One unseasonably warm September night in 1961, my younger brother Tim and I decided we wanted a special midnight snack. Leaving our backyard pup tent, we pedaled our Schwinn bicycles down a moonlit country lane and pulled into a grape vineyard. After parking our bikes behind a supply building, we feasted on luscious concord grapes. Our parents had warned us to stay away from the vineyard but we yielded to temptation. Before the night was finished, we were sorry we had disobeyed them.
“Ummm . . . these are so good.” Tim whispered tossing another grape in his mouth.
“You don’t have to whisper. No one can hear you.”
Voices from behind startled us. We ran to our bikes but it was too late to leave. Two men stopped in front of the building. One spoke into a two-way radio.
“It’s all clear, Jim. Bring up the truck.”
I recognized the man on the radio as our neighbor, Bill Hines. A flatbed truck filled with boxes of concord grapes stopped, picked up the men, and drove away.
“Whew that was close.” I said. “Sure am glad they didn’t see us. Wonder why they’re harvesting grapes at midnight in Mr. Kelly’s vineyard?”
“Don’t know.” Tim said. “Maybe he hired them.”
“Let’s get outta here before they return.”
* * *
“Good morning, sleepy heads, time to get up. Breakfast is ready.” A familiar voice said.
Yawning and stretching Tim and I crawled out from our warm cocoons and followed Mom inside.
Dad sat at the table reading a newspaper. “Good morning, guys. Did you sleep well?”
“Sure did Dad.” I replied, piling my plate with steaming pancakes.
Tim grimaced as Mom set a stack before him.
“What’s wrong, Tim, aren’t you hungry? You asked me to make these for you this morning.”
“I know but my stomach feels queasy. Paul and I ate some marshmallows last night. Guess they’re to blame.”
Dad peered over his paper at Mom. “It says here that thieves stole over a hundred boxes of grapes from Mr. Kelly’s vineyard last night. They also hit two other vineries but Jim Hines’ place was spared.”
Tim and I glanced at each other and quickly looked down at our plates.
Suddenly, Tim jumped up and ran towards the bathroom gagging. Mom followed him. I knew we were in trouble when I heard her say, “Now I see why you didn’t want any pancakes. Your sin has found you out young man.”
Dad and I rushed to the next room. Tim held a wet washcloth to his forehead. At his feet lay undigested grapes.
“Since we haven’t bought any grapes lately you must have gotten them from the vineyard down the road. What’s your story?” Dad asked, scowling at Tim and me.
Tim and I spent the next hour confessing our crime to Mom and Dad, telling them how sorry we were. As part of our punishment, our bicycles would be off limits for a month. We also had to tell Mr. Kelly what we had done.
“You two have not only disobeyed us but you have sinned against God.” Dad reminded us. “We have forgiven you but you need to ask His forgiveness, too.”
“Dad, I have something else to tell you about last night.” I said.
“Go ahead Paul, I’m listening.”
“We saw Bill Hines and some other men leaving the vineyard in a truck loaded with grapes. We were hiding behind the storage building so they didn’t see us. We thought that maybe Mr. Kelly had hired them, but when I heard you talk about the robbery, I thought I should tell you.”
Mom and Dad glanced at each other.
“I had better let the police know.” Dad said picking up the black receiver.
Sherriff Atkins arrived a few minutes later to interview Tim and me. I was sure he would place us in jail after he had heard our story but he thanked us for the information and admonished us to obey our parents. He reminded us that if the robbers had seen us, we might have been hurt.
* * *
Bill Hines and his cohorts were convicted of robbery and sentenced to jail for two years. Mr. Kelly forgave Tim and me. He even thanked us for helping the police solve the case.
I can’t say we never disobeyed our parents again, but I can say we never ventured back to the vineyard. To this day, Tim and I hate concord grapes.
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