Hiding is only fun if someone’s lookingPublished 10:23am Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Column: Al Batt, Tales from Exit 22Hal
It was the time of the year when I knew the sweet corn was ripe because the raccoons were eating it.
I was a small boy who, while I could scurry right along, had difficulty outrunning a parent. I was at the store in Bath. The village had a population somewhere between two and five. There were other farm kids a few years older than me there. They were big kids, worldly and street smart even with a severe lack of streets. They were always playing interesting games like tag, keep away, and hide-and-seek. They didn’t allow me to play their games because I was too little. They checked their list of kids big enough to join them in their frivolities and I wasn’t on it. I was forced to follow them, woefully repeating, “Hey, wait up.”
It proved to be a big day. The leader of the older kids asked me if I wanted to play hide-and-seek. I nearly wet myself with joy. It was a dream come true. I tried to remain calm and collected, but responded with a blubbering, “Yes, oh, yes! Please, please!”
“OK,” he growled, “go hide.”
I thought I would have to work my way up from the ranks of seekers in order to become a hider. A hider was no entry-level position. I wanted to be good. I wanted to be the kind of hider that future generations would speak of in awe. I dismissed all the usual hiding places — shrubs, tree trunks, the old car with three flat tires, or the checker player who hadn’t moved in a year. I needed to think outside the box or at least outside the backside of a big rock.
I considered a doghouse as a hiding place but was discouraged by a dog with a grin as if it wanted to take a bite out of my shin.
There was a cemetery kitty-corner across the road from Bath. It was called St. Aiden’s and had a much larger population than Bath.
I’d spent considerable time in graveyards while visiting the final resting places of my ancestors. I didn’t find graveyards particularly creepy — especially not in the daytime.
I tiptoed tenderly through the maze of graves. I didn’t want to step on one.
Then I found it. It was the gold standard of hiding places. It was a tall, stately tombstone in the shape of a tree with a broken limb. It offered a friendly Irish name that I suspected once enjoyed a spirited game of hide-and-seek. R. Fitzgerald who died on Nov. 20, 1892, and his wife Ellen who shuffled off this mortal coil on June 25, 1909.
It wouldn’t have surprised me had the stone carried a sign reading, “The perfect hiding place.”
I hunkered down on the south side of the gravestone as Bath was situated to the north.
I knew I had presented a serious challenge to those who would be seeking my location.
I sat there smiling the smile of the unseen while leaning against the monument. Sitting is surprisingly affordable.
I sat there for a long time, basking in the glow of my cleverness.
I didn’t think anyone would find me and I was right.
I should have left deeper footprints or a trail of cookie crumbs.
I couldn’t give up. Even at an early age, I had a little too much me in me.
I’d forgotten one thing. My father. He had driven me to Bath.
He found me, but not until he had a cow. He had a herd of cows. Even though he liked Donald Duck more than Daffy Duck, I loved him. I greeted him as a liberator. I was tired of hiding.
He was relieved to find me. He’d been worried sick. He gave me a stern lecture. He didn’t call me a lop-eared such-and-such, but I’m sure he was tempted.
After some time had passed and I was able to evaluate the event, I realized that the reason the older kids didn’t find me was that they hadn’t looked for me. It was a big horselaugh to them.
There are those who maintain that most of the people who live where I do are here because they are part of the Federal Witness Protection Program. People in that situation don’t want to be found. They don’t want anyone looking for them. It’s different for the rest of us.
I am thankful for my father. It’s no fun hiding if no one looks for you.
Al Batt’s column appears every Wednesday and Sunday.