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

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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.

Grandpa’s Rain Barrel

Mom had been promising me and my brothers all summer that we were going to Grandpa’s farm up in Alston, Georgia to stay for a couple of weeks.  My sister Glenda had been visiting all summer.  We just knew she was having lots of fun without us.

We pulled into the yard just in time to see Glenda running across the pigpen with our cousin Jackie right behind her.  Glenda was crying, her freckled face flowing with tears when she stopped and picked up a clod of something to throw at Jackie.  Manure of some kind or at least that’s what it looked like from the backseat of Mom’s car.

Come to find out, that’s just what it was.  Glenda ran to the ladder leaning up against the barn and raced up to the top of the barn.  Jackie stopped at the bottom of the ladder, first looking up and then turning around to squint at Granny who was standing right behind her, holding a willow switch.

Jackie and Glenda had been told to sweep the front  yard, company was coming.  The chickens saw to it that there wasn’t even a blade of grass, but their poop and countless mouthfuls of tobacco spit of the front porch had littered the entrance way to Grandpa’s front door.  Jackie was a teenager, Glenda not quite.  When Jackie didn’t think Glenda was working fast enough, she bent over and pinched her.  Glenda recoiled, still smarting, responded by calling Jackie a “bitch.”

Granny always pretended to be deaf, hearing just what she wanted to hear but she heard that and grabbed a switch off of the front porch, chasing my big sister across the yard while screaming at Jackie to catch  a hold of her.

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Granny told Jackie that if she didn’t climb up the ladder to get Glenda, she was going to set fire to her ass with that switch.  Red faces must run in the family because all three of them had bright red freckled faces that day.  When Jackie climbed to the top of the ladder, Glenda pulled a wooden shingle loose from the roof and tossed at Jackie, hitting her in the cheek.  Jackie began a retreat from the top of the ladder, a few ginger steps at a time, only to be met by Granny a couple of rungs from the bottom.  “What did I tell you,”  Granny said as she applied the switch.  “You don’t come down without her.”

I could tell from my safe spot in the back seat of the car that Jackie didn’t want no part of climbing back up that ladder but she knew better than to climb down.  She climbed up a couple of rungs, just out of Granny’s reach.  Glenda had pulled another shingle loose and she had her arm drawn back, ready to chuck another if need be.

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Grandpa Sharpe came around the corner of the barn by the edge of the pig pen carrying a washtub full of what looked like mason jars, covered with mud.  He shooed Granny and her switch away, telling her to go heat up some water on top of the stove.  Then he turned to face Jackie, reaching up to help her back down the rickety old ladder.  He turned to look up at Glenda, talking soothingly and calmly to her as he climbed the ladder asking her what was wrong, be careful don’t fall, tell me all about it.

Glenda said “Jackie pinched me and when I called her a bitch, Granny said she was gonna whoop me.”  Grandpa kinda chuckled, I think he had seen this act play out before.  He reached out his hand for Glenda to grab and told her that he wasn’t going to let that happen, climb on down.

Jackie still had a red mark on her cheek.  She looked like she was seething but she helped Granny by grabbing one side of the wash tub while Granny held the other and they both disappeared with the tub, into the house.

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Grandpa’s house consisted of a big kitchen and table while the rest of the house was wall to wall beds.  The front porch was the living room.  The bath room was an outhouse in the back yard.  Mom had 7 brothers and sisters.  Farm life needed lots of labor, Grandpa and Granny had raised their own.

A truce was called, Mom brought us up to the front porch to reintroduce us to our Grandpa.  He hadn’t seen us since we were wee tykes and I’m pretty sure he had forgotten out names.  Mom had pulled up while Grandpa was in the middle of counting his moonshine money that he had buried.  It seem that the money had mildewed in the jars.  He and Granny were fixing to wash the money and clean the jars.  It seems like the bank and local stores wouldn’t accept mildewed money.

Mom gave us a hug and a kiss goodbye, saying that she would be back in a couple of weeks to pick us up in time to start school.  I was going to be in the first grade this year.  I was a little apprehensive, not knowing what to expect.  Then she told Jackie that if she pinched any of her children why she was gone, that she would take her ass down to the creek and wear it out.

While Granny busied herself at the stove, first stirring a pot of collards, then a soapy boiling pot of mixed bills, ones, fives, tens and twenties.  Jackie strung a clothesline across the front of the fireplace to hang money from, with clothespins, just like it was laundry.  While she was doing this Grandpa went to the pump to draw more water to wash the empty jars in.

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The pump was old and rusty, the handle had been broken halfway up, many years before.  Grandpa had slid a piece of pipe over the broken handle to make it usable.  Now the handle was so long that it was unwieldy, he was the only one that could use it.  To make life easier for Granny, he had put an old pickle barrel next to the drain spout from the roof, so that it would fill up with rain water for Granny’s kitchen use.  He had rolled a log over to stand up against it, so us shorties could fetch Granny a pot of water when needed.

Granny’s kitchen was always hot.  The fire in the wood burning stove was always lit. It kept the whole house hot.  That’s why the front porch was considered the living room.  When she wasn’t washing Grandpa’s money or boiling mason jars she was cooking greens, peas, corn or cornbread and such.  My favorite was the pan style cornbread that she cooked on top of the stove like pancakes.

Most of the evenings were spent on the front porch, taking turns either rocking or swinging.  When Granny or Grandpa were rocking they would sit close to the edge of the porch so that they could lean over and spit when the need occurred, chewing either tobacco or dipping snuff.  Grandpa favored Beechnut while Granny seemed to like Navy’s peach brand.  Grandpa would try to teach us our numbers with an old domino set. He told us that we needed to learn our numbers just in case he needed help counting  his money.

Grandpa had a few field hands that lived with him.  In the summer, they slept under the porch, in the winter, on top.  When he needed extra help, neighbors would mysteriously appear like magic.  Grandpa needed help picking his cotton or cutting his sugarcane, bringing in the hay, plowing up his peanuts then cutting his tobacco and hanging it in his barn.

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After he put is hay up, Grandpa parked his wooden wagon under the loft so us kids could jump from the loft onto a pile of hay.  That would keep us busy for hours while Grandpa was working on his moonshine still down by the creek.  Jackie had put an old croaker sack under the big pile of hay when Glenda was climbing up the ladder.  When Glenda jumped and was still in the air, Jackie jerked that croaker sack out from the back of the wagon, bringing with it most of the hay.  Glenda said that when she landed she it so hard that it made her teeth hurt.  She went crying to Grandpa down by the creek to see if he would give her a nickel to tell him what Jackie had done to her.

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Grandpa whittled us some guns out of dead tree limbs and then made us a bow and arrow set one night while we were swinging on the porch so we could play cowboys and Indians while we enjoyed the breeze as he told us his stories every night.

“I remember one time, I won’t ever forget.”  Is how they usually started out, telling us about the stories he heard when he was a boy, just about our size.  He would show us his arrow head collection, most of which he said he found behind the barn, down by the creek. He talked about the depression, he said that ’bout the time he heard there was one,  it was over.

 

When it came time to cut the sugarcane and make he syrup, Grandpa started a big bonfire and let it burn for a couple of days to get the coals red hot, just the way he wanted them.  Then he set up a tripod to hold a big  deep dish metal pan about five feet wide, hanging from three,  five foot long chains over the coals.  My brothers, Gary, Duane and I would take turns leading one of Grandpa’s two mules in a circle to power the cane press.  He would then collect the juice and put into the heated pan, letting it simmer, when it came to a boil, he would add more juice to cool it down.  After hours and hours the simmering juice would start to thicken.  That’s when the neighbors started to appear out of the woods to “help.”  It seems to me that everyone brought their own cup to sample the sweet juice with.  Grandpa would cook it ’til it thickened and pour it into mason jars and empty liquor bottles.

On Friday night Grandpa must have been expecting more company.  Us kids swept the yard.  We kept a wary eye to make sure that Jackie kept her distance.  He put the chickens in the coop and a butchered hog on the spit.  After he did that, he put his RCA radio in the kitchen window facing the barn and turned the volume all the way up.  It wasn’t too long after that, cars started to pull into the yard and parked facing the barn.

Grandpa got his fiddle out and played along with the music on the radio.  It wasn’t long before some one else joined in with a harmonica and another started keeping time with an old washboard.  After the dancing started,  I watched him bring out jars of moonshine, trading them for cash to his friends.  The headlights from the cars lit up the yard for dancing, in front of the barn.

It wasn’t full dark yet but us kids were told to stay on the porch.  In the twilight we played mumbly peg and checkers to pass the time.  We listened to our uncles tell ghost stories and watched Granny fuming, running in and out of the house to check on Grandpa.

The dancing, hooting and hollering went on ’til the late hours of the night, way past our bedtime.  Grandpa would come in every once in a while and place a mason jar stuffed full of cash, rice and soda crackers on the dresser.  Our bed was under Granny and Grandpa’s, slid out at night and pushed back during the light of day.  I can remember looking up, I won’t never forget, that in the glow of a kerosene lamp I could see more than a dozen jars  on top of the old mahogany dresser.  Sitting in front of an old round mirror, instead of dozens, they looked to be more than a hundred in the reflection.  When Grandpa stumbled and tried to crawl in bed, Granny made a fuss and shooed Grandpa out of the bed, telling him to go sleep on the porch with the rest of the “dogs.”

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The next morning Grandpa was still sawing logs on the front porch cuddled up to his old hound “Sambo.”  Glenda witnessed Granny bend over, reach into Grandpa’s top overall pocket and take a roll of bills that he had forgot to put in a jar.  The she started hitting him with her broom, telling him to get up, calling him all kinds of names.  The she said she was going to get a bucket of water out of the rain barrel.

Glenda rushed over to Grandpa to tell him he’d better get up quick or else he was fixing to get doused.  Grandpa still in a stupor sat up, scratching his head trying to gather his thoughts.  Glenda held her hand out, palm up asked him if he would give her a nickel.  When he asked her what for, she told him that she saw Granny take a wad of money out of his pocket.  He laughed at this, started scratching, like maybe old Sambo had fleas or something, then he laughed.  He started reaching for his pockets, pulling out rolls of wadded up cash.  He told Glenda that she ain’t hurt me, I got money in every pocket.  If I had more pockets, I’d have more money.  Glenda told me later that for all the nickels Grandpa ever gave her, she never got to spend the first one.  She said she didn’t know if Jackie waited for her to fall asleep and took ’em or she just forgot where she hid them, because whenever she woke up, they were gone.  Jacky was always full of meanness.  Glenda told us that Jackie would pee the bed on purpose and tell Granny that she did it, Just “sos” she’d get a whooping.

Grandpa had an old truck, but to get away from Granny, he hitched up his mules to his old wagon and took us for a ride into town, six miles away.  He bought some supplies, got Granny a couple of tins of snuff.  The he got himself some chewing tobacco and two blocks of ice wrapped in sawdust, for a quarter apiece.  On the way home he joked about his mules being like his sons, one being lazier than the other.  Once we got close enough to the house, one of the mules started pulling at the traces, anxious to get home, ready to start eating some grain.  The other lag behind, letting the lead mule do most of the work.  I asked Grandpa if the one mule was faster than the other.  He leaned over the wagon and spit a mouthful of tobacco juice at a Georgia Cracker grasshopper sitting on a barbed wire fence and said, “Oh, I don’t know about that, here we’ve come about 10 miles and he ain’t no more’n six inches ahead of t’other.”

When we got home, Grandpa surprised Granny with a couple of lemons he bought in town and a jar of dandelion wine.  Then told her he bought the extra block of ice to make ice cream with, then he shooed us boys off to the creek to look for arrowheads while he took a snooze on the swing.

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My brothers and I soon tired of hunting arrowheads in the muddy creek bank.  Gary and I started playing cowboys and Indians with the make believe weapons Grandpa had made us.  Duane, the youngest said he was hungry and he left us and headed back toward the house.  It wasn’t too long after that, we heard Granny calling us, like she was hollering “sooey” for the pigs.

When we got to the house we found Grandpa busy churning the handle on the ice cream bucket.  He had cut up a watermelon and had the slices stacked along the edge of the porch, like a smorgasbord.  He brought out some more  jars and filled them with rolls of cash, rice and soda crackers.  They were sitting on the other side of the porch.  Granny got a bucket of water out of the rain barrel and made some ice cold lemonade.  Grandpa drunk his down in two big gulps while Granny sipped hers as she rocked.

My brothers and I took our turns spinning the crank on the ice cream churn, Grandpa took his jars and disappeared around the back of the barn only to return quickly, his face red as I don’t know what.  Someone had overturned the pig trough exposing his hiding spot for the mason jars.  The money was still in the jars but the soda crackers were missing.  Duane started brushing the crumbs from his mouth, to escape Grandpa’s wrath, but somehow Grandpa knew who the culprit was.  He asked Duane why he opened them jars.  Duane said, “I couldn’t help it, I was hungry.”  When Grandpa asked him how he knew where they were, Duane said, “It’s all your fault, when you tried to climb in the bed with Granny, the pig shit sprinkled all in our face from your dirty feet.”

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This brought a smile to his face and he leaned back for a minute.  When my brothers and I went back to spitting watermelon seeds at the chickens he noticed that Duane’s feet were clean, while Gary’s and mine were still covered with mud.  He asked Duane, “I know you can’t work that pump boy, how’d you clean them feet?”

Duane looked back at him and said, “In the rain barrel.”