I think most guys have a friend growing up that they are ambivalent about. My dad's best friend was a guy named Ben Boogaard, who is about as ornery a cuss as I've ever met. Wally Cleaver had Eddie Haskell. And I had Wayne Oenes, who figured prominently in yesterday's post.
One of the commenters mentioned some pretty salient points about my boyhood friend. Wayne is, to my knowledge, still living in the Appleton area, although I haven't spoken with him in probably 30 years. After my brief exile to public school, I went back into the Catholic schools in the 7th grade and was back with my old buddies, many of whom remain among my most cherished friends today. Wayne went on in the public schools, where I lost track of him. I've heard rumors about him from time to time since then - he was in trouble for this or that, maybe he'd done time. I don't really know for sure. If you do a Google search on his name, it appears that he has a Facebook page, so I could probably find out more if I was really inclined. Don't know if I will. Maybe someday.
It was a lot of fun to hang with Wayne. He was very funny and had a quick, nasty wit. He always seemed to know a lot of stuff that the rest of us didn't, especially about some of the darker corners of the adult world we saw ahead. Wayne was the one who was talking about girls before the rest of us understood why girls were worth talking about. He always knew where to find the dirty magazines that the older kids had discarded. He had the best stamp collection, the best comic book collection, the best beer can collection. His parents were wealthy and saw to it that Wayne had all those things.
But there was always something missing. My dad took a strong dislike to Wayne. He sensed from the get-go that this was a troubled kid and, after awhile, Dad pretty much banned Wayne from coming over. He told me more than once, "when you're older you'll understand why I don't like this kid." And, sure enough, I do understand it now.
My son is about the same age now that I was when I was hanging around with Wayne. My son doesn't have any friends like Wayne - the kids he spends time with are, almost uniformly, nice young men who are either teammates on sports teams or fellow Boy Scouts or both. I really don't worry that much about the kids Ben hangs out with. But sometimes I wonder if it he's missing out on something. My generation spends a lot of time and energy shielding our offspring from things that are even theoretically harmful. And I wonder sometimes about that. Does hanging around with a ne'er do well like my friend Wayne help you later on, in the same way that a neutralized virus can serve as a vaccine against greater maladies?