I liked laths. Father didn’t. They made excellent bats for cheap balls, stream diggers, stake markers, goal posts, target holders, but especially swords. Father’s setback was we stole them from older buildings where they held insulation in place, resulting in insulation not being held in place. That and the many injuries incurred. I remember the dumb look on his face when he saw spilled insulation on the floor. We begged him to buy us a lath stack at the lumber yard, but since he knew we’d turn them into toys, most often vicious weapons, he never relented. We didn’t attempt stealing from Beaver Lumber, although the criminal thought did arise, albeit temporarily, since the gruff unshaven manager had such a huge frame. Much safer to steal from Dad, as he usually never found out. Same thing with the gas, as a cup ain’t gonna show from a 500 gallon tank. Not Grandfather’s beer though. That guy had the uncanny ability to count to 12. Mom didn’t like that we used stolen cups for the gas, so we gave them a thorough washing before putting them back in the cupboard.
A lath wasn’t a real sword until you did whittling and sanding, honing one end to a sharp blade and a painting of the handle. More stuff we had to get somehow … wouldn’t exactly call it theft. Then you had something – ready to compete with the best of the swashbucklers we’d seen on Swiss Family Robinson at the drive-in theatre in town – the ones I saw before falling to sleep in someone’s lap, spilled popcorn sticking in my ear.
When Smart Uncle came by one morning to discuss some equipment issues with Father, he looked at us pirates and exclaimed, “What nice epees you have there!” We had no clue what he meant so scrambled into the house to ask Mother the Wise.
By next morning there was more loose insulation.