Shooting Out Street Lights

The other day at 9 PM I stepped out on my front porch to smoke the last cheap cigar of the day. Earlier in the day I spent a couple of hours dismantling and storing away all of the Christmas lights and decorations. My house was now dark again.

Apparently the whole neighborhood had the same idea. Not a Christmas light to be seen. It was dark again on the streets. For the most part.

There was frost on the cars. Odd for this early in the evening. I looked up. The sky was crystal clear. I walked around to the side of my house. There’s a spot where I can stand in the shadows to get away from the glare of a couple of street lights. I looked up again. Directly overhead I could see the slight haze of the Milky Way.

Like the bald eagles I see regularly, the Milky Way is something I thought I would never see while living in the Chicago area. Too many street lights.

I live on a dead end street that is barely a couple of hundred yards long. The house lots are big, so there are few homes. The street ends a little over a hundred feet to the west of me, where the edge of the wooded ravine starts.

Forming a T directly in front of my house is another dead end street, barely 100 yards long. Again, few homes down that way. At the intersection, directly in front of my house, is a street light. It lights up my whole front yard and the front of my house. At the end of the street that T’s in front of the house, it’s pitch black. If the homeowners down at the end don’t turn on any lights, you would never know there were houses down there. Only one in the neighborhood feels the need to leave bogey man lights on all night. Luckily, he lives the furthest away from me.

At the end of my dead end street, we’re not so lucky. I’ve been living here for seven years and I hear that a few years before we moved in, the two homeowners at the end of the street petitioned the city to put up a street light. Now the bright orange glow of a sodium vapor light dominates that end of the street. The two original homeowners that insisted on this are long gone. We have to live with it now.

A few months ago I was standing out in the street, at night, enjoying a cigar. The wife came out on the front porch.

“What the hell are you doing?” It’s more of a statement than an actual question.

Well, I was sizing up the light to see if I can take it out with one shot. It’s kind of tricky cause you have to go through the glass first in order to hit the bulb. If nothing else, two shots at the most, but I have to be accurate.

The sound coming from her was a mix of a sigh, ack, ugh…

“And for some reason you think it’s a good idea to stand in the middle of the street, in the middle of the night and blast away at a street light with a shotgun.”

We both hate that light, we both want it dark so we can sit out here at night and not be annoyed…

“So your solution is to blow it away with a shotgun…”

I never said anything about a shotgun, you’re putting words in my mouth.

“You want to kill a street light, what else am I supposed to say?”

Well, it won’t be a shotgun. I have that air rifle that at short ranges has the same initial velocity as a .22. I’d use that. I’m not so stupid as to go blowing off a shotgun in the middle of the night.

“Oh, of course, that’s right, you just want to shoot out street lights.”

Well, yeah, I guess.

“And you think the neighbors won’t have a problem with this?”

I’ve already talked to the neighbors along here, except for the guy that keeps the bogey man lights on all night. Talking to him is a waste of time, he won’t understand.

“And talking to the neighbors about shooting out the street light isn’t a waste of time?”

It winds up they feel the same way I do about the lights. They like the dark too. A couple of them have encouraged me to go through with my plans.

“Remind me to talk to them about never encouraging you in anything you say.”

Besides, trying to hit street lights with just about anything is a time honored tradition. Starts with rocks, then snowballs, baseballs, footballs, just about anything you can throw. Then one day your parents actually agree to your idea of having a bb gun that’s shaped like an M-1 rifle. It was inaccurate as hell, but pretty powerful. The light and pole in the alley behind their house took a beating. So did the neighbors bogey man light on his garage. And then there was the incident with the windshield on the VW bug. I thought the guy was going to beat me to death with the bb gun…

“You have a point, but grownups outgrow these things.”

Yeah, right. Grownup women maybe, but guys never get over the joy of hearing the sound of broken glass. It’s as American as apple pie. Hell, even Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed did it in It’s a Wonderful Life. Walking down the street in the middle of the night, they start throwing rocks through the windows of an abandoned house. The one guy in the neighborhood that catches them in the act tells Jimmy Stewart…. Why don’t ya shut up and kiss her instead of talking her to death.

That’s the best he could do? Breaking glass as an aphrodisiac? Doesn’t get any kinkier than that and that was in 1946.

Years later there was even a song extolling the pleasures of breaking glass.

“I’m going in the house now. Goodbye.”

You’ll appreciate this once it’s done.

“I will not come get you out of jail. Good. Bye.”

24 thoughts on “Shooting Out Street Lights

  1. Jim McClellan

    Women just never understand. I say do it. Afterwards, slip back in your house, then come bursting out the front door and yell at the top of your lungs, “You damn kids get out of here!”

    1. Ken G Post author

      My wife gets it Jim, she was awful as a kid, so she says. I don’t know when she became so damn responsible. We ran the riff raff out of the neighborhood a couple of years ago. If I do this and the cops question the neighbors, the roars of laughter coming from them would definitely finger me.

  2. Aaron Schwartz

    I bet you could hit from the porch……….with the right pellet and angle it should only take one shot (not that I am speaking from experience…lol). Don’t stand underneath when shooting it you will get showered with broken glass. As long as no one calls to report the light is out they probably won’t fix it for quite some time.

    1. Ken G Post author

      Hitting it from the porch is easy Aaron, but it would take considerably more shots. Shot dynamics say directly underneath, I just have to move faster than falling glass, which is doubtful. I have a feeling it would be months before anyone fixed it. We seem to be the forgotten section of town. Which is fine by me and most of the neighbors.

      1. Rob Plank

        Some kids in our neighborhood did this. It was somewhat dark but the problem is when a street light is shot out it makes a very loud buzzing noise all night long. At least this one did. As long as you don’t mind that go for it

        1. Ken G Post author

          Rob, I couldn’t figure out how to put it in the post, but this light was always on, 24 hours a day, for two years. Emitting that loud buzzing noise. Real annoying during the warmer months with open windows.

          When I finally got them to come out and fix that problem, I assumed incorrectly that they would fix the buzzing noise. Light comes on and so does the buzzing. That’s the other reason I want to shoot the damn thing out.

  3. Dan Roloff

    It reminds me of a story a neighbor of mine told me about when he was a kid. He would have late night sharp shooting contents with a kid 3 houses down the street. They would take shots at a streetlight from their bedroom window. Taking their shot after they hear the other miss. Eventually they were found out by the utility worker who changed the bulbs, the trajectory of the dents led him to their houses and parents.

  4. Ken G Post author

    Dan, as far as I can remember, we were never found out. That whole VW bug windshield thing was just stupidity on my part. Fun, but stupid.

    Dumbest thing, my brother took a point blank shot to the chin. He was lucky it was his chin. At first he was laughing till he put his hand up and felt the bb still stuck in his chin. Popped it out like a zit and a good stream of blood came with it. Chins apparently bleed a lot. Panic ensued, but he lived through it.

  5. walt

    On a clear winter night, Orion the Hunter is overhead, and he’d appreciate a well-placed missile. Also, your story reminds me of a couple lines from “Shotgun Messiah,” by Roger Chapman’s Streetwalkers, ’76… “Kick at a hubcap, defending the night/ Stoning the streetlamp offending the light”– rock on!

    1. Ken G Post author

      Fixed that for you Walt.

      I used to know and be able to find all of the constellations. I’ve forgotten practically all of them. I’ve always had that problem. Names just don’t stick in my head.

      At least I’m finding out I’m not alone in my quest to make night darker.

  6. bob

    that is one thing I will insist upon once I am no longer a city worker and don’t have to live by residency requirements; i will move where there are no street lights and night is dark.

    I have become so unfond of the city. and yes, i made up a word; unfond. it fits my overall, vague dislike, but mainly blase’ feelings about city life now.

    1. Ken G Post author

      Bob, I don’t have the resources to move, but about 10 miles west of me on a road that hardly gets used, a farm house is for rent. At the end of the backyard is a creek full of smallies. Across the street is, well, nothing. For as far as you can see.

      Would be perfect for you. You would have a field day walking the length of the road taking pictures. Many, many opportunities there.

  7. Quill Gordon

    There once was a street light-style “security” lamp that someone I may or may not have known decided to take out. We, I mean he, sat on the porch, bouncing BBs off the protective cover for hours before finally breaking through and shattering the bulb. The thing is, not all those BBs bounced. Many were embedded in the cover, which turned out to be plastic, and all were on one side. Ours, I mean his.

    Those things aren’t cheap.

    1. Ken G Post author

      I don’t recall ever breaking the bulb in the light in my parents alley. I do remember the protective glass looking kind of cool all spiderwebed with cracks and holes.

      I have a very distinct memory of the VW bug windshield costing me $86 and 6 months without a bb gun.

      I didn’t have another kid around to blame the windshield on.

  8. Kev

    I think guys just like destroying stuff in general. Things that shatter are just a bonus. I remember as a kid thinking it was a great find to see one of those fluorescent light bulbs sticking out of a dumpster. I had to go break it. It didn’t matter how many people told me the gas in those is toxic and the glass exploding everywhere is dangerous. That bulb needed to be broken.

    1. Ken G Post author

      Those tubes were cool Kev. We’d try to get them to land as flat as possible so the glass would shatter everywhere.

      To this day I enjoy destroying things. I rent the house I’m in, I’m resigned to a small fire pit. We used to rent the dump of a house on the edge of the ravine. No neighbors back there. I had the best bonfires. Everything burns if you get it hot enough, so I tried.

  9. Tom AW

    My best summer job ever was cleaning out storage rooms at a large apartment complex. The residents were warned to clear out or mark whatever items they wanted to keep. Of what remained, we were allowed to take whatever we wanted. The rest ended up in a dumpster.
    The booty is somewhat forgettable. I think I picked up a crappy fishing rod, some small, cheap electronics, etc. But what stands out in my memory is every TV that we found. No TV was allowed to be tossed in the dumpster without the tube being smashed first. I probably inhaled toxins that will kill me one day, but man was it awesome to hear that pop and watch the mushroom cloud of phospor grow and dissipate in glorious destruction.

    1. Ken G Post author

      I forgot about TV tubes Tom. We would scour the alleys looking for freshly tossed ones.

      I was watching a show on WWII last night. One of the things they brought up was young men’s propensity to destroy things. While the narrator was talking, they were showing soldiers going house to house in a town destroying everything. I never thought of it that way.

  10. John

    Came across your fine blog post seeking information on how to do in the streetlight that beams heinous pain into my living room at night. My neighbors hate it too. I asked a neighbor who works for the city if there was a process to get it removed, and he told me I could wade through two years of red tape, or take matters into my own hands. 😉

    I got off two shots with a bb gun late last night and I believe I was able to expose the filament, but the damn light did not die at that time. Felt like I was in a zombie movie! My wife got up early this morning and reported that she believed the light was out, but she did not inspect closely.

    I chuckled as I read your post, because the initial conversation between us had gone _exactly_ like yours and your wife’s. A universal dynamic.

  11. Ken G Post author

    Thanks John. I never did shoot the thing out, but the the wife and I were out there over the weekend talking about how annoying it is. For her it’s the endless electric hum it gives off, drives her nuts at night. You can hear it over a block away.

    The light used to be on 24 hours a day, humming. I finally got them to come out and fix that, but they didn’t change the bulb, just the light sensor.

    There’s nothing worse than guys encouraging guys to do things they know they shouldn’t do. But I find your little story encouraging…

    Now, if you get arrested, I will not take blame for the idea. It’s just an idea, I never said to actually go do it.

    1. Ken G Post author

      I do find it funny Howard that this is the most read thing I’ve written.
      Seems to be a guy thing too based on past comments. Why is it we want to do this?

      I love the sound of breaking glass.

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