Incarcerated At Eight Years Old
I was incarcerated at eight years old. I know that’s hard to believe but I was. Young children don’t always know right from wrong. But sometimes they do and that’s what caused me to be jailed. What would pressure an 8 year old boy to do something he knew was basically wrong? Peer pressure perhaps. At least that’s how I got into hot water.
My father was a career Air Force man and our family was living in Japan. It was 1960 and we finally got into base housing at a place called Grant Heights, a large Air Force complex. I was in the 3rd grade attending a school for military dependents. There was one classmate in particular, Allen, who always seemed to be in some kind of trouble and my parents didn’t want me playing with him. So, of course I did anyway.
Me At Eight Years Old
Allen was a blonde haired, blue eyed kid with a very light complexion and a little tall for his age. When he exerted himself physically playing games on the school yard, his face would always flush bright red. I was always expecting him to pass out, but he never did.
Allen was always into some mischief. One day after school, I was merrily walking the ½ mile back home when I spied him just standing and looking at a Japanese house that bordered the American compound. It was a house I passed daily, but I had never stopped to really look at it. I sidled up next to Allen and asked him what he found so interesting. Without saying a word he reached down, picked up a hand sized rock and tossed it at the house and watched as it bounced off the wall. “Darn I missed” he exclaimed. I was perplexed; the rock had hit the house.
If I had any sense I would have took off right then. But I was curious as to why Allen had thrown the rock. “I was aiming for the window” he explained. He picked up another rock and chunked it. It also missed the window. “Why do you want to break the window” I queried. The only explanation he offered was “Just because”. After tossing a third rock his face turned the familiar red. It also missed. “What’s the matter” I asked. “Can’t you even hit a big window like that”? “Ya think ya can do better” he questioned. “I dare ya…I double dare ya to hit it”.
Now ever young kid knows you can ignore a single dare, but not a double dare. It’s in the manual, look it up! So I picked up a rock and threw it, even though I knew it was wrong. My shot was right on target and the window shattered. I turned to tell Allen that’s the way it was done. However, Allen was already beating a hasty retreat from the scene. It dawned on me I had just been suckered in to his little ploy.
At this point I heard a commotion coming from the house. As I turned I saw an elderly Japanese woman, brandishing a broom, running towards me. I took off in the opposite direction from Allen. The lady saw Allen was already too far ahead to catch, but I wasn’t… so she came after me.
I was a short kid with legs that just were not built for speed but I gave her a run for her money. But it was no use. The old lady quickly covered the distance between us and snatched me by my collar. She dragged me back to her yard, pushed me to the ground and then sat on me to keep me from escaping. In short order someone in the house called for the military police that arrived in record time. You would have thought the old lady had captured John Dillinger or somebody the way she was excitedly chattering away at her family and the police. The policeman confiscated my military dependent ID card, put me in the “paddy wagon” and rushed me off to Military Police (MP) Headquarters.
Upon reaching the jail house the MP looked up my dads’ phone number and called him. They talked for several minutes before he hung up. The MP glared at me and then unexpectedly whipped out a pair of hand cuffs which he promptly slapped on my wrists. Without a word I was escorted to the back where the jail cells were. He unlocked one, ordered me in and slammed the door shut. I had been incarcerated. Apparently, breaking a window was a major crime.
There was nobody else in the jail except me and the silence became deafening. For an 8 year old this was a frightening experience. I became scared wondering what they were going to do to me. Thoughts of being strapped into an electric chair flashed through my mind…or maybe they were planning a lynching. I was a very imaginative kid.
This was my first serious conversation with my maker. I began making deals such as “If you get me out of this Lord I promise to be good and go to church every Sunday”!
What I didn’t know, however, was while my dad was talking to the MP he had instructed him to put the cuffs on me and stick me in a cell. He figured it would scare me straight…long before the popular documentary “Scared Straight” was ever produced. It did.
Dad was way ahead of his time.
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