Sense and Nonsense: Little boys and water can be a catastrophic mix

By Lynda Hollenbeck

Children are fascinated with water — especially little boys. At least that was true for the two I raised.
Their sister had no interest in H2O except as a beverage or something to swim in. But Big Brother and Little Brother were different stories altogether, and the little one's antics made him somewhat of a legend in his own time.
Paul, the senior member of the trio, coined a new word for water. I just don't know how to write it.
I can hear it these many years later, but communicating the sound through this method is challenging. It went something like "lal-lal-lal-wah." It was a rippling sound, something like water cascading over a big rock, but done in juvenile fashion.
It never occurred to me to try to write it until now.
My attention to water-related events for kids was stimulated during a recent setting in which a proud grandmother was showing a video of her daughter engaged in a water activity at the county fair. The child's giggles were contagious. I wasn't seeing the images, but hearing the infectious laughter was enough to make it amusing.
This led to a discussion of kids and water and I started remembering earlier incidents about my sons.
Allen even modified a popular song about water. This was Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Only with his version, it became "Bwidge Ovuh Twubbled Wah-Wah."
His brother and sister ridiculed his rendition, but Ed and I thought it was charming.
"Did you hear him?" one kid would say.
"Oh, yeah," the other would respond. "He said 'wah-wah,'" followed by peals of laughter.
Typical sibling warfare.
I loved hearing Allen as a toddler folk singer, but my admiration did not extend to his attraction to the water hydrant located at the front of the house. It marked the spot at which the innocent child morphed into a demon, albeit still a charming one — almost.
The water fetish turned demonic when Allen discovered the heretofore well-disguised hydrant positioned low on the home's exterior.
He found great delight in turning it on and splashing himself and anyone else who might be around, soaking everyone thoroughly, shoes and all. If a hose happened to be attached, there were no holds barred.
It was necessary to intercede. I could not have made my position more clear. He "got it"; he just didn't like it, and he wasn't going to obey.
Truth be told, the hydrant was the equivalent of a magnet to him. He didn't seem to be able to leave it alone.
So his plan of attack became this: Turn the water on, get wet quickly and then run like the wind before your mom comes running.
I don't remember my form of discipline — I probably used several methods — but I know he understood, particularly when I threatened bodily harm if he didn't cease and desist.
He always promised "I won't do it again, Mother." He had huge, blue eyes that portrayed nothing but sincerity. (Ha!)
I would get involved in something inside the house when he'd give in to the inner voice that apparently told him to "turn it on and run!"
At this point brother or sister would come tattle and I'd take off after the defiant kid that was headed north. I'm surprised he didn't become a track star because his little legs could fly.
It happened over and over till finally Ed, the most patient of husbands and fathers, had had enough. This didn't occur often, but when it did, he was done with whatever had ruffled him.
He removed the handle from the hydrant and placed it on the sill of the tallest window. Allen would have needed a very tall ladder to reach it and there wasn't one around.
You could say Ed literally cut off the kid's water.
Anytime we had to use the hydrant for some purpose, we'd temporarily reattach the handle. But after the job was over, back it went on the window sill.
That was the perfect solution until one day when Ed reached for the handle and it was gone. We searched and we searched, but it was nowhere to be found.
It never materialized.
So Ed, just as an emergency measure, went to his toolbox and got some pliers to rig up for turning on the water that day.
We never replaced the handle because ... we never replaced the handle. That's the only explanation I have.
Eventually Ed more or less permanently attached the pliers to the hydrant, and there the pliers stayed.
That's been a lot of years ago. There are no mischievous little boys there to create havoc, but my outdoor hydrant still has no handle.
Truth be told, I kind of like it that way. The memories are sweet.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of the Saline Courier.