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I watched every day for weeks as the date tree slowly ripened its limbs of sweet fruit. I checked on the tree's progress almost every day after school. Carefully watching it, as it's sweet treat turned from a dark green to a pastel yellowish-orange.

The 15-foot tree sat no more than 10 feet outside the back gates of the orphanage in which I lived. After coming home from school on Friday afternoon, I changed out of my school clothes. I then called many of the boys together and told them I was sure the fruit was ready to eat.

There were two orphanage rules that were never to be broken. One was never to speak to a girl and the other was to never step foot outside the gates or to climb the six-foot high, chain-link fences that surrounded the orphanage.

We watched to see if the main office was closed for the day. We patiently waited until all the cars had left and then we made our way around and behind the long, red and white brick building. Slowly, we crawled over to the fence and just lied there discussing how to retrieve the fruit.

It was decided that we would break off several long shoots of bamboo and try to knock the fruit to the ground. However, the longest bamboo we could find was not quite long enough to reach the fruit. That is, unless we walked outside the gates of the orphanage.

There were about 15 of us boys in the group. We each looked back and forth at one another waiting to see if someone would be brave enough to volunteer. No one moved a muscle or said a word. I just lied waiting for someone to make the first move. Slowly, I looked back and forth, and from face to face. The entire time seeing nothing but the look of terror on the faces of each and every one of the 8, 9 and 10-year-old boys in our group.

"It's not fair. It's just gonna rot again," said one of the boys.

Every year, we kids sat and watch as the fruit rotted on the tree. Every year, we listened to our stomachs growl as we watched the fruit drop to the ground, only to be attacked by the zillions of Blue Jays and Red-Winged Black Birds. But this year, it was going to be different. Hopefully, someone was going to be brave enough and strong enough to harvest the fruit and share it amongst the multitude.

"Go get a pillowcase," said Wayne Evers.

Billy Stroud jumped up and ran as fast as he could back to our dormitory. Several minutes later, he returned with a pillowcase in hand.

"What we gonna do with a pillowcase?" asked one of the boys.

"Were gonna put the fruit in it, stupid," said Wayne.

"We gonna get that much fruit?" asked another boy.

"If were gonna get in trouble, might as well get all the darn fruit we can," said Evers.

All at once, Wayne jumped up and ran outside the gate.

"JESUS!" said Wayne. "Get up and knock some fruit down for me."

No one moved. Wayne grabbed one of the cane poles and began knocking the dates off the long, hanging vines. One after the other, the boys jumped up and headed out the gate. Each ran over, got down on their knees and gathered up of the fruit as fast as they could.

"Honk, Honk, Honkkkkkkkkkkkk!" went the sound of a car horn as it sped into the gate and squealed to a halt in front of us.

"Roger Dean Kiser... what do you little bastards think you are doing out here?" said the woman, out her car window.

"Get'n some of this here fruit," I said.

"Why are you boys outside the damn gates of the home?" she asked.

She sat there slowly turning her head and looking from boy to boy. Then she pointed her finger at Wayne.

"What you got there, Wayne?" she asked.

"A bunch of f------ dates in a pillowcase and were gonna eat every one of them," he shouted.

"What did you say too me, young man?" she shouted as she made her way out of the car.

At that very moment, there was nothing but total chaos. Fifteen young boys were all running in different directions. Some ran down Spring Park Road, screaming for their lives. Others ran back in the orphanage gates and tried to hide amongst the large clumps of bamboo.

Within minutes, the police had been called and within an hour, they rounded up all of us boys. After the police left, we were taken back to our dormitory. We were lined up single file at the clothing room door. One at a time, we were called into the room, bent over the sewing table and beaten with a one-inch thick, wooden paddle, which had holes drilled into it. I never heard so much screaming, crying and yelling in all my life.

Late that night when the matron was asleep, many of us boys met in the far bathroom. We whispered to one another about what had happened, but nothing was ever mentioned about the curse word. I do not recall any of us boys ever using the F word, but I will never forget the first time I ever heard it. I was so proud of Wayne Evers, not because he said that word, but because he had the backbone to stand up for what he thought was right.

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