Surfin’ USA

A pretty day like this, oh boy.  I can’t stay home.  Let’s go to the beach.

Everybody’s gone surfing.  It seems like I’m missing something in my life these days.  I remember when I tried to plan my nights just so that I could be near the beach when the sun came up.

Grape surfboard wax for breakfast,  Kinda chewy, great flavor but it sure was yucky going down.

Oh to be the first one in the water every morning.  Kinda scary at first, thinking about sharks and what ever mysteries lie beneath the cold dark waters.  Seeing the sun break over the horizon chased my fears away as I turned to look for my brother, not far behind.

Safety in numbers is what they say.  At least it made you feel more at ease to see some one else just as foolish as you are, out there taking big chances just for the thrill of a lifetime.

No big deal if you didn’t catch that first wave, there will be another along any minute.  Just watch the sets, coming in groups of three or more.  The larger swells catching my attention, watching the wind hold them up for a second as they broke into a large crest.

The onlookers would gather on the beach, filling in the vacant spots as they lined up facing the surf.  Time to put on a show.  The glassy waves, like a marching band kept coming one row after another.  Tiny droplets of salt water, turning to mist on the fringe of the breaking waves.

This was the life.  My first board was an eight foot, 10 inch Glory.  It wasn’t long before I bought a 7 foot Silver Bullet.  When the twin fins came out, I got a five foot, 10 inch Hobie and my brother a five foot Califano.

The North Jetties and Jacksonville Beach didn’t always have the best breaking waves.  We heard that you had to go down to Cocoa Beach to be part of the real beach action.  Seeing our acquaintances from the North Jetties didn’t benefit us much, they acted as if they were ashamed to be seen with us.  We stopped at Ron Jon’s Surf Shop for a T shirt and some board wax and a couple of stickers, for souvenirs.  That was all we could afford.

The Pier, the pier.  Everyone said you had to shoot the pier at Cocoa Beach.  They didn’t say anything about the hundreds of local surfers with attitudes there ahead of you or the barnacles growing on the multiple pilings holding up the pier.  Our first attempts were amateurish at best, but after watching the locals time their approach with the incoming waves, we got the hang of it.  How cool was this.

A hundred miles might seem like a long ways off just to go catch a wave. No step for a stepper.  Then we heard on the radio about the Red Tide they were having Tampa.  Red Tide, We ain’t never seen no Red Tide before.  It sounded like fun and we were off.  Drove all night so we could be the first ones on the beach.

When we got there, we found out that the red tide was algae floating in the water killing the fish.  We never saw a single wave.  So much for surfing the west coast of Florida.

Dad had an old Corvair van that he let us use to go to the beach.  It was our first surfing buggy.  You could sleep inside, out of the cold.  Never did figure out just how all those sand gnats found their way inside.  We carried an old tire or two with us for a bonfire.  Set ablaze, they were good to chase off the screaming mee-mees.

The guys in the other groups didn’t really hang out with us much.  The ones with the high dollar boards, name brand swim suits and mom and daddy’s credit card.  We would flatter ourselves and tell each other that we were just as good.  Some times if they needed something, they would let us hang out around the bon fire.  That’s how we heard about Cape Hatteras, in North Carolina.

Soon we were drooling at the mouth every time some one mentioned the Outer Banks.  Visions of glassy six foot waves crashing near the beach filled our heads.  It wasn’t long after we heard the other surfer groups talking about a hurricane hundreds of miles off in the Atlantic that we started making plans to go join them.

My brother and I mowed yards, collected drink bottles, dug fishing worms for sale and even done some babysitting, just so we could raise the money for an epic surfing trip.  It wasn’t long before we were ready and set off on our trip.  I cashed in my saving bonds and took the money I had been saving for my class ring.

Dad believed our story about needing the van to go camping for a few days.  We got a Rand McNally, loaded up some blankets and a sack of apples, then we were off for an adventure.

We arrived in Cape Hatteras about midnight.  I can remember listening to the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean on the eight track all the way there.  We were pumped up.  Driving across the causeway to the Outer Banks we thought we recognized a couple hippie vans from Jax. that belonged to some of our so called friends.

Their vans were parked in front of a condo, facing the ocean.  We were so excited just to be there, that we couldn’t decide what to do first, cruise the beach and check out the waves or go knock on some doors to find our friends.

Our decision was made for us when we saw a couple of familiar faces in the parking lot near the condos.  They soon let us know that there wasn’t any room for us to stay with them.  At first we were welcomed with open arms.  When we told them we didn’t have any pot, they said they were over crowded.  That didn’t make us or break us.  We were there to surf and that’s what we did.

Local yokels didn’t create much of a problem, they were nice and friendly.  No, the worst thing we faced that day was the strong undertow.  It seemed that most of the license plates were from out of state.  We just parked as close as we could to where all the other vehicles were gathered, in front of the waves breaking the best.

Scared at the size of the waves at first, we just shrugged our shoulders, deciding that we didn’t come all this way just to watch.  It wasn’t long before we were right in there amongst them.  The other guys made way for us, reluctantly at first but we caught our share of waves and wipe outs creating our own space.  As the morning wore on we tired, getting hungry, thinking about that bag of apples back in the van.

The other vehicles that had parked near the van had vanished. Our old yellow and green van sticking out from the landscape like a sore thumb.  There was nothing surrounding the old Corvair but a few small sand dunes.  Approaching from the rear we noticed that the back door was ajar.

I didn’t bother to lock the van.  We didn’t have much to steal and the van was in plain sight of the ocean.  If only we had been smart enough to keep an eye on it.  Looking inside the van I saw three dudes sprawled out asleep. Apple cores laying everywhere.  Two of the guys were our friends from Jacksonville.  They had taken my 8 track out of the dash and found our stash of Acapulco Gold.  It wasn’t much, we were saving it to smoke at the August Jam in Charleston on the way home.

Jimmy Powell was a runt. A little guy.  He could stand on a surfboard floating in flat water.  He was passed out.  His two companions were in about the same condition.  They were gonna steal my tape deck and found the pot.  They must have smoked the joint we had rolled up, ate most of our apples and passed out.  Jimmy awoke with a start, trying to flee but we stopped him.  I was ready to clean his clock but he was so much smaller than me that I couldn’t hit him.  I had a handful of ponytail twisted in my grip and wasn’t letting go.

He said, “Hey, you guys wanna take a shower? C’mon let’s go to my place and you can shower up there.”  Aw, we weren’t mad, just tired. I still had my tape player and most of the pot.  A shower right now would sure hit the spot.  It was kinda like beating up your best friend’s little brother, no joy in that.

After a long overdue shower and a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Gary and I got back in our van and started cruising up and down the beach looking for beach bunnies.

We had made it to Hatteras, surfed with the best, caught plenty of waves.  We decided that we didn’t need those guys after all.  We had two tickets to go see Pearl Jam the next day, a half a bucket of fried chicken, a couple of fresh apples and about a dime sack of Acapulco Gold.

It’s been 40 years since I surfed. Yeah, I miss the action, the thrill of catching an enormous wave and riding it out.  There are worse things than having tanned skin and sun bleached hair.  The things I don’t miss though are the sand gnats, getting stuck in the sand and eating a bar of grape wax for breakfast.  If any one runs into Jimmy Powell, tell him I still owe him.

Write on Time

Donaldo at the Gate (B)

I start this story with tongue in cheek, as if my dreams would allow me to do so, differently.

Charlemagne the Great  united most of Europe in the late 700’s under the banner of Christianity.  He conquered Europe and then freed the Iberian peninsula, establishing the Carolingian Dynasty.  He defeated the Muslims and drove the Saracens out of Spain,  back into the African continent.  He united the Christian faith.  His efforts were rewarded by Pope Leo III when he was crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

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Charles Martel, also known as “Charles the Hammer was Charlemagne’s father started seizing power in the early 700’s.  Establishing  the Carolingian Dynasty.  Expanding the empire under the cloak of Christianity and the rule of law.

At that time in France, there were two factions.  The “Doons” side of the nobility wanted to be close enough to Charlemagne to keep a watchful eye, to share in the benefits and to take advantage of his mistakes.  They probably should have been the rightful rulers of France but their petty jealousy and conniving ways deprived them of the chance.  The other faction  of nobles supported the great emperor through thick and thin, without a shade of doubt, with no thoughts of selfish gain but filled with self-sacrifice.

Nobility and chivalry controlled the wave of popularism throughout the kingdom.  The jealous factions of the nobility wanted to be close to Charlemagne in able to seize power should the opportunity arise.  He gave them fiefdoms to insure their support.  He kept them close to him to control their selfish behaviors.

From the other faction, the most loyal and trustworthy of his knights, the great Charlemagne bestowed titles and privileges to show his appreciation.  He placed these men in key positions around his kingdom to safeguard his position.  One of these knights was his nephew, Roland or Rolando.   Known for his great strength, stubbornness and sense of humor.  As prefect to Breton, his job was to protect the border.

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Charlemagne endured many campaigns, one to Zaragoza the last city in Spain that  under Muslim conquest. The emperor and his troops surrounded the city, placed it under siege.  The Muslim King Marsile, not knowing when help would arrive from Africa sent emissaries to Charlemagne to seek a peaceful solution.  He promised to convert to Christianity and pay homage to the great king of France.  Charlemagne sought the counsel of his knights and agreed to the king’s terms.  He left Rolando who was know for his great strength and courage in charge of the rear guard, to protect his flank on the return trip through the narrow passes of the Great Pyrenees Mountains.

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Rolando was a devout supporter of his uncle, the king.  His bravery was unsurpassed and unquestioned.  He left his stepfather Count Ganelson as an ambassador to the Muslim king and took several Muslim hostages to ensure his safety.  This measure did not please Rolando’ vindictive stepfather.  He thought that he was being left behind as a sacrificial lamb.  Ganelson was part of the nobilty of France that wanted to see Charlemagne fail, so that they could take advantage of his demise and seize territory.

Count Ganelson conceived a plan of treachery.  He knew of a weak spot in the trail through the mountains and he shared it with the Muslim King.   King Marsile feeling remorse from his treaty with Charlemagne, had received word that reinforcements from the Africa continent would soon arrive.  He agreed to the step father’s plan and set out to harass the vanguard of Charlemagne’s troops, led by Charlemagne’s protector, Rolando.

There were several narrow passes in Basque territory on the return route to France, weaving through the Pyrenees that allowed only single file progression.  The stepfather knew of these passes and there, he concentrated the Muslim kings’ forces to harass and destroy his countrymen.

One such place was a long narrow bridge at Roncevauex Pass.  When I squench my eyes and look into the sun, I can see this place.  Built of stone, now crumbling with age, it was only wide enough in places to allow single passage.  High in the mountains, this bridge spanned a deep gorge.  This is the spot where Rolando chose to defend the king with his life and honor.

Rolando was accompanied by his best friend Oliver, a regal knight in his own right, best known for his intelligence as well as valor.  In some cases Oliver would duel with Rolando to prove his point and to show his own strengths.  Oliver often gave counsel of sound reasoning to Rolando, who on this occasion chose not to listen.

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Rolando was in possession of three great icons of immortality.  His great war horse Bayard, said to have been given to him by a magician, could understand human speech, could break rocks with his mighty hooves and said to have been able to adapt his size to any weight he had to carry.………, his mighty sword, “Durendal,” given to him by Charlemagne himself, legend to be the strongest and sharpest blade in the world…, and Oliphant, his legendary horn was made from elephant tusks..

During the fight, known historically as “The Battle of Roncevaux Pass,” Oliver kept trying to persuade Rolando to blow the great horn to summon Charlemagne’s troops to their rescue.  Believing in his own strength and capabilities, Rolando stubbornly refused.  To call for help in the middle of battle, was to him an act of cowardice.  He chose the site of the bridge to make his stand, allowing the last of his troops to pass. He dropped the visor on the helmet of his armor as he turned to face his enemies then lowered his lance.  Standing guard to protect the pass from the invaders.

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The first conflicts started in the late morning, as the sun was rising up the mountain slopes.  One by one the Muslim warriors were slain, yet they kept coming still, even as the sun rose high in the sky.  The dead and dying began to pile up on the bridge, so high that they couldn’t be by passed or climbed over.  Their bodies were thrown over the sides of the bridge to create room for further passage.

The great knight Rolando kept using his lance and legendary sword to maintain his position throughout the day, even as the numbers of the dead rose to a hundred or more.  Oliver with a sense of urgency kept pleading between breaths with Rolando’s vanity to use his great horn  “Oliphant,” to summon help before all was lost.

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Rolando tiring in the afternoon sun, finally gave in and used his famous horn made from the tusk of an elephant.  The great horn could be heard reverberating throughout the mountains and valleys for miles and miles.  It is said that he blew his horn so loud that his temples burst.  Rolando’s heroics gave his troops time to reach safer positions where they could defend themselves until reinforcements arrived, but the sound of the horn also gave urgency to the efforts of the Muslim troops.   Their huge numbers finally overcame the Emperor’s vanguard as the sun was setting in the west.

How many Muslims were slain by Rolando in the Battle of Ronceveaux Pass is still argued to this day.  Some say hundreds, while others say thousands, or more.  When helped finally arrived, Rolando’s body was riddled with wounds, his armor smashed.  It is said that before he died, he threw his great sword over the side of the bridge and into the gorge.  Where it is reported to be to this day,  on the side of the ravine, stuck in stone.

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When Charlemagne and his troops finally arrived they routed the Muslim troops, chased them back to Zaragoza, where he again laid siege.  This time he defeated the king and his reinforcements, taking Rolando’s stepfather prisoner, returning him to France to face trial.

Back in France, Rolando’s Count Ganelson pled his case not as treason but as an act of revenge. There he was surrounded by the prestige of his own royal family, but to no avail.  He was found guilty of treason as charged.  Under Charlemagne’s order’s his limbs were attached to four horses and pulled apart, each horse driven in different directions throughout the kingdom as a warning to others.

The Muslims had been occupying the Iberian peninsula since the fall of the Roman Empire, about 300 years.  The people of Spain, originally were the Visgoths.  Blonde and blue eyed.  The last Visigoth Queen married a Muslim King and after several centuries of Moorish occupation and breeding with the Saracens, their offspring became dark skinned and brown eyed, to this day they share the same DNA as their Moorish suppressors.

In my dreams, I can see Rolando in his suit of armor fending off one attacker after another.  His face though is the face of our great president, Donald Trump.  Who also followed in his father’s footsteps.  It is no great stretch of the imagination to compare the two.  Donaldo as our president is fighting the Muslim invaders yet and their cousins, their Hispanic offspring from their attempts to take over our country.

Donald Trump is the prefect of our American borders, guarding against invasion by the Muslims and their cousins the Hispanics from Central America.  He listens to advice from his friend Oliver Stone, but his strength is holding his own counsel.  He fights back.  “Quid pro quo.”  Why trade a Roland for an Oliver?”

He’s got our back.  He is defending Christianity.   He is riding his mighty steed; yes his popularity with the American people is his Bayard.  His mighty sword Durendal, is our Constitution and his Oliphant is twitter and he blows his own horn.  Let’s hope that our great Constitution doesn’t get thrown off the cliff.  We have Donaldo at the Gate.

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Plato, Socrates and Marcus Aurelius.

As a kid growing up in Guantanamo, I always wanted to be a baseball player when I grew up.  My brother, my friends and I played baseball all year round.  The equipment we used were the cast offs the grown ups discarded.  In those days, on the naval base, the only sporting goods shop, just sold golf equipment and tennis racquets.

I still aspired to be a ball player when we moved back to the states in ’64.  My goals hadn’t changed, but the neighborhood we lived in was rural.  Organized baseball for kids was in the distant future.  I walked around with an old glove, tossing the ball in the air.  I would go to a cow pasture and toss a baseball in the air and see how far I could slug it, chase it down, then toss in the air again and hit back.

I started the 7th grade at Paxon Jr. in ’65.  That’s when my goals started to change.  I listened to the Beach Boys on the Radio and Jan and Dean.  “Let’s go surfing now, everybody’s surfing now, com’n and go with me.”  The surf and the beach were just as distant as the ball diamonds in my far off dreams but the radio was just on the outer side of my ear.  For my 13th birthday, My Aunt Alice bought tickets for her daughters and I to go see the Beach Boys in concert at the coliseum.  That was my initiation into the real world.

The fashion craze at school was to wear “Surf Shirts.”  The stores didn’t really carry them, it was just a fad.  If I wanted to wear a surf shirt, I needed to get someone to make me one.  I did buy one from a friend at school then took it to my granny, who after some prodding agreed to try to sew one together for me.  Soon, I had 4 or 5 shirts.  Being cool at school wasn’t all that easy, but I did my best.

At 14, the beach was still a fair distance and I was years away from a drivers license.  I wore my bangs down across my eyes in an attempt to emulate my idols, the Beach Boys.  I made my own surf skate.  Later, they started calling them skateboards.  It was a crude contraption but I didn’t care.  I ruined a pair of skates to build it, driving nails half way into a two by six and then bending them over to hold the skate in place.   Every where I went I carried my skate board with me.  I was either on it or had it under my arm.

When I turned 15, with the help of a restricted license, I was driving.  I bought an 8 track and several tapes of the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean.  I made several trips to Jacksonville Beach where you could rent a motorcycle or a surfboard.  During warm weather I would skip school on Fridays with my friends.  We would ride the city bus to the beach, spend the day having a great time and wonder on the way home how we were going to explain our sunburns to our parents.

My surfing skills mostly consisted of paddling around on one of the huge surfboards that were available at the rental store.  The waves weren’t that big, so most of the time I spent paddling out past the breakers, then swimming back to the beach to retrieve my board when I fell off the side.

One day near the house I was swimming in the creek.  I tried a back flip out of the top of a tree over hanging the water.  When I jumped backwards, the branch sprung up and punched me in the back.  The pain was so intense that I almost blacked out.  The current was pushing me upstream with the tide, agonizing I grabbed a rope hanging from the tree and held on while my brother Gary went to get help.  It seemed like forever but he came back with my Dad and his friend.  They waded into the water to rescue me.

I was paralyzed from the middle of my back down.  I could move my upper body but not my legs.  The navy Hospital took some Xrays and told my Dad that it may not be permanent.  Time will tell.

Recuperating, I spent the summer on the front porch laying in a lounge chair, reading all the books my Dad could carry.  To escape my misery, Dad started bring some books home from the library at Cecil Field.  I  dove completely into the books Dad brought home.  These were books that interested him when he was a kid. Three to five hundred pages a day.  Most of the books were either about adventure or baseball players and their biographies.  People like Ty Cobb, Jim Thorpe, Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, Phil Rizzuto and the Mick.  I guess my Dad’s thinking was to get me motivated enough to get out of that chair.  It worked.  It took me about 3 months on the sly, to get to where I could walk baby steps.

Supposedly, to fill in a low spot, in front of the house, Dad ordered a load of sand.  Right where I could see it.  When he came home from work, he would stand in the middle of the pile and start spreading dirt.  Tossing it left and right. He was tossing  sand in low spots of the yard.  Dad smoked a lot, so after 30 minutes he was done, but he would leave the shovel leaning up against the house, just out of reach from my chair.

The next day, while Dad was at work, I started my own therapy sessions.  I would reach and crawl to the shovel, pull myself up into a standing position.  Using the shovel to lean on, I would twist my body left and right, making baby steps.  Back and forth until I got to the pile of sand.  Once I got to the sand I used my arms and the shovel to pile sand around my feet so that I wouldn’t fall.  Then I started spreading the sand, one small shovel full at a time.  Left and right.

I made sure that I returned to my seat in the lounge chair before dad got home.  It was agonizing, both the shoveling and the trips back and forth.  You know what they say, “No pain, no gain.”  Each day was slightly easier than the last.

The day before school was supposed to start back up for the new year, I had a piece of a stride.  Not much of one, but I could make baby steps.  Five or six together before I had to brace myself.  After reading those sports biographies all summer, I wanted to play football.  Jim Thorpe won the Olympics in a pair of shoes he found in the trash.  In normal conditions, I think I would have made the team and been a pretty good player.  In my present condition, to most people it would have been a joke.

I made it through the school days, in between periods, changing classes early.  Leaning on lockers for moral support.  I was determined that I was going to be back to normal.  I was in a hurry and was too impatient for Mother Nature to take it’s course.

Have you ever heard the expression, “Suck it up?”  That’s just what I did.  I didn’t mention football to my Dad.  He would have squashed that idea.  I didn’t tell the coach about my back.  Fearful that he would send me home if I told him about my back.  Plus, I wasn’t looking for sympathy, I just wanted a chance to make the team.  I just got in line with everybody else and tried to do the things I was told to do.  He put us through the paces.  Before my injury, I was probably one the fastest runners in school.  Just knowing that gave me a sense of pride.  I didn’t want to be beat.  Sure I hurt, I hurt like hell.  Funny thing about pain is, your ego can overcome it.  After while pain becomes an old friend.   Remember Glen Cunningham?  The first man to break the four minute mile.  He burned three of his toes on his left foot in a house fire.  Trying too hide the fact that I could barely walk I hid in the crowd.  When the coach blew the whistle and told us to line up for wind sprints though, I got up front.  No matter what it took or how much I hurt, I wouldn’t let anyone get in front of me. I don’t want to remember how much it hurt.  All I could think about was left, right, left right.  I did my best to match every challenger step for step.  If someone surged past me, it was only for a step or two. After a hundred yards we would get  a 60 second breather then the coach would blow his whistle and tell us to line up again.  It was murder, pure murder.  Still the guys that were trying to beat me could tell I was hurting and figured they would take me this time.  It never happened.

After the wind sprints, were the “Jericho Rolls.”  A group of guys would stand in a circle, when the coach blew his whistle we would get in a prone position and dive over the guy next to us, while he rolled under.  More agony.  The pain was so intense.  I kept telling myself I was stupid but I didn’t want to see any smirks on the faces of my competitors, even if I was clumsy and slow.  The coach kept telling me to get with it.  I don’t think I looked that athletic at the time.  I needed a minute to be able to regain my feet.

I guess one of my motivating factors is the coach had just married my English teacher.  The one that kept telling me that I had promise as a writer, to stay with it, to apply myself.  I had a teenage crush on my teacher and she showed me favor.  Now this son of bitch was her husband and he made me pay dearly.  The drills helped me though in the long run.  The muscles in my back seemed to respond to the rigorous training, painful as it was.

My Dad had been transferred to Viet Nam for a year.  It was just me and my brothers to help Mom with our trailer park.  My goal was to make the team.  When the coach posted the names of the guys that had made the grade, my name was on the list.  The last one.  I did it, the try outs were the longest two weeks of my young life.  I was still hurting, having problems moving my lower body without pain but I was able to carry myself so that if you didn’t know, it didn’t show.  My Mom was in an accident soon after.  Taking care of Mom, meant, no football. If the truth be known, I was happy just to make the team.

Dad must have known what he was doing when he ordered that load of sand.  I bet he carefully selected every book he brought home from the library.  Dizzy Dean, couldn’t read or write.  His grammar was terrible yet he made a second career out broadcasting, after his pitching days were over.

Baseball wasn’t in the cards for me, ever.  Too short and injury prone, I’m no Pee Wee Reese.  Surfing didn’t show up on my horizons either.  The closest I got to Corky Carrol was watching his Dad, James Arness on TV.  No man, I was duck footed.  Not overly fond of shoveling dirt, what I remember most about my convalescing period is what I gleaned from those books.  When Dad started bringing home biographies of Plato, Socrates and Marcus Aurelius, I knew it was time to let him know that I was gonna be alright.  If I ever see Ms. Starnes again, I just want to let her know that I am still trying to apply myself.

 

 

Archeology (The study of people from Arkansas)

When my brother and his friend Arnie Fields were looking for a place in the center of the United States to build “a home 20,” a secluded place, sparsely populated, also a centralized location to rest up in, when we took a break from selling tools.  The beautiful Ozark Mountains offered just that.

I don’t remember if it was Arnie or Gary that first discovered this area, we lived in, around Hardy.  It was about an hour north of Jonesboro and 2 hours northeast of Little Rock.

Gary I think, because he was always reading ads in the paper where ever we went.  It’s easy to get bored when you spend most of your free time in motel rooms.   We were working Memphis at the time.  I think the ad read “40 acres, the top of three mountains and the two valleys in between, with a two bedroom house and a chicken coop. $8,000. Cash.”

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Gary told Arnie about it and when they went to check it out, Arnie bought it.  Gary didn’t have the necessary cash on him at the time.  After Arnie bought it, the neighbors all come up and said “Man I wished I’da knowed, I coulda gotchu a better deal than that.”

Couple of weeks later, when we were working in Kansas City, my brother met Ramona, she was a bar maid and when she saw us flashing rolls of hundred dollar bills, she loaded up when Gary told her to.  Gary fell in love.  He told me that he wanted to go to Hardy and see if he could find him a spot alongside of Arnie’s place.

Gary had about $3,000.  Not quite enough for what he had planned.  I gave him $2,500 more, plus he had a load of tools on his truck.

He and Rae set off to seek what they could find on their honeymoon.  That was the weekend I got sucker punched with a two by four, by some bikers when I went back to the same bar where Rae had worked, the night after they left.

When they got back, I was in bad shape.  I had lain in bed for three days, bleeding and I thought at the time, dying.  Rae had worked as an assistant in a Veterinarian clinic before and seemed to know what to do.  After she put my jaw back in socket, reduced the swelling in my eyes so that I could see and sewed me back up in the numerous places where I had been cut, including half of my tongue, she had a friend for life.

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They had taken their money and paid down on two places.  A mobile home in Cherokee Village, a world renown retirement Village in the Ozarks (Erik Estrada does their commercials) and a 40 acre parcel next to Arnie’s.  I think the payment for both places was under a hundred dollars a month, each.

Over the years we settled into the community, bit by bit.  We met the locals and got to know our way around.  Thing is, when you “ain’t from around here”, people always know it and no matter what, you are treated a little different.  Even so, we got to come and go, pretty much unnoticed, which is just what we wanted.

There weren’t any bars allowed in northern Arkansas ‘cept for the American Legion and you had to join the club, which we did and met some more of the local people.

Darrel owned the Texaco, we always needed repairs on our jack trucks,  he was a handy guy to know.  His son n law, Carl Wayne Henry later joined our crew and so did his other son n law, Allen White.  These guys married sisters but they didn’t seem to like each other much.  Allen was kinda quiet like and Wayne was more outgoing.  When Wayne wanted to marry Debbie, he told Darrel that he was 25.  Actually it was more like 40.  At the time, Debbie was 15.

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These two fellas traveled and sold tools with us for years.  Wayne was a pretty good jack man.  Allen, well Allen just proved the fact that anyone could do it, if they tried hard enough.  Back then, Allen would get in his truck and drive 300 miles in a day and just sell a hoist, if he sold a complete truck load, he would only get $2,500 when the average load brought 3 thousand to 35 hundred.

Then there was Dean Gann.  An Army Vet that served during the Viet Nam War.  Dean wore “camo’s” every day.  He was a woodsman.  He grew pot and searched for ginseng, a local commodity.  I stayed with him and his girl friend a few times in their A frame house tucked back in the woods.  I believe Dean had a “persecution” complex.  He was always looking over his shoulder and searching the skies for DEA planes.  He may have had a still.  If he did, he didn’t let on.  I did ride with him to Ash Flats to get a hundred pounds of sugar once, then over to Pocahontas to get a couple bags of corn.  Funny thing, he didn’t raise any livestock and when we drank coffee at his house, we used honey for sweetener.

When Dean asked me if I wanted to go with him to check his “crop.”  Bored out of my mind, I eagerly went with him.  We loaded up his canoe and his dogs, two well trained Doberman pincers with a radio transmitter collar.  When we got to the Spring River, we loaded up his canoe in the pre-dawn hours, paddled about three or four miles, when we came up on little pieces of green cloth, tied to the tree branches.

At these locations Dean would let his dog out to go ahead and search the area.  He had a hand held radio that he would whisper commands to them, soon the dogs would return if the coast was clear.  Dean would get a few plastic milk jugs, fill them with water and add some “Miracle Grow.”  He held his bow ready at all times.  We would traipse through the woods until we came up on his pot plants.  He would spend a few minutes breaking off the sucker leaves, energizing his plants with the miracle grow.  Then before we left, he would hang fish hooks from the tree branches on monofilament fishing like, almost invisible to the naked eye, then brush out our tracks with a tree branch always departing a different way than we came so as not to make a trail.  With Dean, everything was clandestine, always.

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I saw him with a band aid over his eyebrow once and asked him if he walked into one of his traps.  He said, “Bo, that’s not from one of mine,” And let it drop.  I once asked him what would he do if he ran into a DEA  agent out in the woods?”  He said, “That’s why I always carry a shovel in the back of my truck.”  He was serious too.

Once when two strangers came into the American Legion while we were shooting pool, Dean slipped out and put a radio transmitter under their truck, so he could keep track of them.  We followed those suckers for two days, they said they were ginseng buyers from back east.  If so, they went home empty handed.  They stayed at the Dew Drop Inn, where Dean’s sister worked, the day they checked out he had her recover his transmitter.

Drinking beer at the American Legion was about the only form of  organized adult entertainment.  The main problem with that is the beer sold in Arkansas was only 3.5 percent alcohol.  You had to drink a gallon to get a buzz.  Then you spent the rest of the night taking one pee after another.

Mammoth Springs, Missouri was only 17 miles north.  You could get 6 % beer there.  It was the real thing.  The problem with that is, if you had Arkansas plates, coming south from Missouri, you were probably gonna get stopped by the Arkansas State Police within a few miles after crossing the line.  I come up with an idea to build a plywood tool box for the back of my truck with a false bottom.  I could carry 3 cases of beer, sight unseen.

I got a warm reception at every bonfire party I went to.  That’s how I met Lisa.

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There were 11 Sullivan sisters.  I think her parents must have been Catholics.  All of these gals were pretty blondes, very pretty blondes, well endowed, with just a touch of an overbite.  Standing around a bonfire one night with a bunch of folks we got to talking about the Arkansas Razorbacks.  The year before they had won the National Championship under Lou Holtz.  They got to talking about Saturdays game against Navy and I overheard Lisa say, “I’d give my left nut to go see that game.”

She got my attention then.  Most of the gals I had met in Sharpe County Arkansas either chewed tobacco or dipped snuff.  Not Lisa, she was beautiful, especially in the moonlight standing front of the fire.

I told her that I had two tickets to the game, I asked her if she wanted to go.  Boy them was the magic words.  She wanted to leave right then.  First she had to go put on her high school cheerleader outfit, red and white, same colors as the Razorbacks.   The home games were either in Fayetteville or Little Rock, this week end it was Little Rock about two hours away.

All the way to Little Rock all she could talk about was how much she’s been wanting to go see this game.   She sat next time me the entire trip, squeezing my leg, kissing me on the cheek.  She had told her mom and her sisters, “don’t wait up for me, I may not be back for a few days.”

Well, anybody that knows me, knows I didn’t have no tickets for no durn college football game.  I just figured that when we got there I’d buy a couple of tickets, we’d win and I would score.  Touchdown, that easy.  Well it weren’t.

All home games in Arkansas, no matter if it’s in Fayetteville or Little Rock are sold out in advance, years in advance.  When Lisa saw me scrambling to get tickets for the game she went off, boy what a temper.  “You mean to tell me after I told my family and friends that you was taking me to the game, that you don’t even have tickets?  Don’t you know how much this means to me?”  I’m thinking no big deal, lets get a room and we can watch it on TV.  “No way Jose.”  She wanted the real thing.  I left her at a sports bar and went in search of tickets from a scalper.  Finally I hooked up, I bought four tickets for 100 hundred apiece.  I know what you’re thinking, $400 is a lot of money for what I had in mind and I agree.  Even to me, I was making pretty good money back then, it was way too much.

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I found Lisa at the table where I left her, crying in her beer.  She had a crowd of guys swarming around her.  She was swatting bar flies.  She was mad, she was still mad even after I told her that I had gotten tickets to the game.  “How could you do this to me?  My make up is ruined.”  Poor baby, here I’ve spent and arm and a leg getting us here and buying us tickets to the game and she’s still singing the blues.

We got in line at the admission gate, standing there with hundreds maybe thousands of red and white clad adoring Razorback fans, shaking pom poms and waving pennants, every fanatic in the state seemed to be there.  I held up the two extra tickets in the air and started hollering “Tickets, who need tickets?”  I doubled my money on the tickets, so  more or less, we got in for free.

Arkansas beat Navy, the score was like 42 to nothing.  Lisa was hollering and cheering on my right side the whole game.  I acted like I could care less.  There were a couple of co-eds next to me on my left side.  They seemed to like me in my Tony Llamas and my new Stetson.  I bought them a few beers from the concessionaire and practically ignored Lisa the whole game.

The ride home was cold, cold, cold.  Lisa said “You could at least bought me a beer.”  I said “For what?  So you could throw it in my face?”  Her lip stuck out so far, it looked like she had a pinch of snuff in it.  Needless to say, nothing to brag about happened after that.  I did take her to a rodeo over in Raven’s Den, about a month later.  She told me that she had a thing for bull riders, if I wanted to enter I might get lucky.  Well, the $25 dollar entry fee was a whole lot cheaper than going to any damn football game just so I could score.  I jumped on it.  Hell, didn’t I ride the mechanical bull at Gilley’s and rode two half ass tamed ones at Billy Bob’s in Ft. Worth?  It can’t be that hard, can it?

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It was a pretty chilly late November night.  The arena was packed and well lit.  I had my favorite number (5) pinned to my back and after the draw, was to be the second rider to try his luck.  Luck hell, I had to be crazy.  The Brahma cross bull I climbed up on was a seasoned pro.  I can still see his steam like breath, blowing through his nostrils, in the frosty Autumn air.  I was still wrapping the rope around my gloved hand and wrist when they tighten the “cod strap” around his privates, to make him even more aggresive.  When they did this, he went hay wire.  We were still in the chute when he rose up on his back legs and crushed me, back up against the boards of the pen.  Ouch that hurt, he bit my knee too.   My eyes searched the crowd.  Every one was hollering and screaming,  I didn’t see a friendly face.  I decided there weren’t no gal on earth worth this crap, I tapped out.  I couldn’t go on, my back was hurt, it still is today.

Needless to say I didn’t impress Lisa on that night.

I saw her again during Indian Summer, a year later when I was diving off the Spring River Bridge near Hardy.  She saw me and asked if I was ready for the “perfect date.”  I was thinking it was about damn time.  I picked her up at her Mom’s.  We took two lawn chairs,  two bottles of chilled wine and a transistor radio.  We drove to a secluded spot along side the warm waters of the Spring River, where it weaves its way through the Ozark Mountains, then we walked down a path along side the river.  We walked out in knee deep water, set up the lawn chairs just above a little waterfall.  We drank our wine in the moonlight and listen to the game on the radio.gf1

She was right, it was the perfect date, almost.  The Gators skunked Arkansas.  I am a Gator fan, always will be.  She looked upset that the Razorbacks got beat by Florida.  She sure looked cute in the moonlight though, the way she had her bottom lip sticking out, pouting.  I grabbed her with both arms pulling her close, bending over in the moonlight to kiss her, that is until I discovered that her mouth was full of snuff.

I think about Lisa every now and then and I wonder to myself, “That was a long walk home in the dark, I hope she made it alright.”

mike900

Kittykism 666

No, I don’t know where to start and I be damn if I know where this will end.  Let me write down what I can remember before I forget.

After a hard day’s work, I lay down to take a snooze.  We were at her Mom and Daddy’s house.  I guess I should say her Daddy’s house.  They wanted us all to live there.  Me, Kay, her kids and her two brothers.

I had my own house.  It was good enough for me but I didn’t have the giant screen TV, the microwave oven or the extra large living room.  Bowing in to pressure from her Dad, we spent more time there than we did at my house.

This wasn’t my first time around.  We had been married and divorced twice. A glutton for punishment is what I am, I guess.

Her argument to me was that her Daddy was getting old.  She wanted to be there for him and reminisce about the good old days.  Only now instead of sitting in daddy’s lap, she sat in the recliner next to him.

Did I say getting old?  It seems like every time he started having health problems he would go to the hospice or nursing home for a brief stay, then return home rejuvenated, looking years younger.

Dewitt had grown up around my Mom’s kin people in South Georgia.  He had been best man at my Aunt Alice’s wedding to Uncle John.  His sister Doris had been present when my Uncle Roy supposedly killed himself.  She was the only witness.

The first time we were married was a brief exercise in futility.  She wasn’t ready to leave home and didn’t want to endure the struggles of domestic life.  We divorced after six weeks.

Eleven years later, the spark was relit. More her doing than mine.  We tried it again.  After a year, basically the same results.  Even back then, she wanted to spend more time at her parents than she did with me.  It was like the Hotel California.  You could check out anytime you want but you can never leave.

Back to the present.  Her Daddy, Dewitt had just paid another visit to the nursing home.  He was back now, some what refreshed but still peaked.  I always thought it strange that even at his advanced age, he had a full head of salt and pepper colored hair and long bushy eyebrows.  At times, he could be an imposing figure.  I never knew what to expect from him.

As long as I went along with the family agenda and did as I was told, everything was alright.  He owned a contracting business.  I didn’t want to be involved but didn’t have much choice.  He needed someone he could trust and his sons weren’t that type.  One was lazy and one was as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.

Most work days started out very early, around 5 AM.  Today had been no different.  After 10 hours in the hot sun, doing my duty, making sure that the job site was left clean, the tools brought home and the trucks unloaded,  I was bushed.  No, the “bear” didn’t get me that day, but he tried.

I was exhausted,.  I needed this nap.  In the brief period between sleep and consciousness, I became aware that the house was full of people, mulling around.  Someone kept peeking through the door to see if I was still asleep.  That bothered me.  What in the hell did they want to bother me for?  I earned my nap.

I heard strange voices and through a crack in the curtains saw that the yard was full of vehicles.  I shook it off and tried to regain my slumber but to no avail.  I got up shaking my head trying to rid myself of the cobwebs.

As I entered the family room, I could see DeWitt being put on a gurney.  He was laughing and talking,  he even gave me a wave.  Some of the people looked like EMTs and some looked like family friends, yet there were others that I didn’t recognize.

My entrance seemed to garner attention.  I was aware of a group of people closing in on me, like they wanted to engage me in conversation or possibly to keep me from getting away.

The conversation started leaning towards me.  It was like I was being told what was expected from me, the things I had to do.  It was mandatory.  I wasn’t really given a choice.  They wanted me to give up my life to join theirs, without really telling me what theirs was all about.  Sight unseen.

Feeling a little uncomfortable I followed the gurney out of the room as Kay’s Daddy was put in an ambulance.  My followers didn’t leave me alone for a second.  They didn’t seem to hide the fact that I was trapped with no avenue for escape.  Casually I excuse myself back to the bedroom to change clothes.  When I did, I went to open the window for an exit.

A quick glance let me know they had expected me to do that.  I could see at least four men just outside the window, as if they were waiting for me.  Casually, I closed the window.  I wanted to lay back down.  Tired as I was, who could blame me.  I didn’t see Kay or her Mom but there were several women present that were guiding the efforts to coerce my involvement.

I reentered the large room, walking through the crowd as if there wasn’t anything amiss.  Before I could make it to the front door, I was accosted again.  This time by a friendly dark haired woman that seemed to know me.  She was friendly enough but the way she approached me, reminded me of a snake slithering up to its prey.

The dark haired woman who I’ll call Betty and I were joined by an older blond woman named Doris.  Doris was DeWitt’s sister.  The same one that witnessed my Uncle Roy’s death.  Feeling uncomfortable I tried to casually walk away, but that wasn’t going to happen.

There were at least two fairly large men behind me and a couple of more just outside our circle.  In my mind I started wondering what would be the best plan to get out of there.  I could hit one guy in the stomach or shove one guy into the other but that left at least 4 or 5 more that I couldn’t handle.

I decided to play along and be friendly.  “Hi, how are you?”  Just trying to lighten up the moment.  One of the guys next to me tried to be friendly.  I’ll call him Judas.  The other guy wanted to impress me that he was all muscle and an impenetrable force.

Aunt Doris was drinking a martini, with an olive and a toothpick sliding from side to side.  She set it down on the coffee table in front of me.  While Doris faced with me her fake smile, Betty came at me from the side and grabbed my arm and said, “C’mon, you don’t want to be difficult do you?”

I tried to turn away but there was Judas with his toothy smile, blocking the way.  While we were facing away from the others, Judas in a friendly way slipped me two pills.  One was gray and the other was white.  He told me that if my answer was yes to take the gray one and if it was no, take the other.

The answer to what, I wondered.  I didn’t have long to wait.  I was told by Aunt Doris that my religion had abandoned me, she added that religion was overrated anyway.  She wanted me to join their group and leave my old life behind.  It was a now or never proposition.  She said I would never want for anything, all I had to do was be a member of the group and do as I was told.

I laughed in her face and told her, ”That shouldn’t be too hard, that’s all I’ve been doing my whole life.”  Judas was still at my side, he said that if I agreed to be a part of the group, take the white pill,  If I didn’t, swallow the gray one.  The big guy was in front of me now.  I smiled at him and said, “Sure, no problem.”  Then I put the gray pill in my mouth, with my tongue I pushed it in the void where I had a tooth missing in the back of my mouth.  I opened my mouth to show that I swallowed it.  These seemed to ease the tensions somewhat.  Still there was enough electricity in the air to make the hairs on the back of my neck rise.

We left as a group in several cars, arriving shortly at the hospice where Kay’s Daddy had been admitted.  I say it was a hospice, it kinda looked like a nursing home.  Still surrounded by my body guards, we walked down the hall to Dewey’s room.  Wow, the room number was 666.  Now I get it, if there was any room for doubt before, there wasn’t now.

DeWitt was sitting up in bed, looking peaked.  I noticed that his bushy eyebrows seemed pointed upward on the ends in a way that I never noticed before.  He seemed glad to see me.  I felt like a sacrificial lamb or more like a goat tied to a stake during a lion hunt.  There was a tray of food on the table next to his bed.  I noticed that there was a small bowl of pudding.  Dewey saw my stare and said, “Go ahead and eat it, I’m not hungry.”

I grabbed the small bowl and put a spoonful of pudding to my mouth, as I was tasting the pudding, I spit the gray pill into the spoon and stirred the pudding as if I was mulling taking another bite.  I said, “This pudding doesn’t taste right to me, here taste it and see if it tastes strange to you.”  I gave the bowl of pudding to Judas and he eagerly devoured the contents, setting the bowl back on the table as he finished.  A few minutes later, after he set the bowl down, my new friend Judas started going berserk.  He frothed at the mouth, his face turned red and he bent over coughing.  I took advantage of the opportunity and grabbed him by the tie and swung him into the big man, still on my six.

During the melee, I stepped into the hallway.  There was an emergency exit door, less than 10 feet away.  I opened the door to freedom and heard the bells and whistles going off in my ear.  I could see that across the field from me was the real world.  Cars and trucks were just a 1,000 yards away.  In my younger days, I could make that run, no problem.  Now, I’m older and slower, smarter too.  I quickly thought that if I made the run, I wouldn’t be so far ahead of the pack that my escape was guaranteed and if I did get that far, what fool in his right mind would stop to help someone being chased from a nursing home.

I stopped and turned around laughing in their face.  Wait a minute, I’m in control here.  If I wasn’t, they would have already taken me out.  “I bet y’all thought I was gonna run didn’t you?  Well I’m not.”

Aunt Doris had another cocktail in her hand.  I took it from her pretending to take a sip and when I did, I put the white pill in the mix.  I threw the drink in her face and when I did, she started screaming, her face dissolving like the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz.  Her screams penetrated my consciousness.  I looked up with a start and realized I was still in bed sleeping back at the house.  Only this time I had two solid white kittens with blue eyes on either side of me.  I didn’t have any white kittens, where did these guys come from?

I woke with a start, thinking how lucky I was to escape that mess.  These kittens must be angels sent from God to protect me from my dreams.  That was a close one.  I wondered what would have happened if I had given in.  Was I suppose to be a soul for DeWitt to steal for prolong rejuvenation?

I reached over and gave the two kittens a head rub and said to myself, “I got to know.  I laid back down and turned the pillow over.  I told myself I’m going back.  I got to see the end of this and soon, nodded off to zzzzzleep.

Corona Stories, Day 45

Getting off the school bus, I knew something was wrong.  An EMT ambulance was parked at our front door.  It’s lights were flashing.

Oh no, I thought.  It’s Mom. Her time has come.

My Mom use to entertain herself and as always try to teach me my numbers. Add subtract, multiply, divide.  She would tell me that math was my friend, if I just learn how to use it.

Washing dishes as punishment for my misdeeds, she would take the time to supervise and go over my homework, while I did the dishes.  How much is 7 times 7? Or how many half’s does it take to make a whole.  That kind of stuff.

Her favorite pastime, was picking the dogs.  The greyhounds came to Jax in season.  Either at Orange Park or at the track on McDuff.  She had a system.  She didn’t always bet or go to the track but using her system, we would make picks almost everyday.

I would ride my bike from Dunn Ave. to Soutel.  Dean’s Open Air Market on Soutel and US 1, sold dog books.  Mom would give me two dollars.  I would buy her a dog book and spend the change on a strawberry Nehi or a couple of bananas, that were hanging on display.

When I got home with the dog book, she and I would get the sports page from the morning paper and the sport’s page from the Jacksonville Journal that came out about 3 o’clock.

Mom would tell me to write down notes as she graded the dogs. 1 through 8, each race.  Ten races all told.  First she would have me write down each dogs starting position, 1 through 8.  Then she would call out to me the favorite picks from the paper. 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

I would give each pick a mark.  The morning paper and the evening paper didn’t always match.  Sometimes the favorite in the dog book didn’t match either.  Then Mom would start reading the stats.  She would say stuff like, “This dog is a breaker, every race he’s run in, he either broke out of the box first or second, and he’s on the inside, coming out of box number two.  Give this dog a mark.”

Then she would look at their weight.  If it was a heavy dog on the inside, it got a mark.  The dogs with the fastest times in their previous races, also got a mark.  She would measure their fastest times to the track record, anything close, got a mark.

Heritage meant something too.  The dogs lineage would show up in the dog book.  If it was any kin to Big Jim Fallon, it always got a mark.  Big Jim held the track record at McDuff and Orange Park.

There were more ways to get a mark than I can remember but those are some of them.  At the end of it all, we would add up the marks.  The top three dogs with the highest marks were her picks.  Mom would write the numbers on the chalkboard in the kitchen. 1, 3, 5 or 2, 6, 8.  Not always but a lot of times, the sequence mattered to her.  She would pick a 1-3-5 or 1-8 because those numbers came in a lot.

A two dollar quinela ticket didn’t have to be in order to win.  That was a trifecta, they cost 3 dollars.  If she was sure of a certain dog, she would place a bet on that dog with every other dog in the race, a “wheel,” 16 dollars.

Mom wasn’t shy once she made her picks.  She only went to the track if she was positive she had a winner.  If she had that “feeling,” she would place multiple bets on the same combo.

She always had to be there for the first race and place as many bets on that race as she had money to buy.  If she came home early, it meant she guessed wrong.  If she was right though, she would  trade those tickets in on the Daily Double.  You had to have winners in both races tn order to win but the payoff was huge.  The same thing with the “Big Q.”

My Dad was stationed in Viet Nam. Mom, my brothers and I would run the trailer park, while he was gone.  Mom would scrimp and save, forgo new dresses and pretty outfits so that she could accumulate enough money to go to the track. The trailer park was a little run down place that had room for expansion.  It was my parents retirement dream.

One night Mom hit it big.  Her system finally perfected, paid off. She had tickets on the Daily Double and the Big Q. Her brother,  my Uncle Ray was with her. Mom said he never had money to play the dogs but liked the entertainment.  He would tell me years later about the 1-3-5 photo finish, the excitement and anticipation because it looked like a 1-5-3 from start to finish but at the end, it turned out to be a 1-3-5. A big winner and Mom had several winning tickets.  I don’t remember the exact amount she won, it was over twenty thousand dollars.  I can just imagine the exhilaration she felt after cashing in those tickets.

After the race, Mom took Uncle Ray home first.  On the way back to our house, she had a blowout, hit a culvert and flipped the car several times on Old Kings Road.  She was hurt really bad.  Broken ribs, broken ankle in three places, broken hip and knee.  Then came the bad news.

The doctors discovered in surgery that Mom was in the beginning stages of bone cancer.  In those days there wasn’t any real cure.  She had it so bad that they had to amputate her good leg, the one she didn’t break.  The shock and trauma to us was so great that my brothers and I didn’t find out that she won any money until she was ready to come home from the hospital a week later.

Mom didn’t let it break her spirit.  She was able to get around in a wheel chair.  She managed to get her hands on a small bullwhip, which she used to keep my brothers and I in line.  She didn’t really use it that much.  I can remember hearing her pop the whip and cackle like a hen that just laid an egg. Mom was something else.

She was in lots of pain, all the time.  Mrs. Boston a lady that lived in the neighborhood, was a nurse.She would come by our house a couple times a week and administer Mom’s morphine shots.  She would draw up extras and leave them in our fridge.  My job was to give Mom a shot of pain meds in the morning before I caught the bus to school and again when I got home at 4 o’clock.

On this day, after seeing the EMT ambulance at our front door, I thought the worse was at hand, but I was wrong.  My brothers and I had started sneaking some of Mom’s bourbon out from under the kitchen sink when we went camping. We would pour it in a “Listerene” bottle never thinking she would catch us.

We noticed that the Jim Beam bottle had crayon marks on the side of the bottle.  Thinking we were outsmarting her, we would pour Coca Cola back into the whiskey bottle to fill it back to it’s normal level.  No one ever told us that the Coke would go flat.  She caught on. Still, she didn’t know for sure it was us.  So she poured rat poison in the bottle.

Jimmy Sturgis was a tenant that worked for Perret’s Dairy. He lived in number 12 and sometimes did repairs for us.  Earlier that morning, Mom had stopped the sink up with bread and asked Jimmy if he could fix it.  Poor ole Jimmy.  While he was under the sink, taking advantage of the situation, he took a couple of swallows out of that Jim Beam bottle.  It didn’t take long before he went into convulsions.

What I saw when I approached our front door that day after getting off of the bus was the EMT’s rolling Jimmy out of the kitchen on a gurney.  I thought it was Mom, but no, here she came up behind them.  She was cackling and smiling, the bullwhip across her lap.  She had caught her booze rat.

Jimmy recovered.  Mom paid for his doctor bills thinking she had solved her mystery.  After that, we just snuck Mom’s vodka and left the bourbon alone.

Mom wanted to surprise Dad.  His deployment was going to be up pretty soon. She called Denson Electric. They put in 22 light poles with double electric boxes for 42 mobile homes.  The original trailer park only had 8 spaces.

All of that’s in the past now. The dog tracks are closed nowadays. Math comes easy to me now.  Mom made learning mathematical combinations fun.  When I think of her, I  like to imagine that she has two good legs in Heaven, sitting in the Clubhouse with a glass of Bourbon, waiting for Big Jim to jump first out of the box.  If I listen closely, I can almost hear the commentator over the speaker, “And they’re off, there goes Rusty.”

 

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