Our house was on the last street of an Air Force Family Housing Area in the middle of Tokyo, Japan. It was the early 1970’s and the city was growing up around our little patch of America. A large field surrounded our end of the base and beyond that lay Japanese neighborhoods thick with the smell of diesel fuel and sweet grilling meats. In a ditch that separated the two worlds, someone decided to dump their massive load of old potatoes.
My brothers and I often played in that field throwing balls, flying kites and just running and running in its expanse. One day we came near the edge of it and potatoes rained down on us. I was about six years old and a group of mean older Japanese school boys, their bikes scattered about, had made the potato heap their ammo dump and headquarters. I yelled at them in Japanese to stop but they just laughed so I told them I was going to get my friend, a much older boy, and they’d be sorry. Their response was to throw more potatoes.
There really was an older boy.
I ran across the field breathlessly thinking of how sorry these “bakatares” would be when my friend strolled across the grassy frontier and taught them a lesson. I came up to his door and knocked, and knocked, and knocked. The house was dark in the late afternoon gloom and I soon realized, no one was home...what to do?
I went home, put on a beret and then pulled up the top so that it peaked up an extra few inches. I slipped into a navy overcoat and headed out the door. I strutted slowly and purposefully across the field standing as high on my toes as I could manage. About halfway across several dirty faces topped with schoolboy crew-cuts peered above the edge of the ditch a hundred yards away. Eighty yards, sixty yards, fifty yards. As I got to within forty or so yards of the potato heap I could see the other side of the ditch beyond. A half dozen boys on bicycles were riding off quickly casting back furtive looks.