The Travellers

The “Travelers”          It’s been my habit to write my stories in the mornings while my dreams are still fresh on my mind.  When you get my age, you get to where you look forward to naps and dreams.  To revive old memories.

My mom won the Daily Double or the Big Q (don’t remember which) at the dogtrack for a large sum of money.  The number 24 sticks in my mind, so I think she won around $24,000.  She invested that money into the Silver Dolphin our family’s trailer park.  At that time there were 15 spaces.  She paid Denson Electric the whole amount to install new light poles for 42 units.  I think it was 20 something poles with 2 electric boxes on each pole.

While Dad was in Viet Nam, she had all the pines tree cleared on the back acre and a half of the park.  Before the trailer park was built, the land was used for a goat farm.  When US 1 was built in 1949, the owners sold the dirt out of the back half of the park to the state, to build up the land around the bridge over US 1, near Dunn’s Ave.  Not long after she had the electric poles installed, Dad returned home, safe and sound.  We got busy digging water lines and a deeper ditch for the sewer lines, so many roots and stumps it weren’t no fun.

Before my parents bought the place it was named Dinsmore Trailer Court.  In those days they rented spaces to RV’s, folks coming down US1 pulled in all the time with their travel trailers.  Every year, towards the end of winter around February we would get a few “Travelers”.  “Travelers” is the name the gypsy’s use for themselves.  The king of the clan would stop and stay with us and a few more, every winter.  Over the years, our camping capacity dwindled down to about 5 or 6 spaces after Dad started expanding the park and putting in permanent mobile homes.  The rest of the group would go further down US 1, finding places to camp in other parks.  Like dairies, there use to be a bunch of trailer parks.

Dad knew they were scammers.  He didn’t fall for many of their tricks, unless he was making his share of the loot.  They all drove Cadillacs, Corvettes, nice new trucks and they had a 6 yard dump truck and trailer with them.  They would use their equipment and go around repairing potholes in driveways and parking lots to make money.  It was a scam, the first time it rained, their repairs would wash out.  At Silver Dolphin, back in those days, we had oyster shell drive ways, so they didn’t pitch us.  Their money was good with us.

Mom and Dad had planned a week end trip.  Dad gave us a list of “do’s and don’ts,” first, before they left.  Dad had hired me and my brother n law Bug Moore to dig some sewer lines in the back of the park in between the new light poles.  Before we got started, a procession of new trucks with campers were lined up on the highway, near the entrance to the park.  The King of the Clan approached me about renting out the center of the park for a camp site so that they could have a “christening,” welcoming all of the new babies born into the tribe the year before.

Since Dad left me in charge, I guess it was up to me to decide if it was okay or not.  He offered to pay me $50 bucks.  That was a bunch of money to a 16 year old, but I had Bug with me.  If split it with him that would only leave me with $25.  Dad was paying us $20 apiece to dig the ditch, $45 for the day, okay not too shabby for a Saturday. I got to thinking though, if they offered fifty, what would they really pay?  So I asked the old man how many people did he think would be there?  He said no more then 50 or so.

I told him that 50 people camping out and roasting a pig would leave a big mess and someone would have to clean it up.  He promised me that they would clean up there own mess.  I told him to give me a $100 for a deposit on clean up and if it was anymore than 50 people, I wanted $200.  He agreed, gave me a 150 dollars, with the agreement that if any more than 50 showed up, he would fork over another hundred.  Bug and I went to work in the back of the park, digging our ditch, behind the wash house.

The center of the trailer park became a beehive of activity.  New cars and trucks began to fill in and surround the circle of RV’s.  In the middle they dug a pit, started a fire and built a spit to roast their hog.  Bug told me he could’ve got them a hog “pretty cheap if he’d a knowed.”

 

The local residents kinda got upset after a while.  There were cars packed everywhere in the trailer park, alongside of US 1 and parked across the street at Mr Tiller’s Grocery Store.

Mae Hildebrand was freaking out, someone had stolen her bingo money, all eighteen dollars and she called Woodrow Pendarvis her son in law, our constable at the time to come over and investigate.  My granny told me that Mae never had no eighteen dollars; she had lost all of her bingo money last Thursday night at San Souci on Beach Blvd.  Granny said “she knew, because I was with her and I lost mine too.”  Mae was just making that stuff up because she smelled money and wanted to get her share.

 

When Woodrow showed up in his constable car, he parked up on US 1 and watching car after car (all brand new) pull in and loads of folks getting out to party.  He came over to where we were digging and talked with us for a while.  He smoked a cigarette and Bug pulled out his jug and they shared a snort, wiped their mug and took another.

While we were talking, a group of the gals, wearing their full length purple and yellow colored woolen dresses walked behind the wash house to “smoke”.  They didn’t see us, down in the ditch digging,  Woodrow was leaning up against a tree. While we watched they smoked a few butts, but those weren’t the only butts we saw.

 

I guess those old woolen dresses get mighty hot, even in the winter.  One by one they would reach down and pull up the back of their dress to scratch the back of their fanny.  Funny, oh yeah it was.  They weren’t wearing no bloomers.  Even Woodrow who usually had a sour disposition (if you knew Woodrow you know what I mean) had to laugh at that sight.  Bug couldn’t take it any more.  Watching in secret wasn’t his style, he hollered a whoop and when the group of gals turned around in disbelief to see what the commotion was, Bug made a motion with his hands for them to pull their dresses back up again, this time he tried to get them to pull their dresses up over there head. …………..

 

I told Woodrow they weren’t suppose to be more 50 people or 50 cars, I don’t remember the exact agreement but they was in violation.  Well back in those days, everyone in the trailer park was some kind of kin folk or another.  Bug and Woodrow grew up with each other, Woodrow married Mae’s daughter, Mae’s brother Bud was married to my Aunt Irma, and so on, so I was talking to Woodrow, my cousin’s brother in law.

I got an idea and I told Woodrow to stand in plain view, while I went and spoke with the old man.  I told him that he was in excess of the 50 whatever we agreed to.  His 100 dollar deposit had run out and they were gonna have to leave, and I pointed to Woodrow in his Constable’s uniform as my back up.

 

I told them they would “have to leave, don’t make me use the law.”  In the blink of an eye, the old man offered me another $100.  Just that fast, I turned him down. I would have to have another $100 to pay the law, for security duty.  So he gave me another two hundred.  I gave Woodrow $50 and asked him if he would “stick around.”  He said “You couldn’t pry me loose with a crow bar.”

 

We quit the ditch digging for the day and joined the party.  Bug took over the spit, showing the gypsies what they were doing wrong and quenching his thirst with pull after pull from his jug.  Me?  I joined the group of young men that had brought out their guitars and wanted me to sing with them.  Old Woodrow must have needed to do some more investigating, because I kept seeing him go back into the travel trailer with the young gals, soon he come back and asked me did I have any more of that deposit money he could “borrow.”

 

I had plenty of help after the gypsies left, cleaning up the mess. Woodrow didn’t want me to tell no tales and Bug was looking for what was left of his jug.  I gave Dad a hundred when he got home, he seemed satisfied, but after he found all of those slugs in his vending machines, he told me that “Next year, they need to hold that Christening some where’s else.”

2 thoughts on “The Travellers

  1. Reblogged this on Blog 4falcons and commented:
    One of my favorite stories by Jackman – a colorful slice of real Florida life before we all started taking 95 and missed all the fun. Jump on US 1 with Jackman for his encounter with the Travelers. Excellent narrative with his usual cast of unique characters.

    Like

  2. One of my favorite stories by Jackman – a colorful slice of real Florida life before we all started taking 95 and missed all the fun. Jump on US 1 with Jackman for his encounter with the Travelers. Excellent narrative with his usual cast of unique characters.

    Like

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