When I was a kid, orchards, ranches, and barren land were within walking distance from our house. Nowadays, it’s hard to find any of these things in my hometown of San Jose.
In those days, signs like the one you see here were all over the place, and the message was pretty clear: Stay off of the property!
We ignored them.
Instead, I should have bought one for my house. The reason will make sense in a moment.
The rumor in my neighborhood was that trespassing would result in being shot at with salt pellets, or — as legend had it — chased off property by a pack of crazed albinos!
But not even salt pellets, or urban legends, could stop neighborhood kids from using the land as their own personal playground.
The closest field was six houses up from my mom’s house. Most of the teens on our block used to ride motocross dirt bikes on the acres and acres of land. Occasionally, I’d see a San Jose motor cop try to chase one down. Alas, the police bikes were no match when it came to chasing one of these teens on a dirt bike. They were fast! Cops were furious.
I learned how to ride on a little Yamaha YZ80. A few days a week, after school, we’d meet at my friend Ricky’s house and ride out into the nearby orchard. It was so much fun! However, once our friend Harry broke his arm, it was over. My riding career ended before it got started.
If you weren’t lucky, or old enough to own a motocross bike during those days, the next best thing was a BMX bike, followed by a skateboard. Owning any of these three could keep you happy all summer long.
While the older teens rode and raced in the field, our presence was constant. We were either cheering them on, or waiting for someone to crash. Sadly, when you’re a kid, “crashes” are what you want to see.
After most accidents, riders dusted themselves off, and continued. One summer, however, a rider and his female companion were in a horrific crash and taken away in an ambulance. Neighborhood kids were kept at bay by emergency personnel; nevertheless, we could hear the piercing screams from both riders.
I’ll never forget those sounds.
While that accident was tragic, nothing prepared me for what happened a few years later during a short ride at a local church with a couple of friends. After one of them took a spill, we headed home early. As we approached their house, their mother was frantically flagging us down. She led us to a window to show us that someone had broken into my house! In fact, he was in my front yard holding my four year old brother by the neck. The only other person home was my thirteen year old cousin. Ultimately, she and my brother escaped, and the perpetrator was chased down by a small group of neighbors, one of whom tackled and held him until the police arrived.
For years I didn’t give trespassing on people’s property much thought, until of course, someone trespassed on mine.