A story about taking chances, improvising, and overcoming obstacles.
When my brother Danny was around 15 he had extra time on his hands and way too much energy to use it all up.
To accommodate both time and energy he and his best friend Steve made up a secret, under-the-cover-of-night racing game. They were the only players. In our neighborhood each lot was arranged with the garage set back farther than the house, creating the boundaries for the backyards.
After dark, Danny and Steve would start at one end of the block and race through the backyards to the end of the block. This required getting by the garages, and they found going over them to be more fun than going around. They developed techniques to scale the walls, climb over the roofs and drop down on the other side to run through the yard to the next garage. They spent their daylight hours practicing skills, scouting the obstacles and planning their next run. They kept track of the full moon, neighborhood dog habits, the location of grills and lawn chairs.
Most feared was our hermit neighbor ‘Sober Simon.’ He allowed no other person or animal in his yard.
At night they would race, facing different challenges each time. There were always different variables that would determine their success: darkness, animals, rearranged lawn furniture and of course, neighbor ‘Sober Si’ (who sometimes sat on his back porch with a shotgun in one hand and bottle of whiskey in the other).
Each day they would practice and plan, and at night the rush of the race came from that element of chance that they couldn’t predict.
That summer was pivotal for my brother. Up to that time he had been terribly afraid of heights. Somehow, whether it was the challenge from his friend Steve or the darkness hiding how high they were climbing, he overcame that fear.
A few years later he earned his pilot’s license.