Well… at least no one died… (That I know of)

Oh, but one could easily argue that the midwestern, middle class, cul-de-sac existence that made up the bulk of my pre-teen world, was a kind of death.

A death of spirit that a child barely feels but rather simply incorporates into the ego. Like any other trauma. My adult self tells me all this. My good little boy remains silent.

And yes, I still remember myself as the good boy. My adult self remembers the “war” and violence of my childhood from a distance. I have no memory of participation. Only observation. I was Switzerland and the Nazis were conquering the world. No doubt this is a coping mechanism, but my adult self seems intent on it being true.

From around age four to age thirteen (1963 – 72) our family lived on the cutting edge of Rochester, Minnesota. Brand new neighborhoods of the brand new suburban-style, and a brand new junior high school where my father would eventually work and where I would eventually attend. Where I would experience another brand new (to me anyway) type of violence.

But that’s another story.

At first, it was just a bunch of little kids with our toys. Playing in the dirt. Our family was one of the first three to move in at our end of 16th avenue. And it was just us (the von Ahsen’s) and the Jones’s and the Wells’s, for the first year or so.

Because the Wells boy (there was only one) was so much older than us, I have very few memories of him. My only clear one is of listening to him practicing the clarinet. That beautiful, clear and joyous sound emanating from the second floor window of his room is what inspired me to choose the instrument when required to do so much later as a teen.

The Jones kids were the same age as me and my brother Bruce. They were nice people and I liked them. Paul and I were the same age and although we were never “best friends” I enjoyed his company. We played with our G.I. Joe’s, Tonka Trucks and Lincoln Logs and pretended to do battle among the dirt clods between the end of the street and the alfalfa field beyond.

Dirt clods.

For at least the first two years of my life on that cul-de-sac, dirt clods were everywhere. And thus they were toys (that of course became weapons). For some reason, no one had sod put in till much later. It probably was only two or three years, but to my child self, it seemed like forever. I clearly remember still mostly dirt clod yards when the other families of our little corner of Americana were all moved in. The Smith’s and the Manahan’s are the only other ones I still remember now though. Probably because their entry into our world was so dramatic. Although it’s only my adult self that tells me this, I have no doubt that the dirt clod war began with them.

The Manahan’s were directly across the street from our house and next door to the Jones’s and I liked them too. They moved in shortly after the Smith’s did, and acted as a kind of counter force to the chaos and mayhem of THAT family.


I should mention here that of course I am not using the real names of these families. The only real names I will ever use in any story of memoir here, will be of my own family.


Our dirt clod war was far from a real war even by childish neighborhood standards of violence. There was to be much more damaging conflicts once the seat of power was firmly established. And they would of course be against the gangs of other kids from other families on other cul-de-sacs.

Our dirt clod war was simply a preliminary display of will and intent by bullies. How my adult mind remembers the dirt clod war, its participants and the events that followed, I will go into with as much detail as I can. Which of course will now have to be…

To be continued…