I miss the old gang.
We weren't "Sons of Anarchy" and didn't exactly rumble and tumble with other gangs.
We didn't have tattoos, because our moms would have been mad.
We rode bikes, but they had banana seats and baseball cards in the spokes, not engines.
This was more like "Leave It to Beaver" meets "The "Brady Bunch," because we had girls in our gang, as long as they were cool.
The standard for girls in the gang was whether they could hit a baseball, take a slap shot or catch a slant pass. If they could, they were in.
In the 1970s, our world revolved around sports and its seasons. We played baseball in the spring and summer, basketball and hockey year around, and football in the fall and spring.
We fished. We hunted. We made boats, which usually sank, leading to swimming.
I miss those days, especially when the winter rolls around.
Despite the winter weather, we didn't stay in the house. Our moms were definitely the "get out of the house" types, and besides, we had a whole neighborhood to play in.
These days, when we are hit with a snowstorm, I still feel the urge to play snow football. There were two versions. One was basically football on ice, sort of Green Bay Packers-like, but my favorite was the neighborhood against the snowmen.
What we did was build 11 defensive snowmen and run plays against them. Definitely, the best part of it was blocking the snowmen. Their heads would go flying over all the place when they got hit by the gang.
We were much tougher than the snowmen.
Another favorite was to hurdle or dive over them in the end zone. They would end up in about a thousand pieces all over the yard.
Saturdays were huge.
We'd go to someone's house, watch "Wide World of Sports" and then go outside and build ski courses and bobsled runs. We skied on TV trays strapped to our shoes and used our sleds as bobsled runs. One day, we got the idea to dump buckets of water on the snow, turning the bobsled run into an ice rink.
Speaking of ice rinks, we had a couple in our neighborhood. Before you could buy the backyard kits, we would take an old pool cover, even it out and spray water on it and wait for it to freeze.
That was cool until one day when my parents noticed an extremely high water bill, and then found out that somehow the outdoor water had been turned on.
I was an inside athlete for a couple of weeks.
My friend Zach, who died way too young last winter, was our official ice tester. We put a rope around his waist and set him flying across the ice. If he made it to the end, we were OK.
One time, though, we discovered another sport by accident. As Zach went across the ice, it started moving up and down, presto - ice surfing. The idea was to ride the ice until it cracked and then it was all the way to the outside. Fortunately, the water was only a foot deep, but it was still a bad case of cold feet if you fell in.
We played hours and hours of ice hockey on the ponds and the cranberry bogs, right up until frostbite set in. One time, my friend Billy almost froze to death in net after an eight-hour game.
My mom ran a Bible class out of our basement. I'd put my ice skates and hockey stick outside the back door. My mom usually showed a movie about God, which lasted a half-hour. The minute the lights went out, I'd sneak out the door, stake around and work or my wrist shot. I would duck back in before the lights came on.
One day, the film projector jammed and the lights went on. I was caught red-hand when my mom saw my chair empty.
"You'd better hope there are hockey rinks in hell," my mom said before I earned myself a seat at the front of the room for the rest of the classes.
I told you our gang was tough.
I miss them.