Dr. Rodney T. Hard

                   CRAP!  ROBBED AGAIN

By:  Sterling Hard

Right after the Korean War ended in 1953. Pusan, the southernmost port city, was jammed with over 2 million often poverty stricken refugees.  They lived a hand-to-mouth existence and were desperate for a more peaceful life in the midst of the chaotic remnants of the war and the preceding 39 years of slavery under the Japanese occupation.

The basic necessities of life....food, fuel, water, shelter....were in short supply, and life was difficult for many who had to live on the margin.  Too many times, during my early years in Korea, firestorms would sweep the shacks of the shanty town on the mountain behind us killing hundreds of squatters....refugees trying to start a life for themselves once again.

As in similar circumstances throughout history, petty thievery was often one of the few means of survival.  So it was not surprising that our house got hit by burglars from time to time.  We had an eight foot concrete wall around our yard with barbed wire and embedded shards of glass on top.  We also had a guard dog that roamed our yard and barked at every movement or sound.  These security measures may have deterred thieves most of the time, but they did not stop the most destitute and determined.

But here is where the age-old story gets a little bit interesting.  There seems to have been an unwritten code among the thieves; it went something like this, “I know that I am intruding and taking what does not belong to me from you; it is a necessity for me.  However, in deference to your dignity, I am going to make myself vulnerable to apprehension.  If I am not apprehended, then your dignity is maintained, despite your loss.”

Sounds “good”....how did it play out?

Well, in the morning after a theft, the homeowner or someone in his family would invariably find a fresh pile of “dump” somewhere in their living area. Translation: “I took the time to expose myself and take a dump before I left your premises as a good faith demonstration of my willingness to be apprehended for my crime.”
Rodney seemed to have a penchant for finding these “monuments” and often showed up at breakfast cheerily and brightly saying, “We got robbed again!!”

ours, perhaps around 3:00 AM, I woke up to the sounds of the window screen in our bedroom being quietly cut with a hunting knife.  Hushed voices were followed by a dark figure clambering noiselessly through the window.

At the age of seven or eight, blankets still provided a mystical shield against danger.  Lying on my stomach on the cot, with the blanket pulled almost completely over my head I saw the two legs of the thief creep by, just inches away. 

My heart was pounding as he passed.  I peeked out at his back as he picked up the sewing machine and iron and began to turn back around, just in time for me to get my head partially back under the blanket.

The thief handed the booty through the window’s torn screen to his accomplice and returned for some clothing.  My brother Rodney slept blissfully in the next cot, oblivious to the drama going on.

After it was over, thinking there was no point in waking everybody up, I went back to sleep. 

Rodney must have awakened earlier than I, and, seeing the ripped screen, put two and two together. 

I woke up just as he tore into the kitchen crowing triumphantly, ”YEAH! THERE WERE TWO OF THEM ALRIGHT; I FOUND BOTH PILES OF CRAP!”

Shanty house above our house with "patio" cobbled together over an open ditch.

Sterling Hard in front of the improved gate and wall in 1970.  

Trash picker in dump above shanty houses with makeshift roofs held down by rocks.

Rodney and Sterling Hard in front of the gate and wall in 1954.  The shorter wall on the right dropped off to the neighborhood below us.  Looking over that wall you could see the top of the roof of the house below us.

Comments by Dr. Rodney T. Hard:

My recollection is only of three instances in which we were burglarized, but even if that was all, that was three too many times.  This does not count the time we were robbed at gun point as told in my Two Roosters story. 

I do remember that at five years old, if I had to relieve myself in the middle of the night, I had to go outside to the outhouse.  The fear of burglars and braving the extreme cold of winter nights were just a few of the challenges.

I had to sneak down the hallway, through the dining room, and into Dad’s study while avoiding the creaky spots in the wood floor.  I didn’t want to wake anyone up.

Then, I had to move a chair over to the wall next to the door and climb up to get the house keys off of a hook on the wall.  I unlocked the door to the porch room where we left our shoes and umbrellas before entering the house.  I locked that door behind me and then unlocked the porch door to the outside.

I braved the cold, the dark, and childhood fears to go to our unlit, unheated, foul smelling outhouse.  Then, to get back to bed, I had to reverse the whole routine.

It was a great day when my father finally put in an indoor porcelain toilet.  With no running water, Sterling and I had to keep the bathtub filled with water from the well out in the yard.  To flush the toilet, we would dip a bucket of water out of the bathtub and pour it into the toilet bowl.  

At least now I didn’t have to brave the dark and foreboding outdoors in the middle of the night.