The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hmmmm that coffee is good. For me writing a story is best in the mornings when I feel fresh. It’s like drinking a cup of coffee. Some like it black, other’s like a little sweetener and a little cream helps mellow it out. Just like a good old cup of Maxwell House, some are good to the last drop.
Wormy Bennett. I ever tell y’all about Wormy? I think I said something about his brother Charles one time. I grew up with both of them. They are as different as night and day.
This story is about Wormy. He grew up in Birdville. That’s a section of town across the tracks where poor white folks have lived for the past hundred years. If you drive through Birdville (all the streets have bird names), you wonder if a building inspector or a health inspector ever dared to drive through it. Not so bad anymore, but once upon a time it was…. Well I’m glad it got better.
You could say that Wormy is a product of his environment. I say that with tongue in cheek because I do know a lot of good people that have come from Birdville.
Years ago when I was working at the jail, I was putting some prisoners in the court chute cell, outside of the Duval County Courthouse. I looked up and noticed that Wormy had used a lighter to burn a message into the ceiling. “Wormy Bennett, been here so many times I can’t count.”
After his first ten year sentence, when I saw Wormy for the first time, I was amazed at his prison tattoo. On his back across the top was scrolled the words “SWAMP MASTER”, beneath it was a scene of a woman skinning a gator by the bayou. Large cypress trees with over hanging Spanish moss surrounding a pool of water, complete with palmetto bushes and large cypress trees.
When you see a tattoo like that, you know this man has done some time. In fact, Wormy was a celebrity behind bars. There, he was somebody, known to violate the rules and wore his non conformist attitude like a badge of honor.
I was sitting with my nephew Whistle at Richard’s one day with a couple of other guys burning a fat joint. Richard was the neighborhood drug dealer, known for selling pot and pills. Wormy enters the house without knocking. He had an Uzi hanging from a strap draped across his neck and shoulder.
Nobody moved. We all knew Wormy, no one in the room had a scared bone in their body. Wormy says “Every body sit still, stay right where you’re at.” Whistle passed me the joint, I hit it and passed it to Richard.
Wormy says “I ain’t here to rob you,” then he set what looked like a couple ounces of coke in a baggie (but in eality it was flour) on the table and said,“I just knocked a black dude off for this dope, I got the law on my ass and I need some money to run with.” He stood back then and grabbed the Uzi with both hands and waved it across the room. He said “I’m gonna leave this with you and I’m gonna take all the cash you got on you for payment, you can pay me the rest later, I gotta run.”
Richard still had the joint and he said “Wormy, you want a shot gun?” He wasn’t talking about a real gun, but a “shotgun with the joint,” but the way he said it was funny and broke the ice. Wormy said “hell yeah,” and bent over while Richard blew smoke up his nose.
Just about that time Whistle said, “Hey Wormy did you steal that BB gun from Clyde?” (Clyde was Whistle’s little brother).
Wormy straightened up and said, “Yeah, it looks real as f__k don’t it?”
Then two Police Cruisers went by the front of the house, creeping past. Richard asked Wormy if they were looking for him. Wormy chimed in “Yeah, I just knocked off the Racetrack for a pack of cigarettes and a six pack of beer.”
Richard told Wormy that he shouldn’t be bringing the heat down on him just because he wanted to go home. Honestly Richard was right I think. Wormy was just pulling some crap so he could go straight to jail and then back to prison, without passing go or collecting 200 dollars. Once guys get “institutionalized”, they prefer prison life.
Next I heard about Wormy he was still a free man. He had hooked up with a Marissa, a married gal from Birdville that was intrigued with the “Thug Life” that Wormy’s persona represented.
Marissa got tired of supplying Wormy with beer and cigarette money and letting him abuse her on a daily bases. She went back to her husband who was a drunk, for the week end before deciding to give Wormy another chance.
I was at the Racetrack getting some gas, when Wormy came up to me wanting to know if I wanted to buy some pussy. Pimping wasn’t really Wormy’s style. He was always up to something. I looked around and didn’t see any girls. I asked Wormy “Where they at?”
He tossed his head towards the other gas pump and said “C’mon over here and I’ll show you.” I saw Marissa’s car, a Lincoln, I think. I didn’t see her until Wormy raised the trunk lid and there was Marissa, tied hand and foot with a gag in her mouth. Looking straight up at me with pleading eyes.
Wormy said “I can hook you with all of that you want, cheap.” Me thinking that Wormy was playing another joke told him “Wormy that ain’t funny. You could get some serious time for that.” He said “She’s a damn whore and that’s how I treat my whores.”
I was uncomfortable as hell. I was half a mind that he was serious, but as long as I’ve known Wormy, I never ever heard of him trying to hurt any body. I still remembered him as a kid. As far as I was concerned, his skinny ass couldn’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag. I didn’t want to fall for any of his tricks. I just told him that he needed to get some help, but the first thing he needed to do was get that girl out of the trunk of the car.
I went in to the store seeking to put some distance between him and I, looking for some one to give me a hand, when I came out, the big car was gone. An hour later I was driving home and saw the Lincoln pulled over at the next gas station down the road. The police had Wormy lying on his belly, hands cuffed behind his back, guns to his head. I couldn’t help but to think “Well he got what he wanted, Wormy’s heading home.”
You would think that with all of the things on his record, that Wormy would have got some serious time, but he didn’t. Marissa had stood up for him in court and told the judge that it was mostly her fault. Wormy got six months at the county P farm. Anyone that has done any time will tell you that the last place you want to serve time is in the County.
When you do County time you have to work. They make you conform or you face the “Goon Squad”. They will kick you to sleep. Even so, Wormy was a celebrity; he got a cushy job at the Police Impound lot.
After a few weeks working at the Impound lot, Wormy got stir crazy. He started swiping radios and personal effects out of cars that were impounded.
One day a group of us were at my nephew Clyde’s in “Booger Bottom.” Booger Bottom is another place inside the city limits that thrived on being outside the fringe of government control. It was a dead end dirt road, full of pot holes, enshrouded by trees to keep it looking mysterious and keeping the outside world at bay.
Clyde’s place was surrounded by “fly high” pens. Circular field wire enclosures that were six feet in circumference and about twelve feet high. These were designed to keep fighting roosters in. The only activity they had room for, was to jump high into the air and try to fly out. This built up the strength in their legs and wings, physically it gave them the advantage over another bird in the fight.
Glen (Clyde’s older brother) and I were helping Clyde secure the pens to the ground so they wouldn’t get knocked over when we saw a police car coming straight at us, at a high rate of sped. It was coming so fast that the car was flying over one pothole and crashing into the next, almost like a “Dukes of Hazard” episode.
Too late to run, I don’t think any of us had any warrants on us any way, we stood up to face the music.
It was Wormy. He couldn’t take it any longer. Good behavior didn’t mean anything to him, in his mind, making him a “Trustee” was their fault. He had stolen a bunch of car radios and got caught. They were gonna send him back to lock up. He filled a police car’s trunk full of radios and hauled ass. The bad thing for him, was the car didn’t have any gas. He was running on Elvis.
Wormy said he was in a hurry and needed some gas. Glen traded him 5 gallons of gas for a couple 2 or 3 radios and Wormy was gone in a cloud of dust.
I don’t remember where they caught him but all he got out of it was some more country time.
Next I remember hearing is that Wormy did some time with Larry Bagley Jr. who got a life sentence for car jacking while he was out on “CRD,” (Controlled Release). When Wormy got out, he befriended Larry’s Dad. He had about 10 acres out behind the “P” Farm around Thomas Creek Fish Camp
Wormy had heard that you could get a Commercial Fisherman’s Captain License “on line.” Since Larry’s Dad had a little money, some waterfront property and a few boats, he invested in the program for the two of them and soon they were awarded “Captain’s” Licenses. Part of their endeavors were growing and selling pot, since Thomas Creek is connected through the swamp to Nassau Sound, it would be easy to figure that they had a hand in smuggling pot too.
Wormy killed two giant hogs running wild in the woods. The two hogs weighed about 500 lbs each. They decided to have a bar b que at the Thomas Creek Fish Camp and sell bar b que dinners. This meat hadn’t been hung properly and the hogs (two males) had never been castrated so the mostly fatty meat didn’t really taste all that good, but still the aroma of cooking meat and melting fat was enough to draw a crowd
Their problem was that they were within about 1500 feet of the County “P” Farm. Some of the customers for the dinners were corrections officers. Somehow when the smell of cooking meat drew them near, they got wind of the pot operation too and the two of them got busted and next thing you know, Wormy is back home again, not for long, but long enough.
You might think that this was the end of Wormy’s tale but no, let me get another cup of coffee and I’ll tell the rest, as it was told to me.
Wormy finally got his chance to go “home.” Back in his element he got back to work, running the yard. I don’t know how he did it, but I heard his “fall partner” was transferred to the same prison. Something unusual by today’s standards.
Wormy got back to sitting in a circle of eager listeners, drinking black chicory coffee that they sell in prison and retelling his escapades to anyone who were still there from the last time he was “in.” He and Larry were still tight. His buddy had family that sent him commissary money and Wormy would roll his cigarettes for him out of loose leaf tobacco for 5 cigs a pack.
While these two were still serving their time, the Gulf Coast suffered a massive oil spill. It ruined the lively hood of the commercial fishermen in that area.
I know y’all have heard of “Deep Water Horizon” with Mark Walberg. You know the BP oil spill. It was the same one as that.
Wormy hatched a plan to get a PO Box in the Pascagoula area and with the help of a jail house lawyer, put in a claim. His buddy was just about at the end of his sentence and didn’t want no part of it. For him, enough was enough. Wormy, with still lots of time left didn’t flinch. He carried his plan out and joined the massive law suit against B P.
I heard that Wormy collected over a couple hundred thousand dollars while he was behind bars, where he still is today. I heard that his fall partner, Larry Bagley has passed away. Wormy bought his brother Charles a new car and I heard that he saved the rest, just drawing enough for “taylor mades” so that he doesn’t have to roll “rips” for someone else anymore. He’ll be getting out soon, this time he’ll be a rich man. What do you want to bet, that it won’t make a bit of difference.
Wait let me finish my coffee, yep, it was good, to the last drop.
The “Travelers” It’s been my habit to write my stories in the mornings while my dreams are still fresh on my mind. When you get my age, you get to where you look forward to naps and dreams. To revive old memories.
My mom won the Daily Double or the Big Q (don’t remember which) at the dogtrack for a large sum of money. The number 24 sticks in my mind, so I think she won around $24,000. She invested that money into the Silver Dolphin our family’s trailer park. At that time there were 15 spaces. She paid Denson Electric the whole amount to install new light poles for 42 units. I think it was 20 something poles with 2 electric boxes on each pole.
While Dad was in Viet Nam, she had all the pines tree cleared on the back acre and a half of the park. Before the trailer park was built, the land was used for a goat farm. When US 1 was built in 1949, the owners sold the dirt out of the back half of the park to the state, to build up the land around the bridge over US 1, near Dunn’s Ave. Not long after she had the electric poles installed, Dad returned home, safe and sound. We got busy digging water lines and a deeper ditch for the sewer lines, so many roots and stumps it weren’t no fun.
Before my parents bought the place it was named Dinsmore Trailer Court. In those days they rented spaces to RV’s, folks coming down US1 pulled in all the time with their travel trailers. Every year, towards the end of winter around February we would get a few “Travelers”. “Travelers” is the name the gypsy’s use for themselves. The king of the clan would stop and stay with us and a few more, every winter. Over the years, our camping capacity dwindled down to about 5 or 6 spaces after Dad started expanding the park and putting in permanent mobile homes. The rest of the group would go further down US 1, finding places to camp in other parks. Like dairies, there use to be a bunch of trailer parks.
Dad knew they were scammers. He didn’t fall for many of their tricks, unless he was making his share of the loot. They all drove Cadillacs, Corvettes, nice new trucks and they had a 6 yard dump truck and trailer with them. They would use their equipment and go around repairing potholes in driveways and parking lots to make money. It was a scam, the first time it rained, their repairs would wash out. At Silver Dolphin, back in those days, we had oyster shell drive ways, so they didn’t pitch us. Their money was good with us.
Mom and Dad had planned a week end trip. Dad gave us a list of “do’s and don’ts,” first, before they left. Dad had hired me and my brother n law Bug Moore to dig some sewer lines in the back of the park in between the new light poles. Before we got started, a procession of new trucks with campers were lined up on the highway, near the entrance to the park. The King of the Clan approached me about renting out the center of the park for a camp site so that they could have a “christening,” welcoming all of the new babies born into the tribe the year before.
Since Dad left me in charge, I guess it was up to me to decide if it was okay or not. He offered to pay me $50 bucks. That was a bunch of money to a 16 year old, but I had Bug with me. If split it with him that would only leave me with $25. Dad was paying us $20 apiece to dig the ditch, $45 for the day, okay not too shabby for a Saturday. I got to thinking though, if they offered fifty, what would they really pay? So I asked the old man how many people did he think would be there? He said no more then 50 or so.
I told him that 50 people camping out and roasting a pig would leave a big mess and someone would have to clean it up. He promised me that they would clean up there own mess. I told him to give me a $100 for a deposit on clean up and if it was anymore than 50 people, I wanted $200. He agreed, gave me a 150 dollars, with the agreement that if any more than 50 showed up, he would fork over another hundred. Bug and I went to work in the back of the park, digging our ditch, behind the wash house.
The center of the trailer park became a beehive of activity. New cars and trucks began to fill in and surround the circle of RV’s. In the middle they dug a pit, started a fire and built a spit to roast their hog. Bug told me he could’ve got them a hog “pretty cheap if he’d a knowed.”
The local residents kinda got upset after a while. There were cars packed everywhere in the trailer park, alongside of US 1 and parked across the street at Mr Tiller’s Grocery Store.
Mae Hildebrand was freaking out, someone had stolen her bingo money, all eighteen dollars and she called Woodrow Pendarvis her son in law, our constable at the time to come over and investigate. My granny told me that Mae never had no eighteen dollars; she had lost all of her bingo money last Thursday night at San Souci on Beach Blvd. Granny said “she knew, because I was with her and I lost mine too.” Mae was just making that stuff up because she smelled money and wanted to get her share.
When Woodrow showed up in his constable car, he parked up on US 1 and watching car after car (all brand new) pull in and loads of folks getting out to party. He came over to where we were digging and talked with us for a while. He smoked a cigarette and Bug pulled out his jug and they shared a snort, wiped their mug and took another.
While we were talking, a group of the gals, wearing their full length purple and yellow colored woolen dresses walked behind the wash house to “smoke”. They didn’t see us, down in the ditch digging, Woodrow was leaning up against a tree. While we watched they smoked a few butts, but those weren’t the only butts we saw.
I guess those old woolen dresses get mighty hot, even in the winter. One by one they would reach down and pull up the back of their dress to scratch the back of their fanny. Funny, oh yeah it was. They weren’t wearing no bloomers. Even Woodrow who usually had a sour disposition (if you knew Woodrow you know what I mean) had to laugh at that sight. Bug couldn’t take it any more. Watching in secret wasn’t his style, he hollered a whoop and when the group of gals turned around in disbelief to see what the commotion was, Bug made a motion with his hands for them to pull their dresses back up again, this time he tried to get them to pull their dresses up over there head. …………..
I told Woodrow they weren’t suppose to be more 50 people or 50 cars, I don’t remember the exact agreement but they was in violation. Well back in those days, everyone in the trailer park was some kind of kin folk or another. Bug and Woodrow grew up with each other, Woodrow married Mae’s daughter, Mae’s brother Bud was married to my Aunt Irma, and so on, so I was talking to Woodrow, my cousin’s brother in law.
I got an idea and I told Woodrow to stand in plain view, while I went and spoke with the old man. I told him that he was in excess of the 50 whatever we agreed to. His 100 dollar deposit had run out and they were gonna have to leave, and I pointed to Woodrow in his Constable’s uniform as my back up.
I told them they would “have to leave, don’t make me use the law.” In the blink of an eye, the old man offered me another $100. Just that fast, I turned him down. I would have to have another $100 to pay the law, for security duty. So he gave me another two hundred. I gave Woodrow $50 and asked him if he would “stick around.” He said “You couldn’t pry me loose with a crow bar.”
We quit the ditch digging for the day and joined the party. Bug took over the spit, showing the gypsies what they were doing wrong and quenching his thirst with pull after pull from his jug. Me? I joined the group of young men that had brought out their guitars and wanted me to sing with them. Old Woodrow must have needed to do some more investigating, because I kept seeing him go back into the travel trailer with the young gals, soon he come back and asked me did I have any more of that deposit money he could “borrow.”
I had plenty of help after the gypsies left, cleaning up the mess. Woodrow didn’t want me to tell no tales and Bug was looking for what was left of his jug. I gave Dad a hundred when he got home, he seemed satisfied, but after he found all of those slugs in his vending machines, he told me that “Next year, they need to hold that Christening some where’s else.”
Our crew worked a small unheard of area in SW Louisiana, just the other side of Thibodaux. A town named Houma. Houma is fishing center with bayous, stretching out like fingers towards the ocean. Each side of the bayou is lined with docks and piers, home to the fishing fleet that supports the local financial interests.
To my surprise on the first day, Joe McDavid showed up, ready to work. He was ready to go “skin him a mullet”. Our slang for finding an unsuspecting buyer. It was strange to see Joe after all these years. He was the one that hired me. He’s the one that came up with our sales pitch and techniques for “dropping iron.”
In my eyes Joe was the “Messiah.” Sweet Pea Da Jeeda, He wrote the book. I always felt insignificant in his presence. I did what ever he asked of me to prove my worth. What ever it was, it never seemed to satisfy him.
Still sporting a crew cut, hair now turned gray with the passing of time, his once formidable size had dwindled somewhat, but not his mind. He was as sharp as they come.
True to form, the first thing Jumping Joe did was to bet our crew boss Buddy Barnes a hundred bucks, what we called a “Bat hide’ as to which one of the crew would be the first one back with an empty truck or “hammered check”, a cashier’s check. Joe bet on me, Buddy bet on Roy Landrum.
I had been selling tools for over ten years. I sold to make money but kept the traditions alive. I still used the same pitch I was taught to use by Joe many years before. It worked then and it still works today. I had picked up Roy as a hitch hiker many years before when I was taking a hiatus from the “road.” I gave Roy, Buddy’s phone number and Buddy put him on the crew.
Roy wasn’t like the rest of us. He looked out for Roy and Roy only. You might call him a back stabber. He stole a suitcase from me and my nephew Glen several years before in Salt Lake City. I found it first; it was full of money, wrapped up in 35 mm film canisters inside a double sided suitcase. The suitcase was left at my motel room door. One side was packed with U.S. currency and the other side was full of Canadian money. I sent Glen and Roy to hide it, because I felt that the original owners might be gangsters. Glen dropped Roy off supposedly to go do his laundry, then, Roy doubled back to the hiding spot and grabbed it for himself, leaving the crew and flying to the city of New York, to shoot it up in his arm.
When he went broke and needed money, he whined his way back unto the crew and promised that if I didn’t kill him, he would pay me back. He did, some of it anyway, about 18 to 20 thousand.
I grew up around boats, ships and barges. My brothers and I played on the docks and piers everyday. Working southwest Louisiana was like “going home.” I left the motel early, eager to see the sights and find a good neighborhood to work in. Houma wasn’t an easy place to figure out the highways and byways. There were five bayous. Each bayou had two sides, an east bank and a west bank. The bayous had at least one bridge to connect them, some had two.
Every home I drove past usually had a dock jutting out behind it. Each family worked certain sections of the creeks. Control of these territories had been passed down from generation to generation. I noticed every house had an old bathtub setting out in the yard. Come to find out, these tubs were partially filled with turtles, to be sold at the market.
Most young men of the area worked for themselves in one fashion or another. Even the guys that worked the oil rigs had a small boat that they would run trap lines for muskrats and nutrias. Some gathered oysters, others gigged for frogs. You never know exactly what’s in that “Jambalaya.” Most restaurants use the same oyster shells over and over. They wash them, then when some one orders oysters, they take out a jar full of shelled oysters and place them on the clean shells. Once they steam them, the oysters stick to the shell. Every one knew someone that had a rice paddy that they could harvest “mud bugs” otherwise known as crawfish.
The whole area was covered with naturally fed economic development.
My first pitch that morning was to a guy coming off of a shrimp boat. He was wearing a pair of white rubber boots that caught my eye. Like most people in that neck of the woods, he kept a wad of hundred dollar bills stashed close by, his was in “Red Man” chewing tobacco pouch behind the seat of his truck, right underneath his gun rack. I got $2,500 cash for my load, first pitch. That’s how I found out about the bet between Joe and Buddy. Buddy paid off, when I seen him slip Joe a hundred, Joe told me, “I bet on you to be the first one back.”
I took this as a compliment. Roy and I were adversaries to say the least and he was pissed when he rode in to the motel parking lot about 2:30 that afternoon with an empty truck to find out that I had dropped two loads that day. My second load went to a fishery out on the point of the bayou, right were the tip of land pointed towards the ocean.
Joe was past his prime, he couldn’t even load his truck anymore. The tools were too heavy. He wasn’t making any income off of the crew any longer, he had passed the torch years before. Now he needed to go out and drop a load now and then, to bolster his finances. Instead of loading a saw, a press and a hoist like every one else, he just had his truck loaded with two band saws. They were still in the shipping crate; folks had to walk up to the truck to see what it was. That’s just what he wanted.
My condition wasn’t much better. I was getting some age on me too. I didn’t really have that old spring to my step, though I didn’t feel like I needed it anymore. I just needed to talk to about 10 or 12 people to sell a load, that wasn’t too difficult. I was still recovering from a life threatening truck wreck that I had suffered the spring before. Five broken ribs, holes poked in my lung, dislocated jaw and a 15 inch scar running up from my belly button, to prove that the LSU Trauma Center in Shreveport tried to harvest my organs, topped off with a case of amnesia that I was still recovering from.
I sold tools left and right, so did Joe. The boys that depended on shops and garages to account for their sales didn’t fare so well, they were ready to move on. Joe and I stayed at the Holiday Inn, every one else was at Motel Six. The Holiday Inn had free “hors-de-vours” everyday during happy hour in the lounge and beautiful waitresses. The Motel Six just had the complimentary peppermints they put on your pillow and “coon ass” maids to shake the farts out of the sheets.
We enjoyed our stay and neither of us was ready to move on. When the crew went home for the week end, Jumping Joe and I shared a room to keep each other company. I look forward to being around Joe again, hoping that some of his old magic would wear off. He was a motivator, the best I ever saw. A lot of the success I had in my life, was just from being around him and me remembering the things he taught me.
Joe liked to play “Liar’s Poker” with hundred dollar bills. While we swapped “Jack Stories,” Joe would have me sort and stack his bills with the best serial numbers on top. Joe was strong alright, stronger than a “well rope” or “40 acres of garlic.” Just to prove his point sometimes he’d have me count his wad of hundreds, while he cleaned his .45 automatic, while we practiced our “pitch”, something we did every day.
Joe went to the bank and got $500 dollars in brand new five dollar bills, in sequence. Then he went to a printing company and had them made into a “pad”, stuck together with a gummed strip across the top and a card board backing. Then, when we went into a restaurant, he would hand the pad to the waitress when she brought us our bill, just watch how she would react. We did get accosted by the police afterwards a few times, but since we didn’t break any laws, they had to let us go.
I felt sorry for Joe, just a little. He wasn’t the man he once was, not as muscular or as heavy, less intimidating. He was still on top of his game. Anything he could do, to get over on some one, was his cup of tea. When he went out pitching his two saws at once, he tried to find some one who didn’t have a clue about machinery, but looked like they were pretty well off. He’d pitch shoe store owners, jewelry store owners and people with red sweaters, folks wearing golf attire or just wearing a shiny watch. To him, if you looked like you had money, you were a “mullet.”
He would get right up in their face and say “you know some one who could use this kinda stuff don’t you?” Then he’d say “Look, I’ve got two saws that list for $5,984.00 each. The Boss ain’t shipping them back to Carolina, we’ve got band saws back home stacked to the ceiling. How about you making him and offer on one of them and if he takes it, I’ll give you the other one, just for helping me out. What if I get him to knock off a thousand on the one and just give you both of them?” The saws only cost us about $800.00 each, so it wasn’t hard to close them out, if you could get them to bite.
I’ve watched him flip for a hundred bucks many times. If he had the winner, he would whine and act like he was trying to crawfish out of the bet or talk the other guy into switching his choice. Then when he the other guy would stick to his choice Joe would say “Well, in that case, if you are so sure, then why don’t we go for $500 instead of a hundred?” It worked every time. I can still see him pull back his hand covering the quarter, showing Joe’s choice and hearing him say “Sucker.”
Sunday morning after breakfast, we we’re sitting in the motel room at the Holiday Inn in Houma. I tired to catch up on the football scores on ESPN while Joe was reading a hot rod magazine, leaning up against the headboard, eating black beauties out of a bowl by the handful (like they were M & M’s), that he kept on the night stand, chasing them down by chugging swallows of Jack Black straight from the bottle. I went to the drink machine to get him a Sprite for chaser, when I got back, he had the magazine folded to the lead story about the world’s fastest mustang on display at a car show, about a hundred miles away at a car chow at the “Superdome” in New Orleans.
The article advertised the fact that this car was the world’s fastest mustang. Joe was adamant that he had the world’s fastest mustang. He had bought a GT and then took out the 302 and installed a supercharged 351 cubic inch motor. He endured all types of problems trying to make the big motor fit. He told me about all of the little add-ons he had installed to trick it up. He wanted to check out this guy’s car to see how he overcome his problems and if it was indeed the world’s fastest mustang, he wanted to see if the guy would sell it him.
To this point, it seemed like it was gonna be a boring Sunday afternoon. Nothing else to do, everyone else had gone home for the week end, it was just us, so when Jumping Joe asked if I wanted to go along for the ride, I said “Sure, let’s go.” It took a little more than an hour to go the 70 miles or more to New Orleans. This was back in ’95, the construction of I-110 was underway, it ran parallel to Hwy 90, all the way to town. I-110 was the new Highway between New Orleans and Lafayette, that dipped down from I-10, went through Houma and Morgan City, joining up again with I-10 in Lafayette.
The crowd at the Superdome was waning when we got there, it was already 2 o’clock, most of the folks had come and gone. We stopped to check out a white stretch limo that had two cheerleaders from the New Orleans Saints posing with you, if you wanted your picture taken for ten bucks. Joe figured that I’d been mooning over a gal or something, he wanted to cheer me up. Joe talked me into it, but before he did, he talked to the two beautiful girls in their cheer leader outfits, taking them to one side. I should have known something was up when I seen him pass the two gals some money. Having counted his money for him earlier that morning I knew it had to be hundred dollar bills, because that’s all he had. “What’s he up to?”
I got into the back of the stretch limo with a cheerleader on either side, both gals had unfastened the hook, pinning their top together. The photographer got into the front seat, just as he told us to “say cheese” both gals leaned over to give me a kiss on the cheek and grabbed me by the privates, then the flash went off. “That damn Joe.” I think I could smell “black mail” in the air.
Right after he got his copies of the pictures we took, we left from there and went looking for the world’s fastest mustang. Joe and the owner hit it off and soon we’re talking car stuff way over my head. Joe eventually got around to telling the guy “oh I like how you done this or that. We had to cut out the wheel wells or something,” you know. Joe told the guy what his car would do in the quarter and on top end, where it would red line in each gear, that sort of stuff. They were comparing notes. Finally Joe said “Well I thought my car was the fastest mustang in the world, if your car is faster than mine, I want to buy it. How much. Cash?” Then he pulled out his wad. I think I only counted about $36,000 that morning but Joe told him “name your price.” They agreed to an amount, but Joe wanted to drive it first to be sure it was what the guy said it was.
Being as it was getting late, the man didn’t have any problem pulling it out of the center stage of the show. The rows of empty seats all the way to the ceiling made the stadium seem ghostly. We pushed the car out the double winged glass door, right in the front entrance of the Superdome, in downtown Kenner. The guy started acting a little leery. He wondered out loud, “Just where could we go to check out the car on a Sunday afternoon. The local drag strip is closed.” Joe told him we had just passed I-110, it looked like it was almost completed and since it was blocked off from the public, it would be perfect. He told the man that he would take all responsibility.
The car owner put his mustang on a trailer, Joe and I followed him to the construction site, there was a concrete barrier blocking our entrance. Joe was driving his souped up Ford Supercab. It had a racing engine with lots of horsepower. Joe eased up to the slab of concrete that blocked out passage and goosed the engine. The tires on the truck started squealing but slowly ever so slowly the concrete barrier started to move, burnt rubber smoke filled the air, until eventually there was enough room to allow us to pull the truck and trailer inside, allowing us to unload the car.
The car owner kept looking over his shoulder like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar, but the wad of cash in Joe’s pocket seemed to haunt him and he busied himself getting the car ready to run. He had two tanks of nitrous and two helmets, one for each of them. Joe told him I had to go along as witness. I volunteered to ride in the back without a helmet. There wasn’t much room, but I cradle myself in between the roll bars and tried to make myself as comfortable as I could.
The highway was empty alright, almost completed. It was a perfect place for our “test drive.” They checked it out in the quarter mile, Joe seemed impressed, he said his was faster but he was willing to allow for three extra weight of two passengers. He wanted to see what it will do on top end, wound out all the way. Joe told the other guy that he had to “install a double pulley set up on his car because the belts kept coming off around 225 mph.” Hearing that scared the you know what out me, “What? I’m sitting in the back without a helmet and you’re gonna try to drive faster than 225 miles per hour?”
I didn’t want to break weak, but I started to tell Joe that he could take those pictures of the cheerleaders grabbing my privates and stick them up his you know what, but it was too late, we were off. I gritted my teeth and held on, faster and faster, watching the speedometer, around 140 the front end started to shake, Joe hit that first bottle of nitrous and the car zoomed up to around 180, then car started to drift from side to side. Oh shaky pudding, I watched the needle as it climbed pass 200, then 205 and that’s where it pegged out between 205 and 210. I had a white knuckle grip on the roll bars I was straddling when I caught a glimpse of something out the back window. There it was again, a tiny gray and blue little speck coming at us. It looked like I saw flashing lights too. Don’t tell me. We’re busted. What are we gonna do now? There’s no way the police car could have caught us, but we had to go back the same way we come.
I told the two up front about our problem, I had to holler over the roar of the motor. I had to say it about 3 times because they were both wearing helmets, “Cops”, the car owner had Joe pull over. It took a couple minutes but when the State Patrolman came up to the window he was grinning from ear to ear. He was a big guy, about the same size as Joe. He said “That thing can really haul ass, what chu got in it?” Joe had taken off his helmet, he picked up the hot rod magazine and said, “I read here that this man is advertising his car as the world’s fastest mustang. I’m not so sure. He had it at the car show in the Superdome. I told him that if it was true, I wanted to buy it. I got one back home that’s supercharged that’ll blow the doors off of this one.” The cop said “Oh really? What chu got under the hood?” Then they all got out and I climbed out behind them while they raised the hood. I looked behind us, deserted, what a lonely stretch of high way, where’s Rod Sterling?
The three car enthusiasts gabbed for about a half an hour, finally they came back to me, Joe and the cop started buckling on the two helmets. They looked like the bears at the circus that ride the little motorcycles in a circle. Joe came up to me and said that they wanted me drive the patrol car and follow them back. The guy that owned the car was gonna ride with me. Joe and the cop finished strapping on their helmets, the state trooper got behind the wheel, they fastened their seatbelts and then, they were off, hauling ass. Two of a kind I think.
I couldn’t resist the opportunity, I tried to give them a run for their money. The cop had told me that his engine was called a “police interceptor” but after the trooper hit that second bottle of nitrous there was no way it was gonna intercept those two. At least I got to drive it with the lights on. First time I ever got to ride in the front seat of a police car.
I can’t remember the car owner’s name but he was so scared that he was going to jail that he didn’t seem deflated at all about Joe telling him how slow his car was. I started to tell him that Joe was just putting him on but I didn’t want to ruin the story he was gonna be able to tell his grandkids.
A few years went by. I was no longer selling tools. I had heard that I was the last Jackman alive. All the rest of the fellas have moved on. Yep, Buddy, Gary, Roy, Tex all of them. I’m the last man standing. You can imagine my surprise when I got a packet in the mail, in it was a folded up magazine cover. I unfolded the cover and to my surprise there was “Jumping Joe” standing in front of a bright red mustang. The caption read “World’s Fastest Mustang,” as I unfolded the magazine cover, a picture fell out. It was the picture of me in the back seat of a limousine, receiving a kiss on the cheek from two bare chested New Orleans Saints Cheer leaders. This was a few years ago, I was sure glad to see that Joe was still alive but what I was most happy about was the fact that my wife didn’t open the mail that day.