November 22nd, 2013 by Jan

Yesterday’s post reminded me that I have a story about tar and another one about ice. I’ll post the ice story tomorrow, but on this frosty morning I’m going to tell one of the most horrific tar stories I know, giving the term “tarred and feather” deeper meaning.

It isn’t really my story. This story is my brother Arts, but I was there and I remember. He of course will remember it different, because he was the main event.

In the canyon, behind the house we grew up in, there was a tar pit. Tar pit! Just think of the fun kids can have at a tar pit!

We played there often and once we kids had contest to see who could ride their bike out the farthest onto it, I think it was Mark Lee who’s bike pretty well sunk, never to be seen again. That did not stop us, it was a cool place.

Anyway, Art is my big brother, 15 months older than me, and has always had a creative sense of play that was different from others. Hanging around Art was, and still is big fun. I’m not sure how old we were, but my mom and dad still lived together so I was under 5 years old, I think much younger, but I’m not able to recall my age with my most of my memories.

It was a hot day, perfect for tar pit playing. Art was the brave one who ventured out onto the pit. I say onto and not into on purpose. That was the fun of the pit, being able to stay on it, similar to walking on super frosty snow without breaking through, and stepping down into the deep fluff of the snow, only this was more like super, extra thick pudding with that yucky skin on top.

Well, long story short – Art went down. I don’t know if he fell or was pushed by another kid, but he was down, got stuck and was covered head to toe. He managed to drag himself out and everyone knew he had to get home for help. It was bad, and we knew he was in big trouble. He made his way home through the canyon collecting pine cones, sticks, twigs and small rocks on his tar covered clothes, skin, and head, as he slogged and crawled up the canyon walls and back to the house.

My mom and dad, I remember, were getting ready to go out to one of those Mad Men sort of 1950s cocktail parties of the day. Mom was all dolled up in a fancy green chiffon dress with matching shoes that sported a fluffy pom pom on the toe. It was one of my favourite outfits I remember her in. Dad was wearing a white shirt, coat and tie and when they hear Art crying in the yard, all hell broke loose.

Poor Art was so scared. I’m not sure if he was more afraid of the tar that covered him or the trouble he would be in for the mess he was in. It didn’t matter at the time. There he was. Such a small boy, covered with black sticky tar, and an extra coating of sticks and pine needles poking out. Even today I remember only seeing his bright white, scared eyes through it all the black goo.

Mom had to cut his clothes off with scissors, and dad gave Art a bath in gasoline! Yup. Gasoline to cut the tar off his skin. It is one of the only times I really remember Art crying.

While everyone was cussing, yelling, screaming, and crying — pure fear for Art ran through me as I watched innocently, mom’s pretty dress being ruined by the tar, my dad in his now black and stained shirt, knelling by the bath tup, and poor helpless, Art crying as they scrubbed and scrubbed his skin raw.

Needless to say — the tar pits were put on the “Go there again and die” list for us kids. Even the street tar was forbidden to play with. Get even a little tar on your shoes and well… you know what could happen! That’s why I took to poking street tar with sticks, it was just too hard to walk past. I do know I never went back to the pits, I doubt Art did either.

Like I said, this is really Arts story. As adults we never talked about it, except once I started to retell the story and ask Art about it; the only thing Art did was raise his hand, wave to dismiss me, and shudder.

Ah, the joys of childhood!

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