For some unknown reason a short story by O. Henry popped into my head recently. “The Ransom of Red Chief” is a delightful tale about two men desperate for some extra cash who decide to kidnap the son of a prominent businessman and ask for two thousand dollars in ransom. They needed this money for another scheme they had planned. It turns out that the boy is more than a handful for them. No spoiler alert; I recommend you check out the story on-line and see how the exploit unravels.
This short story prompted me to recall some of the summer adventures my siblings, cousins and I got up to many years ago. We were the offspring of two cousins who were more like sisters than cousins. Their mothers had been identical twins and I often felt that this connection created a strong bond for them.
One summer evening the mothers decided that they would like to visit with another cousin on the next concession. They couldn’t leave their children unattended so convinced my grandfather to watch us. He was assured that the five of us could play outdoors until they returned and would be of no trouble.
Now our cousins were from the city and we grew up on a farm. This often made for interesting interchanges and we loved to introduce our city cousins to such things as cow patty toss. Their mother would be horrified when they told her of these exploits and would wash them until their skin was raw.
One of the games we loved to play was cowboys and Indians. This is not considered politically correct today but you must remember we are talking about a time when the Davy Crockett television series was popular.
For Christmas my brother had received a rubber tomahawk; a totally unwise choice but he loved it and with my twin set of pistols and felt cowgirl hat we would have hours of fun chasing each other through the fields with our sister in pursuit.
On this particular evening things did not go as planned and when our mothers returned they were met by an ashen faced grandfather who sternly informed them that he would never babysit for them again. He said that he had never seen so much blood. This startled the mothers and they wondered if their little ones were still alive. It seems that our cousin George decided to mimic the television programs and hurl the rubber tomahawk at his younger brother. It was discovered that rubber can be lethal as it struck his little brother in the side of the head and left a nasty gash. Head wounds tend to bleed profusely. Luckily this was not a deep cut and no stitches were required. As George was herded off to bed he could be heard lamenting, “I didn’t think that rubber would hurt him”.
I realize how traumatic this must have been for my grandfather as he was the “fun” grandfather and loved practical jokes. We must have been a real handful and it is just as well that we lived two hours apart. The five of us were our own version of Red Chief. Sorry grandpa.