Mickey, Chinese Food and the Greater Metro Plex

When you live on the road and your home address is a PO box, you have to make money every day.  Motel room, gas, eating out, entertainment, laundry mats and bar tabs, etc., they all ad up, quick.  We got up every morning at 6 am, had breakfast at 7, then on the road looking to make a sale by 8:30.  Hopefully, you can make a sale early and then you have the rest of the day to goof off.

I sold a load of tools early one morning.  I arrived back at the motel honking my Dixie horn, spinning tires and cutting donuts, as usual.  Maudie was still brushing her teeth.  I asked her if she wanted to go to the baseball park in Arlington to see the Texas Rangers play a game.   She wasn’t 100% enthused about it.   I think she had her hopes up for Six Flags.  Maudie wasn’t exactly a baseball fan, she liked the eight dollar beers alright, but it just something about those 10 dollar Dilly Dogs.  She agreed to go, if I would take her out to eat Chinese food later.

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The normal game time for most week day games was one o’clock. It gets so hot in Texas that most games are scheduled for later.  The start of today’s game was delayed until five for a television broadcast.  We got there early.  Maudie and I were walking around the outside of the stadium sightseeing and killing time.  We saw a white, on white, on white Lincoln Mark V, with the front license plates that read “MICKEY.”  Immediately I recognized the name.  Hey, that’s Mickey Rivers, he’s the center fielder for the Rangers.  He got out of the car wearing a Malcom X cap, sunglasses, and a black jogging suit with a big gold chain. He walked over and started to unlock the gate.  I went up to him and started a conversation.  “Who’s gonna win the game today?  Is Nolan Ryan gonna pitch today?  Who do you think is gonna get MVP?  Then he acted like he had to go.  Before he could leave though I asked him if he would sign my program.  He said, “Sure, do you have a pen?”  I  told him how to write it out, “To Mike and Maudie, enjoy the game.”  When he handed it back to me I glanced down at the scribbled signature and I read, “Jerome Johnson.”  I asked him, “Who in the hell is Jerome Johnson?  Ain’t you Mickey Rivers,  center field?” He said, “Who me?  Hell no.  I’m Jerome Johnson.  Mickey is in the training room, I just got his car washed for him.”

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It was a great evening for a baseball game.  After watching the fireworks from center field and after half dozen stadium beers I was more than ready to take Maudie out to go eat.  Chinese sounded good to me.  Jerome had told me how to get to a great Chinese place nearby.  His directions were a little off though.  Instead of coming into the restaurant from the front, we ended up coming in the back way.

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Not being familiar with the place, when we saw the sign over the door China Gate or something, we walked right on in, the door wasn’t locked.  By mistake, we entered through the kitchen door.  On every wall it seemed there were skinned animals of some kind, hanging high up on the wall, from a hook.  Immediately I thought they looked like cats, but it couldn’t be.  I knew that one hanging off to the side sort of looked like a bluish duck, maybe it was just my imagination.  The menus were written in Chinese.  I had to ask what each entrée was and was told it was either “chicken this, or chicken that.”  Funny, I son’t remember seeing any chickens in the back.

I just ordered some egg rolls and won ton sauce.  I couldn’t get my mind off of what ever that blue thing was, hanging from a hook in the kitchen.  Not Maudie, she put on the feed bag.  She wanted chicken this, that and the other and got her wish.  The waitress kept bring her one order after another.  She kept saying, “You should try this.  It’s the best chicken I ever ate.”  A man at the table next to us leaned over shaking his head and told me, “Tell her it’s not chicken, it’s rabbit.”  Maudie lost her appetite after that.  She got up from the table holding her mouth, stomping her way to the bathroom.   I don’t eat fortune cookies, but I won’t ever forget what Maudie’s fortune read “Hare today, gone tomorrow.”

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Maybe those 10 dollar Dilly Dogs weren’t such a bad idea.

 

Billy Bob’s

Billy Bob’s, Ft. Worth

Maudie and I drove all the way from Jacksonville to Dallas, just so I could rejoin my crew selling tools again.  We would go door to door pitching anyone that looked like they could write a check.  The object is to keep pitching until you find someone to buy your load.  Just get them on the phone with Rita, back at the plant and your working day is over.

The first working day, I figured I would take Maudie out with me and show her a deal.  I cruised over to my territory that I had outlined on the map.  On the way there she kept asking me “What’s wrong with that place, or how come you didn’t stop there?  There were a lot of us on the crew and every one signed out separate territories, so we wouldn’t cross paths.  She didn’t believe me, she sucked on her lip to show me she didn’t believe me.  Why would I make that up?  She started staring straight out the window, ignoring me.

When we got to my area, Maudie really turned negative.  “This area sucks, or, Aw won’t nobody buy nothing here.”  The first couple places I hit, either the boss wasn’t there or they already had a load that they bought last year.  After a couple of hours Maudie turned “toasty brown.”  I wanted to take Maudie back to the motel and dump her, but she wanted me to make some money so she could go to “Billy Bob’s,” home of the world’s largest bar and indoor rodeo,” over in Ft. Worth.  She was afraid that if she wasn’t with me, that I would just go find a nice cool cantina somewhere, play pool and listen to the juke box.  I could almost close my eyes and think about, oh it did sound tempting.

Finally I told her, “Look if we’re going to go to Billy Bob’s, you’re gonna wanta wear some nice boots and maybe an outfit  Before we go shopping for boots, you’re  know you’re going to want to take a shower, right?”  Cool, that made sense to her, it was that easy to get rid of her, made me think, “Why didn’t I do that earlier?”  After I left her back at the room, I drove back to my area and hit a place where the “bossman” wasn’t in earlier, but I had seen a nice crew cab four wheel drive Chevy diesel parked up front while I was driving pass.  I don’t remember what type business it was, but there was a roll top garage door on the side of the building.  My pitch was a little rusty, I stumbled and stuttered, it had been about six months since I sold a load of tools.  Once I got the boss man on the phone with Rita, it was over.  Twenty minutes later I’m at the bank to get a cashier’s check.  I “hammered my check” (exchanged it for a cashier’s check), went back to the motel, squealing tires and doing donuts in the parking lot, (it was a jackman tradition).

Maudie came out of the motel room with a face full of smiles, she was beaming.  “You dropped our load, how much did we get?”  I was almost scared to tell her, what if it wasn’t enough?  Well it was more than we had, so I told her I made almost $1,600 bucks and she was ecstatic.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it was at a place we had already pitched.  I didn’t want her to think she was bad luck.

We went to Shepler’s Western Wear.  I got her a pair of cowgirl boots with fringe up the side, a pair of new jeans, a matching vest and a bright red shirt.  We both wanted a hat, so we got matching straw “Roper’s.”  I bought me a pair of Tony Llama’s made from “Cayman” skin.  Of course I had to get some “boot cut” jeans and a pearl button shirt after all, we were going to “Billy Bob’s.”

“Billy Bob’s,” if you ain’t ever been there is a huge place.  They got every thing under the sun in that place; you can even get a haircut or get your nails done.  They had a Bar B Que and they had pizza too.  The dance floor could hold over a thousand people at once.  After a few shots of tequila and some beer chasers, I showed Maudie how the cowboys like to dance, two stepping backwards, every once in a while a twirl or two, always dancing in a circle.  She made a cute cowgirl, with her being a rock an roller, I wasn’t sure if she would like it or not.

After a couple of dances and a pitcher of beer or two, it wasn’t long before she started yammering that she wanted me to be one of the riders for the bull riding contest.  Uh oh, I knew I was in trouble then.  “Like hell,” I thought, “Why would I want to ride a perfectly good bull that ain’t ever done nothing to me?”  Then to motivate me, she started making eyes at the guys walking around the bar with numbers pinned to their backs.  Catching their eye and acting like she wanted to dance.  I knew what time it was.  The guys walking around with their number pinned to their back stick out and are real popular.  The girls all roll their eyes at them.  They walk up to you, drink out of your glass, make eyes at your girl, like you aren’t there.  I stood in line for 30 minutes, laid down $25 bucks for the entry fee, got my number and watched Maudie smiling like a little kid as she happily pinned it to my back.  Everything was alright then, back to normal.  You should have seen her dance then.  Hopefully, they wouldn’t draw my number.

Thirty minutes before the riding event, the head honchos hold a drawing and take 15 entries out of a jar.  Out of that 15, there will a couple of “no-shows,” guys that change their mind.  If your number gets selected you get to ride, if not, you just donated $25 bucks to the winner.  I knew I was in over my head.  I had ridden mechanical bulls before.  I thought that I was somewhat good at that, but I knew it wasn’t the same thing.  You couldn’t tell that to Maudie though.  I had taken her to go see that movie, “Urban Cowboy” and she wanted to relive the moment, at my expense.  If a fellow came up and asked her named, she would roll her eyes back and say “Sissy.”

When I heard my number announced over the loud speaker, my heart went in my throat.  Not good news for me but Maudie was ecstatic and gleeful.  I was a willing lamb being led to the slaughter.  My luck was good though.  There were a couple of “old hands” with a twinkle in their eyes, they gave me pointers, they loaned me a pair of gloves and told me not to worry.  Just get a good grip, pinch inwards with your knees, lean forward and hang on.  They told me that “when the chute opened the bull was going to go left, when he puts his head down, just lean back and try to rake his shoulders with your spurs.”  Feeling defenseless I said, “Wait a minute I don’t have any spurs.”  To this they just laughed and one guy said that he didn’t really mean that I needed spurs; it was a figure of speech, “Just act like you got some on and rake his shoulders with the heels of your boots.  Hey those are some nice boots, where you’d get them?”

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They forgot to tell me they were going to yank that “cod strap” around his nuts.  Just as soon as they did, through my legs I could feel his muscles tense up.  As his chest muscles expanded started swelling up, ready to jump, crushing my legs against the sides of the pen.  I looked up and hundreds of faces looking at me.  I couldn’t recognize any body, it was all giant a blur.  Just then, the chute opened and it was over in less time it took to get ready.  What I remember most are the words of the two “old hands” that coaxed me into giving it a try. “These ain’t real rodeo bulls Hoss, they just old docile bulls that are a couple weeks shy of the slaughter house.”

I bet them was tough ass steaks.  After the turn, I lasted about two jumps and a crow hop, when he put his head down again there was no time to lean back, I was out of there, head over hills.  Nothing was broken except for my pride.  I had cow manure all over my new pearl button shirt, but Maudie was as happy as a pig in slop.  I mean, she was tickled pink.  I guess it was a woman thing.  We went back about a week later and I tried it again, this time, I don’t think I was quite as scared but the result was about the same, the bull was better at it than I was.  The worse thing about it my privates were swoll up.  Maudie started teasing me, calling me “Bud.”

Down upon the Swanee River

I think I told y’all the story about Maudie and I camping out at Blue Springs on the Withlacoochee River.  This was the next day.

After Maudie and I left Blue Springs, we headed towards Live Oak, Fl.  On the way we passed a place along side the Suawanee River, with a large sign “Canoe Rentals”.    We both agreed that it seemed like it would be a lot of fun.  We stopped to check it out.  The owner at the canoe rental told us that we could rent a canoe by the day.  He said that he could pick us up at any one of half different places, depending on how far we wanted to go.  Twenty miles, fifty miles, even a hundred miles.  He told us that there were plenty of spots along side the river that we could stop to call him.  He would fetch us back to our truck, in his van, with racks on top to carry the canoe.  He told us that there were plenty of places on the river that we could stop at along the way.  He also said that there were other canoe rental places and that most of the places were like his, small bait and tackle, boat rentals, beer joints and a pool hall or two, some with overnight cottages.swp103.jpg

Even 40 years ago this adventure seemed a little edgy, but promising.  I mean, we weren’t scared or nothing like that.  It sounded like it was just what we wanted, to get away for a day or so from prying eyes and enjoy Mother Nature .  We never decided on just how far we wanted to try.  It was a spur of the moment thing.  I guess it was up to us.

I figured ahead of time, that I would end up doing most of the paddling, no big deal, but in my mind I was thinking that after 10 to 15 miles, I would have enough of it, and call it a day.  We loaded up some of our camping gear, an axe, a sleeping bag, a fishing pole, a pair of binoculars, sun tan oil, a cooler full of beer and a bottle of Jose Cuervo and a transistor radio.

It was early morning when we headed out, dew still on the grass.  It was beautiful, we enjoyed our selves.  Large swamp birds, cranes, egrets, herons etc., squirrels telling all of nature’s creatures we were coming.  We saw big gators and we saw little gators, plenty of gators.  There were lots of large gar, roiling beside the boat, bass jumping, and giant spider webs as big as sails, stretched between branches from tree to tree.  We avoided the huge hornet’s nest sagging from over hanging tree branches bending low, so low, as to touch the top of the water as it swept pass.  The current was brisk, I didn’t need to paddle all that much, just enough to steer us in a straight line.  Every once in a while, we would pass a sand bar in the middle of the river, on these occasions we would beach the canoe on the bar, and swim for a bit, enjoying the cool water and the hot sun.  The further we went, the more we enjoyed ourselves.  There were plenty of sand bars in the middle of the river.  We beached the canoe on one, picnicked, then swam naked for about an hour, before resuming our trip.

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Maudie helped me paddle for about the first 7 or 8 miles, after that I noticed she spent a lot more time with the binoculars and drinking beer, to me that was okay, enjoy yourself, I got this.  I got concerned though when she switched the radio station from country to the “Whiskey Rock and Roll” station out of Live Oak. Then she started taking long pulls off that bottle of Cuervo and chasing it with beer.  I could handle it I guess. Then I thought to myself,  “I might better keep a closer eye on her.”  Drinking hard liquor in the hot sun ain’t no joke.  We did have a good current, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico if we wanted.  The mystery of what lies beyond the next bend, kept us going all afternoon.

Watching Maudie drinking and listening to our little radio I could see her mood swinging back and forth, depending on how much she drank and what song was playing on the radio.  I knew she liked to listen to Skynyrd and ZZ Tops when she was drinking.  She knew every song the DJ played.  When she drank tequila, watch out.

I’ve mentioned before, that it seems to me, that all drop dead gorgeous women have some kind of “hang ups”.  Maudie could have wrote the book on that.  First she was Cherokee Indian, on both sides. Yeah, big complex on that issue, she wanted to be accepted as a person, a human being, but when men got around her, they swarmed like flies.  Even my own step brother, I laughed when she told me and felt sorry for him ’cause I knew what would happen to him if he got too close!   She’d stick him.  She didn’t have much luck telling guy’s wives and girlfriend’s about their man’s advances.  It seemed like they thought it was always her fault for encouraging them and it didn’t matter how many times she’d tell a guy no, they didn’t pay her no never mind.

Maudies older sister Linda had been a beertender at the Keg.  The Keg was famous watering hole on the Westside, Jacksonville’s bestside.  This was a place where the band from Lynyrd Skynyrd was known to frequent.  Linda would let Maudie in to clean tables and partake of the atmosphere.  Maudie grew up with beer, whiskey and rock n  roll on the menu.ls332

Me, how did I get in good with her?  Karma I guess, I remember she asked me to dance, first time I met her.  I saw her sitting with her girlfriends at a table in the lounge at Classic Lanes on Cassat Ave.  Mom had always told me, that if a woman likes you, she’ll let you know.  When the band played fast dance songs, she filled up my dance card.  Instead of questioning my good fortune, I just rowed with the flow.  When it came to fishing, I let her bait her own hook.

At first, I was just a casual observer.  I just figured that she half expected me to try and sweep her off her feet, but after seeing what happened to other guys that tried, I didn’t bother.  Next thing I know, she’s cuddling up to me.  She always had her guard up, like there was an invisible wall between us.  I guess she had call to be moody, it just became noticeable all of a sudden like when she drank, which wasn’t all that often, maybe just week ends and canoe trips.

At the end of our first day, we decided that we had so much fun, that we wanted to keep going.  We had passed a few stopover campgrounds, but we kept paddling with the current towards the gulf until almost dark.

We finally stopped at another “Canoe Rental Place,” just before we ran out of daylight.  I asked if we could use the phone to call our “Rivermeister.”  Come to find out, they were cousins, knew each other’s business pretty good and he had called with a “BOLO” about us.  We talked about getting a cabin for the night, but before we unloaded the canoe, we decide to check out the local watering hole.

I’m pretty sure “Deliverance” got their ideas from this place.  It was a typical board on board cypress building, with low ceilings, torn screens instead of glass for the windows, uneven wood floors, a pool table in the center, a juke box in the corner and a Budweiser beer clock on the wall that didn’t work.  The place was full of dudes (none clean shaven), about 6 or 7 of them, with one female, a short, dumpy, red head with a pug nose that kind of reminded me of a toad.

As we entered the rustic backwoods beer palace, Ray Price was blaring on the juke box, “Crazy Arms.”  We ordered drinks at the bar, I got a soft drink and Maudie, a bottle of beer.  I wasn’t quite sure if we wanted to rent a cabin for the night from this place or not but before I could check out the rates Maudie left the bar to put some quarters on the pool table to challenge the winner.  I found a bar stool that fit my butt and sat nearby to watch the action.  I’d seen this before.  Maudie was going to run the table eventually but first, she had to set them up.  Win one or two, lose one or two.  After about an hour, she had won the table so many times I lost track, she’d won over a hundred dollars.  I think she cleaned them out.  Every time she bent over the table to take a shot, someone would make a rude remark or two.  These she ignored, I was proud of her.  The whole time she was shooting pool she had to swat flies.  I mean bar flies.  These guys saw that she was with me, but kept getting in her face, firing at her, left and right to no avail.  I kept feeding quarters in the jukebox and she would select the songs that reflected her mood.

She played a pretty good center field and kept every one at bay but the drunker they got; the harder it was for her to keep them off.  I already knew that if she wanted my help, she’d ask for it, so I laid off.  I had decided that if she asked for my knife, she wasn’t getting it.  I didn’t want to underestimate her but there were too many people to take on in a knife fight.  After we slow danced a song or two, I could feel her mood changing again.  Once she gave me the “side eye” I knew it was “on”.  She played some “Seminole Wind” on the juke box, just to make sure I got the message, and then asked the bar keep the whereabouts to the “girl’s room.”

This drew a big laugh from the crowd, the bartender told her they didn’t have one, that everyone used an outhouse out by the dock.  She asked “Toadie” if she wanted to go with her to show her where it was at.  Meanwhile I had started playing pool.  All eyes were on me when I scratched on the eight ball.  A whoop and holler went up; the guys started telling me that the local custom was anyone scratched on the eight ball had to buy every one a beer.  I was out numbered but not out smarted.  I wanted to get everyone in the room cornered up in one big group.  I said, “Sure, everybody line up at the bar, I’m buying.

Every one inside was standing in front of me, up against the bar.  I told the beer tender to give everybody a root beer, when they objected, “I said why not?  That’s what I’m drinking.”  A couple of the guys laughed about it, some ignored me at first, with their backs to me, tried to circle around me.  I’m pretty sure they were sore about losing their money, but had something else on their minds, like maybe they wanted to get some of their money back from me.

I could see through the torn screen and could tell that Maudie had gotten Toadie to go into the outhouse first.  Maudie told me later that she asked Shorty Red to check for spiders.  After Toadie got inside, Maudie slammed the door and pushed the outhouse over on its side with Toadie still inside.

I wasn’t sure if any one inside the bar saw what was going on outside or not, it had gotten dark on us but when I saw Maudie running down the dock towards the canoe, I grabbed a pool stick and backed up to the door, guarding the entrance.  No more pretending to be nice or dumb.  It was time to “unleash the beast.”  I let everyone know that the first one to come near me was going to get clobbered.  Wouldn’t ya know it?  There were two sneaky bastards that didn’t believe me.  The first one to get within five feet, caught the fat end of the cue stick right in the kisser, lost his front teeth in a blink of an eye.  I guess I forgot to tell them that I had been in a few bar fights.  His back-up was trying to circle around behind me, he got the front six inches of the skinny end of the cue stick broke off against the side of his head.  He started to walk kind of funny after that.  The others spread out, walking backwards, I had seen that most of these guys were barefoot so the last thing I did before running out the door, was to bust the two florescent bulbs in the light fixture, over the pool table.  Broken glass went everywhere.

I ran out from the bar in the dark.  After a few feet, I was able to navigate my path to the dock in the moonlight.  Maudie had untied the canoe and was waiting to shove off at the end of the dock.  We paddled off into the darkness, the beaming rays from the full moon’s light on the river, guiding the way.

We found a beach on an island, near a fork in the river.  We followed a path the led up to a clearing on the river bank, made a fire and camped out under the stars.  Maudie finally let her guard down, I was 25 years old.  I can remember lying in the sleeping bag, on my back staring at the night’s sky and the autumn moon.  I didn’t know for sure if the Good Lord was looking out for me or not, but I had a strong feeling that he was.

“Babe Watch”

Oh man how did I get here?  The Judge must have had the same thoughts because as he shuffled the papers in front of him on his desk he said to the bailiff “Okay just why do we have these fine people assembled here today?”

I looked to my far left and there was Theresa my high school sweetheart, ready to testify against me.  She still looked like she could wear that cheerleader outfit that I remembered her in, so many years before.  To her right, standing between Theresa and the prosecutor was Donna, another girlfriend, ready to bad mouth me and hoping to put me away.  Donna still looked great, though I haven’t seen her in a while, a little heavier I guess, but she still reminded me of Della Street from Perry Mason.

After asking everyone in front of the bench to raise their right hand and take the oath, the bailiff opened up and said “Your honor this is stemming from a 1979 warrant .  In this warrant Mr. Frailey is charged with two counts of assault and battery, stalking and making threats.”

The Judge gave the girls the once over, then looked at me and said “You’ve heard the charges Mr. Frailey, how do you plead?

Shaking my head I replied “Not guilty, uh, maybe guilty your Honor but with extenuating circumstances.”

The Judge then said “Make up your mind Sir, which is it, Guilty or Not Guilty?”

I said “Sir, I’m not guilty of stalking anybody.  I haven’t made any threats to any body, and if standing up for yourself and demanding the return of your property is a crime, then I’m guilty but with extenuating circumstance.”

Standing next to me on my right, was my Dad, in his military uniform, dress whites with his medals and brass, shining bright. “And who is this gentleman standing next to you?” said the Judge.

I answered “This is my Dad, Lieutenant Julius R. Frailey.

“Why are you here Lieutenant Frailey, in what capacity?”

My Dad standing erect, looking sharp and with military precision said “Your Honor, I came to court today to stand beside my son and to verify what he says is true.  I wore my uniform so that you will know that I am a man of honor and that what I say is the truth.”

The Judge gave Dad the once over and said “Let the record show that Lieutenant Frailey is an Officer in the United States Navy,” then he looked over the top of his glasses at Dad and said “Am I correct?”

Dad answered back “Yes Sir, by the grace of God and an act of the United States Congress”

The judge  said to no one in particular that one the medals on Dad’s chest looked like a combat medal and Dad answered him, “Affirmative sir, with a cluster,” and then he nodded towards me and added, “He has one too”.

The judge chewed on that for a moment and said “This sounds like it’s gonna be good, then he looked around at the two girls wanting to press charges against me and said “Okay, who wants to be first?”

Theresa always reminded me of Heather Locklear, you could tell she was anxious to speak, she stepped forward and said, “He beat up my ex-husband broke his jaw, after my Daddy told him not to come around me no more.”

I got the side eye glance from the Judge and grimacing I kinda nodded, not wanting to interrupt.

Then the Judge turned to Donna and asked “What about you young lady, what have you got to say?”

Donna was cold and calculating, you could tell that she was chomping at the bit to get her voice heard.  “He was my live in boyfriend,” he was calling other women on my phone, when I wasn’t there.  He lost his job and started working out of town.  I broke up with him and he stiffed me with all of the bills.  I told him I didn’t want to see him and for him not to come back to my house.  When I got “married” to a fellow from work, Mike came by our house and got into a fight with my new husband.  I had to call the police.  They came and chased him through the woods.  He got away circled back and used his truck to push the police cars out of the drive way so he could escape while they were in the woods, searching for him with the K-9 units.”

When the Judge heard this he just started shaking his head from side to side and clucking with his tongue then he says, “Mr. Frailey, this doesn’t sound good.  Just what do you have to say for yourself in response?”

“Your Honor” I replied “It’s a long story, all of that happened years and years ago.”

To this the Judge looked at his watch and said, “This is the first case on the docket this morning Mr. Frailey, I got all day, let’s hear it.”

Just about that time, you could hear a noise in the back ground, the doors to the courtroom opened and in walked Maudie Mae, my present day girlfriend.  She had stopped to use the bathroom, since I was running late,  I had gone on to the courtroom with out her.  All eyes in the courtroom turned to watch her walk in.  She was drop dead gorgeous. Tight dress and high heels, she was working it.  She was Indian but looked Polynesian, wearing heels, pearls, a black dress and her long brown hair draping down her back.  All eyes in the courtroom were upon her, as she sashayed past the rows of seats and neared the bench, she stopped an asked the judge if she could approach the bench as a friend of the court.  The judge nodded then asked in what capacity and she said as a witness for the defense.  Maudie stood beside me and grabbed my hand.

The judge then looked at me and asked me “just how is it that you surround yourself with all of these beautiful women?”

I said “Well, I use to make a lot of money.”

He said then “Hell son, I make a lot of money.  Just how much money do you make?”

I told him that I met Theresa when I was in High School.  My parents bought me a car so that I could drive home and give my Mom morphine shots in the middle of the day after she had her leg amputated from bone cancer.  I figured that me driving a car in the 10th grade made me look like a big shot, and that’s probably what Theresa liked about me.  I told him when I met Donna, I was selling cars and made about $1500.00 a week.  Ever since I met Maudie, I had settled down working for my Dad, I only made $225 a week and had a furnished apartment with utilities.

The Judge turned his glance towards Maudie (He could barely keep his eyes off of her) and she told him, “I’m not in it for the money.”

I asked the judge if he wanted me to start at the beginning?  He said “Yes, by all means.”

I started by telling him that Theresa and I were High School sweethearts.  After graduation I enlisted in the US Army.  The Judge looked at my Dad and said “I find it hard to believe that you let him enlist in the Army”

Dad told him that as soon as he found out about it, and added to the fact that I had to wait a month before my swearing in, he took me down to the Navy Recruiter and had me sworn in that day.  It was wartime and he didn’t want his son to be cannon fodder.

The judge turned to me and said “Okay Mr Frailey, uh, Mr. Frailey Jr. get on with it.”

I told him that I needed to go back a little further and tell him about Senior Skip Day.

My parents had bought me a nice Seiko watch, one with an alarm.  I could set the alarm so that it would remind me that it was time for Mom’s medication.  I would take a break from school, drive home to administer her “meds” then return to school to finish my classes.  I told him that in my Senior year, my Dad was serving in Viet Nam and my mom was an invalid, I helped run the house, my family’s trailer park and took care of my little brothers.  When the day came around to order class rings, my friends and fellow students chipped in and bought me the nicest ring available because everyone was aware of my situation.  It was a nice gold ring with a sapphire and in the center the gold letter P was inset into the stone to symbolize Paxon, the high school which I attended for 6 years. (Jr and Sr).

Then he wanted to know what this had to do with Senior Skip Day and the case at hand.  I told him that it was a long story and that I was just getting started.

On Senior Skip Day, I drove myself and several of my friends to Jacksonville Beach.  One of my best friends was Kenny, who was also knew Theresa from our neighborhood.  We wanted to go surfing, I took off my watch, my ring, and along with my wallet put them inside my penny loafers and hid them under the seat of my car.  When I came back to the car, everything was gone.  My watch, my wallet and my ring were missing.  I was devastated.

Then the Judge started looking at his watch, he said he could sympathize with that, he said it was because his family had given him his watch when he graduated from college.  Then he said “What year was this Mr. Frailey?”  I told him, 1969.  He looked up at me and asked me “Do you mean to tell me that you enlisted in the military, in 1969 during the middle of the Viet Nam War?”

It was Dad’s turn again, he said “Yes sir he did, against my better wishes, but he did.”

The judge said “Well I commend you, but does all of this have to do with the price of tea in China?”

I got back to my story; I told him that while I was in boot camp I got the all dreaded “Dear John” letter from my girlfriend of two years, Theresa.  There wasn’t much I could do or say about it, because I was committed to boot camp and didn’t have freedom to do as I pleased.  From boot camp I went to Sub School in Connecticut and from there I was transferred to UDT School in Puerto Rico.   The Judge interrupted to me asked me what was “UDT School.”  I apologized and told him that I forgot that civilians weren’t familiar with military acronyms.  UDT stood for Underwater Demolition School, eight weeks of some of the most rigorous physical training on earth.  I told him I wanted to be like my Dad.  I believe I noticed my Dad, still standing at attention, stand a little more erect after that.

He wanted me to describe the training and I said “Well, start with swimming two miles a day to an island off the coast and back, before breakfast.  Then, doing a thousand pushups a day, a hundred at a time and hundreds of pull ups.  Next, was running up and down a beach with your squad carrying a log on your shoulders.  The only clothes I wore, was bathing trunks, a pair of flip flops and my dog tags, wrapped with black tape so that the sharks and barracudas wouldn’t be tempted to take a bite.  Just me repeating all that I’ve went through, almost made me tear up, but I gotta tell you, I was getting the feeling that I was beginning to sway the judge over some.  I figured now was the time to set the hook.

“Your Honor while I was half way through the training, not knowing if I was gonna complete the course or not, I was a little guy at the time and a lot of the other guys had already tapped out.  Yeah, it was that tough.  I received a letter from Theresa’s parents telling me that she had gotten married, I only found out later that it was to one of my best friends, Kenny.  They thought that it would be for the best if I didn’t write Theresa anymore letters or try to contact her in the future.

From then on, every breath I took, every step I took, every move I made, I had one thought in mind.  I’m gonna show that bitch.  Even if it takes my last breath.  From then on, when I swam, I attacked the waves, If I couldn’t swim over them, I went through them, if it was hot or if it was cold, I didn’t care.   I pulled myself through the cresting waves with cupped hands reaching out and pulling them back, stroke by stroke.  I tasted so much salt water that I wanted to choke.  I was gonna show that bitch.  I did my thousand push ups every day, I started doing them with one hand, either hand, didn’t matter.  I was gonna show that bitch, when I saw better men than me tap out, it didn’t phase me.  I wasn’t going to ring that bell, they were gonna have to carry me off.

The Judge said “Excuse me, ring the bell?”

I said “Yes Sir, they had a bell hanging from a pole on the beach, if any one wanted to tap out, all they had to do was ring that bell and you would get shipped stateside, back to your previous duty station.  I had made up my mind, it wasn’t gonna be me.”

After school I was transferred to back to my duty station, a nuclear sub, the USBNS Thomas Jefferson.

It was Dad’s turn again, “He can’t tell you where they toured, it’s top secret, but he did get a combat medal because they were in a Combat Zone.”

The Judge jumped ahead of me on my story and interrupted me and said “So you are a military bad ass that came home a jilted lover and then you go whip your ex-girlfriend’s husband’s ass, right?”

I told him “No sir, not at all.  I moved on.  My first month in Puerto Rico after graduating UDT School, I spent my whole pay check at the Black Angus in San Juan.  I forgot about Theresa right about then.”

The Judge looked at me and said “Oh, I’ve heard about the Black Angus, tell me more.”

I told him that everything he had heard was probably true.  “It was a Casino on one side and a night club/whore house on the other side.  I said that with beginner’s luck I had won over $300 at the Black Jack table.  Then I went to the bar and boy what a bar.  The bar itself was circular and it rotated.  All the servicemen would sit at the bar as it went round and round.  Standing in front of the mirrored  walls were some of the most beautiful women on earth, ready to please you at a moments notice.  The cost?  Oh, only five dollars a shot, plus later as I found out, a couple shots of penicillin.  That’s right, only 5 bucks each time.  I spent my whole wad in one night.  “Theresa who?” I said. “I moved on.”

I could tell the judge was enjoying my remembrances, then he grinned and shook his head and said “Just exactly what does all of this have to do with you breaking Mrs. Hick’s husband’s jaw?”

“Okay, okay” I said, “I’m getting there.  Like I said I was motivated.  I still wanted to prove that she made a mistake.  When I got out of the service, 3 years later, I wanted to prove to the world that I was somebody.  I wanted to buy a new corvette to show off.   A new one was $7,200 on the showroom at Nimnicht Chevrolet.  At the time, I was driving a Volkswagen.  I had my work cut out for me.”   I told the judge that I started selling cars myself because I needed a better than average income to achieve my goal.  Along the way, my goals changed.  I was wearing fancy clothes to work, patent leather shoes, fitted shirts and silk ties.  I made very good money and had saved over 6 thousand dollars towards buying my new car but by then I realized that by being top salesman at Duval Ford was a sign of success, I could drive any new car I wanted for free.

“I met lots of pretty girls.  Quite a few seemed attracted to me.  I changed my goal from a new corvette, to a new Rolex watch.  I settled on a Presidential with the Oyster face.  It cost me around $5,500.  I bought it from Underwood Jewelers.  It fit right in with the flash I wanted, I was selling cars.  Top man needs to look like top man.  I had all of the tools, I just wanted the flash.  That’s how I met Donna, uh Miss Holloway.  I sold her a car, we dated and then I moved in with her, helped her with her bills and bought new furniture for her house.”

“One day I was working on the point when I saw a green ’68 Ford Falcon pull up on the lot.  It looked familiar.  Hey, that looked like Theresa’s car, the one her parents bought her for graduation.  I hustled over and told the other fellows I got this.  I opened the door and sure enough it was Theresa alright, looking good as ever.  On the driver’s side Kenny got out, durn he grew some since I seen him last.

I greeted them both, no animosity.  I was ready to sell them a car.  Theresa walked off a little ways to look at the inventory and Kenny and I shook hands and when we did, I noticed his ring.  It looked like a Paxon High School ring, just like my old ring, only Kenny graduated the year after me, their rings were different.  I noticed it had the inlaid “P” like mine did and then I saw that it had a piece of the gold “P” chipped in the same place as mine.

Then it dawned on me, this thieving son of a bitch was wearing my ring. I gripped his hand even harder and turned his wrist over so that I could get a better look.  When I did that, he reached over with his left hand to grab mine and pull it back.  When he did this, I saw that he had on my Seiko watch too, the one my parents had given me, the one I thought all of this time had been stolen by a stranger.

Theresa didn’t get to see all of the action but I had a lot of rage in me built up over the years.  All those miles I swam against the current in the ocean.  Thousands of push ups and chin ups, the miles I ran on the beach, it all came to a boil.  Kenny wanted me to let go of his hand and he shoved me with his free hand and when he did, I let go and let him have it with hard right.

I didn’t know I broke his jaw at first.  It was a one punch ordeal and then it was over.  I told him he could keep the damn watch.  Theresa was crying.  I know she didn’t know what was what.  I tried to tell her.  I don’t think she believed me.  She wanted to leave and they did.  I told her I would call her to explain, she said don’t bother.

I was fired instantly.  No matter for what reason, a sales force can’t tolerate fighting.  Guess I did have a quick temper, I always did.  I hated it too, that was such a good job.

When I got home, I told Donna that I had gotten in a fight with a guy that I found out had stolen my belongings at the beach a long time ago and lost my job.  I didn’t mention Theresa.  I tried to call Theresa a few times to explain.  I didn’t know about caller I.D. in those days.  I wish I did.

I started a new job, as a traveling tool salesman.  The money was fantastic.  After a rough start, I was making seven hundred a day sometimes a thousand or more, if I hustled.  The main drawback for a man with a girlfriend or a wife back home, was constant travel and that’s the part I enjoyed the most.

I tried to keep Donna satisfied by buying her new furniture, nicer cars, flying her out for the week end, night clubs and the whole enchilada.  What I didn’t know was that Theresa had returned my calls and spoke with Donna.  She asked Donna to make me leave her alone, stop pestering her.  That wasn’t it at all.  I just wanted my watch and my ring back and to tell her what had happened.   I know now, that no matter what I said, it wouldn’t have done me any good but at the time, I wanted to try.

I called home from Davenport, Iowa.  Donna told me that she had spoke with Theresa over the phone and Theresa had told her that I had been calling trying to hook back up with her.  Donna was mad, she told me that I didn’t live there anymore, that she had discarded my stuff.  That everything I had bought her was hers now, I forfeited it.  I was heartbroken, because I had hope that it would work out between us, the stuff I could replace, no big deal.  Before I hung up she told me that she had started dating a guy from work, don’t bother coming by her house.  After our conversation I thought, damn that.  I want my clothes and my belongings.  My Rolex was in the drawer by the bed.  Yeah, the same Paul Bunyon bed that I had just paid over $1400 for a month before.

I drove home from Davenport, Iowa.  I had a Crew Cab, dual wheeled Chevrolet truck, with a 455 cubic inch motor.  It was petal to the metal all the way.  I was on a mission.

I pulled up to the house and Donna answered the door but wouldn’t invite me in.  She said she had just gotten married to her new boyfriend and that she had filed a restraining order and was calling the police.  When she left the doorway, her new man stepped forward.  I could see on his bare arm that he was wearing my Rolex.

That set me off.  I reached up and grabbed him by the front of his shirt and jerked him into the yard.  I never thought about how big he was, the police coming, right or wrong.  I was mad as hell yes, but I wanted my damn watch.  I was sick of this crap.

I popped him a few times I admit, I probably shouldn’t have I guess. But the bastard was sleeping with my girlfriend before she and I had properly separated, he was sleeping in my new bed and now he was wearing my pride and joy, my Rolex.

I got my watch back.  He gave it up after taking a couple bites of a knuckle sandwich.  Just about that time I could see the police coming up the long driveway.  I knew it wasn’t gonna play out well for me.  I had worked at the County Jail before, remembering how tiny those cells were, I didn’t want no part of the jail house.  I lit out for the woods.

I crossed the railroad tracks and jumped full stride into the palmetto bushes, scared a young deer that was taking a nap.  Then I got to the swamp.  This is good I thought, they won’t follow me in there.  I took off my boots, pulled about 600 dollars out of my pocket and my Rolex and put them in my boots then shoved them up under a palmetto bush.

My thinking at the time was that later, when the coast is clear, I’ll come back for my stuff.  It wasn’t long after that, I heard the dogs on my trail.   I ran lickity split through hell and high water.  They weren’t gonna catch me on my terms.  I saw a place where there were just the tops of fence posts sticking out of the water.  Thinking that the recent rains had flooded the area and there must be strands of wire strung out in between the post, just under the surface.  I climbed on top of the wire, holding on to tree limbs to help me keep my balance, I walked this “high wire” across the flooded area to a much safer spot.  I circled back around the swamp and came up on my truck that was boxed in by two police cruisers.  No one in sight, it was almost dark.  I got into my truck, fired that big motor up and pushed those two police cars into the ditch and out of my way.  Then realizing I was going to need some help,  I went to my Dad’s, a few miles away.

I parked the truck right out front and knocked on the door, Dad answered.  He was home alone.  After Mom died, he had remarried.  His wife and step-daughters were out shopping.  I filled Dad in on what was going on.  He said “you need a bath, some clean clothes and a pair of shoes. “

He took me to his bathroom in the rear of the house to clean up and as I was showering, I could hear the doorbell ring.  I turned off the shower and listened.  I could hear Dad saying, “No he’s not here.”  Then, another voice asking “Do you mind if we come in and look?”  He told me later that they pushed him aside and came in anyway.  He told them that he didn’t appreciate them not taking his word for it, but couldn’t stop them.

As I got out of the shower, I dripped mud and water everywhere.  I looked for a place to hide and  with water dripping off of my naked body, I settled on the bay window.  From the inside it was just a heavy drape, hanging to the floor.  I knew that on the other side, was a little cubbyhole, built so that dad could sit in the bay window and read during day light hours.

After I got behind the curtains I could see the beam of flashlights searching the grounds around Dad’s house.  Suddenly I heard nearby voices from inside the bedroom.  A voice rang out “He was here,  I can see the mud on the floor and water dripping from where he stood.”  Then Dad’s voice saying, “You didn’t ask me if he had been here, you just asked me if he was here now.”

This seemed to satisfy them for the moment, they left reluctantly.  After they had been gone for a minute or so, Dad met me in the doorway to the bedroom.  He grabbed his chest and said “Oh Son, I thought they had you.  You’re going to cause me to have a heart attack.”

He looked at the mud on the floor, the mess I had made, water dripping every where.  He apologized for letting them in the house.  He said “I’m sorry Son, I tried, but they just came on in.”  I said “I know Dad, I heard the whole thing.”

Our dilemma wasn’t over.  Dad asked me what was I going to do?  I told him not to worry, I was in Dinsmore and they won’t ever catch up with me in Dinsmore.  Dad said that he was worried that they didn’t intend on taking me alive.  I said “Well Dad, why do you think I was running so hard?’

Dad then hatched a plan.  He wanted me to take the keys to his truck with the camper shell and drive out the back way of the trailer park.  He told me to stop by the dumpster and wait for him to take my truck.  He said he would drive my truck out the front entrance as a decoy, for me to wait until he drew them off and for me to ease out the back way afterwards.  The old pigeon with a broken wing trick.

I am alive today to tell you that his idea worked.  Just as soon as he pulled out the front, he was swarmed, surrounded, yanked out of the truck, and put in the ditch face first in the mud, hands cuffed behind his back with guns drawn and held to his head.

Dad nodded his head in agreement to the Judge as if to alibi the events as I stated were true.

Then Judge shook his head in disbelief and then, with a grin he said, “The things we do for our children. ”  He looked at me and asked me “Was it worth it?  Did you ever get your watch?  Did you go back and look for it?”

I had to tell him no, that watch was gone forever, not only did I not find the watch, I couldn’t find the boots or my wallet either, I told him that I thought that a K-9 officer was probably wearing my watch right now.

I had the Judge sitting on the edge of his seat now, it must have been getting close to lunch, because he kept looking at his watch.  When I started speaking again, I told him, that “I left Jacksonville and was gone for many years, When my Dad told me he needed some help, I had to square up with the law first.  I turned myself in, Dad let me drive his new Jaguar to the police station, then he bonded me out.  In the meantime I had met Maudie.  She was the prettiest girl I had ever seen.”  Heck she was the prettiest girl most anybody had ever seen.  I courted her for over a year.  There weren’t any problems in our relationship, and I didn’t chase her, really it was the other way around.  I told the Judge that I had “moved on.”

The Judge then studied the top of his desk for a minute, twiddling a pen between his fingers and said “Do you mean to tell me that this is all about a wristwatch?”

I replied “Yes Sir, that about sizes it up.”  He asked me if that was why I wasn’t wearing a watch today.  I told him, “Yes sir it is.”

He then turned to Maudie who was doing her job of just standing there and looking good.  As pretty as my two exes were combined, they couldn’t hold a candle to Maudie and they knew it and by the looks of the judges eyes, he agreed.  “What about you young lady what have you got to say about all of this?” he asked her.  She replied “He’s moved on.”  I’m pretty sure that every one in the courtroom believed her.

The Judge picked up his gavel. He surveyed the courtroom, then he looked at his watch.  He said that he was gonna fine me $2,500.00 plus court cost, withhold the adjudication of guilt with the premise that I was to leave these two young women alone and that “if I ever came back into his courtroom with a complaint from either of these two women again, that he would see to it, that I would know what “Time” it was”.  Case dismissed.

To this day, I still don’t wear a watch.

Maudie Mae, Part I

Maudie Mae, Part I

My grandson Tanner and I were at Home Depot, and I spotted a woman who looked like she could use a hand.  She had two carts full of cabinets alongside her Toyota truck, more than the truck could bear, I would think.  Wanting to set a good example for my grandson, I approached the dark haired woman in her late 50’s and offered our assistance, which she declined.  Knowing her truck couldn’t handle that load, I asked her if she was sure she didn’t need some help.

After speaking with her for a second time, I recognized her. It was Maudie Mae Robinson.  Maudie was my Indian girlfriend more than 30 years ago.  Ten years younger than me, she was still very pretty.  When I see Michelle Malkin on TV, I tell myself, she looks like Maudie.  Like most pretty girls, Maudie was nice to look at, but sometimes she was moody and had some serious problems.  (Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, her most serious problem was me).  Both of Maudie’s parents were Cherokee Indians. To me, Maudie looked Asian; she was drop dead gorgeous.  I never asked myself why she liked me, I just figured it was “chemistry.” You know, if she likes you, she likes you.

One weekend long ago, in the fall time of year, she and I decided it would be nice to go camping.  We chose as our site to go to Blue Springs near Jasper, Fl., long before it became a State Park.  This area was right next to the Withlacoochee River that ran into the Suwanee River.  This area was full of high ground with ridges and spooky hollows in between.  Almost each hollow had a large sink hole, with crystal clear water, a haven for local divers.  They were said to be bottomless pits and the final resting place for many an unlucky cave diver.

Maudie and I had just finished restoring an old truck at her Daddy’s paint shop. We filled it with our camping gear and headed out to spend the weekend at beautiful Blue Springs.  I had been there a few times. Its beauty was eye catching during the daylight and spooky and mysterious after dark.

As far as camping gear went, we had just the bare essentials: a small axe, a ball of twine, one sleeping bag, an over an under 410 shotgun/.22 rifle with two shotgun shells and about six .22 long rifle bullets. I was hoping to get a few squirrels for breakfast.  Back in those days, every guy I knew had a knife in a sheath on his belt.  Some used a Buck or an Old Henry, or like me, carried a “Shrade.”

We got there a few hours before dark and drove around looking at the scenery. At the entrance was a 60 foot wide swimming hole next to the river, filled with clear blue spring water, and at the bottom was a huge cave.  A great place to swim, which we did, butt naked.  When we got ready to get out of the water and dry off, we were accosted by 3 twenty-something year old jackasses that looked like they came straight from the movie A Time To Kill, with Samuel L. Jackson and Matthew McConaughey.

I climbed out of the water first, acting like it was no big deal.  I wasn’t being too friendly about it.  These three were in a redneck four wheel drive, a short bed truck with large mud tires on the back, covered with rust.  They weren’t paying me much attention as I headed toward my clothes and put them on. They didn’t seem to notice me, they were too intent staring at Maudie.  She knew what she was doing. She swam out to the middle of the spring to keep them ogling her, while I made my way to the truck.  I grabbed my gun off the rack in the window of the truck, and walked toward the fellows. I got their attention, while holding my gun pointed to the ground in the crook of my arm.  I started the conversation by asking them about what they did around here for fun.

They responded by telling me that they liked to either hunt or f—-, kinda casual-like. Not missing his disrespectful tone, I asked them what they hunted, and they told me, “Something to f—-.”  Oh, that wasn’t nice. Taking offense to their remarks and holding my piece where they could see it, I approached the front of their truck and smashed both of the headlights with the butt of my gun.  I told them that it was gonna be dark soon, and they better go get them headlights fixed, or they just might get a ticket for driving with no headlights.

One of the mealy-mouths bellowed out, “We ain’t afraid of no ticket.  My step-daddy is the Sheriff of Hamilton County.”  Holding my rifle across my chest with both arms, I warned them that even so, right now might be a good time to leave before something else happened.

I thought they took my advice and left, so after that, Maudie and I searched for a suitable spot to camp. We found one on top of a ridge near the river, facing a hollow where we could see anybody driving in from the main highway.  It took me a few minutes, but I built us a lean-to with a big log in front of it and a then a fire between the log and the lean-to.  We forgot about the redneck clowns and started enjoying ourMaudie Mae 1 trip.  We cooked a pack of hot dogs on the end of a sharpened stick and started telling ghost stories and family tales.  I had brought a six pack of beer, two black beauties, and a rolled up joint. We sat in the moonlight watching the current flowing past, the river below us, and drank our beer when Maudie offered me a deal.  She said, “I’ll trade you my half of the joint for your hit of speed.”  It sounded like a good deal to me, so I went for it.  Maudie really got animated, telling me what it was like to be an Indian. She was Cherokee, big deal, so were her parents.  I guess the two hits of speed really opened the flood gates, because she didn’t want to quit. But me, after a full day’s exertion, building the lean-to, swimming, 3 beers, and a toasty joint, I was bushed.  I told her I wanted to turn in. Then I spread out the sleeping bag under the lean-to and backed away from the heat of the fire.  I don’t know how long it was after that, I was tired and fell asleep quickly, but Maudie woke me up and said, “I hear something out there.”

It was dark alright, and the fog off the river had filled the hollow below us like a blanket.  The tops of the moss grown trees eerily poked above the fog, like masts on a sailing ship, spooky enough for anybody.  I said, “Aw, Maudie, give it up, you’re tripping on that speed. Why don’t you just curl up beside me and go to sleep?”  She wasn’t with that at all.  I had my gun in the lean-to beside me, and she wanted me to let her “hold” it.  Well, my Momma didn’t raise no fool.  I wouldn’t let her have the gun, no way.  Can you imagine a half drunk Indian chick running through the woods, strung out on speed with a loaded gun?

I did let her talk me out of my Shrade.  She took a fallen limb and sharpened the end to a point and sat on the log, staring out into the fog below us.  That seemed to satisfy her.  I was bushed and just fell back to sleep.  It wasn’t long after that when I heard some screams in the distance. I looked up, and Maudie was gone.  Crazy Indian b—- I thought, Pocahontas is on the warpath, and I fell back to sleep.  Just before dawn, I had to pee.  I got up, trying to find my bearings, and there was Maudie sitting on the log, holding a gun and staring at the dying embers of the fire, smoldering from the lack of fresh wood.

The fog had risen some, so that the smoke from the fire formed a cloud underneath it. In front of the fire, about 5 to 10 yards away, were two strange looking bundles. Upon closer inspection, I could see two of the Maudie Mae 1Aguys from the day before lying on their bellies, with their hands and bare feet tied up behind them, “hog tied” with the twine I used to build the lean-to.  Their mouths were stuffed full of socks, so they couldn’t talk.  Words can’t describe how shocked I was, embarrassed that I didn’t believe her, and ashamed of myself for not doing my part.  But you know, she did fine. She didn’t need my help, but what a mess.

One guy’s step-daddy was the county sheriff.  Oh man.  I removed the socks from their mouths so we could talk about it. Immediately, they started shouting at me. “You ain’t heard the end of this, we’ll get you back. Ole Leroy is still out there, and he’s got a gun.”  About this time, Maudie broke her silence and said, “You mean this gun?” then brandished the weapon she was holding.  Up to this point I had thought it was my gun, but no, there it was in the lean-to by the sleeping bag.  I started thinking, “Oh no, my Shrade, she’s done cut the guy’s throat.”  Then she walked over to the back of my truck, lowered the tailgate, and removed a tarp. Low and behold, there was Leroy, still alive.  She had him trussed up just like the other two, hands and feet tied behind his back, lying on his belly with a sock stuffed in his mouth.

It didn’t take me long to load up our camping gear, forget about squirrel hunting, and make plans to beat feet outta there.  I snatched ole Leroy outta the back of my truck, none to gentle, and cut the twine holding his feet.  I told Maudie that by the time he gets to his truck, they’ll be hot on our trail.  She said, “No they won’t, unless they can drive on four flat tires.”  Then she handed me back my knife.

This whole scenario came back to me in a flash. I decided that Maudie was right, she didn’t need any help loading those cabinets.