The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
To celebrate Rodney and Mandy’s wedding, we went to a bar on the Missouri side of Kansas City where they served regular beer instead of the 3.0 stuff. Everything they say about Missouri is true, the good and the bad and the ugly. Gary met Ramona she was waiting tables then, Tex met a gal we named “Toppy Knot,” because she wore her hair tied up in a knot.
Every time we ordered a round of drinks, we broke a hundred dollar bill. Our table filled up with pretty gals quick. We were the party that night. Towards the end of the night, Gary ended up with Ramona, the bar maid. Feeling full of brotherly love, I gave him $2500 to go honeymoon with. Tex disappeared with “Toppy Knot” in her Cadillac Seville. Gary and Rae eloped, took that money and went and paid down on some land in Cherokee Village, Ark.
We had gotten kicked out of the Holiday Inn earlier the day before because of the cops trying to bust us for prostitution, so we went across the street to the Days Inn. The next night after the big party, I was by myself for once. I made the mistake of going back to the same bar as the night before, alone. I didn’t know anybody. After a few drinks and buying friends, I was feeling pretty blitzed when someone taps me on the shoulder. I was told that some one wants to talk to me at the door.
Man, Can you believe that I fell for that again? Just as soon as I step out the door, I see a two by four coming at my head. Too late to duck, I caught it in the face, dislocating my jaw, almost popping an eye out, made me bite my tongue almost in half. I was bleeding out of a tear in my lip and had been knocked to my knees. Holding myself up with one hand I could see out of the one eye that still worked (barely). I could see four sets of legs surrounding me like an octopus, kicking me and daring me to get up. Just about that time, I could see 6 inch long rooster tail splinters rising up from the deck in front of me, and from what I thought was a long ways off I could hear what sounded like far away sound of gunshots, pow, pow, pow. My bell was ringing like I was at the bottom of a barrel.
A big gal that I had bought a drink at the bar, the night before had seen what was happening and came to my rescue. She chased those dudes off, saving my life, with her .25 automatic. She told me later that it was her doing the shooting. She told me they were bikers and that one of the local high rollers that had gotten jealous the night before, paid them. I couldn’t tell if my eye was sticking half the way out or if it was half way in. My jaw felt like it was just hanging, I tried to mumble my thanks. I wasn’t able to talk very well. I tried to push myself away from her, but she was half holding me up, so, I don’t guess I pushed too hard.
My new body guard and I drove Gary’s old truck back to the motel, the same truck we had rolled a few days before. The Holiday Inn had made us move, the cops told us to leave Lenexa, so we moved across the street to the Days Inn, in Overland Park. The motel had just put up brand new chain fence, stringing a chain through the top of 4 x 4 posts like rope, to make it look like a fence. I was feeling terrible, kind of weak in the knees, my whole world was spinning, only grit kept me going. I was hurt, bad hurt but I wanted to get even. I felt like if I laid down, I wouldn’t be able to get back up. This big gal with me had a .25 automatic, and that was all the back up I needed.
I unscrewed both of the eye bolts, took the chain, about a 100 foot of it and put it in back of the truck. We drove the truck back to the bar. I threaded the chain through the spokes of four bikes parked out front. She said they belonged to the guys that snaked me out. I tied the chain to the bumper of the truck, got a running start and headed down the street, dragging the four motorcycles behind me, sparks were flying every where. It was about a mile to the Independence River Bridge, the boundary between Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri.
At the foot of the bridge, I was stopped by Kansas City, Missouri cops. I could tell that they were puzzled and amazed as they listened to my story as best as I could tell it. The gal filled in the gaps as they stared at my face, both eyes bulging, my tongue tore in half, blood dripping everywhere. The big cop told me, “Get that shit out of here man, we ain’t seen nothing.” I don’t exactly remember the gal’s name, but I sure was thankful that she was a good sized girl, because I had my hands full when we got to the top of the bridge. We pushed every one of the bikes over the side into the Independence River. The first one just hung there in limbo because it was still chained to the rest. The second bike made the rest of the bundle slide a little closer to the edge, then when we got the third bike over the rail, it look like a pile of “transformers,” heading for the drink. All four of them together made a real satisfying splash. We watched the water’s surface until the rings from the splash disappeared. She said “That water looks cold.” I told her, “Deep too.”
I had taken a towel from the motel and wrapped it around my neck and my face, blood was dripping everywhere and pulled my Stetson down low over my eyes. Big Girl and I went into the baseball game at Royals Stadium across from Arrowhead Stadium where they played football. I didn’t want to be a “sitting duck” at the motel. It was after the 2nd inning, we got in free. The water fall in centerfield was beautiful but as miserable as I was, I couldn’t see much of it. After the game, we went back to the Day’s Inn. I lay in the bed for three days. The Room Service girls went crazy when they saw all of the blood. I told them to just leave fresh towels, I would be okay.
Gary and Rae show up Monday morning, they had gotten married and paid down on a lot and a trailer with the money I gave them. Rae went to work on my face. I think she use to work for a Vet, because she seemed to know what she was doing. After about an hour of hot towels and gentle massaging, she got my jaw back in place. She did the same to my eye. Hot, wet towels and gentle massage, then she cut the eyelid of the other eye, with a razor, so I could see, blood spurting every where. She took a needle and white thread, sewed my tongue back together, and my lip, inside and out. Rae took my wad of cash, gave that gal a hundred dollar bill and then called her a cab. Good bye Sweetheart, she saved my life and I never even asked her name.
When we left Davenport, we had loaded up the two dancers and two cases of ice cold Schlitz. We used the Ford Super Cab to pull the Chevy on a tow bar. Both trucks were loaded down with equipment. I was in the back seat of the Super Cab with Mandie. Tex had Blondie upfront with him; none of us had any clothes on, just Tex wearing his cowboy hat.
Tex was drunk and high on life, he was having a time. He was driving and throwing empty beer bottles at road signs when we had a blow out on the rear truck, the ’68 Chevy. We rolled both trucks on I-35, southbound. There were tools, clothes and sales literature for our equipment littered all over I-35 for about a mile. Debbie took “pics” with Gary’s 35 mm., from the T/A has we rolled over. We regrouped in Four Corners, Iowa. I rented a motel room for all six of us to rest and get our senses back. Mandy had broken both of her ankles, although we didn’t know it for a couple weeks later, we thought that she had just sprained them. I carried her in my arms every where we went.
The next morning, using one of our hydraulic jacks and a piece of a 2 x 4, I jacked the roof back up on the Ford. We loaded it down with the equipment from both trucks, abandoned the Chevy and drove on down to Kansas City to join the rest of the crew. We were emotionally devastated by the wreck. I knew that I had to be strong in front of every body else. I rented two trucks and started selling two loads a day. I got just as much for the equipment in it’s tangled, busted up condition as I did when it was pristine. I guess you could say I held a “bent and damaged sale.” I kept one truck loaded for back up at the motel so that I could drop a load and then go right back to work in another truck without having to reload. After a rough start, I wanted to get back to work, making money, most of the time I did. Having the girls with us wasn’t that bad. They just laid around the pool all day looking good and getting tanned while we worked. Good women or bad women, they both cost about the same, which is all you got.
Wayne Holland’s gimp crew were staying at the Days Inn in Overland Park, while we were across the street at the Holiday Inn in Lenexa, Kansas. I thought that the nicer accommodations would help to smooth things over. If I dropped a load for a good lick early, I would spend the rest of the day poolside with the girls back at the motel.
The girls were getting homesick, living in motel rooms and eating in restaurants wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. Mandy told me that she wanted money for a plane ticket, she was telling me they wanted to go home. Unbeknownst to me, Tex told Blondie in private that if she wanted fly home she better start turning tricks. She wasn’t smart like Debbie, get the money and run. No, the poor dumb blonde, she actually did it. Women sometimes, make me wonder.
Debbie was just an accomplice to Tex. To me she was a good friend an excellent working partner if we wanted to scam. She and I could go out and skin somebody with the quickness. We didn’t do it for the money though, to us it was just a hobby, sort of like if the situation presents itself, why not? We made good money every time. She was Tex’s girl, but he couldn’t work with her, he would get jealous in the middle of a deal and ruin everything. Next thing you know, we’d be running from the law after he busted a potential mullet up against the head with a beer bottle.
Finally, I had to take Debbie to the airport to fly back to Atlanta early one morning. Tex had just whipped up on her one too many times for me. I bought her a pair of nice boots and a leather jacket to match at one of those “boutiques” at the airport. After all the time I had spent with her and the money we’d made together, I had gotten attached. She was worth it. Debbie was a real “Road Warrior.” I wanted her to look good when she back to her Grannies in spite of that black eye.
Later that same afternoon, I was sitting under an umbrella at the pool eating cantaloupe and watermelon with “Mandy” my new girl. She was one of the “Dallas Dancers” from Louisville. I was just wearing a pair of gym shorts, and flip flops. I had my roll with about 6,000 bucks tucked in my waistband.
Gary and Tex had sold their load of tools. They came up to us by the pool and after I told them to have a seat Gary said, “Hey this place looks like it’s surrounded by cops.” I said “Thanks for the heads up brother, but they ain’t looking for us.” Just about that time Blondie comes running across the lawn, she sat in the last empty chair and then gleefully says, “Hey, I just turned a trick, I got a hundred dollars.” I was surprised but no time to panic, I knew we didn’t have much time. I slid my saucer with the fruit in it, over to her and told her to put the money under the saucer, take a bite of the fruit then slide it over to Gary. She did this and I told Gary, “Hide that bill, do something with it, get it out of here.”
I had worked for the Sheriff’s Office in Jacksonville and I knew about marked money. Tex and Gary got up from their chairs and nonchalantly walked towards the parking lot. Just as they were backing out of the parking spot, a sea of blue uniforms showed up and clamped down on us. They had us blocked at every corner. Gary had rolled the hundred dollar bill up and put it in a Sprite can. As the cops were closing in, he tossed the empty can of Sprite in a trash bin while he was walking away.
Oh yeah, it looked like the bust of the century in Lenexa, Kansas. They took us all in. I hadn’t seen Gary dispose of the money but I was pretty confident that he had by the way they kept asking us where the money was. When we got there we knew right off, this weren’t no Davenport, Iowa. Oh no, we were in Lenexa, Kansas, the home sweet home of law and order.
I was wearing a pair of sporty gym shorts, no shirt, just flip flops and had sixty, one hundred dollar bills rolled up and tucked up in my waistband. It seems like no matter how much I worked or what catastrophes we had to endure, I couldn’t bankroll any more than six thousand. I told the police that I sold tools for a living and that was my money. They checked all sixty of my bills for their hundred dollar bill, none of the serial numbers matched. Without that bill to substantiate it, they had no case. They kept us for hours. They couldn’t prove anything without the marked money. They kept begging us for that hundred dollar bill, but we wouldn’t break weak and tell them. We just stayed in our character; we were truck drivers from South Carolina. We’re just here to empty out a warehouse. I told them that we kept the girls around for eye candy. I said that while we were out working, the girls did what ever they wanted to. It didn’t have anything to do with us.
The lead detective was a female. She was frantic about needing to get that money back because she was responsible for it and until it was returned, they couldn’t get any more. Their boss had this thing he called, “Payroll Deduction.” I even had the feeling that she was coming on to me. I hinted that it might could be “arranged,” if she were to let us all go. She said, “Before I do that, I want to know one thing. You guys travel the country selling tools, with pretty gals and carry thousand of dollars, well answer me this, are you hiring?”
They let us go, after everyone was safe, I took her to the garbage can, rummaged around and found the Sprite can with the rolled up 100 dollar bill in it, and gave her back the “marked” money. I even took her out to dinner, lamb chops with mint jelly.
The next morning, after I left her house, I flew Mandy and Blondie back to Louisville, I’d had it with road whores. Two days later, Mandy shows back up with both feet in a cast, then, she married Rodney, one of the gimps in the Macon crew. Go figure. Tex found my stash of semi-nude pictures of Mandy with me, while she was wearing some of her Dallas Cheerleader outfits and he flashed them around the wedding party and even sold a few, I think. Rodney Stone out of Macon, Ga., If you read this, it was just business, if you would have asked me, I would have given you the “Pom Poms” for free.
I got beat up pretty bad by the cops in El Monte, California, because I had a southern accent and they thought I was drunk. It took me a little while to recoup. I needed a break to heal up, Dad told me that he had some work for me to do, when I got to feeling better. I healed up pretty good, maybe a scar here or there, but still in one piece. The work for Dad was boring to me, after living on the road. Dad didn’t pay much, so after a couple of months, I started selling cars again. After six months, I was ready to get back on the road and sell some tools with my buddies. I left Jacksonville in my ’76 Datsun 260Z with a 5 speed, nice car for a cruise, went to Atlanta to look for my nephew Glen. He was 15 and his Momma told me he had left home and went to Atlanta to live with his sister Patsy. When we hooked up, I told Glen to load up, come with me, let’s go sell some tools.
From there we went to Hardy, Ark. to see Gary, but Rae told us that he was out on the road, working with the crew, somewhere around Albuquerque, N.M. I remember us taking a bath in the Spring River near Hardy, Ark. then heading to Albuquerque. We got there about daylight. We called the company 800 number and found out they were staying at the Red Carpet Inn on I-20, in Albuquerque.
Tex was glad to see me. He was just coming out of the shower, when we got there. He handed me his towel and said “Here hold this” and streaked around the hotel, just wearing his cowboy hat. He said that he was ready to get this day started right.
Arnie’s crew had about twenty head, uh, disciples might be a better word. Arnie always had a strong grip on the bible, he was a real bible “thumper,” it was contagious, most of the guys had started out one way and come back around to living right when they were with Arnie. Arnie welcomed me back, we held hands and had a group prayer meeting in the parking lot, then everyone left to go out to work, we were leaving Albuquerque and heading for Flagstaff, Arizona. We agreed to meet up at the Red Carpet Inn.
Tex and I reminisced with about 2 six packs of Schlitz, and a truck load of tools headed for Flagstaff. Tex flashed me one of his pink joints and I put it in my hat band to smoke later as a “victory joint” after we dropped our load. As luck would have it, we ran out of gas, 1 mile from the exit to Flagstaff. Tex told me to calm down, that he could pee in the tank and fill it enough to get us to the exit. I laughed at him, he said “It’s true, I’ve done it before.” I thought he was being crazy, told him I wasn’t going to watch, so I walked up the hill and sat under a tree.
Just has Tex started peeing in the gas spout on side of the truck, an Arizona Highway Patrol car pulled up behind him. Tex acted like he was so shocked, he grabbed his heart and fell backwards on top of the Highway. In just a few minutes they had an EMS helicopter out there, then they life-flighted Tex to a near by hospital
I just sat back under tree, I knew that another Jack truck would be coming up behind us sooner or later; I couldn’t leave the truck on side of the highway with a load of tools. I kept thinking about smoking that pink joint. After about an hour, another patrol car pulls up, they let Tex out. He’s carrying a 5 gallon can of gas and wearing one of those blue wristbands that they put on you in the emergency room. He waved bye to the patrolmen has they left.
Tex said that they checked him out; they told him that he just had “gas” of all things. Well, it was after 3 pm, we hadn’t even made a pitch yet. Then we drove into Flagstaff about a mile and I see a cowboy looking dude standing on his porch at a Trailer Park. I was thinking that my Daddy owned a Trailer Park and he had plenty of money. We got him for $2,500, made it to the bank and hammered the check.
Living on the road was our game, to be able to afford it; we had to earn more money. We didn’t want to wake up tomorrow without a load but the crew was almost out of tools, sparking an idea when we met back up with everyone up at the motel. We were concerned that we may not get anymore tools for the next few days to a week. I told Arnie that we had another load sold and that we needed the equipment off the truck of anyone that was hanging out at the motel and not working.
That’s how I met Wayne Henry, he was a good guy, sorry Wayne, it was just business. Tex and I left the motel to make it look like we really had the load sold, but we really just wanted to have a load on the truck for tomorrow and leave the rest of the crew waiting on the truck driver to deliver more equipment. We were ready to go play pool somewhere and smoke that joint.
After getting more beer, we drove about 100 yards and saw an Indian dude wearing a hard hat and a bandana, on a bulldozer, he was wearing a lot of turquoise jewelry too and that’s what drew my attention. He climbed down off of the bull dozer, gave us $2,750 cash and a $20 dollar bill to buy some more beer. We finally got to smoke that joint.
We went back to the motel and pulled the same trick, we got a load off of Allen White’s truck, Wayne’s brother n law. Next morning is Friday, Me and Tex are one of the few with a truckload of equipment; everyone else wants to leave Flagstaff before we order more equipment, because it was a small place. Tex and I dropped Allen’s load to a lady that owned a Western Wear store, while we were shopping for new “JB Stetsons.” While I’m trying on hats, Tex was bust stealing hat pins.
She wanted to know what “that was” on our truck. When we told her our story, she wanted to know if she could buy it for her husband, he was a mobile blacksmith. Then with an empty truck, we were ready to travel too. It felt good to be back on the road after about 6 months. Glen and I drove about 3000 miles to get there and I had sold three truck loads in two days.
Tex and Gary wanted to fly home for the week end and wanted me and Glen to drive their trucks to Salt Lake City, Utah. I parked my car at the airport long term parking, gave them 3 months advance rent and told them I didn’t know for sure when I would get back. The airport was just a small mountain with the top bulldozed off of it. Before everyone went home for the week end, Wayne asked me to drop off the U-Haul trailer that they had hauled equipment in. So we dropped the U-Haul trailer right off the Interstate, behind a gas station and left. Just me and Glen, one truck in front of the other, we each had a coolers full of bottled beer. We took off through the Grand Canyon, heading north, looking for something to get into.
At a cross roads we came up on a stand of Teepees, with about five pretty young gals (I’m pretty sure they were Navaho’s) selling trinkets and souvenirs. They were dressed in buckskin dresses. What a spot for a party..
We had beer, women and Lynyrd Skynyrd in the tape player, not mention the Colorado River just yards away. We all ended up in the river, when the girls Mom showed up, instead of raising hell, she took off her clothes and jumped in with us.
What they say about Indians can’t hold their liquor is true enough. After about two beers apiece they weren’t ashamed to shed their clothes and go swimming. Ever time I turned around I was trying on a turquoise ring or bracelet, or necklace, those girls got so drunk they didn’t care. The insides of some of them tipi’s can be mighty nice.
Glen and I sold “made in Taiwan, Indian Jewelry” to the guys on the crew, for the next couple of months. A 6 hour drive to Salt Lake took us about 12. Glen ran out of gas soon after dark and we drove the last 50 miles with me pushing his truck, bumper to bumper, about 60 miles an hour up the interstate, after dark.
When Glen and I get to Salt Lake, the first thing Arnie asks us is “Where’s the stuff that was in the U-Haul?” Huh? Nobody said anything to us about it, we were just told to dump off the trailer because they owed back rent on it and didn’t want to pay.
We rented a mustang and shot back down to Flagstaff. The Chevron dealer still had the trailer stored out back of his station. I let Glen out around the corner to slip up on the trailer from behind to check it out. Meanwhile I pulled up to the gas station and kept the owner busy by acting like a drunk asking for directions. I stood in such a way, that the guy’s back was turned towards Glen. I could see Glen walk up and he held his hands palm up to signify that he didn’t see anything in the trailer. I noticed a dumpster behind him and waved at the dumpster with one hand while pulling my hat off with the other, to make it look like I was just wiping sweat off of my head.
Glen got the idea and searched the dumpster. He found the cardboard box that held all of our sales literature, made in America stickers and fake serial numbers, plus the bogus warranty cards. That left the hoist jacks, big heavy 30 lb. jacks that we needed for our engine hoists.
I looked around the guy’s back and saw them stacked in the corner of his garage. I got animated with the guy and started laying on the drunk, lost tourist act, pretty thick. I did the hat trick again, holding my hat with one hand, wiping my brow with the crook of my arm, while pointing to the location of the hoist jacks. Glen caught on and just as soon as I got the guy to walk to the front of the store to point out where the interstate was, he started loading the jacks. I would act real ignorant because Glen had to make four trips to get them all. “How far did you say that Interstate was again? The guy would point at it about 500 yards away and say “Its right there, you can’t miss it.” I would come back and say “Are you sure that’s the one that will take me back to Atlanta, cause Atlanta is a long damn way and I don’t want to get on the wrong road.” I could tell the man was getting aggravated with me, but I think he had the patience of Job, he said “Well that’s I-20. I-20 runs all the way to Atlanta.” Then I would come back with something asinine like “How far is the next gas station, cause I don’t want to run out of no gas, you know. “Is that a dry county, cause back home we got lots of dry counties?” Finally Glen came around the corner and gave me the thumbs up. I would have liked to have seen the man’s old face when he went looking for those jacks.
Anyway, mission accomplished, we loaded up and got north bound, back across the south rim and down the canyon. This time we only had one cooler full of beer when we stopped at the crossroads to see our Navaho girl friends. It was just as well, cause the girls were in school or something, it was just mamma and mamma acted like she was glad to see us. After an afternoon dip in the Colorado, we continued our trip. When we pulled in to Salt Lake, every body wanted to know what kept us so long.