David and I took the lead in a dark green half-track. Kevin and Reggie followed behind us in the tank. We all looked terrific in our uniforms, or at least we thought we did. The side of our half-track said “Rat patrol”. This was our night.
A man walked up with a runny-nosed kid in green fatigues. The kid had a hand-lettered sign which said “Remember the POWs”.
“Can my son come with you?”, the man asked.
We were not keen on the idea. The kid was pretty young and I am sure we would have said no but David’s father was with us and thought that sounded just fine. So now we were 5.
Other things weren’t perfect either. The tank looked pretty great but Kevin and Reggie had a bit more help from their fathers. Both the tank and the half-track were cardboard on a wood frame but the tank was somehow more finished looking. It did not help that we had only been able to find one pair of shopping cart wheels (one never asked how kids were able to get their hands on shopping cart wheels)Â so we had had to improvise a back axel from the axel of a red wagon. It was hard to walk pushing the float without kicking the back axel. But that still it was our best entry in the Kiddie Kapers parade. This was our night.
The California Rodeo, one of the 4 largest rodeos in the world, was the big event in my home town of Salinas California. The festivities around the California Rodeo in Salinas include around 7 parades:
- The Como del Rodeo parade was a night parade and was the largest night lighted parade west of the Mississippi at the time. That parade has been discontinued but I was pleased to see it would come back in 2010 for the centennial of the California Rodeo.
- Each of the 5 days of the rodeo was proceeded by a horse parade down main street.
- The Kiddie Kapers parade was our parade. This parade was only for the kids and we came on bikes, on foot and in homemade floats from neighborhood playgrounds and garages. This was our night. The 2009 parade was the 80th Kiddie Kapers parade. My parade was more than a few years ago.
Things continued to go a bit downhill. Our unwieldy craft must have gotten that one bad shopping cart wheel . It tended to pull to the right. The kid was in the tank and wet his pants. At one point David’s foot was caught by the back axel and he lost his shoe. The crowd was amused when he had to be handed back his shoe. Finally the back axel broke on the half-track and David’s dad had to tow the disabled vehicle to the finish line.
But good things happened too. When the kid with the sign joined us we were no longer just some kids who liked to dress up in Kevin’s dad’s old uniforms (we did look good) but we now had a theme “Remember the POWs”. This was 1970 and we were still at war. We won the category for group floats. This was our night.
This story was written as an assignment for MatadorU travel writing school.