Some of my earliest recollections are of waiting. I’m sure most kids have to deal with this, but it’s my story so I’ll talk about it as if I’m the only one who ever had to wait. It could have been worse. I know my older brothers’ sometimes wished they could be waiting instead of translating for our parents, but my being the youngest had perks.
Usually, whenever we had to wait, we would go outside. For example, if my mom had a hair appointment, I would go outside and wait. If my parents were with the tax people, I would go outside and wait. Apparently, pedophiles weren’t as common back then so it was safe for a little kid to wait outside. Besides, I usually had an older brother or two to wait outside with me. Pedophiles prefer single kids.
We generally didn’t travel far for most things. The grocery store was just a few blocks away, the bank was just next to that, and most other things were just a little further. It seemed like church was the only long trip we had to take, other than my aunt and uncle’s house in Grafton. Whenever we went somewhere new, it was an adventure. At least it was for me. I loved maps and geography and it was exciting to compare what I knew to places I had never been to.
One day we had to make a trip to South Milwaukee. We generally didn’t head in that direction, but there was a loan place my parents had to go to and someone had told them about a place that would help them. I was young enough not to care about the reason, nor understand it, but thought it might be my only chance to see South Milwaukee and I was all for the trip. When we got there, I was disappointed to find that South Milwaukee looked a lot like the south side of Milwaukee, where we came from. There were more trees, but the houses looked the same.
As usual, my parents and my oldest brother went in while my other brother and I stayed out. We amused ourselves by kicking little rocks on the sidewalk. The discovery of a little anthill in the crack of a sidewalk interrupted the rock kicking, but there are only so many ants you can step on. We were back to rock kicking before long.
After five days, it might have been only five minutes but felt longer, we were about to advance to the next step. Throwing rocks. You know how it goes. You start with a light pole, argue about who hit it first, then move on to rock warfare. We never made it that far.
On the corner, there was a bar. This is not too uncommon in Milwaukee and the same holds true for most towns in Wisconsin. You can find a bar on at least half the corners of Milwaukee, or at least it seemed that way growing up. In fact, on Halloween, bars were some of the best places to get candy. Anyway, on the corner there was a bar.
One never knew, especially as a kid, what kind of person will walk out of the bar. It could be a drunk. They were fun to watch. It could be an angry wife after failing to talk her husband into coming home. It could be a nice old couple that only went to the bar to socialize. Or it could be a famous wrestler.
I had mentioned earlier that we were a family of wrestling fanatics. If there were somebody that could stop us in our tracks or rock-throwing in this case, it would be a famous wrestler. Not just any famous wrestler, but THE famous wrestler from Milwaukee, the Crusher. Later I learned he was really from South Milwaukee and that explained why we met him that day.
He walked out of the bar and headed right toward us. We froze. Words escaped us. This was undoubtedly the greatest day of our lives. Then he spoke to us.
“Throwing rocks?” he asked. We were speechless. Even sign language would’ve failed us. We just stood there. He nodded and smiled slightly. Then he looked at a car that was parked near the pole we were throwing at. “Did you hit dat car?” he asked in a strong South Side of Milwaukee accent. His gaze returned to us. I nearly crapped my pants and both of us let the rocks fall from our hands.
“N…n…no, S…sir,” my brother answered. I was so relieved that he found his voice. Now I could enjoy another of those “being the youngest” perks. I stood there cowering. The man seemed larger than life. He squinted an eye.
“Are you sure you didn’t hit dat car?” he asked again. We both stood there shaking our heads. I was sure he was going to body slam us. I slid behind my brother. Better him than me.
The wrestler’s big hands suddenly darted out towards our heads. Here it comes, I thought. He was going to crush our little, or in my case fat, skulls like they were paper cups. Instead, he roughly tousled our hair.
“Dat’s okay,” he said with a smile. “Dat’s not my car.” We relaxed a little. “If it was, I’d a crushed your skulls.” We tensed back up. He quit rubbing our heads and walked down the sidewalk laughing quietly. We watched him go. He turned the corner and we just stood there for a second before looking at each other.
“You were scared,” my brother said to me. “You probably crapped your pants.”
“No, I didn’t!” I yelled. I knew where this was headed. I reached down for the rocks I dropped. I was never able to use them because my parents and oldest brother came out of the building. We both started blabbering and signing at once, but I’m not sure if anyone believed us.
Once we started driving, my brother sniffed a couple times and said, “I smell crap.” This was not one of the perks of being the youngest.