Peace in the Valley

We had driven out to San Francisco to see the Rolling Stones in concert at the Cow Palace.  After that we drove south to Ft. Ord, to see our cousin Linda and her family.  My brother Gary, our nephew Glen and I rode out from Ft. Ord early the next morning after two cups of coffee.  Linda’s husband  Glenn was a major in the Army.  Glenn worked the night we arrived, so when Linda broke out the beer and wine, it might be truthful to say that in his absence, we over indulged.  We did throw quite a shindig without him.

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Linda met Glenn in High School, we had known him since then, his personality was always stern.  Life in the Army made him more so.  We didn’t want to face Glenn’s wrath when he got home in the aftermath, so we left kinda early the next morning.  Our destination was the new housing developments we had seen scattered throughout the valleys a few days before,  near the mountainous area just east of San Francisco.

We were driving by ogling the countryside when we noticed several bulldozers pushing up stumps, big stumps into a large pile.  There were so many, that they dotted the landscape, some had been set on fire.  A couple of days later, when we were out pitching our tools, we came across a place that was selling high dollar furniture, made from burl.

Burl was the gnarly twisted stumps from a redwood tree.  Once they had been sand blasted and pressure washed the wood was beautiful was brought back to life.  Skilled craftsmen were cutting some redwood stumps into slabs of beautiful cut wood, after which they sculpted it into furniture and treated it with sealer and polyurethane.  This material was being made into very expensive coffee tables, end tables, dining tables, and heck, just about anything that you could imagine.

Once we saw the price they were asking for these relics we asked the bossman if he needed any more?  You know just in case we knew where we could get some.  He told us “hell yes,” he could use it.  He promised to pay us a good price, he said that he would even loan us his trailer to go get it.

When we got back to the area that was being developed, we got the crew boss to hold off on burning anymore piles of stumps.  They loaded them on our trailer with a front end loader.  The stumps were so gigantic, that we could only carry one big one or maybe two small ones, at a time.

We didn’t have any problem getting a good price, after all this was California.  Burl furniture was selling at a premium.  When we asked for a thousand dollars for a stump that didn’t cost us anything, the boss said, “Hell boys, I’ll give you two thousand, have you got any more?”  After dropping each load, we would drive up and down the valleys, searching for new fields of stumps.

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On this morning, it was early morning yet, so early the dew was still heavy on the grass.  I was driving down the side of a steep slope when we stopped to look at the view before us.  From the top of a mountainside, we could see almost the whole of San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge with the fog rising above it and the silhouette of Fisherman’s wharf, beneath.

Gary was taking a picture out of the passenger side of the truck when I noticed an imposing iron gate on my left that was just beginning to swing open.  I noticed that it was an unusual gate; someone had gone to a lot of trouble to make it look like a sheet of music.  Across the front were welded steel letters about a foot high that read “Bless Your Pea Picking Heart,” with musical notes painted up like flowers in the background

This discovery caused me to get my brothers attention,  I wanted to show him the gate.  The gate was in motion, opening enough to let us see a dark haired gentleman, walking out of the gate.  Music was blaring out a familiar tune, loudly from unseen speakers.  This gentleman, wearing pink striped pajamas and fluffy white bedroom slippers emerge from the gap.  He took a couple of steps gingerly walking on top of the dew with his white frilly slippers and he picked up a newspaper out of the wet grass.  Just as he stood up, Gary said “Hey, that’s Tennessee Ernie Ford.”  After a closer look, I agreed with him.  Sure enough it was, as he told us later to call him, “Old Ernie.”

I honked the horn, my truck had one of those “Old Rebel Yell horns,” that played “Dixie,” and a Rebel Flag front license plate  This got Ernie’s attention real quick and he stood up to wave at us.  What a sight.  We had the whole San Francisco Bay on the right side and on the left side, Tennessee Ernie Ford, wearing pink striped pajamas, waving at us.

While we were staring, Mr. Ernie walked over to driver’s window of the truck.  He could take one look at us and just know that we weren’t from around these parts.  We both had on western wear and straw hats.  This was before the Duke’s of Hazzard aired, so for that point in time, we were unique, in that area.

He asked us where we were from, what were we up to, did we want to come in for a cup of coffee?  It was a no brainer answering that question.  I could remember my Mom singing along while listening to some of his Gospel music.  We told him in unison,“Hell yeah.”

Our nephew Glen was still sleeping in the truck, so it was just Gary and I that when inside to check out his mansion.  Ernie had an overly inquisitive housekeeper, Filipino I think.  The way he kept an eye on us,  made me squirm a little, like he thought we were gonna steal some silver or something.

Mr. Ernie instructed his housekeeper to fetch us some coffee and to fix us some breakfast.  The he turned to us and asked, “You boys like  smoked sausage and grits don’t you?”  We both spoke at the same time, “Oh Sir, yes Sir.”  Then before we could say anything else the old crooner said, “You gotta import grits around here, nobody seems to know what they are, I get mine sent in special from Martha White.   (I almost looked for the cameras, because I almost thought he was doing a commercial)

Then he said, “I’ve had the hardest time getting Stefano here to learn how to cook ‘em, he wants to put sugar and milk on it.”  While we were waiting for Stefano to bring us our coffee Gary sat down on a piano stool and started pecking out a tune.

Mr. Ernie sat down next to Gary, they both were play along on the same tune.  My brother could play anything.  He had that ear, me? I’m tone deaf.  I have problems playing the radio.  Watching them tickling the ivories on the keyboard, it occurred to me that the great “Tennessee Ernie Ford” might be gay. No wait, I mean, he was very nice to us.  He invited total strangers into his house to drink morning coffee and while at first I thought it was because he liked hearing our southern accents, it dawned on me that it might be because he thought that we were young unsuspecting males.

Our coffee was served.  We told jokes and even a couple of stories about us being southern in California, surviving the pitfalls it projected when everyone thought that you were stupid because we spoke with a drawl.  I reminded Mr. Ernie that Jimmy was in office.  We aren’t the ones with an accent anymore.  He seemed to like that.

Then Stefano brought our breakfast in on a silver serving tray.  A large steaming bowl of grits was in the center of the tray.  Mr. Ernie said to his servant “Are you sure you got these grits right Stefano, I’m entertaining guest from back home and I don’t want to be embarrassed.  He raised the lid and peered into the bowl and said “What the hell?”  Then he stuck a large spoon into the bowl and held it backwards in one hand and then pulled the top of the spoon backwards with the other, this caused the contents of the spoon to spatter up against the window.  Once the grits hit the wall, the gooey mess slid down the window pane.  Mad, yeah I think so, angrily he said “Them grits is too damn soupy, what have I told you, put one cup of grits into two cups of water and bring to a boil for a couple minutes, stir a couple times and then let ‘em simmer.”

Then Old Ernie turned back to us and said, “I’m sorry boys, you know how hard it is to find good help these days, but Stefano here is good people, breakfast will be in just a few more minutes.”

He then sat back on the piano stool and played a medley of some of his hits, we were entertained and to tell you the truth, we had already eaten breakfast, we just didn’t want to cut our visit short.

This time when Stefano brought the bowl of grits back to the table, the first thing Mr. Ernie did was the same trick with the spoon again.  This time instead of running down the window, they stuck in a glob,  One big splat.  Equally embarrassed Mr. Ernie was frustrated as he turned to look at us, shook his head and said “You fellas see what I’m up against out here, I’m ready to pack my bags and head back to Tennessee.”

I told him not to feel too bad about it.  I got beat up by the cops in L.A. and put in jail, just because I had a southern accent.  Me saying that got his attention, he asked me to tell him about it.  I told him there’s not much to tell.  I was in my pickup on Hollywood and Vine, waiting for the light to change.  Me and a friend “Dino” Dave Anderson had just broke the seal on a bottle of Jack Black.  I had taken a swig and was reaching for a can of Sprite on the dash of the truck to chase it with, when two really good looking blondes walked past us, crossing street.  I hit the horn, it played its melody and then I let out a whistle.  I got out of the truck at the red light and hollered at the gals.  I think I said something to the effect about my grandpa told me if I saw any good looking blondes while I was in California to bring him back one or two.

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Old Ernie laughed at this a time or two, when he did the crow’s feet around his eyes almost disappeared, then he asked me what happened next?  I replied “Well, I’m sorry to say this, but while I was watching them gals, they kinda looked to me  like they was about ready to take off running, then two El Monte cops pulled in behind us.  The one that looked like Bing Crosby’s son that you see on Adam 12 once in a while, came up from behind me and got me in a choker hold.  The cops saw the bottle of Jack, but it only had one swallow gone from it.  They asked me about the One a Day vitamins that I had in the glove box.  I asked if that was illegal?  The cop still had me from behind and said “you’re slurring your speech, ain’t body talks like that on purpose.”  Next thing I know he grabbed me from behind in a sleeper hold, then I wake up in the County Jail, naked outside of the bars with my hands sticking through the bars behind my back, handcuffed.  The rest of the night the jailer kept hitting me with his flash light every time he walked past.  The next morning, they let me go.

After hearing this Mr. Ernie sucked on his teeth for a minute, then after shaking his head, he said “It’s enough to make you wonder about people some times, ain’t it.  What happened to the evidence?”  I said, “do you mean the vitamins?”  He responded, “No, no, the sipping whiskey, what happened to the bottle of Jack.?”  I told him that I never saw that bottle of Jack Daniels again.  He just looked at the ground and shook his head, rubbing his tongue over his lips and said “Them bastards, they drank the evidence, that’s probably why they had to let you go.”

Our visit lasted about an hour.  When we got up to leave, he asked us to keep his location a secret for as long as we could.  I don’t care if Old Ernie was gay or not, none of my business.  Heck, there are probably a lot of people in California that wear pink striped pajamas and fuzzy white slippers.  He was a very nice host, a true gentleman, there is definitely something bred into folks from the south, the warmth of southern hospitality is for real.

I can remember watching his gate slowly opening for us to leave and listening to the tune the loud speaker playing a recording in his deep, rich baritone voice.  “There will be peace in the valley, there will be peace some day.  There will be peace in the valley  of the Lord.”

Jaundiced Justice

I’ve been waiting a long time to tell this story. No, not out of fear for myself but of what could happen to my family.

Our first son was born in Feb. 1973.  The maternity ward at St. Luke’s hospital told my wife and I that because he had yellow jaundice that he had to stay at the hospital until it cleared up. This preyed more on my wife’s nerves than mine, but then again her worries increased my own.

To relieve some tension on Sunday morning six days later, I decided to go rabbit hunting. Mainly to create some space and clear my mind.  My mind wasn’t on hunting that day, I never really was an avid hunter anyway, so after a few hours I called it quits and stopped by my parents house for a friendly chat.

My folks owned a trailer park.  Their home was also the office.  The parking spots were filled so I parked near the entrance way.  My 12 gauge was in the back seat, still loaded with number 6 bird shot, ideal for rabbit hunting.

I had walked halfway to the front door when my Dad emerged.  He seemed glad to see me and asked me if I would walked with him to one of his rentals.  He had rented a small apartment to a couple of guys that he later found out were starting a motorcycle club in Jacksonville, the Outlaws.  Once the news became known Dad informed them that they had to leave.  His trailer park was residential for families and retired couples.

Dad intended to return their $60.00 deposit but before he did, he wanted to inspect the property.  One of the two biker’s name was Herbert Witherspoon, I found out later that he was supposed to be opening up a chapter of the biker gang.  Dad told me to wait for him outside while he went in to inspect.  Soon I could hear shouting and raving going on inside.  It seems like they had rebuilt a motorcycle engine inside, on top of the brand new carpet that had just been installed before they moved in.  Dad was mad, I overheard him say that he wasn’t refunding their deposit.

The next thing I know, is I hear some commotion going on inside.  I was standing by the front door but chose to look through a plate glass window to see what was going on.  My Dad was in a tussle with these two bruisers.  In his day, my Dad could more than hold his own.  I remember as a child that he never stopped to consider the odds, but on this day he was outnumbered and outmatched.  As I watched through the window one of the guys had Dad from behind, pinning his elbows back so that he couldn’t protect himself, while the other stood in front of him, swinging a large crescent wrench, striking him in the head several times.  Blood streamed down his forehead, he sagged to his knees, I knew it was time for me to do something.  If I just ran into the apartment it would still be two against one because Dad didn’t look like he was in any shape to help.

My car was parked about two dozen steps away and I remembered that I had my shotgun in the back seat of my Chevelle.  I ran to the car, grabbed my gun and rushed back to help my Dad.  My intentions were to stop these two galoots, to make them back off.  Sure I wanted some revenge because they were messing with my Dad but I would have been satisfied to make them fight him one on one, my Dad was a tough old bird.

When I entered the room I didn’t really have a plan, I just wanted to make them stop.   No one was facing the door when I entered the room.  The guy still had Dad’s arms locked behind him and the fellow with the wrench turned to face me.  Blood was spurting out of the top of Dad’s skull, I could see whiteness of it in patches.  Without thinking about repercussions I stuck the barrel of the gun in the man’s crotch and I said, “You move mother fucker and I’ll blow your balls off.”   It was plain and simple.  Needless to say, that’s pretty much what happened.  My finger was on the trigger, the guy reached down for the barrel of my gun trying to twist it out of my hands.  As he did so, his body shifted so that when the gun blasted, the bird shot ripped through his groin and hip area.  Still, he had a grip on the barrel.  I believe the heat from the blast made him let go.  I still had the shotgun in my control and I told the other guy to release my Dad and raise his hands.  The pellets from the gun blast had ripped through the man’s jeans, blood was splattered on the cabinets behind him, but he was still able to partially stand.  The  bird shot didn’t catch him full center but did cause a pretty good wound considering how close I was at the time.

I  opened the barrel bolt and slammed another shell from the clip into the chamber and motioned with the end of the gun for both men to get outside of the apartment.  I didn’t intentionally fire the first shot but I had to make it seem like I meant business.  Once outside, the bigger man tied a bandana around the top of the wounded man’s leg to stop the flow of blood.  Dad  got his legs under him and followed us outside.

Across the four lane highway from us was a gas station.  The guy that owned the station had been pumping gas when he heard the gun blast.  All he actually witnessed though was two men being held at gun point, one of them was wounded and he saw me holding the gun.  I don’t want to mention his name because even though he was required to testify against us, I still considered him a friend and his grandson later married my niece.

The police came and an ambulance. Nothing more was said or done on that day.  I thought that was it, it’s over, but a few days later detectives showed up with a warrant for mine and my Dad’s arrest for attempted murder, aggravated battery and assault with a deadly weapon.  Needless to say I was flabbergasted.  Dad posted our bond, by this time my son was home from the hospital,  that was my biggest worry.  I knew Dad was better prepared to handle the situation than I was, he was after all, a man of the world.

Times had recently changed though.  The City of Jacksonville had just been consolidated.  The court and justice offices had been moved to a central location.  The jurisdiction of our local Constables and Justice of the Peace had been moved out of our neighborhood to a downtown location where we were lesser known.  There we were just names on a booking sheet.  I thought that the whole story was a joke.  Our side of the story was the truth.  Who would believe these guys over us?

That’s not the way it works though.  The two bikers got a lawyer, they had a case against us.  I wasn’t allowed by law to speak with the only other witness against us.  Dad’s lawyer said that if they got a sympathetic jury they could win the case.  If they did, they could sue Dad in civil court and get everything he owned.  The State Attorney did offer some leniency though.  He said that if we would plead “no contest or nolo contendre,” that he would reduce the charge to aggravated battery for me and simple assault for my Dad.  We would be sentenced to 12 months probation and after it was completed successfully with no other charges, it would be expunged from out record.

As much as I hated to, I had to go along with it.  I wanted my day in court.  I wanted to stand up in front of 12 good citizens and tell my side of it.  Like the old saying goes, “It’s better to be judged by 12 than to be carried by six.”  That’s how I felt and still do, but it wasn’t just my life I had to worry about, it was that of my wife and son that mattered the most.  I had to look out after them and think about the jeopardy I would be putting my father in, if I didn’t play along.

The wounded biker healed up alright I guess. I can’t vouch for his love life though.  I read years later that he was the President of the Jacksonville Chapter of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang and that he went to prison for some crime or another.

The Sate’s Attorney was true to his word, I year later my record was expunged and I was hired to work at the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office as a corrections officer.

I think I read years after that that he had been killed.  I don’t remember if he died in prison or on the streets but I have heard how motorcycle gang members relish revenge and I have waited until I was an old man to tell this story.

 

Kansas City, Missouri

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly



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To celebrate Rodney and Mandy’s wedding, we went to a bar on the Missouri side of Kansas City where they served regular beer instead of the 3.0 stuff.  Everything they say about Missouri is true, the good and the bad and the ugly.  Gary met Ramona she was waiting tables then, Tex met a gal we named “Toppy Knot,” because she wore her hair tied up in a knot.

Every time we ordered a round of drinks, we broke a hundred dollar bill.  Our table filled up with pretty gals quick.  We were the party that night.  Towards the end of the night, Gary ended up with Ramona, the bar maid.  Feeling full of brotherly love, I gave him $2500 to go honeymoon with.  Tex disappeared with “Toppy Knot” in her Cadillac Seville.  Gary and Rae eloped, took that money and went and paid down on some land in Cherokee Village, Ark.

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We had gotten kicked out of the Holiday Inn earlier the day before because of the cops trying to bust us for prostitution, so we went across the street to the Days Inn.  The next night after the big party, I was by myself for once.  I made the mistake of going back to the same bar as the night before, alone.  I didn’t know anybody.  After a few drinks and buying friends, I was feeling pretty blitzed when someone taps me on the shoulder.  I was told that some one wants to talk to me at the door.

Man, Can you believe that I fell for that again?  Just as soon as I step out the door, I see a two by four coming at my head.  Too late to duck, I caught it in the face, dislocating my jaw, almost popping an eye out, made me bite my tongue almost in half.  I was bleeding out of a tear in my lip and had been knocked to my knees.  Holding myself up with one hand I could see out of the one eye that still worked (barely). I could see four sets of legs surrounding me like an octopus, kicking me and daring me to get up.  Just about that time, I could see 6 inch long rooster tail splinters rising up from the deck in front of me, and from what I thought was a long ways off I could hear what sounded like far away sound of gunshots, pow, pow, pow.  My bell was ringing like I was at the bottom of a barrel.

A big gal that I had bought a drink at the bar, the night before had seen what was happening and came to my rescue.  She chased those dudes off, saving my life, with her .25 automatic.  She told me later that it was her doing the shooting.  She told me they were bikers and that one of the local high rollers that had gotten jealous the night before, paid them.  I couldn’t tell if my eye was sticking half the way out or if it was half way in.  My jaw felt like it was just hanging, I tried to mumble my thanks.  I wasn’t able to talk very well.  I tried to push myself away from her, but she was half holding me up, so, I don’t guess I pushed too hard.

My new body guard and I drove Gary’s old truck back to the motel, the same truck we had rolled a few days before.  The Holiday Inn had made us move, the cops told us to leave Lenexa, so we moved across the street to the Days Inn, in Overland Park.  The motel had just put up brand new chain fence, stringing a chain through the top of 4 x 4 posts like rope, to make it look like a fence.  I was feeling terrible, kind of weak in the knees, my whole world was spinning, only grit kept me going.  I was hurt, bad hurt but I wanted to get even.  I felt like if I laid down, I wouldn’t be able to get back up.  This big gal with me had a .25 automatic,  and that was all the back up I needed.

I unscrewed both of the eye bolts, took the chain, about a 100 foot of it and put it in back of the truck.  We drove the truck back to the bar.  I threaded the chain through the spokes of four bikes parked out front.  She said they belonged to the guys that snaked me out.  I tied the chain to the bumper of the truck, got a running start and headed down the street, dragging the four motorcycles behind me, sparks were flying every where.  It was about a mile to the Independence River Bridge, the boundary between Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.

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At the foot of the bridge, I was stopped by Kansas City, Missouri cops.  I could tell that they were puzzled and amazed as they listened to my story as best as I could tell it.  The gal filled in the gaps as they stared at my face, both eyes bulging, my tongue tore in half, blood dripping everywhere.  The big cop told me, “Get that shit out of here man, we ain’t seen nothing.”  I don’t exactly remember the gal’s name, but I sure was thankful that she was a good sized girl, because I had my hands full when we got to the top of the bridge.  We pushed every one of the bikes over the side into the Independence River.  The first one just hung there in limbo because it was still chained to the rest.  The second bike made the rest of the bundle slide a little closer to the edge, then when we got the third bike over the rail, it look like a pile of “transformers,” heading for the drink.  All four of them together made a real satisfying splash.  We watched the water’s surface until the rings from the splash disappeared.  She said “That water looks cold.”  I told her, “Deep too.”

I had taken a towel from the motel and wrapped it around my neck and my face, blood was dripping everywhere and pulled my Stetson down low over my eyes.  Big Girl and I went into the baseball game at Royals Stadium across from Arrowhead Stadium where they played football.  I didn’t want to be a “sitting duck” at the motel.  It was after the 2nd inning, we got in free.  The water fall in centerfield was beautiful but as miserable as I was, I couldn’t see much of it.  After the game, we went back to the Day’s Inn.  I lay in the bed for three days.  The Room Service girls went crazy when they saw all of the blood.  I told them to just leave fresh towels, I would be okay.

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Gary and Rae show up Monday morning, they had gotten married and paid down on a lot and a trailer with the money I gave them.  Rae went to work on my face.  I think she use to work for a Vet, because she seemed to know what she was doing.  After about an hour of hot towels and gentle massaging, she got my jaw back in place.  She did the same to my eye.  Hot, wet towels and gentle massage, then she cut the eyelid of the other eye, with a razor, so I could see, blood spurting every where.  She took a needle and white thread, sewed my tongue back together, and my lip, inside and out.  Rae took my wad of cash, gave that gal a hundred dollar bill and then called her a cab.  Good bye Sweetheart, she saved my life and I never even asked her name.

I’m going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come

When we left Davenport, we had loaded up the two dancers and two cases of ice cold Schlitz.   We used the Ford Super Cab to pull the Chevy on a tow bar.  Both trucks were loaded down with equipment. I was in the back seat of the Super Cab with Mandie.  Tex had Blondie upfront with him; none of us had any clothes on, just Tex wearing his cowboy hat.

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Tex was drunk and high on life, he was having a time.  He was driving and throwing empty beer bottles at road signs when we had a blow out on the rear truck, the ’68 Chevy.  We rolled both trucks on I-35, southbound.  There were tools, clothes and sales literature for our equipment littered all over I-35 for about a mile.  Debbie took “pics” with Gary’s 35 mm., from the T/A has we rolled over.  We regrouped in Four Corners, Iowa.  I rented a motel room for all six of us to rest and get our senses back.  Mandy had broken both of her ankles, although we didn’t know it for a couple weeks later, we thought that she had just sprained them.  I carried her in my arms every where we went.

 

The next morning, using one of our hydraulic jacks and a piece of a 2 x 4, I jacked the roof back up on the Ford.  We loaded it down with the equipment from both trucks, abandoned the Chevy and drove on down to Kansas City to join the rest of the crew.   We were emotionally devastated by the wreck.  I knew that I had to be strong in front of every body else.  I rented two trucks and started selling two loads a day.  I got just as much for the equipment in it’s tangled, busted up condition as I did when it was pristine.  I guess you could say I held a “bent and damaged sale.”  I kept one truck loaded for back up at the motel so that I could drop a load and then go right back to work in another truck without having to reload.  After a rough start, I wanted to get back to work, making money, most of the time I did.  Having the girls with us wasn’t that bad.  They just laid around the pool all day looking good and getting tanned while we worked.  Good women or bad women, they both cost about the same, which is all you got.

Wayne Holland’s gimp crew were staying at the Days Inn in Overland Park, while we were across the street at the Holiday Inn in Lenexa, Kansas.  I thought that the nicer accommodations would help to smooth things over.  If I dropped a load for a good lick early, I would spend the rest of the day poolside with the girls back at the motel.

The girls were getting homesick, living in motel rooms and eating in restaurants wasn’t what it was cracked up to be.  Mandy told me that she wanted money for a plane ticket, she was telling me they wanted to go home.  Unbeknownst to me, Tex told Blondie in private that if she wanted fly home she better start turning tricks.  She wasn’t smart like Debbie, get the money and run.  No, the poor dumb blonde, she actually did it.  Women sometimes, make me wonder.

Debbie was just an accomplice to Tex.  To me she was a good friend an excellent working partner if we wanted to scam.  She and I could go out and skin somebody with the quickness.  We didn’t do it for the money though, to us it was just a hobby, sort of like if the situation presents itself, why not?  We made good money every time.  She was Tex’s girl, but he couldn’t work with her, he would get jealous in the middle of a deal and ruin everything.  Next thing you know, we’d be running from the law after he busted a potential mullet up against the head with a beer bottle.

Finally, I had to take Debbie to the airport to fly back to Atlanta early one morning.  Tex had  just whipped up on her one too many times for me.  I bought her a pair of nice boots and a leather jacket to match at one of those “boutiques” at the airport.  After all the time I had spent with her and the money we’d made together, I had gotten attached.  She was worth it.  Debbie was a real “Road Warrior.”  I wanted her to look good when she back to her Grannies in spite of that black eye.

Later that same afternoon, I was sitting under an umbrella at the pool eating cantaloupe and watermelon with “Mandy” my new girl.   She was one of the “Dallas Dancers” from Louisville. I was just wearing a pair of gym shorts, and flip flops.  I had my roll with about 6,000 bucks  tucked in my waistband.

Gary and Tex had sold their load of tools.  They came up to us  by the pool and after I told them to have a seat Gary said, “Hey this place looks like it’s surrounded by cops.”  I said “Thanks for the heads up brother, but they ain’t looking for us.”  Just about that time Blondie comes running across the lawn, she sat in the last empty chair and then gleefully says, “Hey, I just turned a trick, I got a hundred dollars.”  I was surprised but no time to panic, I knew we didn’t have much time.  I slid my saucer with the fruit in it, over to her and told her to put the money under the saucer, take a bite of the fruit then slide it over to Gary.  She did this and I told Gary, “Hide that bill, do something with it, get it out of here.”

I had worked for the Sheriff’s Office in Jacksonville and I knew about marked money.  Tex and Gary got up from their chairs and nonchalantly walked towards the parking lot.  Just as they were backing out of the parking spot, a sea of blue uniforms showed up and clamped down on us.  They had us blocked at every corner.  Gary had rolled the hundred dollar bill up and put it in a Sprite can.  As the cops were closing in, he tossed the empty can of Sprite in a trash bin while he was walking away.

Oh yeah, it looked like the bust of the century in Lenexa, Kansas.  They took us all in.  I hadn’t seen Gary dispose of the money but I was pretty confident that he had by the way they kept asking us where the money was.  When we got there we knew right off, this weren’t no Davenport, Iowa.  Oh no, we were in Lenexa, Kansas, the home sweet home of law and order.

I was wearing a pair of sporty gym shorts, no shirt, just flip flops and had sixty, one hundred dollar bills rolled up and tucked up in my waistband.  It seems like no matter how much I worked or what catastrophes we had to endure, I couldn’t bankroll any more than six thousand.  I told the police that I sold tools for a living and that was my money.  They checked all sixty of my bills for their hundred dollar bill, none of the serial numbers matched.  Without that bill to substantiate it, they had no case.  They kept us for hours.  They couldn’t prove anything without the marked money.  They kept begging us for that hundred dollar bill, but we wouldn’t break weak and tell them.  We just stayed in our character; we were truck drivers from South Carolina.  We’re just here to empty out a warehouse.  I told them that we kept the girls around for eye candy.  I said that while we were out working, the girls did what ever they wanted to.  It didn’t have anything to do with us.

The lead detective was a female.  She was frantic about needing to get that money back because she was responsible for it and until it was returned, they couldn’t get any more.  Their boss had this thing he called, “Payroll Deduction.”  I even had the feeling that she was coming on to me.  I hinted that it might could be “arranged,” if she were to let us all go.  She said, “Before I do that, I want to know one thing.  You guys travel the country selling tools, with pretty gals and carry thousand of dollars, well answer me this, are you hiring?”

They let us go, after everyone was safe, I took her to the garbage can, rummaged around and found the Sprite can with the rolled up 100 dollar bill in it, and gave her back the “marked” money.  I even took her out to dinner, lamb chops with mint jelly.

The next morning, after I left her house, I flew Mandy and Blondie back to Louisville, I’d had it with road whores.  Two days later, Mandy shows back up with both feet in a cast, then, she married Rodney, one of the gimps in the Macon crew.  Go figure.  Tex found my stash of semi-nude pictures of Mandy with me, while she was wearing some of her Dallas Cheerleader outfits and he flashed them around the wedding party and even sold a few, I think.  Rodney Stone out of Macon, Ga., If you read this, it was just business, if you would have asked me, I would have given you the “Pom Poms” for free.

Willie and the poor boys.

jkmn304 (19)Willie Nelson, Louisville, Davenport and the Dallas Cheerleaders.

We just missed working with the Carolina Crew in Milwaukee. We got there finally, after working only one day, they were ready to leave. From Milwaukee we went south to Davenport, Iowa. My brother Gary had gone back to working with Arnie Fields and his crew back in Phoenix for a couple of weeks. It was just me, Tex, Debbie and a bunch of gimps from Macon, Georgia, in Davenport, Iowa. These guys were so green that they hadn’t ever dropped a stick of “iron” on their own. The gimp crew worked for Wayne Holland, who had helped to train me in Orlando. Wayne wanted us to work with him to help train his men. Since I owed Carolina so much money for the damage that Tex had done to the motels rooms in Atlanta, I felt obligated to help.

The gimps had brought along some gals they met on the way, One was Sophie, a full blooded Sioux, with a foul mouth. They were staying at an eight dollar a night place. I was getting down on my money; I think I might have I stayed there one night. I guess I preferred the “Days Inn” because I required a little more comfort. I needed to get out and hustle to make up all the money we’d been blowing, so I could afford my lifestyle.

One day, we are out pitching by the river, near the paddle boat landing. A black stretch limo appears from out of no where. Out jumps Jimmy Carter, campaigning, shaking hands and waving to the crowd. Then his daughter Amy pops out, Tex acted like a crazy man, he threw an apple core he was gnawing on, at her (missed) and said “Amy, get your ugly ass back in that car”. Secret Service got all up in our face then. Amy must have said something to them, because they let us go and they boarded an old style paddle wheel steamboat so that they could kick the stump on down the downriver.

I worked all week, made some money back and was ready to get away from Iowa for a while. It was getting on towards winter and the area was near desolate to a Florida boy, the trees were leafless, the grass was dead and brown and the fields were barren. I had heard about our family reunion on my Dad’s side, in Bloomington, Indiana. I figured that we might enjoy ourselves, even if just for the weekend, so off we went, me and Tex in the Trans Am east bound and down. We left Debbie back at the motel to fleece Wayne’s gimps out of their money while we were gone. Poor guys, they were “babes in the woods” in her hands.

I did a four wheel power slide into the parking lot to a bunch of picnickers and some one hollered out, “Hey, it’s Roscoe’s boys”. We had stopped to buy a trunk full of beer and ice, when we popped open the trunk, like a ghost, my brother Gary came walking out of nowhere. He had taken another break from Arnie to come to the family reunion.

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That’s the way it was for years, Gary and I would join up, without making plans, work together for a while, when we started getting on each other’s nerves, we’d split up again. Arnie was a good leader and good for Gary. Me, I was a good motivator; I wanted to make money and do as I damn well pleased. Arnie made me welcome; we would read the bible and pray together always, we were brothers in arms. I have to admit, my life was less confusing when I was around Arnie. Tex eventually went to work for Arnie and stayed with him for years; it was a relief to me, when he did.

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Gary had flown to Bloomington, he rode back with us when we started to head back to Davenport from Indiana, traveling down Interstate 40. We could see the Louisville State Fair from the highway. Tired of riding in the car all afternoon, we stopped to check it out and were surprised when we found out that Willie Nelson was putting on a live show in the rodeo arena. The last feature of the rodeo before Willie’s Band could start, was the bare back riding. We were just three of the thousand’s of people lined up against the rodeo fence hollering for Willie to come on stage. The last bronc made things hard, because he didn’t want to be caught after his “ride.” The wranglers tried to pen him up but the rip snorting bronco was like “Houdini. He would escape every time it looked like they had him penned up. Willie hollered out over the PA system “Can any body catch that damn horse?”

At the time, Tex and I were standing up against the rodeo fence, Tex reached down and grabbed a candy apple from a little boy’s mouth, stood up on the second fence rail and leaned over. I had him by the back of his belt to keep him from falling over. He held that apple out to that horse and hollered “Hup,” the horse turned to look, distracted he came trotting over wanting to eat that apple. The wranglers came up and easily roped the horse. Then, Tex gave the boy back his candy apple.

The crowd erupted, everyone applauded, Willie hollered into the microphone “Hey, Y’all give these boys a hand, thanks fellas,” then unscripted, he invited us to come on up to the stage, he said “Y’all come on up here boys.” We didn’t need any prodding, eagerly we got up on stage and he introduced us to the crowd, then he asked us to stick around. We got to stand on the stage during his performance; televised, we were “live” from Louisville.” Tex had been a stagehand for “Lynyrd Skynyrd,” he was right at home and sat on an amp behind the band, just like back in the old days.

After the show, Willie thanked us again; he extended an invitation to us to join him and some of his crew in his dressing room, a jockey/horse trailer combo. We sat around chatting and drinking Jack Black with cans of Seven Up that we all used for chaser. Can you believe it, we were “Outlaws” by nature and here we were, fixing to party with one of the most famous “Outlaws” ever, Willie Nelson. I couldn’t get over just how small he was in person. Well, he did cast a big shadow. We smoked a joint that Tex had rolled up in pink paper, he said it was because it was “senso” and he wanted everyone to know it was something special. Willie told us an old joke, “Hey this is good stuff, I can remember when you could get a dime for a dime.” Tex told him, “Not this stuff you can’t, I get it flown in frozen from Seattle, via Fed-Ex.”

 

We passed the bottle around a couple of times, all of us high, laughing and joking. Willie wanted to know what could he do to thank us and Tex said “better ask Mike, he’s the boss”. Surprised? Oh yeah I was, he caught me unawares,
Tex had put me on the spot, just thinking off the top of my head, I said, “Well, I always wanted a Dallas cheerleader,” just kidding you know, what was I suppose to say? How about a yoyo? I will say this, Old Willie was game.

Willie had his limo brought up, about 6 or 8 of us loaded up, after stocking the bar in the Limo at the drive through liquor store; we went to Clarksville, Indiana across the Ohio River from Louisville. The limo pulled up in front of a topless bar, with a sign that says, “Girls, Girls, Girls. Debbie does Dallas, Dallas Cheerleaders tonight only.” We go in and because of Willie’s status; we got a table put right in front of the stage. We ordered a few rounds of drinks, then we broke a couple of hundred dollar bills, our money and change laying on the table, the lights started flashing off and on, then here come the dancing girls.

When it was time for the girls with the cheerleader outfits to dance, we watched them parade around and then do their cheerleading routine then Willie grabbed a $100 dollar bill off of the table, put one foot on the chair and one foot on top of the stage. With one arm held behind his head and the other arm extending forward with the hundred dollar bill pointed towards the nearest blonde, like Tex did with that horse and the candy apple, he hollered “Hup.”

The next day, we’re driving west bound, now we got two of the dancers with us, why? I don’t know, I had broken up with my girlfriend about 4 months before, Debbie was back in Davenport if I needed one, that’s where were headed, back to Davenport. The crew had changed motels. Sophie had been put in jail for not paying her room rent. Since Debbie started hustling the gimps, the guys were not paying Sophie any attention. I guess she was broke. I sold a load of tools to “cash up” and I was ready to travel. I had enough of Davenport, it sure ain’t no place to be for the likes of me.

I had two trucks that we loaded down with tools and the Trans Am. Mandy and Blondie were the two dancers that had joined up with us. They were riding in the truck with me and Tex, Debbie was riding with Gary. I remember thinking it was a good thing that it was good that Gary was there to drive my car. Tex and I rented a “tow bar” from “U-Haul,” pulled the Chevy truck on a tow bar behind the big Ford Super Cab.

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On the way out of town, we stopped at the red light at the foot of the bridge leaving town. I glanced into the review mirror, right behind me I could see that one of the local cops had pulled my brother Gary out of the car and had him spread eagle on the hood of the car with a gun to his head. I jumped out of the truck, what do you expect, Heck, that was my brother, I grabbed a steel hoist handle and threatened the cop. I told him to back off, that we would comply with what ever he wanted, just put that gun down. We agreed to follow him back to the police station. When we got there, we were all placed under arrest.

Gary and Tex had gone to pick up the two dancers Blondie and Mandy, that we had stashed at the eight dollar a night motel; they were still wearing their Dallas cheerleader outfits. As a joke, Gary decided to stab the waterbed with his knife but that wasn’t good enough for Tex. Trying to be funny, he stuck two of his fingers in the hole and pulled it apart, it was an upstairs room so it didn’t take long for the management to find out.

The cops found a joint rolled in pink paper that Tex had hid in his jeans, when they shook us down. The State Attorney was adding up the damages and the charges and the fines, for all of us, plus trying to stick us with the foul mouthed Indian girl Sophie. She was in the back, cussing and fussing, just hollering for us to get her out of there. It made for a lot of confusion. The cops looked at us and said if she’s with you, you guys have got to get her out of here, please.

I asked “How much is my bond, I haven’t done anything?” I got to admit it did look funny, we had 3 women with us, plus one back in a cell hollering at us. “Get me out of here!” You could take one look at the girls and know what they were about. Me, I’m trying to convince them that I’m just a normal hard working guy that had over 6,000 dollars on him. The cops said my bond was $50.00 for public nuisance, so I paid it. I went over to the east Indian motel owner who was getting ready to press charges against us and said, “Hey, your rooms rent for eight dollars a night, you’ll probably lose a few nights rent, how about fifty bucks for that? You can get that waterbed fixed for less than twenty bucks, here’s fifty more.” Then I told him, “carpet might cost another two hundred and here’s another hundred for your trouble ….that’s only if you don’t press charges against us.”

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The state attorney pleaded with him not to do it. He said “Can’t you see, he’s playing “Lets Make a Deal” with you. He’s trying to play you for a fool. You got to stand up and show him you can’t be bought.” You could see the calculator in the motel owner’s mind working, when he was staring at the money on the table. In the blink of an eye, the man scooped up the cash and said “I will take the money, I will not be pressing charges.”

I turned to the State Attorney and said,” I want my fifty bucks back and the pink joint, because you don’t have probable cause”. He hated it and didn’t want to do it, but he didn’t have any one to press charges. He said that he would only give us back the joint, if we promised to bond Sophie out too. He shook his head slowly from side to side in disbelief and asked me “How soon can you leave town?”

I heard Sophie screaming and I asked how much her bond was, they said 105 dollars plus sixteen more for her room rent. I said to them, “I just paid the rent, She’s not with us, keep my fifty here’s fifty-five more, thirty minutes after we leave you let her go, and we get to keep the pink joint. The cops said “Oh no, you got to take her with you”. I refused to take her with us. I told them “No, y’all can just keep her, give me back my money.” They changed their mind and let her out 30 minutes after we left. We smoked that pink joint on the way to Kansas City.

The Fugitive out of Nahunta

Old Sam


Old Sam, Bentonville, Arkansas

One day I was looking back through my collection of old business cards that I had accumulated over the years, one brought back a story to mind. My brother Gary and his wife Rae lived in Hardy, Arkansas (You have probably seen Erik Estrada on TV doing commercials). It was a good central location to work out of. You could leave out in any direction, headed somewhere to go work and if your luck was any good, you would be bound to hit a prosperous area, sooner or later
Every time we drove up from Kansas City, heading home, we usually went through Bentonville. Most of the time, we were either empty (without a load to sell) or it was after dark, too late to “pitch.”
As we headed out one morning to go work, we drove towards Dallas. Gary had bought a hand accordion over the week end and as I drove, he practiced. Lovely, just lovely, I’ve got to drive all the way to Dallas, listening to this? We drove through Ash Flats, down towards Pocahontas. I was driving and gritting my teeth, when I came up with the idea to go work Bentonville. It wasn’t that far and I could sure use a break from all of that screeching.
Gary was wearing a pair of overalls that day. We noticed a sign that read “Andy’s WELDING.” The door was opened to the shop, the house was next door and the yard was full of grazing goats. Gary got out of the truck and trying to be funny, he imitated Aunt Bee, from Andy of Mayberry. He hollered out, imitating her voice, “Andeeee, Andy.” I almost split a gut, it was so funny. No one answered, no one came to the door, no dogs barking, just the wail of the radio, coming from the shop.
We were kind of leery about the situation. It seemed like we were in an Alfred Hitchcock movie or something. We both walked to the open door of the shop, not seeing anybody, I hollered out “Hey, anybody home?” One of those darn goats had climbed atop the hood of my truck and was licking dead bugs off of the windshield. The old goat turned to look at me and he bleated out “Naaaahhhhhhhhh!”
Right around the corner from the welding shop, located on the main drag through Bentonville, was the Bentonville Casket Company. Since we were here already, we figured “Why not? Let’s pitch ‘em. When we pulled in, the main boss wasn’t there, the one that signs the checks. We told the foreman that “we had a truck load of brand new tools and machinery that we had to dispose of for our boss, back in Carolina. Repo’d, brand new, selling it for cheap, just call ’em and make an offer.”
The foreman told us that his boss wasn’t in but he had a friend named Sam that owned a five and dime store nearby and that he was building a new store because business was so good. He thought that his friend Sam would be interested in our stuff and he had the money, he could write our boss a check for all of it and the check would be good. All he wanted out of the deal was one of those brand new socket sets.
Hearing that, we got excited. No, we didn’t mind waiting. The foreman called his buddy Sam, who said he’d be with us in a few minutes, he was trying to open a new store. He was just down the street, right next to his Five and Dime Store. While we were waiting for him, the main boss to the casket company returned. He showed some interest, we put him through the book, but when his foreman told him that he had called Sam and that Sam was on his way to take a look, the boss of the casket company deferred his interest to Sam. Let Sam take a look and see what he has to say.
A white box truck pulled up to the place and an older gentleman got out. He was wearing a straw hat, the kind with the green visor built into the brim, a sweaty white shirt with a pocket protector full of pens and pencils. The foreman introduced us; he told me that if Ole Sam was to buy this stuff, he wanted us to make sure that he got that socket set for a “Bird Dog Fee.” I asked him which truck was his. I would lay it on the floorboard when no one was looking.
Mr. Sam looked our truck load of tools over, he spoke with the foreman and the business owner and then he came back to us. You could have knocked me over with a feather when he asked us “Do y’all work for Bobby or do y’all work for Billy?” Shocked as we were, I tried to stay in character, “Oh no, we work for their sister Miss Francis. She owns the company now.”
Sam said “That figures, I told them boys not to spend all their money on race cars, that they would loose their ass.” We told him that Miss Francis sponsors David Pearson (Race car Driver) over in Greer, that Billy was “Jet setting’ and that Bobby was raising Beefalos and building car dollies.” Sam looked at the ground and spit, while he was leaning against the truck. He told us that he had been in the Army with their Dad Clint back in the war. I said “Do you mean Mr. Flint?” He laughed and said, “Yeah, I was just checking you out.”
We got back to talking about the tools at hand; I asked him if he could write our boss out a check for these tools? Sam said “Goodness no. I can barely write a check for a hundred dollars. Sure, I own a lot of stores and buy and sell a lot of merchandise, but my wife don’t trust me with no check book. If I buy something it’s either cash or send me a bill and I never carry more than a hundred.”
About this time old Sam pulled a card out of his pocket protector and started scribbling on back. He said that he was drawing a map to his warehouse, he even wrote down his personal phone number. He told us that “This guy here won’t buy nothing, his business is so bad he can’t pay attention and that his foreman is so dumb, he can’t poor piss out of a boot, without getting his feet wet. He told us that he wanted all of the little tools, like the wrenches and grinder and the vise etc. He wanted us to meet back at his place in about an hour. He gave me the card, got back in his box truck and drove off. The faded letters on the side of his truck read “WALTON’S Five and Dime.”
As he drove off, I was holding Sam’s card in my hand, when the owner of the casket company walked up to us and said, “Well, what happened, what did he say?” The foreman was right behind him, all ears, I guess he had his mind on that free socket set. I showed the boss man old Sam’s business card and told him “You must have friends like I got. He said that you don’t have the money to be able to afford this stuff. He wants us to meet him back at his “wareroom” in an hour. He wrote down directions for us on the back of his card, just in case we get lost, he gave us his personal phone number.” Then I handed the card to the business owner to read for himself.
The man took a look at the card, turned it over and read the back of it. He hesitated then said “Yeah, you’re right. That does it, back the truck up over there and unload it and I’ll get you a check.”
So, all in all, it turned out to be a pretty good day. We dropped our load. I guess you could say we dropped on our first pitch, because the two old goats don’t count. I’ve thought about it a few times and I sure would have liked to see the expression on the foreman’s face when he opened the door to his pickup and instead of finding the half inch socket set like I promised, he got a slightly used, second hand accordion.