If our part of the circle were 7 o'clock, some houses away at 10 o'clock lived the two children my mother called the “little blond boys.” We all hated them; they were perhaps 6 and 8, and they were mean. We were scared to go up that way when they were outside, because they’d yell at us and … do whatever they did, I guess. Jeer. They were called the “little blond boys” because except for our family and Ellen, they were the only haoles on the street, and again except for my brothers, the only boys. My mother didn’t like them; hence, “the little blond boys” was said with the disparaging tone only my mother could use. “Blond” was stretched out, to a sort of blahhhhnd.
I think some of the mothers had complained, but nothing was done about them. Still, rude little kids were highly uncommon in middle class neighborhoods of Honolulu in the 50s. None of us had grown accustomed to such behavior.
One of our group came down to us crying that day. The little blond boys had been unusually evil, and besides the name calling, had used the hose to turn water on her. She was soaking wet, and ashamed, and her feelings were hurt.
It was obvious to me immediately what needed to be done. None of our parents would or could protect us; clearly, the Law of Mothers did not keep the Little Blond Boys in check. So we had to defend ourselves.
I had a small red wagon that had been a gift from Santa Claus. I ran to get it, and told the others what we would do. I made it very clear that they were to take orders from me, and not do anything till I said to, or it wouldn’t work. They all agreed.
We filled the red wagon with rocks: they had to be of a certain size, which I showed them, because they couldn’t be so big we couldn’t lift them easily, or so small they were just handfuls of gravel. When the wagon was filled, about six of us marched up the circle, me pulling my red wagon, still rattling because it wasn’t all that full.
As we got closer, the little blond boys, still outside and still playing with the hose, spotted us and laughed their sneering laugh. I told the others to not do anything yet, but to wait for my signal.
Since we were all baby boomers, this was not long after WWII, and that’s the only explanation I have for how we knew the signal and could react to it. We kept walking, ignoring their jeering, and when we got within their target range, they turned the hose on us. I’d known that would happen, and reminded them that this was Hawaii, and it didn’t hurt to get wet. We needed to be really close, because we weren't all that good at throwing.
Finally, we seemed close enough to reach them. I said, not too loudly, “Ready…. Aim… FIRE!!!!!!!”
Every child was carrying their first two rocks. They flew quickly. Before the Little Blond Boys could even react, everyone re-armed from the red wagon and sent a second salvo. I don’t want to mislead you: none of the children knew the word “salvo.” We just knew quite well what we were doing, and they all believed me when I told them it would work.
The plan did work. The Little Blond Boys were definitely being hit with rocks. They screamed, and dropped the hose, and ran inside with a flight of rocks after them. We turned the wagon around and ran back to home base as fast as we could go.
Apparently the Moms network had not totally failed. By the time I made it breathlessly back to the next door driveway, Mom stormed out our back door and was waiting for me.* I and my little red wagon were in a lot of trouble. The other moms appeared shortly afterward, so we didn’t hang out that afternoon.
Besides a spanking, my mother gave me what was to be the first of many lectures concerning weapons – rocks can hurt, they could blind someone, no one ever, ever throws rocks at anyone. She didn’t even care that the Little Blond Boys had been targeting us. No rocks.
I was an obedient child. I haven’t thrown a rock since.
But, you know what? I knew it wouldn't matter. The entire universe is made out of potential weapons, and targets to aim them at. We lived near a beach, and there were sand, fish, crabs and shells on that beach, not to mention lots of slimy seaweed. The hose could distress children, as I'd learned the hard way, and there were water balloons, and buckets of water, and all sorts of things, should they prove necessary.
I think the world needs more organizers. At almost six, I didn’t know that was what I was doing, but I certainly knew why. People cannot let injustices happen to their neighbors. Throwing rocks might not be the least violent method, but when you have no models of successful organizing, it’s not the most violent method either. Sometimes, it’s more important to keep your neighbors believing there’s justice in their neighborhood than to worry about the Moms Security Network.
If this had been 50s movie, instead of a '50s real life event, I would probably have realized the inappropriateness of my own acts. But my dad, Jimmy Stewart, would also have taken a walk up to the 10 o'clock part of the street and had a chat with the Little Blond Boys' father. It would have ended with something uplifting that didn't entail the little girl learning that sometimes organizing for yourselves is the only way to end injustice. Dads would have been relevant to that solution. Moms wouldn't spank. But none of those things was how it really happened.
Now I have a lot of neighbors who get called names by the Little Blond Boys in Washington – useless, lazy; even though they spent their lifetimes working, doing jobs which needed doing. The Little Blond Boys are trying to turn the water hose on them, and will escalate when they learn how to use rocks.
My goal is to find a little red wagon, to figure out how to take down the people attacking my neighbors. Sometimes a well-written letter works, sometimes even a petition, but I’m in favor of taking over a building too, if that seems the way to succeed. I haven’t yet theoretically precluded burning a building down, though I’ve never yet seen a time that would actually be useful, so it’s not high on my list of potential tactics.
This is just a story I felt like telling instead of writing my fiction, but there is a moral. You can throw rocks or sue, gather people together to shout or stand in silent witness. But doing something is a qualitatively different act than yelling at each other because they aren't doing enough. The world is so sparse of people who know how to do the right thing, and so full of people who want to, that there's only one thing you need to know. If you're doing something to help my neighbors, you're doing the right thing. That is enough. That is plenty.
So for heavens' sake, stop dumping on each other. Each of you, go fill your own wagons with your favorite non-murderous projectiles. (My mother was right.) There are plenty of wagons. Ready, aim, fire -- but at the little blond boys! They're the ones who deserve it.
** Brett disappeared before the action started. It occurred to me while writing this that he might actually have been the one to tell my mother; I always assumed it had been the mother of the Little Blond Boys. Moms’ Security Networks would fail to exist without informants. Someday I will have to ask him.