jump over the campfire as the flames grew higher, played pranks on one another , etc. It was a fun time, but by the middle of the night, we were growing restless. We didn’t want to go to sleep – no, we weren’t even close to being ready to sleep. We all wanted to do something memorable, something mischievous even.
“Let’s go knock on people’s houses and wake them up,” said one of my friends. Looking back, this wasn’t a good idea. We were close to the small, rural community that most of my friends grew up in, and every home had a rough, weathered, blue collar man that knew how to fire a shotgun. We weren’t thinking about this then, though. All we were thinking about was how hilarious it would be to wake people up that were trying to sleep, only to run away into the dark of night.
We all jumped into the back of one of my friend’s truck and began to drive out to a stretch of highway where there were plenty of houses to pick from. The plan was for all of us to jump out of the truck while the driver did a U-turn and drove about a quarter of a mile the other way. He would then turn around, drive up the road at a normal speed, and by that time we would have already ran up to the house, knock and scream at the door, then began to run away. It was a game of timing, and if we timed everything just right, we would have all jumped into the back of the truck and have been carted away by the driver before the homeowner had a chance to open his door, scream obscenities at us, and perhaps even fire off a few warning shells from his shotgun.
Surprisingly, the plan actually worked. We knocked on a few houses, and by the time we were ready to leave, the truck was passing by, allowing us to jump in, drive away, and be ghosts in the night before the homeowner had a chance to know what the heck was going on. That’s when we got cocky.
We came across a home with a yard that was so big it was literally half of a football field. Long and wide, this home had bushes we had to dodge, gardens we had to jump over – a yard full of challenges that we were ready to meet. We told the driver to drive about a mile then hurry back, he agreed, and we began our trek through this person’s yard.
We were like ninjas in the night: swiftly dodging everything in our path, jumping over obstacles with ease – I’m pretty sure someone even did a ‘tuck and roll’ over this person’s birdbath. We got to the house surprisingly early, so we decided to go around the house and bang on every door on the home.
We knocked our loudest, screaming and telling the person to wake up. We knocked for much longer than we should have, and then that’s when it happened:
A car began to pull into the long driveway.
Luckily, this was a fairly big yard, and the driveway was the same. Nevertheless, the driveway was positioned in such a way that you could see everything that was happening in the yard, so we only had a few seconds to hide ourselves. Thank goodness this person had a ton of bushes in their yard, because we all ran for the nearest bushes and hid in them. By this time, the driver had been waiting for us, worries out of his mind. I should also point out that this was before everyone had cell phones, so none of us could call or text the driver what was happening.
The person sat in the driveway for a few minutes. Their windows were tinted, so we had no idea what they were doing in there. I kept peeking out of the bush, looking for the driver as he turned around, drove back, then turned around again, and drove back, undoubtedly hoping every time he returned that we would be running toward his truck so we could all get the heck out of there. We were too close to the homeowner for comfort, and we wanted no part in it anymore.
The homeowner finally got out of the vehicle, stumbling around and fidgeting for the keys (I’m still unsure of the person’s gender, as it was dark). Looking back, the person was obviously drunk, but back then I wasn’t any the wiser. I assumed the person was just tired and wanted to go to bed. At any rate, the person finally unlocked the door and walked inside. I looked back again and saw the truck coming toward us at a perfect speed. If we wanted to meet him and get out of here now, we had to leave the yard now and hope the homeowner didn’t spot us.
“Go, now!” I said. In one motion, we all arose from the bush and ran out of there as quickly as we could. We stumbled through gardens, tripped over some yard ornaments, clearly frazzled that we were almost caught. We met the driver just in time, jumped in the back of the truck, and went back to the campsite.
Looking back, we were lucky we got out of the yard like we did. If the homeowner hadn’t been so incompetent at the moment, we may have actually been caught, so lady luck was definitely on our side that night. I would like to say that we never did anything like that again, but I’d be lying if I told you that. Later that summer, we did the same thing, only to stop whenever someone fired a shotgun shell into the air from their back porch. We didn’t see the person’s face and they didn’t see ours, but we sure didn’t like the sound of shotgun shells. All in all, an awesome summer full of fun and teenage mischief.