Down upon the Suwannee River

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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.

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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.

Beech Mountain

Have you ever been skiing?  How about on Beech Mountain or Sugar Mountain near Banner Elk, N.C.?  I’ve been telling a lot of stories lately, the time to tell them is when you think about them.

1969 was the end of an era, though I didn’t know it then.  If I could think of it, I did it.  Being 17, I was always looking for adventure, my little brother Gary and I got to talking about snow skiing and wanted to give it a shot.

Dad had rented some trailers to some folks that worked for Kraft Paper Mill that had been closed down for about 20 years, they were from Maggie Valley and had came down to Jacksonville from North Carolina to reopen the mill.  Some of the guys had told us stories about how much fun is to ski near their home in Boone and Banner Elk, North Carolina and all of the beautiful college girls that liked to ski.  We wanted to see it for ourselves.  We had seen some “snow bunnies” on skis on TV commercials advertising for the Winter Olympics and decided that was the place to be.

Our Dad let us use his van for the weekend.  It was on old Chevy Corvair van with a rear engine.  We figured that would help with getting good traction in the snow and ice and give us a place to sleep.  We had seen snow before when we lived in Virginia, but not that much snow, just inches not feet.  We stuck a mattress in the back of the van, that we got out of one of Dad’s rental trailers, took two sets of clothes and a portable 8 track tape deck.

I had my collection of 8 track tapes to prove I was cool.  My portfolio included Johnny Rivers, The Beatles, BB King, Rare Earth, Grand Funk, Credence Clearwater,  Fats Domino, Carole King, James Taylor and a few others.

I cashed in my Savings Bonds to make sure we had plenty of money about $300 dollars worth if I remember right.  I had some Christmas money I had been saving to buy gifts, not much I know, but altogether we had almost $400 bucks.  Gary was only 15 but we were brothers, we shared and shared alike.

Seems like it took us about 7 hours to drive up Hwy 301, there wasn’t many expressways in those days (A folk singer that I met told me that they call ’em Freeways in California).  The first night we were there, we slept in the van.  It got colder than a witches  t…, well let’s just say it was cold.  We had snuck some of Momma’s Bacardi and would take a couple of snorts every 30 minutes or so, to kill the cold.

When we woke up the next morning, there were icicles hanging from the roof, inside the van.  The condensation from our breath had collected on the metal roof and was frozen like stalactites staring down at us.  We got out of the van and when nature called we spelled our names in the snow with urine.  I may have had a little trouble dotting the “I”.

We were surrounded by a beautiful blanket of pretty white snow as far as the eye could see. The snow was about 2 foot deep and the windshield was a frozen block of ice.  We lucked out though, we had gotten directions the night before when we had a long line of cars behind us honking the horn, ’cause we were driving so slow.  The people driving behind us were flashing their lights, honking their horns and were hollering at us because we were flat landers.  We pulled over at a wide spot on side of the mountain where a guy was selling Christmas trees, Fraizer firs, to let every one go around us.  He pointed us in the right direction, clear the other side of the mountain.  Once we got there, we pulled into an empty parking lot at a restaurant that was closed for the day.  It had a large sign painted on the window that said “Blueberry Flap Jacks, all you can eat $2.25.”  We waited for them to open up the next morning and with our bellies full, we followed the snow plow up Beech Mountain.

The resort was already packed when we got there; we found a spot to park near some trees (in case we decided to camp out).  We were “green peas” when it came to everything including skiing, we wanted to check it out, but mostly we wanted to check out the gals.

Beautiful college age girls were everywhere, all wearing bright colored ski suits, thin, but because they were filled with goose down, kept them warm.  We had already put on both sets of clothes to stay warm and we were still cold, freezing.  I used my extra pair of socks for mittens.  The admittance and a lift pass for the day was about $14.00 each.  We went to the equipment rental and bought two pair of goggles, then we rented our boots, skis and poles, altogether cost us about $35 dollars apiece.

We watched to see what every one else was doing and tried to mimic them, trying our best to fit in.  We slipped and fell all the way to the lodge near where the ski trails started.  I saw a beginner’s slope with lots of little kids having a ball.  Everything was so white, it was blinding, that’s where the goggles come into play, oh yeah, they helped a lot.  The “beginner’s slope” consisted of a long cable, strung across two pulleys on an almost flat surface.  The cable was constantly moving in one direction and the idea was to grab a hold of the cable with one hand and let it pull you along, while you tried to maintain your balance.  There was an instructor telling me to point my toes together if I wanted to slow down or stop and to lean one way or the other and to try to dig in with the edge of my skis, depending on which way I wanted to go.  Most of what he tried to tell me went in one ear and out the other.  Maybe if the instructor had of been a she, I might have listened.

Gary met me at the end of the cable, some little kids had told him what to do, then showed him how to do it.  He pulled a “Christy” on me.  That’s when if you want to stop, you hop up in the air and land sideways with the edge of your skis digging in the snow.

So after two futile efforts of trying to learn gracefully, young men being impatient to learn, we decided to give the slopes a shot.  Not that we thought that we were ready but we had come to meet some girls.  We headed for the ski lift; the line was long, long, long.  When we got closer to the head of the line, girls would show up out of nowhere asking if we were “single?”

“Hell yeah we was “single”, whatchoo talking about?  That’s why we’re here.”  No, they meant were we going up on the lift as singles, because the chair was designed for two people.  Sounded like a good deal to me, just about that time, there was the chair, no time for excuses, it’s either get on or get left behind.  Just as soon as your bottom hits the cold seat, the lift rises quickly.  No time to change your mind.  It was about a half a mile to the top.  The lift would break down and grind to a halt for 5 to 10 minutes at a time, cold with the wind blowing snow in your face, it left us swaying in the breeze.  Oh it was cold.  Even wearing two pair of jeans, a flannel shirt and a sweatshirt, it was cold.  I let Gary wear my jacket, because I wanted to show off my blue Florida Gator sweatshirt to make it look like I was a college student.

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The girl sitting next to me (I believe her name was Bridgette) must have took a shine to me, she was a foreign exchange student from Ireland.  Bridgette asked me with a thick brogue if I “wanted a bit of toddy,” confusing me for a second, then she produced a goatskin bag.  She told me that it contained warm  goat’s milk and rum, to keep you warm.  Well it sure did the trick.  The lift stopped so often in the bitter cold that I think we killed most of it on that first run up the mountain.

When we got to the exiting spot I hesitated, she got off, but I was buzzing from the wine and a little apprehensive, so I hesitated.  The lift waits for no man and it just kept going up the mountain.  I kept seeing empty lift chairs pass by me on the way down, while I was still going up.  Every once in a while you could see some poor sucker that had decided that being embarrassed was better than being hospitalized, instead of getting off of the lift, had chosen the humiliating ride back down the mountain while everyone stared at you, pointing fingers.. I decided that wasn’t going to be me and when the lift came close to the ground, I leaned over to see just what was what.  It seemed perilous, I could place myself in the other guy’s shoes, maybe riding back down the mountain on the lift wasn’t such a bad idea.

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The lift started with a jerk to spin around to head back downhill.  I decided it was “either now or never” and jumped into oblivion.  Where I landed was steep and there was a snow machine right in front of it, blowing man made snow right in my face, blinding me so that I skied right into it.  I hit it hard.  So hard that I laid on the frozen ground stunned.  I was so cold that I couldn’t tell if I was hurt or not but I was aware that if I didn’t rise up the snow coming out of that machine would have me covered up in no time.  They probably wouldn’t find me until spring.

I later learned the name for this slope was “Tom Terrific,” it was the bad boy, I guess because it was terrifying.  I found out why, the hard way.  It was so steep that just as soon as I tried to stand up on my skis, before I could get my balance, I went downhill like a shot out of cannon.  If I hit a bald spot with no snow just ice, I got airborne, when I landed I crashed.  Just as soon as I tried to stand up, it was off to the races again.  Every 50 feet I would find some reason to crash, and not gracefully either, it was head over heels, sometimes cart wheeling, all the way down the slope.  I actually felt sorry for the other skiers that I was scaring the daylights out of.

Somewhere, about halfway down the mountain I started to get the hang of it.  Lean to the left and avoid that balled spot or point my skis together with my toes so that I could slow down (some).  At least I got to the point where if it looked like I was going to crash and burn, it wasn’t at full speed anymore.  I was pumped up with the thought that I was getting the hang of it.  I didn’t see my brother at the foot of the slope, I figured that he was alright,  I decided that I would give it another try.

This time my riding partner on the lift, had a snotty nose, when she asked me if I wanted a toddy, I politely declined.  She told me that most all of the kids on the slope went to a school nearby.  I prayed that the lift wouldn’t break down so much this time.  This trip, I managed to get off the lift on the intermediate slope.  Much more better for sure, the second time, kind of like gliding in and out, to the left as far as you can go, point your toes together to slow down and then lean to the right, go as far as you can, not so much straight down hill but at an angle, far as you can, slow down then lean back the other way.  Alright it was getting better.  I still fell here and there but not so much.

When I got to the bottom again I saw Gary with a pretty gal standing next to my Irish snow bunny.  As I got close to them, I attempted a “Christy” and you know what?  I pulled it off.  First try.  Then as I tried to take a couple of walking steps with the skis, I busted my can.  After that, we decide it was time for some hot chocolate, we went into the lodge and sat down in front of a roaring fire.

 

The lodge was a huge A frame facing the slope, the place was packed.  We found ourselves sitting on the floor in front of the fire place.  There were snow bunnies every where we looked, wearing their high dollar ski suits, fancy gloves and accessories.  They weren’t there to ski, not wearing all that make up.  They would bump into you “accidentally” on purpose and say “Escussee moi monsieur, sou ve plais” or “Pardon, merci beau coup”.  I think I can still smell some of that perfume.  I just knew that stuff had to be French.

 

The front of the A framed lodge was all glass.  I noticed that everyone was staring up the mountain, what a beautiful spectacle, every one was zig zagging from side to side, making their way down the slope.  I just couldn’t figure out what were all of those blue spots were that dotted the slope.  They were every where, dozens and dozens of blue spots.  I thought about the blueberry pancakes I had for breakfast.  I couldn’t figure for the life of me just what they were.  The girls asked if we had someplace where we could go, kind of private.  I seems like they wanted to go smoke some reefers.  Gary and I hadn’t been around been around any pot before and these girls were a little older than we were, we wanted to check them out, so we all went to our van parked near the trees.  First thing I did was plug Fats Domino into the tape deck and when he started singing “Bluberry Hill,” it dawned on me.  Looking out of the windshield at all of those blue spots on the mountainside is where I crashed. I hit the snow so hard, that the impact left blue stains from the dye in my blue jeans and sweatshirt.

 

That night the girls invited us back to their campus.  Appalachian State Teachers College, way back before it went co-ed.  It seems like there was going to be a concert in the gym that night and the girl that was singing was a “country/folk singer named Linda Ronstadt and her band from California.  Appalachian State was an all girl’s college at the time.  We had to sneak past the dorm mother to take a shower.

 

The gym was kind of small, I think the capacity was about 1,500 people. The acoustics was pretty good and she rocked the house down.  Linda was in the Nashville area trying to promote her first record deal.  She had just left her previous group, the “Stoned Poneys.”  The members of her band included Glen Frye and Don Henley.  She sang “Desperado” a song she said her band had wrote for her, (this was years before she was famous and recorded it).  She also sang several songs that had been recorded by other people but she made them sound so much better and songs from her new album “Hand Sown, Hand Grown.”.  During the breaks she would walk through the crowd and mingle, trying to promote her record sales.  She tried to talk to or touch hands with everybody there.  She was so pretty and very well liked.  After the concert, she sat in a chair in the middle of the gym floor, smiling, signing autographs, laughing, telling jokes, just trying to relate to the college students and sell a few copies of her new album.

 

That night we went back to the girl’s dorm after curfew and drank some beer and wine and ate cheese sticks.  Gary played the guitar and for a moment, we were almost hippies.

 

The next morning I was sitting on the toilet to pee, (kinda sneaky like to keep from being noticed by the dorm mother) with the door closed, in the dorm bathroom.  I noticed that the girl in the stall next to me was standing with her toes pointed towards the toilet while she was peeing.  I could hear the splash of the water, but her feet were pointed towards the commode, which I found confusing.  I wasn’t sure about this; I waited until she left before I went back to the room and told everyone what I saw.  Everybody had a good laugh and told me she was nicknamed “Sasquatch.”  She was a gal from Banner Elk that was some kind of “backwoodsy.”  She chewed tobacco and dipped snuff.  She was bigger than any one else, so no one made fun of her.

 

I don’t think we ever did tell those girls how young we were.  We didn’t want to leave but if we didn’t, we’d have to listen to a different kind of music when we got home.  That red headed gal Bridgette called me for six months wanting to know when I was coming back, but I never did.  “Save a nickel, save a dime, going back to happier times, I’m going back some day, come what may”.

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Going home, I had a new addition to my tape collection.

“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.  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.

“Valley of the Dolls”

I got to thinking about my first “real” date.  Aw there probably were a couple of them.  Like the first time I held hands or the first time I ever did any smooching.  Seems like it was so long ago, that they all run together.

My girlfriend Angela had been a cheer leader back in Jr. High.  We were in the same grade.  I was in the 10th grade at the time, so it must have been around 1968. She and I were at the age where dating was on the horizon.  My Mom was all for it, she schooled me in the etiquettes, the proper way to do things.  Like opening doors for a lady, pulling out their chairs and standing when a woman entered the room.  She taught me how to waltz, not to be impolite, pretty much standard stuff for a guy back in those days.

My girlfriend’s Dad had worked at the shipyards with my mom’s brother in laws.  Mom was delighted that my girlfriend was the daughter of some one that she was friends with.  Sometimes she let me drive her Cutlass to go visit her after school.

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She wanted to go see the R rated movie “Valley of the Dolls.”  It had just come out and was only available at certain theaters.  My girlfriend was only 15 and so was I, too young to get into an “R” rated movie back in those days.

My cousin Cindy was close to my age, a few months older, she was already 16.  Her Mom had already allowed her to start dating.  She and I talked often the phone.  I told her about my desire to take Angela out on a date, hoping to be able to go see “The Valley of the Dolls’ that happened to be showing at the Florida Theater on Forsythe St., downtown.

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Cindy told me that our cousin Clarence was in town.  He was our Granny’s grand nephew.  Aunt Ann Sue’s grandson, Clarence was a hick from the sticks, if there ever was one.  He was 22 years old, going on 60.  Our parents had told us that even though he was different, for us to be nice to him.  Previously he had taken my girl cousins and I to the drive inn movies.  He was plenty old enough to chaperone.  He dressed and acted like Gomer Pile.  He liked to wear mix matched clothes, with white socks.  He was one of the nicest persons that you would ever want to meet, just different.  His favorite pastime was rocking on the front porch swapping lies and swatting flies.

After I planted the seed in Cindy’s mind, she arranged an outing where she and Clarence would pick up my girlfriend and me, then we would go to the theater to see the movie.  I worked all day Saturday to earn the money.  I worked for my parents every day but that was supposed to pay for my room and board is what they said.  If I needed any money, I had to go out and earn it.

My cousin Earl and I went out to Bowie’s Dairy and under the shade of some old oak trees, we dug fishing worms.  Red wigglers and night crawlers, we sold them to old lady Hood.  Miss Hood lived next to my parent’s trailer park, across from Tiller’s grocery.  She sold fishing worms and would buy as many as we could dig.  After she bought them from us, she would take the night crawlers and break them in half.  We sold her our worms for a penny apiece.  Sometimes she would conveniently miscount in her favor and we would pretend we didn’t notice, because we knew we could always find plenty more.  That day we got paid ten dollars, so we must have dug about 1,000 worms.

Digging worms wasn’t that hard.  The cows from the dairy would lay up under the shade of the old oak trees up along the fence behind the old fire station.  They would poop big piles, every where, hundreds and hundreds of cow poop piles as far as the eye could see.  Using a potato rake, we would turn the dried clods over and bust them apart with the rake.  Jumping and wriggling worms would appear like magic, 10 to 15 sometimes more from every clod.

Earl and I each had a bucket and we would scoop up our bounty and move on to the next clod.  After about two hours we figured that we had more worms than Ms. Hood had money, she kept telling us how broke she was, we saved the rest for another day.  True to form, she miscounted as usual, poor mouthed us again and again but she did pay us ten bucks.  We were off to a good start.

After that we went by our Aunt Irma’s, she lived across the street from the Dinsmore Cemetery.  Aunt Irma was my aunt, but Uncle Bud, her husband was Earl’s uncle, so we figured that made us cousins, sort of.  Every Saturday, we mowed her grass and then washed and vacuumed her ’64 Oldsmobile.  It was maroon with a white top and white bucket seats, coupe.  It was one beautiful car.  We helped her to keep it that way.  Her sons had grown and left home, both had joined the army.  Aunt Irma would pay us ten bucks each for the chores.

We finished early that day, around two o’clock.  Earl had a motorcycle, a Honda 300 dream. It was ideal for our purpose.  I got on the back of the bike with a plastic laundry basket across my lap.  Earl would guide the bike up and down US 1, all the way to Callahan, while I leaned over picking up drink bottles to exchange for the deposit at Mr. Tiller’s Banner Food Store.  Mr. Tiller would give us two cents apiece for all of the bottles that we returned in the carton.  Sometimes we could find cartons too, but most of them were just “singles”.  Mr. Tiller would only give us a penny each for those, unless they were they big 32 ounce bottle.  For those, we got a nickel.  All told, in about 2 and a half hours we got a little over ten bucks.  Not a bad day for two steppers, because that’s what we thought we were, “steppers.”

I called Cindy up and told her it was “on.”  I had the earned the most money that I could call mine, in my life and I had plans for every penny.  She told me that they were gonna pick me up about 7:00.

It was okay with my Dad if I dressed like Clarence, I think they shopped at the same place but I wouldn’t stand for it.  Earl and I went to Levy-Wolfs in the Gateway Shopping Center and I paid $7.50 for a yellow fitted shirt, with pearl buttons, then I bought a pair of socks to match.  My Dad hit the ceiling when he found out how much I paid for that shirt.  He wasn’t too happy about the socks either, they cost me $2.00.  My Dad was something else.

Clarence and Cindy picked me up, we drove to my sweetie’s in Picketville, everyone got out of the car so that I could introduce them to her parents.  Angela’s Dad and Clarence were from the same neck of the woods, up around Waycross or Baxley.  Their kin were kin too, by marriage.  They seemed to hit it off.

Clarence was wearing checked pants and a striped shirt with a sport jacket.  You could say he was dressed to kill.  It sure killed me and Cindy.  She was going along with this to help me out, we were gonna have a great time, just as long as Clarence had a car and could chaperone us into the theater, we could care less how he dressed.  My girlfriend was kinda of quiet about everything.  She probably didn’t know what to expect.

Clarence stopped at the store to buy Cindy some cigarettes and bought himself a basket of peaches, he said “because they sure looked good.”  He offered to share but I was saving my appetite for cold drinks and buttered popcorn.  I never did smoke, the few times I tried it, I was with Cindy.  I guess it’s an acquired taste, to which I never did.

No problems getting into the movie.  Clarence went first, he was plenty of old enough, I had given him the money for the tickets; the usher never even looked at us.  He just tore our tickets in half and said “enjoy the movie.”

Since we were a little early for the show, we were able to get our seats in the balcony, first rate seats, right in the middle.  The news reel came on and when it showed clips of our troops over in Viet Nam, some of the people in the seats down below started to boo, loudly.  The Viet Nam War wasn’t that popular, some of the folks in attendance voiced their displeasure.

Clarence wasn’t with all of this.  He had put some of those peaches in his jacket pocket.  He took a couple out and splattered some those folks down below us that were booing.  The feature soon came on, that put an end to the hooting and hollering, that is until some of “R’ rated stuff started to appear on screen.

The movie was interesting, 3 girls doing the best they could to survive in Hollywood.  Just like the pills they were doing, they had their “ups and downs.”  The drugs and the alcohol proved too much for them.  I thought that Patty Duke favored my cousin Cindy, only I thought that Cindy was much prettier.

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Clarence had his feet up on the balcony, eating his peaches.  He was happy as a pig in slop.  When a scene appeared showing the girls taking pills or showing a little skin, he would blurt out, “I swan née” time and time again.  People would try to shush him and the usher would shine his light up at us, as if a warning or something.  Clarence had no idea what he was doing though.  When a nudie scene appeared old Clarence choked on a peach pit.  I had to get up and slap him on the back until he spit it out, right over the rail of the balcony.

When this happened the girls got up and went to the bathroom.  When they returned, they changed seats.  Clarence had been on the far left, then Angela, Me then Cindy.  After they returned, Cindy swapped seats with my girlfriend, sitting between me and Clarence.

While the girls were in the restroom, Clarence had stopped eating peaches and pulled out a pouch and put a wad of chewing tobacco in his mouth.  He started to spit over the rail but I stopped him.  Instead he chose an almost empty popcorn cup in the armrest between the two seats.  Cindy, not knowing this, reached innocently into the popcorn cup without looking and put a handful of tobacco juice laced popcorn in her mouth.

The movie might have been rate “R” but I don’t think any one was prepared for the words that came out of Cindy’s mouth.

I guess everyone remembers their first date.  I will always remember mine.  Clarence was killed in Viet Nam in 1970.  In 1971 Angela was working for a doctor that gave her an experimental drug for a headache.  Her Mom told me that she went to a party and drank alcohol.  She went to sleep and never woke up.  I came home on Emergency Leave, but I was too late for the service.  Cindy went on to be an Insurance executive for SWD, she passed away 3 years ago from a heart attack.  Now its up to me, to remember them, and I do, to anybody that wants to listen.

 

Archeology (The study of people from Arkansas)

When my brother and his friend Arnie Fields were looking for a place in the center of the United States to build “a home 20,” a secluded place, sparsely populated, also a centralized location to rest up in, when we took a break from selling tools.  The beautiful Ozark Mountains offered just that.

I don’t remember if it was Arnie or Gary that first discovered this area, we lived in, around Hardy.  It was about an hour north of Jonesboro and 2 hours northeast of Little Rock.

Gary I think, because he was always reading ads in the paper where ever we went.  It’s easy to get bored when you spend most of your free time in motel rooms.   We were working Memphis at the time.  I think the ad read “40 acres, the top of three mountains and the two valleys in between, with a two bedroom house and a chicken coop. $8,000. Cash.”

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Gary told Arnie about it and when they went to check it out, Arnie bought it.  Gary didn’t have the necessary cash on him at the time.  After Arnie bought it, the neighbors all come up and said “Man I wished I’da knowed, I coulda gotchu a better deal than that.”

Couple of weeks later, when we were working in Kansas City, my brother met Ramona, she was a bar maid and when she saw us flashing rolls of hundred dollar bills, she loaded up, when Gary told her to.  Gary fell in love.  He told me that he wanted to go to Hardy and see if he could find him a spot alongside of Arnie’s place.

Gary had about $3,000.  Not quite enough for what he had planned.  I gave him $2,500 more, plus he had a load of tools on his truck.

He and Rae set off to seek what they could find on their honeymoon.  That was the weekend I got sucker punched with a two by four, by some bikers, when I went back to the same bar where Rae had worked, the night after they left.

When they got back, I was in bad shape.  I had lain in bed for three days, bleeding and I thought at the time, dying.  Rae had worked as an assistant in a Veterinarian clinic before and seemed to know what to do.  After she put my jaw back in socket, reduced the swelling in my eyes so that I could see and sewed me back up in the numerous places where I had been cut, including half of my tongue, she had a friend for life.

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They had taken their money and paid down on two places.  A mobile home in Cherokee Village, a world renown retirement Village in the Ozarks (Erik Estrada does their commercials) and a 40 acre parcel next to Arnie’s.  I think the payment for both places was under a hundred dollars a month, each.

Over the years we settled into the community, bit by bit.  We met the locals and got to know our way around.  Thing is, when you “ain’t from around here”, people always know it and no matter what, you are treated a little different.  Even so, we got to come and go, pretty much unnoticed, which is just what we wanted.

There weren’t any bars allowed in northern Arkansas ‘cept for the American Legion and you had to join the club, which we did and met some more of the local people.  Darrel owned the Texaco, we always needed repairs on our jack trucks,  he was a handy guy to know.  His son n law, Carl Wayne Henry later joined our crew and so did his other son n law, Allen White.  These guys married sisters but they didn’t seem to like each other much.  Allen was like “Chicken Little” and Wayne was more like “Yosemite Sam.”  When Wayne wanted to marry Debbie he told Darrel he was 25, when actually it was more like 40.  Debbie was 15.

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These two fellas traveled and sold tools with us for years.  Wayne was a pretty good jack man.  Allen, well Allen just proved the fact that anyone could do it, if they tried hard enough.  Allen would get in his truck and drive 300 miles in a day and just sell a hoist, if he sold a complete truck load, he would only get $2,500 when the average load brought 3 thousand to 35 hundred.

Then there was Dean Gann.  An Army Vet that served during the Viet Nam War.  Dean wore “camo’s” every day.  He was a woodsman.  He grew pot and searched for ginseng, a local commodity.  I stayed with him and his girl friend a few times in their A frame house tucked back in the woods.  I believe Dean had a “persecution” complex.  He was always looking over his shoulder and searching the skies for DEA planes.  He may have had a still.  If he did, he didn’t let on.  I did ride with him to Ash Flats to get a hundred pounds of sugar once, then over to Pocahontas to get a couple bags of corn.  Funny thing, he didn’t raise any livestock and when we drank coffee at his house, we used honey for sweetener.

When Dean asked me if I wanted to go with him to check his “crop.”  I eagerly went with him.  We loaded up his canoe and his dogs, two well trained Doberman pincers with a radio transmitter collar.  When we got to the Spring River, we loaded up in the pre-dawn hours, paddled about three or four miles, when we came up on little pieces of green cloth, tied to the tree branches.

At these locations Dean would let his dogs out to go ahead and search the area.  He had a hand held radio that he would whisper commands to, soon the dogs would return, the coast was clear.  Dean would get a few empty milk jugs, fill them with water and add some “Miracle Grow.”  Then he would get his bow ready and we would traipse through the woods until we came up on his pot plants.  He would spend a few minutes breaking off the sucker leaves, energizing his plants with the miracle grow.  Then before we left, he would hang fish hooks from the tree branches on monofilament fishing like, almost invisible to the naked eye, then brush out our tracks with a tree branch always departing a different way than we came so as not to make a trail.  With Dean, everything was clandestine, always.

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I saw him with a band aid over his eyebrow once and asked him if he walked into one of his traps.  He said “That’s not from one of mine.” And let it drop.  I once asked him what would he do if he ran into a DEA agent out in the woods?”  He said, “That’s why I always carry a shovel in the back of my truck,” he was serious too.

Once when two strangers came into the American Legion while we were shooting pool, Dean slipped out and put a radio transmitter under their truck, so he could keep track of them.  We followed those suckers for two days, they said they were ginseng buyers from back east.  If so, they went home empty handed.  They stayed at the Dew Drop Inn, where Dean’s sister worked, the day they checked out he had her recover his transmitter.

Drinking beer at the American Legion was about the only form of adult entertainment.  The main problem with that is the beer sold in Arkansas was only 3.5 percent alcohol.  You had to drink a gallon to get a buzz.  Then you spent the rest of the night taking one pee after another.

Mammoth Springs, Missouri was only 17 miles north.  You could get 6 % beer there.  It was the real thing.  The problem with that is, if you had Arkansas plates, coming south from Missouri, you were probably gonna get stopped by the Arkansas State Police within a few miles after crossing the line.  I come up with an idea to build a plywood tool box for the back of my truck with a false bottom.  I could carry 3 cases of beer, sight unseen.

I got a warm reception at every bonfire party I went to.  That’s how I met Lisa.

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There were 11 Sullivan sisters.  I think her parents must have been Catholics.  All of these gals were pretty blondes, very pretty blondes, well endowed, with just a touch of an overbite.  Standing around a bonfire one night with a bunch of folks we got to talking about the Arkansas Razorbacks.  The year before they had won the National Championship under Lou Holtz.  They got to talking about Saturdays game against Navy and I overheard Lisa say, “I’d give my left nut to go see that game.”

She got my attention then.  Most of the gals I had met in Sharpe County Arkansas either chewed tobacco or dipped snuff.  Not Lisa, she was beautiful, especially in the moonlight standing front of the fire.

I told her that I had two tickets to the game, I asked her if she wanted to go.  Boy them was the magic words.  She wanted to leave right then.  First she had to go put on her high school cheerleader outfit, red and white, same colors as the Razorbacks.   The home games were either in Fayetteville or Little Rock, this week end it was Little Rock about two hours away.

All the way to Little Rock all she could talk about was how much she’s been wanting to go see this game.   She sat next time me the entire trip, squeezing my leg, kissing me on the cheek.  She had told her mom and her sisters, “don’t wait up for me, I may not be back for a few days.”

Well, anybody that knows me, knows I didn’t have no tickets for no durn college football game.  I just figured that when we got there I’d buy a couple of tickets, we’d win and I would score.  Touchdown, that easy.  Well it weren’t.

 

All home games in Arkansas, no matter if it’s in Fayetteville or Little Rock are sold out in advance, years in advance.  When Lisa saw me scrambling to get tickets for the game she went off, boy what a temper.  “You mean to tell me after I told my family and friends that you was taking me to the game, that you don’t even have tickets?  Don’t you know how much this means to me?”  I’m thinking no big deal, lets get a room and we can watch it on TV.  “No way Jose.”  She wanted the real thing.  I left her at a sports bar and went in search of tickets from a scalper.  Finally I hooked up, I bought four tickets for 200 hundred apiece.  I know what you’re thinking, $800 is a lot of money for a piece of ass, I agree.  Even to me, I was making pretty good money back then, it was way too much.

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I found Lisa at the table where I left her, crying in her beer.  She had a crowd of guys swarming around her.  Bar flies.  She was mad, she was still mad even after I told her that I had gotten tickets to the game.  “How could you do this to me?  My make up is ruined.”  Poor baby, here I’ve spent and arm and a leg getting us here and buying us tickets to the game and she’s still singing the blues.

We got in line at the admission gate, standing there with hundreds maybe thousands of red and white clad adoring Razorback fans, shaking pom poms and waving pennants, every fanatic in the state seemed to be there.  I held up the two extra tickets in the air and started hollering “Tickets, who need tickets?”  I doubled my money on the tickets, so we got in for free.

Arkansas beat Navy, the score was like, 42 to nothing.  Lisa was hollering and cheering right beside me the whole game.  I acted like I could care less.  There were a couple of co-eds next to me and they seemed to like me in my Tony Llamas and my new Stetson.  I bought them a few beers from the concessionaire and practically ignored Lisa the whole game.

The ride home was cold, cold, cold.  Lisa said “You could at least bought me a beer.”  I said “For what?  So you could throw it in my face?”  Her lip stuck out so far, it looked like she had a pinch of snuff in it.  Needless to say, nothing to brag about happened after that.  I did take her to a rodeo over in Raven’s Den, about a month later.  She told me that she had a thing for bull riders, if I wanted to enter I might get lucky.  Well, the $25 dollar entry fee was a whole lot cheaper than going to any damn football game just so I could score.  I jumped on it.  Hell, didn’t I ride the mechanical bull at Gilley’s and rode two half ass tamed ones at Billy Bob’s in Ft. Worth?  It can’t be that hard, can it?

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It was a pretty chilly late November night.  The arena was packed and well lit.  I had my favorite number (5) pinned to my back and after the draw, was to be the second rider to try his luck.  Luck hell, I had to be crazy.  The Brahma cross bull I climbed up on was a seasoned pro.  I can still see his steam like breath, blowing through his nostrils, in the frosty Autumn air.  I was still wrapping the rope around my gloved hand and wrist when they tighten the “cod strap” around his nuts, to make him buck more.  When they did this he went hay wire.  We were still in the chute when he rose up and crushed me, back up against the boards of the pen.  Ouch that hurt, he bit my knee too.   My eyes searched the crowd.  Every one was hollering and screaming,  I didn’t see a friendly face.  I decided there weren’t no gal on earth worth this shit, I tapped out.  I couldn’t go on, my back was hurt, it still is today.

Needless to say I didn’t impress Lisa on that night.

I saw her again during Indian Summer, two years later when I was diving off the Spring River Bridge near Hardy.  She saw me and asked if I was ready for the “perfect date.”  I was thinking it was about damn time.  I picked her up at her Mom’s, we took two lawn chairs,  two bottles of chilled wine and a transistor radio.  We drove to a secluded spot along side the warm waters of the Spring River, where it weaves its way through the Ozark Mountains, then we walked down a path along side the river.  We walked out in knee deep water, set up the lawn chairs just above a little waterfall.  We drank our wine in the moonlight and listen to the game on the radio.gf1

She was right, it was the perfect date, almost.  The Gators skunked Arkansas.  I am a Gator fan, always will be.  She looked upset that the Razorbacks got beat by the Gators.  She sure looked cute in the moonlight though, the way she had her bottom lip sticking out, pouting, I grabbed her with both arms pulling her close, bending over in the moonlight to kiss her, that’s when I discovered that her mouth was full of snuff.

I think about Lisa every now and then and I wonder to myself, “That was a long walk, I hope she made it home alright.”

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Malphus

 

Bob Malphus from Memphis, Tennessee

 

 

Bob Malphus had been in a motorcycle wreck long before I met him.  The accident left him with a bad shoulder and only partial use of his right arm.  Being a jack man, was a pretty good job for him as far as the physical work went, except he probably had a tough time unloading the truck.

He wasn’t an exceptional jack man, but he could sell a load when he wanted to, like when the wolf was knocking at the door, the rent was due or we were getting ready to move to a new town and he needed money for gas.

I liked Bob and looked out for him when ever I could.  Being on the road, it is important to surround yourself with people you like and trust.  I knew I could trust Bob.

Towards the end of July 1980, the crew was working St. Lake City, a beautiful place but we had been there for a month and it was time for me to move on.  Without telling anyone where we were headed, Bob, my young nephew Glen and I loaded up two trucks one night and drove north up I-15, headed for Pocatello, Idaho about 300 miles north.

I had my nephew Glen with me in my truck, Bob drove his old Ford, only stopping when we saw a bar or two near the exit off of the Interstate.  I believe we hit about five bars that night, drinking, dancing and playing pool.  Glen was only fifteen years old, he had a hard time getting into most of places.  We left him out in the parking lot most of the time; I’d bring him a beer or mixed drink ever so often just to check on him.  Most of the time he had the truck loaded with gals.  We only had “Lynyrd Skynrd” cassettes and when he played the tapes, it would draw a crowd.  Seems like “Lynyrd Skynyrd” tapes were like Jack Daniels whiskey, hard to get, west of the Mississippi, but both were well liked and we traveled with plenty of both.  We were “Down South Jukin, all the way.”

We finally arrived in Pocatello just about daylight, the sun was glaring through the windshield, and we were on the eastern side of the Continental Divide.  I got us a room at the Quality Inn.  Glen didn’t want to work; he was partied out, so he crawled on the bed and passed out.  Bob and I figured that we would feel better after some vittles.

While we drinking a second cup of coffee at the local diner, some dudes were gathering around my truck that we had parked out front.  They were inspecting our equipment. We nonchalantly sashayed out to the truck like we didn’t have a care in the world, when we approached the small crowd; some one asked us what kind of equipment was this, oilfield, garage, machine shop?  We told them we didn’t know what it was for and then we both fell into our routine about being truck drivers from South Carolina sent out here on a mission to do an inventory and when the dealer was short on his stock, our boss told us to load up what he had left and try to peddle it to someone that could use it, if they got it cheap enough.

One old man said “We got a Green River Ordinance” out here.  You can’t go around selling stuff door to door.”  We told the old man “Oh no, we ain’t salesmen, we’re truck drivers.  Our boss told us to load it up and show it to some boss man’s that can use it if they get it cheap enough and just get the iron cost and the “furbicating” out of it, you know, what it cost to build it.  Can you use it, if you was to get it cheap enough?”

He replied “Sure I can, how much is it?”  When he respond like that, we knew we had him.  I told him, “Well I can tell you what they told me, but you got to call the office back home before we can unload it and they can tell you how to make out the check.  Can you use it if you got it cheap enough?”  The trick was to get the man to say yes he can use it, if it were cheap enough, because then he has to make you an offer of some kind.

I put him through our book, showed him the list price of every thing, finally coming to the band saw that listed for $5,984.00.  I told him that “the boss said if you wanted it, he would knock 2 thousand dollars off of that there thing in the crate.  He said it was an iron cutter. It’ll cut north and south or east and west and it spits oil on the blade.  Then for helping him out, he’ll just give that there hoister that list for $2,995.   And that there bearing machine that list for $3,295., to you for no charge.”  Then I added “He told us that we could have all those small tools, like the big vise and the 8 inch grinder, the air impact tools and the socket sets and all of those brand new wrenches as a bonus, but between me and you mister, if you could help us out, we’ll give you all of those tools too, because to be honest with you, this ain’t our job, we just drive a truck and we get paid by the mile, right now, we’re on downtime, can you use it if you got it cheap enough?”

The old man studied on it a while, flipping through the pages of our catalogue.  He seemed to be adding things up in his mind, just about then; I set fire to his ass.  I told him “If you promise not to get us fired, I’ll help you get it real cheap.  The boss ain’t seen it, so he don’t know, but when you get him on the phone, I can tell him it was bent up and damaged from a fork lift and that the roof was leaking and some of the stuff is starting to rust, but you got to back me up.  Don’t get me fired, would it be worth some beer money to you mister if I can help you get it for cheap?”

That did it.  A buyer is a liar.  If you can get him to lie, you can get him to buy.  We walked back into the diner, used their phone.  He called the 1-800 number to the factory, which was actually a gal named Rita sitting on the back deck of her double wide on top of King’s Mountain, back in South Carolina.  Rita was good as always, she closed him out for $2,500.  We were happy with that.  It wasn’t even 9 o’clock and we had made about $600.00 commission on the first pitch and got 20 bucks apiece to buy beer with.

He paid us cash, we unloaded the tools in the back of his truck and drove the two blocks back to the motel and spun “donuts” in the parking lot, trying to wake Glen up.  No luck, he was sound asleep, I even tried throwing hundred dollar bills all over the bed, to wake him up, but he was out of it.

Bob and I were fired up, too fired up to go to bed, even though we were tired from drinking, dancing and driving most of the night.  We jumped into Bob’s truck and were just gonna drive around and check out the scenery.  We were surrounded by the Grand Teton Mountains, the lush green valleys were picturesque, and it was still early.

While we were driving down a farm road, checking out the potato farmers we drove up on a gal that was hitch hiking.  Let me say this first, out west, girls hitch hike all the time. It’s just a custom that you don’t see any where else.  Being from the south and not use to seeing pretty girls hitch, Bob slammed on the breaks and we offered her a ride, which she accepted.  I got out and she slipped into the middle.  I told her that where we were from, that was our custom.

She asked us what was on the back of the truck.  She and her husband owned what we call down here, a junkyard but up there, they call it a “salvage yard.”  She got to talking about how her husband could use that hoisting machine and maybe that metal cutting band saw (after we put her through the book).  We stayed in character, as always and after taking her to the “salvage yard” got her to call Rita to make an offer.

She bought the  band saw and the hoist for 2 thousand, she had the cash in a shoebox, and we gave her the 8 inch grinder (what we called an electric knife sharpener) for helping us out.  She had called her husband before she made the deal, told him we “were some cool guys from down south, they even have “Lynyrd Skynyrd” tapes”, got his okay and then she gave us a bag of pot and a gram of coke.

What a start to a beautiful day, we had just made another 600 dollars, got a bag of weed and a gram of coke and it wasn’t even 11 am.  We smoked a joint, Bob didn’t really like pot much, he preferred booze and after doing a bump, I traded him my share of the gram for his share of the pot.  After this, we decided we would spend the rest of the day doing something fun.

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We spotted a place where we could do some trail riding.  We found a place that offered either horse back riding or motocross.  The owner got to looking at the press that was lying in the back of the truck.  Not wanting to miss an opportunity, Bob put him through the book and dropped it for eight hundred; the owner offered us our choice, ride for free either on motorcycles or horseback.  We talked him into letting us do both.  When the euphoria from the pot and the coke started to wear thin, we ended our ride, deciding it was time for some serious beer drinking.  The guy at the stables told us we ought to check out the “Three T’s Tavern” it was suppose to be the biggest and best bar this side of the Rockies. He wasn’t lying.

The Three T’s Tavern was a huge “A frame” with a huge surrounding deck.  It was starting to get dark when we went in.  We danced, then played pool for a few hours and drank several pitchers of beer.  Some girls we met started acting like they really liked our southern accents, but the guys they came in with seemed to want to dispute it.

I was wearing a hat similar to the one Indiana Jones wore in his movie, except mine had a rattlesnake skin hatband complete with a set of rattles. One of the guys kept calling me “Snake Shit.”

Ole Bob knew what was fixing to happen, he stood off to one side with a number 21 pool stick, gripping the skinny end.  I took the cue ball in the palm of my hand and hit the guy in the forehead; he went down like a ton of lead and didn’t get back up.  His two friends acted like they wanted to take up for him but Bob whopped both of them across the back so hard with that cue stick, that they couldn’t stand up straight after that.

That’s what I mean about trust.  I could trust Bob.  He had my back.  I didn’t have to ask him, he just did it.  You’d think that the beer tenders would tell us we had to leave, but the gals told them that we didn’t start it, besides we were the only ones there, that were breaking hundred dollar bills.

What a night, yeah, we had a great time dancing, drinking, shooting pool and we haven’t been to bed in over 36 hours.  About midnight, we decided that we had enough for one day or was that two days?  Anyway, we went back to the motel and we saw jack trucks every where, crowding the parking lot.  We went to our room and there was every guy on the crew.  Smoke filled the room, there wasn’t a sitting place to be had.  Every body was so excited.  Rita had relayed the information that we had dropped twice in one day in Pocatello, Idaho.  These guys hadn’t seen any “naked” territory in a while and wanted to get a taste of it before Mike, Glen and Bob worked it all out.

They told me that the husband of the girl we dropped the  band saw and hoist to, had been hanging around the motel with the tools loaded up in his truck.  It seems like he had a change of heart and wanted his money and drugs back.  “No way, Jose.”  We took a couple loads off the trucks of guys that couldn’t sell and left town, we headed north.  We told every body that we would see them in Butte, Montana.

Memphis Bob

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Butte, Montana and the Continental Divide

All work and play with no sleep made Mike and Bob a couple of dull Jack men the next day.  We tried and tried all day, working our way to Big Sky Country.  We got off the main highway and pulled into a dry gulch for a couple hours of shut eye.  When we woke up, we decided to just drive straight to Butte, trying to get there before dark.  We did, arriving about four thirty, we saw a motel and went in and got a room.  A couple blocks before the motel, we had passed a Chevrolet dealership that had a sign out front that said “Going out of business, AUCTION today, everything must go.

I knew that if I lay down, I was going to be out for a while, so before I did, I told Bob “Hey, let’s go check out that auction.”  We weren’t there 10 minutes before we had an empty truck.  We didn’t get much for it, I think we made about $250 bucks, a skinny deal, but at least it was off the truck.  There’s no shame in heading for the motel, when you have an empty truck.  When we pulled into the parking lot, the load on Bob’s truck stuck out like a sore thumb.  We decided that we had enough left in us to give it another shot.  We left Glen at the motel, Bob and I took his truck back to the auction.  We told the guys there, that a “Mexican had wrote our boss a bad check.”  It seemed to fit alright, the Anaconda Copper mine that had been in business for over a hundred years had just gone bankrupt. We sold the second truck load for a couple hundred more.  We told the auctioneer, that “The boss ain’t gonna go for that bent and rusty tool scam twice.”  So now, by the grace of God, we had two empty trucks as we headed back to the motel for some sleep.

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After a few hours of much needed sleep, we were awakened by the sounds of the crew banging on our door, “Good Ole Rita.  Man, what’s a guy got to do around here to get some rest?”  I guess every one felt that we were on fire and wanted to be around us, hoping that some of the “magic” would wear off on them.

Well, that was it, no more rest that night.  Jack tradition had it that who ever dropped that day would buy the beer for guys that didn’t, to keep morale from sinking too low.  We usually traveled with anywhere from 15 to 20 men at any one time. It wouldn’t take long for the beer tab to add up to a considerable sum.  Glen, Bob and I hatched a plan to go check out a local bar called “Del Mar” a couple of blocks away, between the motel and the Chevrolet Dealer.

Back in those days, liquor stores were on an allotment to be able to get “Jack Daniels,” west of the Mississippi.  When ever I could get a case in big metroplexes, I did.  I also would keep a bottle of “Black Velvet.”  (You know, the cheap stuff for everybody else).  Most of the bars and clubs were “B-O-B’s,” they sold set ups and beer and you had to be 21 to get in.  Poor Glen was 15 years old.

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When I first started traveling out west, the only fast dance song that bars had on the juke box, was Don William’s “Tulsa Time.”  I know what you’re thinking, that ain’t fast, so now you know what we went through.  When we went to the bar that night, it was a packed house.  Bob and I hooked up with a couple pretty Indian gals right off.  I was ordering set ups when Glen sat down at the table.  The bar maid asked him for his ID.  Glen looked at me and said “Uncle Mike, she asked me for my ID, what should I do?”  I told him that if he wanted to party with us, he’d better handle it.  The next time she asked him, he told her “F— Y– Bit–“.  I got plenty of ID, now bring me a set up and leave my ass alone, then, he set a bottle of Jack Daniels on the table.  She wasn’t going to throw anybody out that had a full bottle of Jack Daniels.

Ida Luna was the pretty Arapaho gal I was with and Bob was with a Navaho gal named Hilda.  Don’t know why a Navaho girl was that far north but her and Bob hit it off pretty good.  When we would go out to the truck during band breaks, I’d fill our empty bottle of “Jack” with “Black Velvet.”  After two drinks the Indian girls couldn’t taste the difference and I didn’t want to waste all of my Jack Daniels.  When we came back inside the bar, I gave the bartender a “Skynyrd” tape to play on the PA system.  When they started singing “What’s your name little girl”, the place went wild, especially once they opened up with the line about “Boise Idaho.”

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Those girls stuck to us like a coat of paint.  Even Glen hooked up with two white chicks that liked the way he talked.  Glen’s gals had a car, a green Maverick.  He and a fellow named Lynn left with them.  The girls that were with Bob and I, Ida and Hilda packed into the truck with us to show us the sights of Butte Montana after dark.

The town was drying up.  Last year it had a population of over a hundred thousand, since the Anaconda Copper mine went belly up; it was down to around 30,000.  When they told me that we were near the Continental Divide it turned me on.  I wanted to be able to brag and say that “I’ve been on top” of the Continental Divide.  The girls were off of the Blackfoot Indian Reservation about 350 miles north, the other side of Great Falls and the Glacier National Park.  Near a place called Havre, Montana.  They were “wards of the government”, only allowed to leave the reservation with permission.  They had to call a 1-800 number every day and report their whereabouts to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

They knew their way around Butte pretty good.  We took a mining road up the side of the mountain facing town and at a railroad crossing, they told me to turn the truck and drive down the tracks.  After about a quarter mile, we drove through a train tunnel.  Oh yeah, it was a bumpy ride, when we came out, it was the most beautiful scenic setting you ever saw.  We were almost on top of the mountain, the town of Butte nestled in the valley down below.  Street lights and the lights of town glistened like rows of lights on a Christmas tree and above us was a cloudless sky, dotted with the millions of tiny lights from the Milky Way.  “Big Sky.”

The big copper mine in Salt Lake was just a huge hole in the ground covering about 5 miles.  The Anaconda Copper mine in Butte was a good sized mountain, its guts hollowed out by more than a 100 years of mining.  The Anaconda was the next mountain over from our perch.  Looking down on it in the dark, under the full moon, it looked almost ghostly.

We drove a little further, turning down the slope facing town, I left the rear wheels hooked across the train tracks to keep us from rolling down the steep hill.  Bob and Hilda dropped the tailgate and a couple of peyote buttons, lying on top of a sleeping bag, facing the stars, while I took off my sheepskin lined Levi jacket, laid it on the hood for a pillow.  Ida and I lay on the hood facing the lights of town, with the heat from the engine to keep us warm.  It was perfect, absolutely perfect……. That is until I was right in the middle of trying to take care of business, when the screeching sound of a train whistle pierced the stillness of the night.  Man don’t tell me I thought, oh no, here it comes. I know now, what David Allen Coe meant when he sang about “A damned ole train.”

Bob and Hilda weren’t a whole lot of help, they chewed up a couple of peyote buttons, and they thought that every thing was funny. Ida was pretty alright, but totally brainless, if you ask me, not much help.  I tried to back up the slope, but the weight of the truck was facing down hill so, no traction.  I couldn’t go down hill because I couldn’t get enough momentum going to get up over that steel rail of the train track.  To make matters worse, I could see the light of the train coming through the tunnel. We didn’t have much time to “dilly with our dally.”

Since it was my truck, I didn’t want to trust anybody else behind the wheel or with their foot on the brake.  I told Bob, Hilda and Ida to “get in the back of the truck for traction and hurry, ‘because there ain’t much time.”  They did like I told them to, with the quickness.  I started the truck and when I did, I put it in reverse and floored it, kicking rocks and gravel, sparks flying when they hit the bottom panel of the truck, it slowing started gaining traction and eased back up the hill.  When I hit up against the other track, I dropped the gear lever into drive and with a sudden lurch, we crossed the track that was holding us back.  The locomotive was so close that instead of shining on us, the headlight was shining over our heads, the noise from the whistle and the roar of the engine was so loud that I wasn’t sure when we left the track; if we did it under our own power or that the train had just knocked us clear.

That’s when the fun started. As soon as the truck gained traction, we were racing down hill.  We went down one gully and jumped the next, an old sheep trail appeared under the headlights and I did my best to steer us down that path, but the truck, powered by inertia and gravity, had a mind of its own.  I felt like I was coming out of chute number 2, with a 2000 lb. bull between my knees.  Bob and the girls were still in the back.  How they stayed in the truck, I haven’t a clue, but they did.  After several hundred yards of free falling, and hurtling down the slope, the terrain leveled off and I was able to bring the truck to a stop.

Vanity being the better part of valor, I wanted to wait until daylight to get out of there, but those crazy Indian girls, wanted to do it again

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.