I grew up in a small rural town in a southern suburb of Boston. It was, and still is a great little town, with a top school system and a high median priced home. There were lots of sprawling hills and woods aplenty, which today I am surprised to see have turned into massive sub-divisions with equally massive homes. I still have family that lives in the town and as I was driving through recently, I went by one of the subdivisions I referred to and remembered what it used to be. Miles and miles of undisturbed woods. Of course things were different back then, and as kids in high school do, we appreciated and utilized the woods for their intended splendor; a great cover for our woods parties.
If I remember correctly, what started out as a group of freshman in high school looking for a discreet place to illegally drink undetected, quickly turned into our chosen weekend destination. We called it "84", the name paying homage to the year of our graduating class. 84 was deep in the woods along a horse farm lined street, with the entrance at the top of a field. We would enter through the field, cases of beer and brown paper bags in hand, and walk until we reached a clearing in the woods. There, we built a huge fire pit, complete with seating, out of logs and rocks. We lit a fire, brought a "boom box", and got wasted under the twinkle of the stars in the sky. It was great and soon enough, word got out around the school. Each weekend, more and more upperclassmen came to join in the celebration at 84. Some of my most memorable high school social triumphs and tribulations took place in the woods at that sacred place.
But, as with all good things which inevitably come to an end, the triumph of 84 did indeed come to an end. With the influx of upperclassmen came their cars, and more bodies which meant more alcohol and more volume. It certainly didn't take long for the jig to be up. The music got louder, the cars became noticeably lined along the quiet street and the cops in the small town were bored enough to have a reason to pounce. The first time it happened, I remember looking up and seeing the boys in blue standing at attention around the fire. Imagine tons of kids scattering like cockroaches under a just lit a light bulb, running through the thick of the woods. The woods were dense and dark and the cops were greatly out numbered, but they pursued us on foot without much success.
Most of us ended up with multiple scrapes, cuts, and bruises from tree branches or sprained ankles and a concussion or two from running full speed into a large tree trunk in the black of the thick woods. This quickly became the game. It was us against them, and if you went to 84 for an evening, the chances were great that you would end up "running from the bust" as we used to call it. Even though we always entered through the same place, we ended up coming out at different spots and you never ended up with the friends that you came with. Instead you ended up with whomever happened to be running in the same direction as you, no where near where you started. Usually on a dimly lit street somewhere in the town and you and the kids you hardly knew had to trek back home on foot. Great times.
As a parent of a high school aged child now, I think back at the dangers of our weekends at 84 with wonder. This was before cell phones and we irresponsibly ran rampant around our quiet town. The local papers published articles with the police chief warning parents about the perils of "out of control underage drinking in the woods". It's a wonder no one was killed or abducted. The horror we all put our parents through. But somehow it seemed like a different time back then and most certainly a different world. A pure and innocent world where running from the cops on a Saturday night was a rite of passage.