Editor’s Note: I have once again had a request to tell the story about crime and punishment and two young whipper-snapper tomboy girls who lived to regret the sin that only two little twits can conjure up. It happened to me and my BFF. The trick is — if you’re gonna do it — don’t get caught. Not in the Lilly family.

The question arises every time I hear about someone getting sentenced to prison for a heinous crime. Does the punishment fit the crime? And, more importantly, does the punishment deter further crime? If executed correctly, yeah.

In my case, it happened when my chum and I decided it would be so cool if we learned to smoke. Both our dads smoked. (Lesson could be learned here). So, just between the sisters in sin, we planned to jump right in and become, in today’s vernacular, “smokin’.”

Somewhere in those tiny brains we knew it was wrong. No need to hid it if there was nothing wrong with it.

We started off small. Just like dabbling with drugs.  My friend introduced me to the art of smoking grape vines — muscadine vines to be exact. When they are dried they have a hollow center.

Despite the blistered lips, we were so cool. We learned to hold the grapevine cig in a sophisticated manner.  Just like Lauren Becall as she flirted with Humphrey Bogart on the big screen.

Pretty soon, our sore mouths made us forsake the vine in the back yard.

Next step — cigarettes. How to get them. There was country store just up the road. That was no good. The owners were friends with both sets of parents and we knew they would sell us out. There seemed to be no other way — we had to resort to “borrowing” a few from our dads’ stash.

We made elaborate plans to keep from getting caught. Each of us would only snitch two a day so they wouldn’t be missed. We had to find a “safe” place to “do our thang.” That place ended up being in the loft of our old barn. The loft was used to store hay for a herd of cows. Lots and lots of hay.

We would hang out the loft door and blow smoke and act “cool.” ‘Course the Kools would make us dizzy and we could have fallen from the second floor. ‘Course we could have dropped a match or a lighted ciggy and set the whole barn afire and probably killed ourselves in the melee.

Wasn’t that brilliant? Matches and hay? And 10-year-olds? God takes care of fools.

We stored our Kools and matches in a fruit jar, screwed on the lid good and tight and buried it in the hay.

There was no way anyone resembling a grownup could figure out our web of deceit. We’d put too much effort into it. This went on for about six weeks.

It occurred to me much later, maybe we had over-thought the whole thing.

Unbeknownst to us, my dad and granddad had decided to tear down the old two-story plank barn and build a new and modern dairy barn.

So, down came the old barn. While we were at school. Nobody thought it necessary to consult with the 10-year-olds about anything of this magnitude.

I stepped off the big yellow bus that afternoon and noticed that something was not right. Then, it hit me — no barn. Oh, Lord, Oh, Lord!

My grandparents and parents lived next door to each other with only a driveway separating the houses. I eased into my grandparent’s house to maybe find an advocate in case I needed one — which was looking very much like I would. Nobody home.

I swallowed and went on across the driveway to home. Nobody there either. Hmmm.

In my bedroom, on my little white desk (that same desk is sitting in my son’s home today) I saw the fruit jar full of cigarettes and matches. Beside it lay a switch that looked like a mature oak tree.

Time to pray. Oh, I prayed. For three hours. I was left alone for three hours to consider my fate. Dad let me stew on purpose.

By the time Dad showed up, all sophistication coolness had deserted. I was a sobbing, dripping mess. I apologized. I repented. I promised saintliness forever. I was so changed.

I managed to squiggle through the cracks and not get a whipping that day. I was an accomplished beggar-bawler. But you know what, the whole psychology trip in that fiasco made an indelible impression. I remember every detail of the day.

I became what all parents pray for — a really good little girl (for a couple of weeks).

DALE LILLY  is Lifestyles Editor and can be contacted at lifestyles@desototimes.com or 662-429-6379, ext. 248.

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