Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Apricot Wars, and stranger things

So this happened when I was a young whelp in Utah, oh thirty years ago.

We had this huge abandoned house (never completed construction) right across the street.  It's backyard was basically an apricot orchard.  Well, nobody was living there, and so all of those apricots would jut rot and fall to the ground.  And so, every summer, the neighborhood kids would gather in that orchard and find interesting ways to throw those apricots and one another.  Some of these involved the older kids using sling shots to really inflict a sting on your bottom.  But I can attest that no one, not one time, was ever seriously hurt in our assaults.

One day, during a particularily long battle, a policeman came and took down our names.  First, I do not know what inspires a neighbor to summon the police in this matter.  "Hmmm, Betty, there's some apricots being thrown around."

"Better call the cops, Earl."

I mean, they might have considered at least lodging a complaint by hollering over their fence first.  (Hmm, come to think of it, I guess that was more likely to induce a barrage of apricots coming their way than any form of peaceable cooperation.  Nah, that wasn't really an option.)  But I'm still not sure what harm we were inflicting that demanded a police action.  But oh well, such is the way of Utah, that apricot wars were something that required immediate containment by the law..

So the cop took down our names and warned us to give up the apricot life, it was no good.  Sure it was glamorous on the face, but he'd seen one too many teenagers ruin their life with this fruit -- no I digress.  He just took our names down, no lectures on the peril of apricots involved.  I was terrified of what it meant to have my name taken down on a notepad by a cop.  I was only nine or ten, so this was a pretty scary moment.  But that was it.  He drove off, and as far as I know, my criminal record of apricot violence has never been made public--until now.

So me and my family, we'd laugh and reminisce about that day for many Thanksgivings to come.  But then one year, my brother remembered it a little bit differently.

"You remember Kevin!  We all were gathered around the police car except for you, you were still hiding up above in the trees.  And you yelled out 'Bombs Away!' and let one fly, and sploosh, all over the cop car's window.  And then you came running out and boy did your jaw drop.  I'll never forget that look on your face!"

Actually, this did up the humor of this story quite a bit, but I knew straightaway it never happened that way. But not a soul ventured to disagree, and sure enough, for about five more years now the story had this as its primary punchline.  But then one day my other brother objected.  He didn't say it wasn't true, but he just said that it wasn't Kevin that ever threw the apricot at the cop car, but that it was him.

For awhile, the family resisted this interpretation.  The reason being is that my brother is definitely the straight man to my Groucho Marx, if you get my meaning.  I'm the funny foolhardy one.  He's the straight arrow.  So it kind of soured the gag  a bit ,so everyone said "No no, it was definitely Kevin."  Even I kind of felt territorial about it at first...after all, it's the best role in the Apricot War movie, no hands down.   But then I finally decided, hell, since it's all a big lie anyway...and I said that yeah, it was definitely my brother who was the guy shucking the apricot blindly into a cop car.  Why not?  Give Kenny his due.  I've had my hands dirty with this apricot goo long enough.  And if you've ever indulged in an apricot war yourself, you know what I'm talking about--damn those really rotten ones are just a mess.

Anyway, it's interesting to reflect on, the invention of a memory and the consequent reinvention.  In the story, the cop just looks at his apricot besotten window and tears up the notebook paper with our names on it, shaking his head and driving off wihtout a word.

It is a better story that way.  An urban myth in the making.  But it sure makes me wonder about anything that gets believed, if a group of five witnesses will go along with a total fabrication.  I have never tested the waters with my family to see if I'm the only one who knows it's all a bit of family fiction, but I highly suspect that I'd be shouted down.  It's too revered a story now to bring down.

Hmmm, where else can this kind of thing apply to in my life?  Just can't think of any applications where this might have some correlation, do you?

Aw well, those apricot wars sure were a blast, until you took one in the face.  I used to be an apricot warrior, till I took a pit in the eye.  (Mild Sky rim reference for you uber nerds)

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