The Sand Lake Boys

It was 1978 and the summer between my 10th and 11th grades. We were living in the Sand Lake area of Anchorage, just down from “Four Corners” and just off of Raspberry Road. A bunch of us guys who went to Dimond High School had taken to calling ourselves the “Sand Lake Boys.”

We were told there was an older group of guys more my brother’s age, early twenties, who were calling themselves the “Sand Lake Boys.” But since we could never find anyone who admitted to being one, we wrote it off as an urban myth. WE were the “Sand Lake Boys.” It was Greg, Mike, and Tracy E., Danny S., sometimes Jim R. and me. We roamed the streets of Sand Lake looking for mischief to get into. We always felt sorry for the kids who lived in Brentwood like David Z. Their parents kept them in the neighborhood, I guess so they wouldn’t get dirty.

That summer I was working for my father, who was a builder, hanging sheet rock so I could buy a car. It was a hard job, but after awhile he trusted me with the taping, bedding, and texturing so it got a little easier. I worked my butt off twelve hours a day, six days a week and got off at 5 o’clock on Saturday afternoon. The first thing I would do is head over to my friends’ house and we would figure out what we were going to do for the rest of the weekend.

I also had a new form of transportation. I had bought a Yamaha 175 Enduro. This was my first venture into motorized transportation. I did lack some of the essentials that normally are associated with this form of transportation. In this case, a driver’s license, insurance, a fully working exhaust system, and a license plate. But the guy who lived two houses down from us always claimed he flew his floatplane without a license so I figured I didn’t need a license either, especially when all I was doing was riding a motorcycle and I was only fifteen so what’s the most they could do to me?

I had bought the Yamaha with my own money, however my dad said there were two rules that came with it.

Vintage Enduro photo courtesy of:
Vintage Enduro photo courtesy of:

First rule was if I ever got arrested, I was just to stay there. I was not to call home, I was not to ask anyone to come and get me. If I had gotten myself into jail, I could figure out how to get myself out of jail.

Second rule was if I got a ticket on the motorcycle he was going to take the bike up to the mine and leave it there and he really didn’t care who paid for it. I think he was just looking forward to himself having my motorcycle.

Once we all hooked up, usually at Greg’s house, we would hang out, play poker where we used homemade chocolate chip cookies instead of money, and listen to music. The big bands at that time where The Cars, Queen, The Electric Light Orchestra, Fleetwood Mac and of course Led Zeppelin. This was a great time to be a teenager.

After eating dinner (Greg’s mom made the best lasagna I have ever eaten) and hanging out for awhile listening to music, we would all head outside, hooking up with the rest of the Sand Lake Boys. We would walk around the neighborhood, bored, as any teenager would be. Sometime after about eleven o’clock we would go “Tin Canning.”

“Tin Canning” was a practical joke that we would pull on people who were driving through our neighborhood.

You need about six pop cans and some monofilament line. For those people in Whittier: fishing line. You take one end of the fishing line and you tie three cans together. Then go to the other end of the line and tie the other three cans to that end the line. Now you should have a lot of excess line. To take in this line you wrap it around the cans loosely. You go out into the street and you find two mailboxes that are directly across from each other on opposite sides of the road. You place one set of cans in one mailbox, run the line across the street and put the other pop cans in that mailbox. The string between the two mailboxes at its lowest point in the middle of the road should be about twelve inches above the asphalt. Then you hide and wait.

Sooner or later a car will come along and will hit the monofilament line pulling the cans out of the mailboxes, entangling the fishing line in the wheels, the bumpers and the undercarriage. As the people are going down the road, the tin cans make it sound as if they’ve just gotten married. When they stop to see what has just happened to them, everyone jumps out of the bushes screaming and laughing at the top of their lungs. Then everyone runs in different directions.

And that was pretty much the extent of our nighttime shenanigans. I know we were hooligans.

One time we set our trap and a guy on a ten-speed bike came down the road and we tried to stop him. I think all we did was scare him because all he did was go faster. He hit the string while he was looking back at us and never saw it coming… what a mess. The string was all in his gears and chain, but we helped him get it all off his bike. At the time all I could think was this stuff is a pain.

One Sunday afternoon we were hanging out, when Mike said he wanted to go up to the Quick Stop up at “Four Corners” so he could buy some cokes and potato chips. He asked if I could give him a ride to the store on my motorcycle. I said sure and we went out, hopped on my bike and headed off to the convenience store. We went in and got our stuff and then got back on the bike. We were heading down Raspberry Road with Jewel Lake behind us and Cranberry Road in front of us. We were riding on the trail that ran beside the road that in the wintertime the snow machines would ride on and in the summer was pretty much reserved for three wheelers and dirt bikes like mine.

As we were riding along we were about halfway down Raspberry when I heard a loudspeaker.

“You, on the bike, stop the bike and get off.”

I looked over my left shoulder and saw two things. The first was an APD cruiser and a police officer with his microphone up to his mouth. The second thing I saw was Mike “flipping off” the police officer. I knew right then and there this was not going to be a “stop and talk” because of Mike’s gesture. I knew our parents were going to have to pick us up at the Fifth Avenue jail. In my case I was going to have to stay there until my mother came and got me, and my dad now had a reason to take my motorcycle up to the mine and leave it there for his own personal use.

Mike then slapped me on the right shoulder and when I turned that way I could see that he was pointing across the potato field that was beside us and started jabbing at the air with his pointed finger. Suddenly I saw where he was pointing and we took off across the potato field, where Linden Park is now, as fast as I could go. We knew there was no way for the police officer to bring his car into the field to chase us. The ditch between the dirt bike trail and the road was too deep and if he tried, the soil in the potato field was too soft and the car would sink. We were heading towards two houses that had just enough room between them that a motorcycle could easily pass between them but there was no way a police car could. So now I saw my out and I headed for it!

We went bouncing and speeding across the potato field and flew between the two houses, my knobby tires tearing up the grass as we went. The police officer had turned on his lights and was racing to try to get to us before we came out the other side. This was going to be totally impossible. He had to go down Raspberry, turn right on Cranberry, turn right again on West 69th and there was absolutely no way that was going to be possible.

There was one more element to my plan. When I left home I had left the garage door open, and I hoped my mother had not put it down. We came around the corner and saw that the garage door was still up. I killed the engine and quietly flew up the drive into the garage, kickstand down, and nearly knocked Mike off the back of the bike as I threw my leg over the back of the bike trying to get off as quickly as possible. I hit the garage door down button and the garage door started to slowly close. We had made it, now it was just a race between the garage door and the police car.

We hid down below the windows of the garage door until we thought enough time had passed and the police officer should be gone. We then slowly peeked out the glass… and there he was sitting in the middle of the road with his car turned off and his window rolled down… just sitting there. He then got out of his car and turned in a slow circle with his hand cupped up against his ear. What in the hell was he doing? It dawned on me he was listening for my jacked up exhaust system, which was about three times as loud as it should be. I really need to get that fixed, I thought. After a few minutes the officer got back into his car and drove away and in about ten more minutes Mike and I finally started to breathe again. Then the dull boredom of a summer Sunday afternoon returned.

My dad eventually got to take my motorcycle up to the mine but it wasn’t because of anything I had done wrong, it was because I had my first car. It was a 1966 MG Midget. He was so impressed with how hard I worked all summer he agreed to pay for half the car, which for him was a really big deal. I never ran from a police officer again, and I would never recommend it to anyone else.

Mike Byers is a 6th generation Alaskan who was born in Fairbanks and grew up in Anchorage.  Mike and his wife and daughter make their home in Dallas Texas.  Mike is still very connected to Alaska by family and friends.

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