The neighborhood corner where we all played baseball.
This is also the field that Danny,Kevin, and I burned down with a railroad flare.
I just recently found out that one of my favorite childhood buddies, Danny Roghen, has passed away. We called him "Pump It" Danny. He was one of the coolest people that I ever knew. He was that kid in the neighborhood who would always be the first to do a dare. Whether it was on his bicycle, motorcycle, or just some crazy idea that we'd come up with from time to time. It didn't matter what it was, if anyone had the balls to do it, Danny was the man. We used to get into so much trouble together. We were always up to no good. Not serious trouble, but just fun trouble like fireworks, blowing up garbage cans with M-80s, snow-balling cars, busting pumpkins, crashing Cox airplanes into houses, etc. We weren't mean kids but simply looking for a good time. We spent so many afternoons after school just riding wheelies on the neighborhood streets and catwalking our bikes down the hills. We could ride a wheelie all the way down the street to the stop sign and eventually even learned to turn the corner.
Danny seemed so cool to me because his family always had motorcycles in the garage. His dad had a motorcycle, his brothers had motorcycles, he had a motorcycle, and back then all I wanted to do was be around motorcycles. Danny's dad was actually the first person to call me Meech. Danny had a go-kart that we spent countless hours on speeding around the neighborhood. The gas pedal was broken and so he had tied a string around the throttle at the motor and you would steer with one hand and pull the string with the other. Sometimes we'd mess around by having one person drive the go-kart while the other pulled the accelerator string. I remember once when we hit a passing car with a water balloon. It pissed the guy off so bad that he spun his car around right in the middle of the road and just lit the tires up coming after us. Danny was pulling the string so hard that it broke and the go-kart started coasting to a stop. The car had caught up to us and the driver was getting out and I knew we were as good as dead. Then, all of sudden, right before the guy was up on us, Danny threw his arm over the seat and pushed the throttle wide open with his bare hand and just held it until we hit some of our old trails at the end of a road. After we knew we were safe we stopped to catch our breath. I remember his hand had blisters all over from burning it on the motor. He was so clutch when it came to trouble. He had been in so much trouble that he had become an expert at getting out of it.
The one thing that made him so unique was an anxiety disorder that he developed after he had a bad go-kart crash. I didn't see it happen but apparently he tried to drive it down some stairs made out of railroad ties and he ended up crashing and hitting his head really hard. He was only 10 yrs. old at the time and it landed him in a coma for about 9 or 10 days. I didn't see him for quite a while after that. Then, just one random day after school, I was walking in the neighborhood and he comes riding his bike down the street like nothing had ever happened. We immediately picked up where we had left off. I used to ask him what it was like while he was in the coma and he'd just say that it felt like he had been asleep for a long time. He once told me that he remembered having a dream. Something about an old man who had just bought a brand new John Deere riding lawnmower. He said he dreamt that while he was standing on the corner waiting on the school bus, the old man was mowing around his mailbox and then the school bus just came flying in and leveled him and his new mower and parts went flying everywhere. Then he went over and picked up the brand new yellow seat that had been knocked off the tractor and put it on his go-kart. After he told me this we both agreed that the yellow seat would have looked killer on his go-kart, but now I just find it funny that while the old man in the dream was probably laying bloodied and mangled in a ditch somewhere, all twisted up with his new mower, Danny and I were only thinking about how cool the yellow seat would look on his go-kart. The old man never crossed our mind. Apparently that was the only thing he remembered from the whole coma experience.
What happened afterward though was pretty extraordinary. He didn't find out until later that something had happened to his brain and when he would encounter a situation that made him anxious his body would kinda start jerking. Not just kinda jerking, but a pretty serious grinding movement. There is some kind of medical term for it I'm sure but the best way I can describe it is that he had an uncontrollable sporadic pelvic thrust that would come out of nowhere. It was like he was humping the air. It reminds me of Wayne's World when they would say, "SWING!", only Danny's was more like "SWING-ING!" and lasted for a few seconds. It was so odd but at the same time it was hilarious. If it happened around people that didn't know him, which is usually when it did happen, they wouldn't know what to think. It looked like something he was sort of doing on purpose but he had no control over it. It was not much different than if someone had a stutter, but instead of stuttering words, Danny had stuttering pelvic thrusts. My mom used to always say, "That poor kid has had a really hard time." I didn't know what she was talking about. I figured if you had a garage full of motorcycles and a go-kart you were the luckiest person in the world. If I would've had all that I would've humped my life away.
This is an updated version of Danny's old house.
I remember the first time i saw him do it. We were walking down one of the streets on the far backside of our neighborhood. Danny had a pocketful of those small packages of firecrackers. Right about the time a car was approaching he lit some and threw them right in front of the car. The guy saw what Danny was doing before it even happened and immediately slammed on the brakes and jumped out right in Danny's face, yelling at him and sticking his finger in his chest. Danny's body just started convulsing at the hips and he appeared to be paralyzed everywhere else. The guy just kept cussing us out for what seemed like an eternity. I didn't really know what to think. I just figured that the guy had literally scared the shit out of Danny. Later on he gave me some clues as to what was going on and said the doctors told him that they couldn't really do anything for it but most likely he would grow out of it.
After a while everyone in our group knew about it and when it would happen someone would usually jokingly yell, "HUMP IT DANNY!" Actually, a lot of the time we'd use the F-word and then we'd all bust out laughing. Everyone else found out about it while waiting on the school bus in the mornings before school. For some reason it would always kick in when the school bus was pulling up. I guess it was the sound of the bus slowing down or maybe because the bus was so big, not sure, but for whatever reason it would trigger his anxiety and then a funny look would come over his face and for about 5 seconds Danny would just dry-hump the air. All the kids would be looking out the window at him because they knew it was about to happen. Geez, looking back it must've been torture. But he delt with it pretty well and gradually got over it for the most part. Lots of times he would stand way back away from everyone until the bus had stopped and then come running up to it. It was his little prevention method. After a while it got to the point where only things out of the ordinary would trigger it and most everyone forgot about it for the most part and not much was said. I remember once when about 4 or 5 of us were riding our skateboards down one of the neighborhood hills and just for fun we all just started humping the air pretending to be like Danny while we were rolling downhill. One of the neighborhood ladies was out in her yard and she was just shaking her head like we were delinquents, which in some ways I guess we were. Danny didn't care for it when we would imitate him but he always played it cool and tried not to let it get to him. I think his parents told him that it was the only way to get over it. Sometimes he would get into fights over his humping condition but he normally held his own pretty well and that also cut down on people making fun of him.
Another funny moment that comes to mind was back in the fifth grade. We had to write a poem for class and get up in front of everyone and read it. When it was Danny's turn, he reluctantly walked up to the front of the class and before he ever started reading his poem that funny strain came over his face and then he uncontrollably started the famous pelvic thrust. I could always tell when it was about to happen. There would always be a small hesitation and then his lips would sort of tighten up right before the emotions came thrusting out of him. On that particular day in class, our buddy Victor who was sitting in the back, yelled out, "PUMP IT DANNY, PUMP IT!" We were falling out of our chairs and the teacher made Danny go sit down and we all had quiet time while she took Victor to the office. At recess we all got together to find out what happened to Victor. He had gotten sent home with a note and his parents had to come up there and talk to the principal the next day. From that point on Danny was known as "PUMP-IT" Danny.
The girls loved Danny. If they didn't know him then the whole pelvic thrusting thing would freak 'em out a little, but after they got to know him they overlooked it. Actually I think it made them more curious about him. Looking back, I guess he was a pretty good looking kid. He had some long, shaggy, sandy brown hair, a big sly grin, and when he laughed it was a really hard, loud, short burst. It was like a punch and sounded more like a big "POW" than it did laughter, and it had a harsh tone to it like it was directed toward something. He looked like something out of Tiger Beat magazine during the 70's. Actually it was the 70's. He skateboarded and rode motorcycles and was just cool to the core. He loved listening to KISS. When his brothers were gone we would go up in their room and he'd crank up Doctor Love, which was the perfect theme song for him and his little pelvic thrusting condition. He knew all the words and would sing along. We could usually find a copy of Playboy that his brother had hidden behind this old trunk and that would make the moment just a little bit better. I also remember that he used to wear this ring that his dad had made him out of a motorcycle spoke. I used to want one so bad but it was one of a kind, just like Danny. The whole humping condition had actually faded away for the most part by the time we were in middle school. He had lived with it long enough that I guess he had sort of gained control over it. About this same time he and I weren't hanging out as much together. We were still good friends but were in different classes and didn't see much of each other. He and his family had moved to a different part of town and so hanging out after school didn't happen much and I rarely got to spend time with him. Occasionally he would come over to my house or vice versa to spend the night or ride bikes but for the most part we would only pass each other in the school hallway.
One of the last times I remember hanging out with him was when he and I double-dated to the Sadie-Hawkins dance in the 10th grade. He got to borrow his brother's JEEP that didn't have a top on it and we were going over to his date's house to pick up the girls. It was a pretty nice neighborhood and we parked the JEEP on the side of the road in front of the house. We had a pint of Southern Comfort under the seat and a 6-pack of Mountain Dew to mix it with. Makes me cringe just thinking about drinking that stuff now but back then we thought it was great. Not having any manners, we just walked straight through the front yard and over the flower bed to the door instead of going up the driveway. Not exactly a jesture of class if her parents were watching us come to the front door. So we get to the front door and ring the door bell and it was one of those door bells that just rings on and on like church bells. The door finally opened and it was the father of Danny's date standing there with a stern look on his face like he didn't want to let us in, and rightly so. He finally told us to come in and then he asked me my name and shook my hand, then he looked at Danny and stuck out his hand and said, "And you must be Danny?" When he reached out his hand toward Danny there was a slight hesitation on Danny's part. Honestly it had never even entered my mind, as I had not seen the famous pelvic thrust for a long time, but then, that all too familiar strain came across his face, the lips began pulling tight like a crack in the earth's crust, and then Danny started profusely thrusting his pelvis right toward her father. The man got this confused and irritated look on his face and said, "Son, what are you doing?" Of course that only made Danny more nervous which resulted in more pelvic thrusts than I had seen in many years combined. Danny just turned around and bolted out the front door leaving me standing there by myself with her old man not knowing what to do or say. Finally I decided I should bolt too and so I casually opened the door like I was gonna go get him and then ran straight through the front yard, across the flower garden, and jumped into the JEEP that was already rolling. We never even saw our dates, however I remember the split second right before I bailed, I heard his date running down the stairs yelling, "Daddy, he just does that!" We drove the JEEP around for a while and then over to one of our favorite hangouts, the water tower, and drank the Southern Comfort, talked, and threw rocks the entire night. That was the last time I remember spending any quality time with him and I can't even remember the last time I saw him.
From time to time when I'm working on a frame I'll think about him. He always comes to mind when it snows because snowballing cars was one our favorite things to do. Danny loved it. We had the perfect spot in some trees that had vines growing all over them right down the street from my house. It was on a little hill and the cars couldn't get stopped even if they wanted to. Whenever we would hit one Danny would always let out that big, harsh laugh of his and we'd wait a second to see if brake lights came on or not. From time to time someone would actually attempt to chase us but we had a trail cut out that went 2 or 3 different directions and nobody could even begin to guess which way we had gone. It felt like we owned that neighborhood back then. But today I realize that Danny owned it.
Rest in peace Danno. On second thought, PUMP IT Danny!