Old Sam


Old Sam, Bentonville, Arkansas

One day I was looking back through my collection of old business cards that I had accumulated over the years, one brought back a story to mind. My brother Gary and his wife Rae lived in Hardy, Arkansas (You have probably seen Erik Estrada on TV doing commercials). It was a good central location to work out of. You could leave out in any direction, headed somewhere to go work and if your luck was any good, you would be bound to hit a prosperous area, sooner or later
Every time we drove up from Kansas City, heading home, we usually went through Bentonville. Most of the time, we were either empty (without a load to sell) or it was after dark, too late to “pitch.”
As we headed out one morning to go work, we drove towards Dallas. Gary had bought a hand accordion over the week end and as I drove, he practiced. Lovely, just lovely, I’ve got to drive all the way to Dallas, listening to this? We drove through Ash Flats, down towards Pocahontas. I was driving and gritting my teeth, when I came up with the idea to go work Bentonville. It wasn’t that far and I could sure use a break from all of that screeching.
Gary was wearing a pair of overalls that day. We noticed a sign that read “Andy’s WELDING.” The door was opened to the shop, the house was next door and the yard was full of grazing goats. Gary got out of the truck and trying to be funny, he imitated Aunt Bee, from Andy of Mayberry. He hollered out, imitating her voice, “Andeeee, Andy.” I almost split a gut, it was so funny. No one answered, no one came to the door, no dogs barking, just the wail of the radio, coming from the shop.
We were kind of leery about the situation. It seemed like we were in an Alfred Hitchcock movie or something. We both walked to the open door of the shop, not seeing anybody, I hollered out “Hey, anybody home?” One of those darn goats had climbed atop the hood of my truck and was licking dead bugs off of the windshield. The old goat turned to look at me and he bleated out “Naaaahhhhhhhhh!”
Right around the corner from the welding shop, located on the main drag through Bentonville, was the Bentonville Casket Company. Since we were here already, we figured “Why not? Let’s pitch ‘em. When we pulled in, the main boss wasn’t there, the one that signs the checks. We told the foreman that “we had a truck load of brand new tools and machinery that we had to dispose of for our boss, back in Carolina. Repo’d, brand new, selling it for cheap, just call ’em and make an offer.”
The foreman told us that his boss wasn’t in but he had a friend named Sam that owned a five and dime store nearby and that he was building a new store because business was so good. He thought that his friend Sam would be interested in our stuff and he had the money, he could write our boss a check for all of it and the check would be good. All he wanted out of the deal was one of those brand new socket sets.
Hearing that, we got excited. No, we didn’t mind waiting. The foreman called his buddy Sam, who said he’d be with us in a few minutes, he was trying to open a new store. He was just down the street, right next to his Five and Dime Store. While we were waiting for him, the main boss to the casket company returned. He showed some interest, we put him through the book, but when his foreman told him that he had called Sam and that Sam was on his way to take a look, the boss of the casket company deferred his interest to Sam. Let Sam take a look and see what he has to say.
A white box truck pulled up to the place and an older gentleman got out. He was wearing a straw hat, the kind with the green visor built into the brim, a sweaty white shirt with a pocket protector full of pens and pencils. The foreman introduced us; he told me that if Ole Sam was to buy this stuff, he wanted us to make sure that he got that socket set for a “Bird Dog Fee.” I asked him which truck was his. I would lay it on the floorboard when no one was looking.
Mr. Sam looked our truck load of tools over, he spoke with the foreman and the business owner and then he came back to us. You could have knocked me over with a feather when he asked us “Do y’all work for Bobby or do y’all work for Billy?” Shocked as we were, I tried to stay in character, “Oh no, we work for their sister Miss Francis. She owns the company now.”
Sam said “That figures, I told them boys not to spend all their money on race cars, that they would loose their ass.” We told him that Miss Francis sponsors David Pearson (Race car Driver) over in Greer, that Billy was “Jet setting’ and that Bobby was raising Beefalos and building car dollies.” Sam looked at the ground and spit, while he was leaning against the truck. He told us that he had been in the Army with their Dad Clint back in the war. I said “Do you mean Mr. Flint?” He laughed and said, “Yeah, I was just checking you out.”
We got back to talking about the tools at hand; I asked him if he could write our boss out a check for these tools? Sam said “Goodness no. I can barely write a check for a hundred dollars. Sure, I own a lot of stores and buy and sell a lot of merchandise, but my wife don’t trust me with no check book. If I buy something it’s either cash or send me a bill and I never carry more than a hundred.”
About this time old Sam pulled a card out of his pocket protector and started scribbling on back. He said that he was drawing a map to his warehouse, he even wrote down his personal phone number. He told us that “This guy here won’t buy nothing, his business is so bad he can’t pay attention and that his foreman is so dumb, he can’t poor piss out of a boot, without getting his feet wet. He told us that he wanted all of the little tools, like the wrenches and grinder and the vise etc. He wanted us to meet back at his place in about an hour. He gave me the card, got back in his box truck and drove off. The faded letters on the side of his truck read “WALTON’S Five and Dime.”
As he drove off, I was holding Sam’s card in my hand, when the owner of the casket company walked up to us and said, “Well, what happened, what did he say?” The foreman was right behind him, all ears, I guess he had his mind on that free socket set. I showed the boss man old Sam’s business card and told him “You must have friends like I got. He said that you don’t have the money to be able to afford this stuff. He wants us to meet him back at his “wareroom” in an hour. He wrote down directions for us on the back of his card, just in case we get lost, he gave us his personal phone number.” Then I handed the card to the business owner to read for himself.
The man took a look at the card, turned it over and read the back of it. He hesitated then said “Yeah, you’re right. That does it, back the truck up over there and unload it and I’ll get you a check.”
So, all in all, it turned out to be a pretty good day. We dropped our load. I guess you could say we dropped on our first pitch, because the two old goats don’t count. I’ve thought about it a few times and I sure would have liked to see the expression on the foreman’s face when he opened the door to his pickup and instead of finding the half inch socket set like I promised, he got a slightly used, second hand accordion.

CattyKisms 112

Adventure has followed me my entire life.  I have been here and done that.  Now that Father Time is finally catching up with me, so has Mother Nature.

 

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In my later years I have come to appreciate God’s own creations that have surround me.  I love my cats and kittens.  Who would have thunk it?  They are the center of my universe.  They keep my life interesting, fill it with joy and beauty.  The appreciation I get from the good folks that get kittens from me makes my chest swell.

 

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I lived in southern Georgia for many years, with my wife and four sons.  The job I had paid $8.00 an hour, my travel time to and from work every day was one to two hours, each way.  The future didn’t look good.  The prospects for my son’s looked bleak.  I prayed for economic relief for me and my family.  We didn’t prosper, but we survived.

 

I started getting letters in the mail, once a month.  A pastor that remained anonymous told me that he knew me from my past.  He knew that I desired more than what I had.  He encouraged me, telling me that I had in me what it took to achieve success.  At first, I just thought he was fishing for a donation,  but no, he never asked.  I kept getting the letters filled with a positive message, trust in the Lord have faith, sometimes the letters contained a couple of pennies taped inside, as a hint of what lay in store.  One day I get a letter with an ignition key to what he said was a 1957 Lincoln.

In the letter he said that many years before some one sent him this same key.  It was the key to his success, he wanted to be a traveling Evangelist, all he needed then, was a car.  In his letter, he said that what worked for him could work for me.  All I had to do was go look for the lock that it fit.  I took this as a sign from God.  I loaded up my boys and went 3 hours away to Jacksonville.   We slept on the floor of my nephew’s house, printed up some business cards and went searching for work.

 

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At Home Depot, I was passing out business cards.  I ran into a fellow that asked me if we could put up a privacy fence to block out his neighbors junky yard.  He lived in Beauclerc a very nice section of town.  His neighbor’s yard was cluttered up, it was across the street from his house.  Working hard, my sons and I put the fence up in less than half a day.

The home owner’s neighbor watched us work.  His name was Mike Miller.  He owned Jacksonville Waterproofing Company.  He watched us work and was impressed.  He asked if we would like to work for him.  He offered to pay our motel room bill every week, a generous salary and to have our pay check ready on Thursday every week, so that we could leave early on Fridays to travel back home to Georgia.

This was great, we loved it.  We worked on the improvements to Alltell Stadium where the Jaguars play football.  We met the owner, Wayne Weaver.  Mr. Weaver gave us an autographed football.  Then we worked on the new Wolfson Stadium Baseball Park, after that the new  “Veterans” auditorium.  The special privileges that we enjoyed didn’t sit well with Mr. Miller’s original employees.  The other workers didn’t like being “showed” up.  The foreman split us up to work on separate crews.  Telling us that it was to get more work out of the other guys.  Then the book keeper started complaining about the trouble it caused her to have our payroll done on a different day than everyone else.  Soon their grumblings made us feel uneasy.  We started passing out more business cards.

 

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We met a fellow by the name of Dwayne Williams, a roofing contractor.  Dwayne paid us $320.00 per roof to nail on 24 square of shingles on brand new Habijax houses. We worked for months doing over 60 houses off of Golfair and throughout the Northside of town.  We tried to do two a day.  After each job, by carefully conserving the materials, we would end up with a couple bundles of shingles and some left over materials which we saved.  By the end of the week, we had enough materials saved up to go do a small roof.  People that lived in these old neighborhoods were always in dire need for a new roof or a roof repair.  We made other contacts and after a few jobs for Ricky Blaylock, I bought two dump trucks from him.  We were in business for ourselves then, as sub contractors.

 

One day we gave a card to Jack Blaze, he was the foreman for Mr. John that owned Jax Bargain Plywood.  They bought and sold houses on the side.  Soon we did all of their roofs and some repairs.  They gave me a discount on the materials and if any one asked the name of a good roofer, they passed them of one of our business cards.

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My income as a contractor for many years was in the six figures.  I didn’t set anything aside because I thought I was still relatively young and had many more years to enjoy success.  But after 10 hernias and 3 operations, old age caught up with me.  It took me 3 years to get my disability claim approved.  I had to sell both of my dump trucks and all of the equipment that I had accumulated.  Living below the poverty level is hard to get use to.  After my disability was approved I didn’t qualify for any government help.

 

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Once again God intervened, through my grand daughter Claire’s love for kittens, the good Lord opened my eyes.  Just like the letters I received from the unknown preacher, the kittens she loved so much, opened my eyes.  They provided me with the opportunity to provide for my family.  Now I breed Rag Dolls and sell them via the internet all across America.  I don’t miss the dump trucks or the hernias.

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No, I don’t earn the six figure income anymore, but I have had a taste of it.  The Lord has provided for me through thick and thin.  We all hold the keys to our own success, we just have to unlock whatever it is that’s holding us back.

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Frenchy

The Thanksgiving holiday is behind us, Christmas not far away.  Since I’m not a big fan of the Hallmark Channel, I guess I need to tell my own holidays stories.

Westbound on I-10 just before dusk, many years ago, I see a hitchhiker on side of the road.  I had just passed the north bound entrance to 1-75, so I guess it’s fair to say this guy was heading west, same as me.

My hitch hiker, a short bearded fellow wearing a blue flannel shirt, threw his gear, a sleeping bag and a back pack into the rear of my truck and climbed up front with me.  I asked him his name and destination.  He told me in a very thick French accent that his name was Andre Beaubleur.  He was from Ontario, Canada and that he was headed anywhere that he could find work.

I told Andre that if was willing to work, that there were plenty of good jobs to be had.  His response was slow coming out, like he was having a difficult time forming his sentence.  “Not for one such as I, I am afraid.  You see, I have no papers.  I am zee lumberjack.  In my family I have 11 brothers, I am zee youngest, we cut trees.  But to work here, I must have zee papers.

I was sort of surprised to hear him say he was a lumberjack.  Andre was kinda small, short you might say, about 5 foot tall.  To think of him as a lumberjack was stretching it a might.  I asked him why didn’t he cut trees in Canada, don’t they have plenty of trees up there that need cutting?

Andre replied, “Zee bears, I am much afraid of zee bears.”  I told him that “the Bears around here play in Chicago, ain’t that a long ways from Ontario?”  He said, “No, not zis Bears, but zee bear in za woods, big bears, zey will hunt you and eat you.”  Finally catching on, I had to laugh.  Little ole Andre wouldn’t have a been much of a meal for a hungry old bear, I don’t think.

I had a six pack of beer in the front seat.  I finished the last beer and put the empty bottle back into the carton.  Then as we were approaching a highway sign, I asked Frenchy to lean back a might.  He did as I asked in bewilderment I’m sure, until I zipped out two empty bottles and nailed the sign as we were passing by.

I think he was impressed because he said, “Sacre bleaur, you are zee marksman I think, you can do that again?”  I told him “oh yeah, no sweat, I’ve had plenty of practice, watch this.”  Then I nailed the next sign with three empty beer bottles, Looping the first one up high, following it up with two more direct tosses that all ended up in the middle of the next sign at the same time.

Frenchy as I started calling him, came back with “For this I have never seen, you must be extraordinaire, I think.”  I told him, “No, I’m from the South, all the guys in the South can do that, it’s just the way we was raised.”

Andre asked me what type of work did I do.  I told him that I was a traveling tool salesman, a “Jackman.”  He asked me if he could work for me, I asked him, “Doing what?”  He responded by telling me that he could take care of the truck, keep it clean, check the oil, clean the windshield, watch my tools when I was away and keep them nice and clean.  To top it off, he said, “Merci, pardon me if I may, I will sleep in the truck.”

Well if that didn’t beat all, he was offering to be my French valet.  The tools do get heavy when I have to lug them into the motel room at night.  To top it off, he said that if I was willing to teach him to speak zee American, he would be very happy to teach me to speaka zee French.  This was too much, I had to laugh.  Okay, I figure why not, I was just going to Baton Rouge to work, if he didn’t pan out, I could leave him with some Cajuns or something.

From then on, if I got a six pack, he drank one maybe two, he always marveled at my accuracy when I target practiced with the empties.  Once I hit the same sign with all six of the bottles at once.  He marveled at this for days and would brag to the other guys on the crew about my unique talent.

When it got cold, I let Frenchy sleep on the floor of my motel room.  He had his sleeping bag.  He refused to sleep in a bed.  The first time I let him in the room, he disassembled the the meter on the night stand for the vibrating bed while I was in the shower.  When he showed me the stack of quarters, his face was lit up like a Christmas tree.

I let him know that I was pissed about it.  I told him that when I needed money, I worked for it, I didn’t steal. I told him he could find more money than that behind the seat of my truck.  Later I realized it wasn’t the money that intrigued him.  It was just the fact that it was a mechanical device that he sought  to outwit.  I over looked it and told him we live in motels, we don’t steal from where we live.

Maybe him being from another country had something to do with his morales.  It wasn’t long after, that Frenchy showed me another bag of quarters, a big bag.  I got mad at him and told him that I thought that I told him to leave those vibrating boxes alone.  He used his hands to motion for me to calm down, then he said, “Dis is not from zee motel but from zee booth with zee telephone.  I use zis clamp to put pressure on zee box and zee lid, she pop off.  Now, we have zee quarters to buy more beer.”

Here I am earning five hundred to a thousand a day, if the weather’s good and this guy is jeopardizing that by stealing chump change again.  I picked up a hoist handle using it like a club and slammed the top of the table.  I told him that I don’t know how they teach people not to do things up in Canada but if I caught him doing it again, I was going to straighten out his learning curve.

It was getting time for a break.  I liked this guy, but he was getting on my nerves.  I told Frenchy about my brother and his friend Arnie Fields that lived up in Arkansas.  I suggested that we go pay them a visit.  Arnie had bought a 40 acre farm for $8,000.00 and my brother bought the land next to it.  The Ozark Mountains were heavily wooded and these two tracts of land were nestled between the tops of three mountains and the two valleys in between.

The main drawback to me, were the ticks and the lack of women.  If you have money though, the women will come out of the woods and find you, but you have to be in one spot long enough for them to find out just where to look.  The tick problem was solved when Arnie bought 200 chickens.  Then we had plenty of eggs and lots of chicken and dumplings.

Frenchy was pretty industrious.  He went to work building a chicken coop and felling trees for firewood.  Most of the trees on the two parcels weren’t that big, two or three year old saplings, about 4 to 6 inches in circumference.  We went out to work in Oklahoma City for a couple of weeks, leaving Frenchy in charge of getting the homestead into shape.

It sure was cold that winter, 40 below freezing in OKC.  So cold that we had to put cardboard in front of the radiator of the truck to keep it from freezing up.  One thing you notice when you work Oklahoma is the fact that they don’t have any trees.  My brother Gary and I dropped a load of tools to a feed lot.  We sold the feed store owner our load of tools for cash and got a 16 foot utility trailer to boot.

Gary saw a dwindling pile of fence posts for sale and asked the man how much did he get for his posts.  The guy told us that since there weren’t any trees for hundreds of miles, that every farmer and rancher needed all the fence post he could get.  He said that they were in short supply.  He asked us if we knew where he could get any.  He said he would pay us $5.00 a piece for all the fence post we could get.

That sparked an idea into our heads.  Gary and Arnie probably had 80 acres between them of nothing but fence posts, ready to be cut.  When we got back to the farm, we saw that little ole Frenchy had been busy.  First off, he had the land around the front of the 2 BR House cleared of any trees and underbrush.  That and the cold weather had killed off any ticks.  He had cut several cords of firewood near the house and had the wood stacked between  trees that grew close together.  Then we found that he had taken an old truck that I had rolled over a couple of times and hooked it up to a  portable saw mill that we had bought, without a power source.  Frenchy had put it  up on concrete blocks, took the tire off one of the rims, made a belt from an old fire hose and used the motor and transmission as power for the saw mill.  I was afraid to ask where he got that fire hose from.  He had a stack of railroad ties cut from oak about head high (his head), about 40 foot across.

We went to work making bridges across the many little streams that criss-crossed the property.  Then we parked the trailer, bought a chain saw and told Andre to start cutting some of the thousands of small trees that covered the property into 6 foot fence posts.  The next week when we came home for the week end, Andre had that trailer loaded down with over five hundred fence post and another thousand or so laying nearby.

We not only hauled fence post to that Feed Store but another half a dozen as well.  There are plenty of tiny cedar trees in the Ozarks, not so many  in Oklahoma.  The size of these trees may not be good for much of nothing else, but they were plenty good enough for fence posts in Oklahoma.

After winter was over, Spring and Summer had come and gone.  Frenchy was ready to see the bright lights of the city.  When I mentioned that I was heading back home to Florida, Frenchy begged me to take him with me, so I did.

Driving back home, I always take the back roads, scouting out for future territory to sell tools.  We took Highway 82 through Dothan, Alabama.  About an hour or two after dark we passed a night spot that looked pretty hot.  I couldn’t just pass it by, the next day was Thanksgiving.  I just had to have me a couple shots of “Wild Turkey.”

I probably should have told Frenchy to watch the truck.  He wasn’t a bad looking fellow, he was just short.  His beard had grown considerably living out in the woods back in Arkansas and I couldn’t swear that his “Englise” had gotten any better.  Any way, I was having a good time, really enjoying myself meeting lots of new lady friends, next to chucking empty beer bottles, my forte.  I saw that Frenchy was having a problem with some big dude across the dance floor and I walked over to see just what the problem was.  As I walked up, I could hear the big guy saying “Tell me what you told her.”  Then Frenchy saying “I say to her, you give me service?”  Now I was kind of use to Frenchy’s bastardization of the Queen’s English, it didn’t bother me that much.  He was just asking the lady for a dance, but I could put myself in this guy’s shoes.  If some guy come up and asked my old lady for service, I would have got hot about it too.

I knew what was fixing to happen, even before it did.  Frenchy was short, this guy was taller than I was.  I looked for something to use as a weapon.  I spotted an empty bar stool on the other side of the dance floor and I was just about halfway back with it, when the big dude picked Frenchy up by the front of his shirt, held him up over his head and started shaking him like a rag doll.  Just about that time me and the bar stool caught up with them, me catching the big man behind the head with the meaty end of the stool.  He let go, rubbed the back of his head and turned to face me.  I swung the stool again, this time catching him in the knees.  Bending down rubbing his sore knee he was just about the right size.  I hit him with a beer bottle and he went down.

In the background behind the bar, I could hear some one say, “The police are on the way.”  Then far off, I could hear the whining of a siren.  I knew we had a few minutes because we were 7 or 8 miles past the city limits.  I grabbed Frenchy up from where he had been tossed and herded him to the truck.  The name of the bar was the Wagon Wheel, it’s still there.  It’s been closed for years though, when I drive past it today, I can still  hear the sirens approaching and visualize the police cars as they passed us heading for the bar as we drove back towards town.

The area we were driving past was nothing but pulp wood trees, large, giant pulp wood trees.  In my rear view mirror I could see the far off blue lights leaving the bar and coming towards us.  I turned off the head lights and drove in the dark, looking for a logging road to pull up in and hide out.  Before I could find a road, the accelerator linkage decided it had enough and came apart on me.  The motor was running at idle speed but no power.  Still coasting, I crossed the ditch and put the truck between two trees before it came to a stop.  I was pretty sure it could be seen from the road, so I took off running.  I thought Frenchy was right behind me.  I shinnied up a pine tree and crawled behind some branches as the police cars pulled in behind my truck.  In the glow of their headlights I could see Andre walking out of the woods with his hands held high in the air, hollering out, “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot, I am afraid of zee bears, don’t shoot.”  His silhouette against the trees, while standing in the glare of the headlights made him look 10 feet tall.

That damn Frenchy.  I wouldn’t be in this spot if it weren’t for him.  I only 60 feet from the truck, up in the air. I could see and hear everything.  The cops were searching the woods for me with their flashlights.  I could hear Frenchy telling them to be careful, I was a deadly accurate shot, he had seen me place six shots dead center, with the truck going very fast.

That  little rat. Now he’s got the police thinking I’ve got a gun.  I wanted to shout out that he was talking about beer bottles, but I didn’t want to give away my spot.  I guess though it served its purpose.  The cops didn’t want to search the woods at night for some one who was “a deadly shot.”  They might of been scared of “zee bears” too.  All I know is they called a wrecker to tow my truck in.  I didn’t want to be left stranded in the woods at night.  The road was dark and lonely.  It was too far to walk back to town, besides I was pretty drunk at the time.  The police cars pulled off into the night, one with Frenchy in the back seat.  I could see the tow truck driver was still hooking up his chains.  I decided that now was as good a time as any.

I climbed down the tree and in the dark I ran to the truck and jumped in the back, crawling under my load of tools, just as the driver was pulling off.  When we got to town, the driver put my truck in the compound and shut the gate, locking it behind him.  Then the driver went inside, did some paper work, got into his pick up and drove off.

After making sure that the coast was clear, I raised the hood on my truck, hooked the linkage back up on the accelerator.  Then I got my spare key out of the tool box that was mounted on the fender, under the hood and a hack saw.   I cut the chain to the gate, drove my truck off into the dark, without any headlights.

I found a nearby apartment complex to hide my truck in, parked and got out on foot, searching for the police station.  Frenchy might be a rat, but we got into this together, I wasn’t going to leave him behind without trying to get him out of jail.  I called a taxi from a convenience store and asked him to take me to the jail.  Oh, the driver was a talker.  He asked me if I had heard about the police chase and the shoot out.  He said that he heard the whole thing on the scanner.  The guy they were hunting got away, but he was supposed to be a real desperado, that is according to the hostage that the police had brought in.

Just about that time we pulled up in front of the police station.  I’m still trying to figure all of this out but I was in a fog.  A shoot out?  A desperado? A hostage?  That damn Frenchy.  I was about to get out of the taxi when I see Frenchy’s blue sleeping back rolled out under some stairs next to the police station.  It was him alright.  He wasn’t locked up.  He told the police that I made him go with me and they believed him and let him go.

The police had gotten a K-9 unit and were headed back out to the woods to search for me.  The taxi driver was ecstatic.  He couldn’t believe his luck.  He wanted to drive us to Jacksonville on the down low to thwart the police.  I had to use my head.  If I didn’t lead him on, he would call the cops,  and he just might do it anyway.  I told him to drop us off at the apartments, go fill up with gas and meet us back here in 30 minutes while I said good bye to my girlfriend.

He ate it up.  He couldn’t believe his good fortune.  He told me he would only charge us us 400 bucks for the trip.  I led him on.  I agreed to the deal.  Just as soon as he was out of sight, I jumped in the truck and went south on Highway 231 toward Cottondale and Panama City, leaving Dothan, Alabama in my rear view mirror.

Frenchy told me that he put the heat on me, to get it off of him.  He said that he had no fear that I would get away.  That’s why he waited at the Police Station, so that I could find him.  That skeezer.  I knew that was the truth, it’s hard to think of that good a lie in a foreign language.

The next day in Jacksonville, I needed a shower bad.  My funds were getting a little low.  The money from the fence post was running out.  Instead of getting a motel room, I looked up an old friend Cherie Eagerton.  Her parents owned a plumbing company, but I think her sister Angel worked for the FBI along with Jean Jones, one of my jack buddy’s sister.  I sure didn’t need any more heat.  Cherie and Angel were cut from two different bolts of cloth.  While Angel was my age, she was straight as an arrow.  Cherie was a couple of years younger, we had dated in high school.  Back then, she looked older than what she really was.  Cherie though, was my kind of people, she had a streak of outlaw in her, a touch of the wild side.

Cherie invited us in, she was glad to see me.  Frenchy made the small talk, as good as he could I guess.  That night, Cherie got a baby sitter for her daughter Amber and the three of us celebrated Thanksgiving at the Wrangler on Beaver Street.  I had plans for the next day, leaving early from Cherie’s the next day, she kissed me by at the door and told me to hurry back.

I was counting my money at the gas station when we stopped to fill it up.  Frenchy leaned over to me and gave me 60 dollars.  I was shocked, amazed, just where did he come up with 60 dollars?  Then he told me that he “was the jackman, when you sleep with zee girl, I take zee money from her pocketbook.”  Oh man no, tell me you didn’t.

Cherie was my friend, an old girlfriend at that, you can’t steal from my friends.  I grabbed him by the scruff of his outdoorsman’s vest and held him up with just his toes touching the ground.  I cussed him and told him she was my friend.  That we were going back to return her money and he was going to apologize.  Cherie was in her housecoat when she opened the door.  Disbelief covered her face when I tried to tell her what happened.  A single mom with a little girl needed every penny.  I couldn’t leave her with that hanging over my head.  She seemed grateful but I couldn’t be sure when I left, I hoped she believed me.

Andre and I drove down to Orlando to join up with Wayne Holland’s crew.  I needed to drop a load of tools or two to get cashed back up.  No one knew the story on Frenchy, he had never been around these guys before.  Wayne was gearing up for the Christmas break.  He wanted all of his men to get cashed up before the break.  He had bought a new brief case with all kinds of fancy locks, to keep his payroll money in.  To add incentive to the crew and to fire everybody up, Wayne brought his briefcase full of Christmas bonus cash to the breakfast meeting to show the guys at breakfast.  After the breakfast meeting, Wayne and I decided that we would take turns, going out with each guy on the crew to help them sell their load.  The when we got back, we would divvy up the Christmas bonus money.

The next morning, our meeting place was the restaurant.  Wayne left his brief case in his motel room.  He and I made several sales apiece that day, helping everybody out with cash in their pocket and an empty truck for the holidays.  That afternoon, with only empty trucks in the parking lot, the crew met back up at the motel restaurant for a celebration.  We gathered round, had a big feast.  To top it off, for the grand finale, Wayne brought out his brief case to spread the wealth.  When he opened the brief case, it was empty.  Yeah, bare to the bone.  The money was gone.  Disbelief all over Wayne’s face.  All of the guys were down trodden with disappointment.

The first thought that entered my mind was that damn Frenchy.  He was the only one that didn’t work that day.  He usually rode with me but I was busy helping every body else.  I couldn’t prove it, so I didn’t say anything.  Wayne and I hit all the topless bars on the Orange Blossom Trail hoping to see someone spending lots of cash, to no avail.  I still blamed Frenchy in the back of my mind.  I had brought him into this, I felt responsible.  There was 6 guys on the crew and I had earned about $2,800 in two days.  I gave each guy $400.00.  I told them it was from Wayne.  Wayne asked me about it.  I told him that I remembered him selling a load of tools with me, when I first started out with him in Orlando a couple of days before Christmas, many years before.  He and I sold a load and made $2,890 dollars profit, he gave me all of it.   I told him what comes around goes around.

The next day, we split up for Christmas.  I was still thinking about “what goes around comes around.”  I stopped at a convenience store just before I got to the Beeline Expressway.  I gave Andre $20.00 to go in to get some beer.  I said we’re going to take some target practice..  Before he could come back out, I was gone.

I don’t have to worry about Cherie being mad at me anymore.  About 3 years ago I got a private message from her, no not a friend request.  She just wanted to cuss my butt out. I don’t know if she ever saw any of my friend requests or not..

Frenchy?  Oh, I think about his turkey neck every Sunday when I’m watching football.  Because every week I pull for “zee Bears.”  Tres bien mon ami, merci beau coup.

 

CattyKisms

My babies get me up just after 5, every morning.  The kittens want to play and the mamas want to get fed. I put on the coffee, then look for the can opener.  After two cups of coffee, I’m ready to write a story.

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Soon after the cats eat, they are ready for a nap.  Leaving me with plenty of free time.

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There is always one though that refuses to go back to sleep.   Now I’ve got a parrot on my shoulder that likes to meow when he sees the cursor move.  Now he’s all over the  keyboard on his way to the monitor.

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Well, at least I don’t have to worry about having something to write about.

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If it weren’t for them, I’d still be in bed.  Good time for me to write my dreams before I forget.

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Jackman, The beginning

Jackman Stories from Coast to Coast

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I was having a tough time maintaining a decent average salary.  Carpenter work just didn’t pay, selling life insurance was the pits, selling cars was good pay, but no time to play.  I lived with my girlfriend Donna.  Not saying she was high maintenance, but I needed every nickel I could make.

I worked the point one morning, catching “ups” at the car lot.  Five young men get out of an old Ford pickup.  I thought they were looking for the Parts Department at first.  Friendly fellows, they asked me if I was the boss man.  Then they started telling me they were looking for a couple second hand pickup trucks.  We found four trucks to their liking; they paid cash, around three thousand dollars each.  I asked them what they did for a living.  One of the guys said “We just drive a truck.”  They showed me a roll of hundred dollar bills and said “C’mon go with us and find out.”

The fellows told me to meet them at the Days Inn, by the airport.  I left work, then stopped by the house to pick up my girlfriend Donna, then drove to by the airport to check them out.

Their boss was, “Jumping Joe McDavid,” a part time race car driver, a full time racing fanatic, back at his home in Prentiss, Mississippi.  Come to find out, Joe considered himself a race car driver first, just doing what ever he had to do, to be able to afford to race.  The tool game offered him that.  Joe put me on, after he looked me up and down, he told me, that he “didn’t think I’d make it, but come on, I’ll give you a shot.  We’ll see what you’re made of.”  Joe had his crew at the Airport Days Inn, when I showed up for the interview, he told me to come on in, that they were playing Liar’s Poker, with hundred dollar bills.  I told Donna, to sit in the car out in the parking lot, while I went inside to check it out.

Joe McDavid was an intimidating fellow, he kind of looked like a linebacker with blond flat top haircut and he was well over six feet tall.”  As an act of intimidation, he would stand in your face while he was just having casual conversation, just to see if he could make you squirm.  When he talked to me, I felt a little like “Tweety Bird” talking to Sylvester the cat.  He would jump in front of your face then give you a hypothetical situation and ask you how would you handle that?  No answer was right or wrong, he just wanted to see how you reacted.  Joe had the guys in his room, practicing their pitch on me, one by one.  Joe loomed over me and asked “Do you think you can do that?  Let’s hear your pitch.”  Wow, I was taken by surprise.  I don’t think I impressed anybody, all the guys laughed, they told me to stay with it.  They said that if I would practice it enough, it would become second nature.

Donna really was a “high maintenance girlfriend.  To keep her I needed to earn lots of money.  This job sounded like the answer I was looking for, that is until I realized that lengthy travel was necessary.  Then it occurred to me, it might be exciting and new atmosphere might be what I needed.  She warned me that if I went out on the road, it might cost me our relationship.  I was willing to chance it, thinking that if I spent enough money on her, everything would be okay.

Orlando and the Orange Blossom Trail

The first town I moved to with the crew was Orlando.  I was broke when I left Jacksonville.  The first night, I slept on the floor of one of the other “new guy’s” motel room.  I stiffed a “7-11” for five bucks worth of gas, and then went to work my “territory.”  Territories were drawn up on a map and tacked to the wall of the motel room in Joe’s room, dividing the town up in sections, so that everyone can sign out for a particular area and not have to worry about someone else “riding and raping” your territory.

I signed out for the area right next to the motel, so I wouldn’t have to drive very far to get to work.  I hit five businesses in a row before I started getting any interest, then by number ten, things got better.  Number ten seemed interested, I was so broke and desperate that I told the boss man that if he wouldn’t get me fired and give me a twenty for gas, I would call up my boss and tell him the equipment had been damaged, some parts seem to be missing, if you’ll help me, I’ll help you.  He bought the whole truck load and I made $200.00 profit, plus a twenty for gas.  Only 10 am, I got Wilbur to load my truck again.  A “boss man” that I had spoken with earlier, asked me to come back after lunch.  When I got there, he wanted to know where I’d been, he’d been waiting for me.  I made it up to him by helping him get a good deal on the band saw, another two hundred in my pocket.

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Wilbur Scarborough holding the sign

I got Wilbur to load the truck back up for me, one more time.  Wilbur Scarborough was Joe’s brother in law.  Wilbur had a unique knack of being able to load the trucks by himself, feeling guilty, I would try to give him a twenty dollar tip, but most times he refused, but he would let me buy him a drink at the bar.  Since I was still riding on the five dollars worth of stolen gas, I went right back to the guy I sold a load to that morning, he bought another load.

I told him that we can’t tell the boss that this load is all damaged too, so he paid a little more, I made $700.  Wow, a whopping $1,100 for the day.  The next morning I went back to the “7-11” and told them that after I had driven off, I realized I forgot to pay for my gas.  That night, I had my own room.

Joe came by my room; he said that he wanted to take me out to eat.  It was just me, Joe and Old George.  George was a nervous sort of older fellow that seemed to like to wash his hands a lot.  We went to an Oyster House a couple miles down the road on the Orange Blossom Trail.  After about my third or fourth dozen oysters, Joe got up to go use the bathroom, soon after; George said he had to go wash his hands, only they didn’t come back.

Joe backed his hot rod Ford Super Cab to the front door, racing the motor and he started spinning the tires.  I knew what time it was then.  Here I had over a thousand dollars in my pocket, made three sales that day and here was Jumping Joe, wanting to know if I had enough guts to stiff a restaurant or if I was going to break weak and pay for every one’s meal.  I stood up and quickly walked to the door, left the restaurant in a hurry and dove into the back of the truck as he was peeling out, kicking gravel and dust up against the glass windows as we left.

Joe was fired up that night.  He started driving down the Orange Blossom Trail about 70 miles an hour, he was in a blaze of glory until that motorcycle cop flashed his lights, then Joe hit the nitrous switch and took off.  His truck had a genuine “Bittendorf” racing engine from California.  The bike cop couldn’t catch us.   No way.  I was terrified, riding in the back of the truck, atop of a pile of pallets, but I wouldn’t let on, no one could have heard me if I had screamed my head off.

Joe was so far ahead of this motorcycle cop racing down Highway 441 the main drag, that he stopped to pick up two guys in a navy uniforms that looked like they were in the middle of being mugged by a group of black thugs, at a bus stop.  I hollered at them and they just jumped into the back with me.  Then, here came the bike cop, siren wailing, catching up to us.  Joe took off again, driving over a hundred miles an hour, around cars, over the center section divider, in the emergency lane.  The two sailors were all for it, lying on their sides holding onto a pallet with one hand and flipping the bike cop the finger with the other, whooping it up, seems like they were pretty drunk.  If it hadn’t of been for that darn helicopter, we probably would have made it. They were waiting for us, right before we hit the Beeline Expressway.  Joe told the patrolmen that he never saw the bike cop; he told the officers that we were just trying to help the Navy dudes out of a tight spot.  Even though they backed us up, Joe went to jail.  Before they cuffed his hands behind his back, he handed me his roll.  I never counted it. He went in front of the judge and got time served   I gave Joe back his wad of cash, just the same way he handed it to me.  .  If this was suppose to be a test, well then, I reckon I passed.

A gal named Marie, had hired on with the crew in Jacksonville.  She said she had previous car selling experience, I don’t know why Joe hired her.  It was well after midnight when she knocked on my door.  Marie said she was broke and wanted to know if she could sleep on my floor.  I think I knew what she had in mind, but I was bushed.  I knew what it was like to be broke,  the wolf is barking at the door, you do what you have to do, to survive.  I let Marie sleep on the bed, I was so tired, I didn’t mind sleeping on the floor.

Jacksonville and the Pitch

          When I first met the crew, they were working on their “pitch”.  They had a canned sales pitch that they used, and if it was used in the right way, it worked for every body.  First of all, there were about 10 fellows, standing about the motel room, wearing jeans, with tennis shoes or boots and “Rock Star” T shirts.  They would take turns practicing their pitch, take criticism and give theirs.  They had all just gotten paid and were flashing their hundred dollar bills, playing liar’s poker.  Joe asked Ronnie Turner to let me hear his pitch, he said that “if you use it, you’ll make a sale within 10 people you talk to, it’s a fact.”

I remember that Ronnie had a wonderful Mississippi accent.  He could talk the talk.  “Is the boss man here?  Can I speak to the boss man?  If he isn’t there, you leave, say nothing else.  Go next door, start all over.” Is the boss man here?”  “Are you the boss man?  Boss man, Can you use a whole truck load of shop tools and machinery, brand new, less than half price, real, real, real cheap.”  Then he said,  “I drive a truck for ’em back in Carolina, I got sent out to do an inventory, he was way short, so my boss just said load it up, find what ever was left, load in on a truck and get rid of it for the iron and furburcating cost. Can you use it if you get it cheap enough?”

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If he says no, say thank him and leave.  If he asks “How cheap is it” make him say it again, “Yes I can use it if I get it cheap enough.”  That means no matter what, he’s going to make you an offer.  After he says yes, a few times, put him through the book.  We were selling the sizzle, not the steak.  The book was a catalog that we made ourselves, at the print shop, and we would jack up the price of the manufactured equipment, brand new, still in crates.   We had the 1-800 number to the factory scribbled all over it.  Then we would point out the metal cutting band saw and say, “He told me to knock two thousand dollars off of that iron cutter, and I could unload the whole truck full. (The saw list for $5984.00, actual coast $800. The Hoist $2784, only cost $400, the 50 ton press, $2984.00 cost $427), the 8 inch grinder, the 6 inch vise, all the air tools, socket sets, etc.  “Just make the check out to the company, Carolina Tool and Equipment.  Before I can unload it, you need to call the office on the “Watt number” you know, what don’t cost no money.  1- 800 sumthing or another, here it is, right here on the catalog, and don’t forget to get me a “release number” for my log book.     Once you got the man on the phone, it was pretty much a “done deal.” The lady on the phone (Rita) back in Carolina was a professional closer.  Once they made an offer, she would bump them up high as she could and ask us if that was alright, in a pre-arranged “code.”  She would ask me for my “Lot Number,” my cost would be hidden in that number.  Then we’d get a check, take it to the bank and swap it for a cashier’s check, take it back to the motel and get paid.

After about 6 weeks, on average I was making about $1,700 or more per week.  I took some skinny deals at first, eventually I got to making more than twice that.  Donna seemed to be happy with all of things I would buy for her, with my new found wealth.  I would try to be home every weekend.  I called my younger brother Gary up in Denver, Colorado, to see if he wanted to join up with us and work with me.  He’d been staying with Staff Sgt. Mike Bessent, a guy that we grew up with in Florida, who was stationed there as a Marine Recruiter.  Gary had broken his leg, slipping on some ice.  After I called him, he took his pocket knife and cut his cast off, he was ready to go.

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Gary in Mexico for the week end, after his first drop

Houston

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New Year’s Day, 1979.    We were staying at La Quinta, in Houston.  What a nasty, rainy day.    Everyone on the crew had quit except for me and Buddy Barnes and Ronnie Turner.  Buddy called his brother in law Jerry and I talked my brother Gary, into joining the crew.  Gary was amazed at all of the hundred dollar bills.  He rode out with me for a few days, I paid him about six hundred.  Monday comes around and instead of picking me up at the airport like he was supposed to; he took a rental truck with a load and dropped the whole load.  He sold the load and made a thousand dollars even profit.

That got to me, I was hot about it.  I had spent all of my money on Donna again.  I was coming back to work flat broke.  Remorsefully, I felt like half of that money should have been mine.  I jumped in my truck, ready to go make some pitches.  Wilbur had it loaded when he picked me up at the airport, once he realized that I was mad and fixing to go to work to get even, he got out of the truck and caught a cab back to the motel, like a scared rabbit.  Wilbur was a little strange.  He didn’t want to be a part of any “sales pitch.”  I headed out from the airport, dropped a load right around the corner and made one thousand and twenty dollars.  On my first pitch, well that made it alright with me.  I just had to prove to myself, that I was the top “dog”.

Buddy Barnes and I rode out together one day in the pouring rain.  It seemed like it rained every day in Houston that winter.  Along about 6 pm, we were still working and I spotted a man walking to his car.  We were in an underground garage; I asked him if he “knew anybody that could use it, if they got it cheap enough?”  We dropped our load to him for $3,984.00.

The next day, I worked alone.  Towards the end of the day, it was still raining; I hadn’t had any luck, when I got the idea to call the man back that we had sold the load to the day before.  I told him the other guy had gone on home and that I just had this load left to “distibulate,” then I was going home too.  “Could you use it, if I help you get it cheap enough?”

Miss Rita closed him out at $3,500.  Being by myself, I thought I had made a good “lick,” but Buddy went crying to Joe about it, saying it was “half his customer, he should get half of the commission.”  Buddy was a snake in the grass, I’ll tell you.  I thought that we were friends.  We sold cars together in Jacksonville.  After my first week on the road, I told him I was making good jack, so he joined on too.

Donna told me once again, that me being on the road wasn’t good for us at home.  I couldn’t quit.  I was having too much fun.  I flew her out to Houston, we fussed the whole time.  The next time I went home, she had changed the locks and was dating some guy at work, but that’s another story.

I started out in Jax, then Orlando, then Tallahassee, Xmas break, Houston, then San Antonio and Phoenix.  During the winters we worked southern states, because of the weather.  Gary took to selling tools, like a duck to water.  He was timid at first I thought but he turned out to be one of the best.  Gary had a soft way of selling that worked for him.  I bought Gary a Ford Super Cab in Jacksonville, we were going to drive out to Phoenix in it together but we went by Atlanta to party, while we were there Gary met Buck Owens’s son, Buddy Allen.  In just a few hours, they became good friends.  Buddy Allen and Gary flew to Phoenix, I drove the truck.

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The night I got to Phoenix with Gary’s new truck, he got drunk with Jumping Joe, got in a wreck and hauled tail to Bakersfield, Ca. where our granny Nellie, Dad’s mom lived.  He left his truck at a body shop there to be repaired, then flew back down to Phoenix, but had a layover in Las Vegas.  When I picked him up at the airport, he had two grocery bags full of nickels; he had hit the jackpot at the airport slot machines in Vegas.

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The bar maids at the Holiday Inn hated us for a while, because every time we would go into the lounge at the motel, Gary would take a bag of nickels to pay for the drinks with one fistful of nickels, then leave a tip with another.  “We had a fist full of nickels and a few nickels more.”  Poor girls, I guess they had to count those nickels, because we never did.  It rained in Phoenix that week.

Buddy’s brother in law Jerry Chapman had been working with us for about 6 weeks.  He never made enough money to pay his expenses plus save money for a plane ticket home.  Buddy asked me to take him out and show him a deal, so he could straighten out with the books and have enough money to fly home, to see his wife.

The tools on Jerry’s truck were looking nasty and rusty.  I think they had been on there for a month or more.  I told Jerry to stop at the auto parts store, so that I could get some spray paint.  Jerry’s tools were terrible looking.  I thought a little touch up paint would be in order.  Bad mistake.  The color of the spray paint was no where near the color on the cap.  I started spraying what looked like white and everything came out white or light gray.  Fine, that was $6.95 down the tube and no help whatsoever.  In fact, it’s more hideous now.  I told “Jerry never mind, lets go get rid of it.”  Since Jerry wanted money to fly home, I steered him towards the airport, for extra motivation.  As we were passing a sign that read “Long Term Parking,” I saw a man walking past.  He had on a bright red sweater and shiny gold watch.  Thinking that’s our mullet, I hung out the window of the truck, waving the guy over, just like I’m asking directions.  When he got to the truck I ask him, “Do you know anybody around here that might be able to use a whole truckload of brand new shop tools, machinery and stuff, if they could get it, real, real, real cheap?”  I showed him the equipment, told him our “distibulator” was painting it another color and selling it, without paying our boss.

This fellow jumped like a frog in a skillet.  “Yeah, how much, have you got any more?

Jerry and I followed him out to his place, a big shop in the middle of the prairie.  He told me that he made fireplace logs out of newspaper.   Since it gets cold in Phoenix during the winter and there aren’t many trees around there either, well, it was a good business.  I pitched him at two thousand off the saw, you get it all.  That would be $3,984.00.  Jerry looked like he was about to pee his pants.  He’s been riding around with it for almost two months and here I got the guy to offer $3,750.00.  The mullet didn’t want to give a check for that much money to a lowly driver.  He preferred to hand it over to an officer of the company.  After a quick call, Jumping Joe showed up in a taxi in just a few minutes.  Before our mullet would hand over the check, he asked Joe, “How do I know that you’re the Boss?”  Joe said “I’ll tell you what, let’s flip for a hundred.”  Joe took him 5 times in a row, before the guy said “Alright, alright, you’re the boss.”  We bought Jerry’s plane ticket first before we went back to the motel.  After we got back to the Holiday Inn, Jerry went in to clean up, to gather his things, happy that he was going home.  I was mad because I had to settle up with Joe, paying Jerry’s price for the tools.   Buddy was making an override on guys he brought to work.  Because the tools came off of Jerry’s truck, Buddy complained to Joe, that I had to pay Jerry’s price too.  That sucked, it really did.  I was the guy that hired Buddy.

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That got me mad, I asked Wilbur to put me a “King Kong” load on the truck.  He gave me a regular three piece load but three or four each, of all the little tools.  3 socket sets, 3 air impacts, 4 wrench sets, 2 Porto Power, 2 ¾ inch socket sets, two eight inch grinders and two 6 vises.  It was a real heavy duty load.  I went right back to that same mullet and told him this was the other load that a Mexican had given us a bad check for.  I told him Joe wanted me to show it to him, to see if he wanted make a reasonable offer?

He bought the load for $3,500.00.  When I got back to the motel, Jerry was still there, waiting for his flight later that PM.  Buddy had the audacity to ask Joe to give Jerry half the deal, wow, I was pissed.  “You mean he doesn’t do a darn thing and gets half?”  So, even though I was steaming, we settled up, Buddy took Jerry to the airport.

Once they left, I asked Joe, “Hey Joe, when we settle up, we just have to pay for the tools we sold don’t we?  I mean if I brought any of those tools back, since I’ve already paid for them, can I turn them back into the ware room and get cash?”

Ole Joe wasn’t following me at first, but when I took him out to my truck and slid the seat forward, there were all of the extra tools that I had Wilbur load on the truck.  It was over $700.00 worth.  I paid for them when I was splitting with Jerry, now that he’s gone, well?  I turned them back in and Joe cashed me up with the refund.  He told me that I “was one slick son of a,” well he just said I “was slick.”

The Travellers

The “Travelers”          It’s been my habit to write my stories in the mornings while my dreams are still fresh on my mind.  When you get my age, you get to where you look forward to naps and dreams.  To revive old memories.

My mom won the Daily Double or the Big Q (don’t remember which) at the dogtrack for a large sum of money.  The number 24 sticks in my mind, so I think she won around $24,000.  She invested that money into the Silver Dolphin our family’s trailer park.  At that time there were 15 spaces.  She paid Denson Electric the whole amount to install new light poles for 42 units.  I think it was 20 something poles with 2 electric boxes on each pole.

While Dad was in Viet Nam, she had all the pines tree cleared on the back acre and a half of the park.  Before the trailer park was built, the land was used for a goat farm.  When US 1 was built in 1949, the owners sold the dirt out of the back half of the park to the state, to build up the land around the bridge over US 1, near Dunn’s Ave.  Not long after she had the electric poles installed, Dad returned home, safe and sound.  We got busy digging water lines and a deeper ditch for the sewer lines, so many roots and stumps it weren’t no fun.

Before my parents bought the place it was named Dinsmore Trailer Court.  In those days they rented spaces to RV’s, folks coming down US1 pulled in all the time with their travel trailers.  Every year, towards the end of winter around February we would get a few “Travelers”.  “Travelers” is the name the gypsy’s use for themselves.  The king of the clan would stop and stay with us and a few more, every winter.  Over the years, our camping capacity dwindled down to about 5 or 6 spaces after Dad started expanding the park and putting in permanent mobile homes.  The rest of the group would go further down US 1, finding places to camp in other parks.  Like dairies, there use to be a bunch of trailer parks.

Dad knew they were scammers.  He didn’t fall for many of their tricks, unless he was making his share of the loot.  They all drove Cadillacs, Corvettes, nice new trucks and they had a 6 yard dump truck and trailer with them.  They would use their equipment and go around repairing potholes in driveways and parking lots to make money.  It was a scam, the first time it rained, their repairs would wash out.  At Silver Dolphin, back in those days, we had oyster shell drive ways, so they didn’t pitch us.  Their money was good with us.

Mom and Dad had planned a week end trip.  Dad gave us a list of “do’s and don’ts,” first, before they left.  Dad had hired me and my brother n law Bug Moore to dig some sewer lines in the back of the park in between the new light poles.  Before we got started, a procession of new trucks with campers were lined up on the highway, near the entrance to the park.  The King of the Clan approached me about renting out the center of the park for a camp site so that they could have a “christening,” welcoming all of the new babies born into the tribe the year before.

Since Dad left me in charge, I guess it was up to me to decide if it was okay or not.  He offered to pay me $50 bucks.  That was a bunch of money to a 16 year old, but I had Bug with me.  If split it with him that would only leave me with $25.  Dad was paying us $20 apiece to dig the ditch, $45 for the day, okay not too shabby for a Saturday. I got to thinking though, if they offered fifty, what would they really pay?  So I asked the old man how many people did he think would be there?  He said no more then 50 or so.

I told him that 50 people camping out and roasting a pig would leave a big mess and someone would have to clean it up.  He promised me that they would clean up there own mess.  I told him to give me a $100 for a deposit on clean up and if it was anymore than 50 people, I wanted $200.  He agreed, gave me a 150 dollars, with the agreement that if any more than 50 showed up, he would fork over another hundred.  Bug and I went to work in the back of the park, digging our ditch, behind the wash house.

The center of the trailer park became a beehive of activity.  New cars and trucks began to fill in and surround the circle of RV’s.  In the middle they dug a pit, started a fire and built a spit to roast their hog.  Bug told me he could’ve got them a hog “pretty cheap if he’d a knowed.”

 

The local residents kinda got upset after a while.  There were cars packed everywhere in the trailer park, alongside of US 1 and parked across the street at Mr Tiller’s Grocery Store.

Mae Hildebrand was freaking out, someone had stolen her bingo money, all eighteen dollars and she called Woodrow Pendarvis her son in law, our constable at the time to come over and investigate.  My granny told me that Mae never had no eighteen dollars; she had lost all of her bingo money last Thursday night at San Souci on Beach Blvd.  Granny said “she knew, because I was with her and I lost mine too.”  Mae was just making that stuff up because she smelled money and wanted to get her share.

 

When Woodrow showed up in his constable car, he parked up on US 1 and watching car after car (all brand new) pull in and loads of folks getting out to party.  He came over to where we were digging and talked with us for a while.  He smoked a cigarette and Bug pulled out his jug and they shared a snort, wiped their mug and took another.

While we were talking, a group of the gals, wearing their full length purple and yellow colored woolen dresses walked behind the wash house to “smoke”.  They didn’t see us, down in the ditch digging,  Woodrow was leaning up against a tree. While we watched they smoked a few butts, but those weren’t the only butts we saw.

 

I guess those old woolen dresses get mighty hot, even in the winter.  One by one they would reach down and pull up the back of their dress to scratch the back of their fanny.  Funny, oh yeah it was.  They weren’t wearing no bloomers.  Even Woodrow who usually had a sour disposition (if you knew Woodrow you know what I mean) had to laugh at that sight.  Bug couldn’t take it any more.  Watching in secret wasn’t his style, he hollered a whoop and when the group of gals turned around in disbelief to see what the commotion was, Bug made a motion with his hands for them to pull their dresses back up again, this time he tried to get them to pull their dresses up over there head. …………..

 

I told Woodrow they weren’t suppose to be more 50 people or 50 cars, I don’t remember the exact agreement but they was in violation.  Well back in those days, everyone in the trailer park was some kind of kin folk or another.  Bug and Woodrow grew up with each other, Woodrow married Mae’s daughter, Mae’s brother Bud was married to my Aunt Irma, and so on, so I was talking to Woodrow, my cousin’s brother in law.

I got an idea and I told Woodrow to stand in plain view, while I went and spoke with the old man.  I told him that he was in excess of the 50 whatever we agreed to.  His 100 dollar deposit had run out and they were gonna have to leave, and I pointed to Woodrow in his Constable’s uniform as my back up.

 

I told them they would “have to leave, don’t make me use the law.”  In the blink of an eye, the old man offered me another $100.  Just that fast, I turned him down. I would have to have another $100 to pay the law, for security duty.  So he gave me another two hundred.  I gave Woodrow $50 and asked him if he would “stick around.”  He said “You couldn’t pry me loose with a crow bar.”

 

We quit the ditch digging for the day and joined the party.  Bug took over the spit, showing the gypsies what they were doing wrong and quenching his thirst with pull after pull from his jug.  Me?  I joined the group of young men that had brought out their guitars and wanted me to sing with them.  Old Woodrow must have needed to do some more investigating, because I kept seeing him go back into the travel trailer with the young gals, soon he come back and asked me did I have any more of that deposit money he could “borrow.”

 

I had plenty of help after the gypsies left, cleaning up the mess. Woodrow didn’t want me to tell no tales and Bug was looking for what was left of his jug.  I gave Dad a hundred when he got home, he seemed satisfied, but after he found all of those slugs in his vending machines, he told me that “Next year, they need to hold that Christening some where’s else.”

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Our crew worked a small unheard of area in SW Louisiana, just the other side of Thibodaux.  A town named Houma.  Houma is fishing center with bayous, stretching out like fingers towards the ocean.  Each side of the bayou is lined with docks and piers, home to the fishing fleet that supports the local financial interests.

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To my surprise on the first day, Joe McDavid showed up, ready to work.  He was ready to go “skin him a mullet”.  Our slang for finding an unsuspecting buyer.  It was strange to see Joe after all these years.  He was the one that hired me.  He’s the one that came up with our sales pitch and techniques for “dropping iron.”

In my eyes Joe was the “Messiah.”  Sweet Pea Da Jeeda, He wrote the book.  I always felt insignificant in his presence.  I did what ever he asked of me to prove my worth.  What ever it was, it never seemed to satisfy him.

Still sporting a crew cut, hair now turned gray with the passing of time, his once formidable size had dwindled somewhat, but not his mind.  He was as sharp as they come.

True to form, the first thing Jumping Joe did was to bet our crew boss Buddy Barnes a hundred bucks, what we called a “Bat hide’ as to which one of the crew would be the first one back with an empty truck or “hammered check”, a cashier’s check.  Joe bet on me, Buddy bet on Roy Landrum.

I had been selling tools for over ten years.  I sold to make money but kept the traditions alive.  I still used the same pitch I was taught to use by Joe many years before.  It worked then and it still works today.  I had picked up Roy as a hitch hiker many years before when I was taking a hiatus from the “road.”  I gave Roy, Buddy’s phone number and Buddy put him on the crew.

Roy wasn’t like the rest of us.  He looked out for Roy and Roy only.  You might call him a back stabber.  He stole a suitcase from me and my nephew Glen several years before in Salt Lake City.  I found it first; it was full of money, wrapped up in 35 mm film canisters inside a double sided suitcase.  The suitcase was left at my motel room door.  One side was packed with U.S. currency and the other side was full of Canadian money.  I sent Glen and Roy to hide it, because I felt that the original owners might be gangsters.  Glen dropped Roy off supposedly to go do his laundry, then, Roy doubled back to the hiding spot and grabbed it for himself, leaving the crew and flying to the city of New York, to shoot it up in his arm.

When he went broke and needed money, he whined his way back unto the crew and promised that if I didn’t kill him, he would pay me back.  He did, some of it anyway, about 18 to 20 thousand.

I grew up around boats, ships and barges.  My brothers and I played on the docks and piers everyday.  Working southwest Louisiana was like “going home.”  I left the motel early, eager to see the sights and find a good neighborhood to work in.  Houma wasn’t an easy place to figure out the highways and byways.  There were five bayous.  Each bayou had two sides, an east bank and a west bank.  The bayous had at least one bridge to connect them, some had two.

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Every home I drove past usually had a dock jutting out behind it.  Each family worked certain sections of the creeks.  Control of these territories had been passed down from generation to generation.  I noticed every house had an old bathtub setting out in the yard.  Come to find out, these tubs were partially filled with turtles, to be sold at the market.

Most young men of the area worked for themselves in one fashion or another.  Even the guys that worked the oil rigs had a small boat that they would run trap lines for muskrats and nutrias.  Some gathered oysters, others gigged for frogs.  You never know exactly what’s in that “Jambalaya.”  Most restaurants use the same oyster shells over and over.  They wash them, then when some one orders oysters, they take out a jar full of shelled oysters and place them on the clean shells.  Once they steam them, the oysters stick to the shell.  Every one knew someone that had a rice paddy that they could harvest “mud bugs” otherwise known as crawfish.shrmp88

The whole area was covered with naturally fed economic development.

My first pitch that morning was to a guy coming off of a shrimp boat.  He was wearing a pair of white rubber boots that caught my eye.  Like most people in that neck of the woods, he kept a wad of hundred dollar bills stashed close by, his was in “Red Man” chewing tobacco pouch behind the seat of his truck, right underneath his gun rack.  I got $2,500 cash for my load, first pitch.  That’s how I found out about the bet between Joe and Buddy.  Buddy paid off, when I seen him slip Joe a hundred, Joe told me, “I bet on you to be the first one back.”

I took this as a compliment.  Roy and I were adversaries to say the least and he was pissed when he rode in to the motel parking lot about 2:30 that afternoon with an empty truck to find out that I had dropped two loads that day.  My second load went to a fishery out on the point of the bayou, right were the tip of land pointed towards the ocean.

Joe was past his prime, he couldn’t even load his truck anymore.  The tools were too heavy.  He wasn’t making any income off of the crew any longer, he had passed the torch years before.  Now he needed to go out and drop a load now and then, to bolster his finances.  Instead of loading a saw, a press and a hoist like every one else, he just had his truck loaded with two band saws.  They were still in the shipping crate; folks had to walk up to the truck to see what it was.  That’s just what he wanted.

My condition wasn’t much better.  I was getting some age on me too.  I didn’t really have that old spring to my step, though I didn’t feel like I needed it anymore.  I just needed to talk to about 10 or 12 people to sell a load, that wasn’t too difficult.  I was still recovering from a life threatening truck wreck that I had suffered the spring before.  Five broken ribs, holes poked in my lung, dislocated jaw and a 15 inch scar running up from my belly button, to prove that the LSU Trauma Center in Shreveport tried to harvest my organs, topped off with a case of amnesia that I was still recovering from.

I sold tools left and right, so did Joe.  The boys that depended on shops and garages to account for their sales didn’t fare so well, they were ready to move on.  Joe and I stayed at the Holiday Inn, every one else was at Motel Six.  The Holiday Inn had free “hors-de-vours” everyday during happy hour in the lounge and beautiful waitresses.  The Motel Six just had the complimentary peppermints they put on your pillow and “coon ass” maids to shake the farts out of the sheets.

We enjoyed our stay and neither of us was ready to move on.  When the crew went home for the week end, Jumping Joe and I shared a room to keep each other company.  I look forward to being around Joe again, hoping that some of his old magic would wear off.  He was a motivator, the best I ever saw.  A lot of the success I had in my life, was just from being around him and me remembering the things he taught me.

Joe liked to play “Liar’s Poker” with hundred dollar bills.  While we swapped “Jack Stories,” Joe would have me sort and stack his bills with the best serial numbers on top.  Joe was strong alright, stronger than a “well rope” or “40 acres of garlic.”  Just to prove his point sometimes he’d have me count his wad of hundreds, while he cleaned his .45 automatic, while we practiced our “pitch”, something we did every day.

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Joe went to the bank and got $500 dollars in brand new five dollar bills, in sequence.  Then he went to a printing company and had them made into a “pad”, stuck together with a gummed strip across the top and a card board backing.  Then, when we went into a restaurant, he would hand the pad to the waitress when she brought us our bill, just watch how she would react.  We did get accosted by the police afterwards a few times, but since we didn’t break any laws, they had to let us go.

I felt sorry for Joe, just a little.  He wasn’t the man he once was, not as muscular or as heavy, less intimidating.  He was still on top of his game.  Anything he could do, to get over on some one, was his cup of tea.  When he went out pitching his two saws at once, he tried to find some one who didn’t have a clue about machinery, but looked like they were pretty well off.  He’d pitch shoe store owners, jewelry store owners and people with red sweaters, folks wearing golf attire or just wearing a shiny watch.  To him, if you looked like you had money, you were a “mullet.”

He would get right up in their face and say “you know some one who could use this kinda stuff  don’t you?”  Then he’d say “Look, I’ve got two saws that list for $5,984.00 each.  The Boss ain’t shipping them back to Carolina, we’ve got band saws back home stacked to the ceiling.  How about you making him and offer on one of them and if he takes it, I’ll give you the other one, just for helping me out.  What if I get him to knock off a thousand on the one and just give you both of them?”  The saws only cost us about $800.00 each, so it wasn’t hard to close them out, if you could get them to bite.

I’ve watched him flip for a hundred bucks many times.  If he had the winner, he would whine and act like he was trying to crawfish out of the bet or talk the other guy into switching his choice.  Then when he the other guy would stick to his choice Joe would say “Well, in that case, if you are so sure, then why don’t we go for $500 instead of a hundred?”  It worked every time.  I can still see him pull back his hand covering the quarter, showing Joe’s choice and hearing him say “Sucker.”

Sunday morning after breakfast, we we’re sitting in the motel room at the Holiday Inn in Houma.  I tired to catch up on the football scores on ESPN while Joe was reading a hot rod magazine, leaning up against the headboard, eating black beauties out of a bowl by the handful (like they were M & M’s), that he kept on the night stand, chasing them down by chugging swallows of Jack Black straight from the bottle.  I went to the drink machine to get him a Sprite for chaser, when I got back, he had the magazine folded to the lead story about the world’s fastest mustang on display at a car show, about a hundred miles away at a car chow at the “Superdome” in New Orleans.

The article advertised the fact that this car was the world’s fastest mustang.  Joe was adamant that he had the world’s fastest mustang.  He had bought a GT and then took out the 302 and installed a supercharged 351 cubic inch motor.  He endured all types of problems trying to make the big motor fit.  He told me about all of the little add-ons he had installed to trick it up.  He wanted to check out this guy’s car to see how he overcome his problems and if it was indeed the world’s fastest mustang, he wanted to see if the guy would sell it him.

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To this point, it seemed like it was gonna be a boring Sunday afternoon.  Nothing else to do, everyone else had gone home for the week end, it was just us, so when Jumping Joe asked if I wanted to go along for the ride, I said “Sure, let’s go.”  It took a little more than an hour to go the 70 miles or more to New Orleans.  This was back in ’95, the construction of I-110 was underway, it ran parallel to Hwy 90, all the way to town.  I-110 was the new Highway between New Orleans and Lafayette, that dipped down from I-10, went through Houma and Morgan City, joining up again with I-10 in Lafayette.mus40

The crowd at the Superdome was waning when we got there, it was already 2 o’clock, most of the folks had come and gone.  We stopped to check out a white stretch limo that had two cheerleaders from the New Orleans Saints posing with you, if you wanted your picture taken for ten bucks.  Joe figured that I’d been mooning over a gal or something, he wanted to cheer me up.  Joe talked me into it, but before he did, he talked to the two beautiful girls in their cheer leader outfits, taking them to one side.  I should have known something was up when I seen him pass the two gals some money.  Having counted his money for him earlier that morning I knew it had to be hundred dollar bills, because that’s all he had.  “What’s he up to?”

I got into the back of the stretch limo with a cheerleader on either side, both gals had unfastened the hook, pinning their top together.  The photographer got into the front seat, just as he told us to “say cheese” both gals leaned over to give me a kiss on the cheek and grabbed me by the privates, then the flash went off.  “That damn Joe.”  I think I could smell “black mail” in the air.

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Right after he got his copies of the pictures we took, we left from there and went looking for the world’s fastest mustang.  Joe and the owner hit it off and soon we’re talking car stuff way over my head.  Joe eventually got around to telling the guy “oh I like how you done this or that.  We had to cut out the wheel wells or something,” you know.  Joe told the guy what his car would do in the quarter and on top end, where it would red line in each gear, that sort of stuff.  They were comparing notes.  Finally Joe said “Well I thought my car was the fastest mustang in the world, if your car is faster than mine, I want to buy it.  How much.  Cash?”  Then he pulled out his wad.  I think I only counted about $36,000 that morning but Joe told him “name your price.”  They agreed to an amount, but Joe wanted to drive it first to be sure it was what the guy said it was.

Being as it was getting late, the man didn’t have any problem pulling it out of the center stage of the show.  The rows of empty seats all the way to the ceiling made the stadium seem ghostly.  We pushed the car out the double winged glass door, right in the front entrance of the Superdome, in downtown Kenner.  The guy started acting a little leery.  He wondered out loud, “Just where could we go to check out the car on a Sunday afternoon.  The local drag strip is closed.”  Joe told him we had just passed I-110, it looked like it was almost completed and since it was blocked off from the public, it would be perfect.  He told the man that he would take all responsibility.

The car owner put his mustang on a trailer, Joe and I followed him to the construction site, there was a concrete barrier blocking our entrance.  Joe was driving his souped up Ford Supercab.  It had a racing engine with lots of horsepower.  Joe eased up to the slab of concrete that blocked out passage and goosed the engine.  The tires on the truck started squealing but slowly ever so slowly the concrete barrier started to move, burnt rubber smoke filled the air, until eventually there was enough room to allow us to pull the truck and trailer inside, allowing us to unload the car.

The car owner kept looking over his shoulder like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar, but the wad of cash in Joe’s pocket seemed to haunt him and he busied himself getting the car ready to run.  He had two tanks of nitrous and two helmets, one for each of them.  Joe told him I had to go along as witness.  I volunteered to ride in the back without a helmet.  There wasn’t much room, but I cradle myself in between the roll bars and tried to make myself as comfortable as I could.

The highway was empty alright, almost completed.  It was a perfect place for our “test drive.”  They checked it out in the quarter mile, Joe seemed impressed, he said his was faster but he was willing to allow for three extra weight of two passengers.  He wanted to see what it will do on top end, wound out all the way.  Joe told the other guy that he had to “install a double pulley set up on his car because the belts kept coming off around 225 mph.”  Hearing that scared the you know what out me, “What?  I’m sitting in the back without a helmet and you’re gonna try to drive faster than 225 miles per hour?”

I didn’t want to break weak, but I started to tell Joe that he could take those pictures of the cheerleaders grabbing my privates and stick them up his you know what, but it was too late, we were off.  I gritted my teeth and held on, faster and faster, watching the speedometer, around 140 the front end started to shake, Joe hit that first bottle of nitrous and the car zoomed up to around 180, then car started to drift from side to side.  Oh shaky pudding, I watched the needle as it climbed pass 200, then 205 and that’s where it pegged out between 205 and 210.  I had a white knuckle grip on the roll bars I was straddling when I caught a glimpse of something out the back window.  There it was again, a tiny gray and blue little speck coming at us.  It looked like I saw flashing lights too.  Don’t tell me.  We’re busted.  What are we gonna do now?  There’s no way the police car could have caught us, but we had to go back the same way we come.

I told the two up front about our problem, I had to holler over the roar of the motor.  I had to say it about 3 times because they were both wearing helmets, “Cops”, the car owner had Joe pull over.  It took a couple minutes but when the State Patrolman came up to the window he was grinning from ear to ear.  He was a big guy, about the same size as Joe.  He said “That thing can really haul ass, what chu got in it?”  Joe had taken off his helmet, he picked up the hot rod magazine and said, “I read here that this man is advertising his car as the world’s fastest mustang.  I’m not so sure.  He had it at the car show in the Superdome.  I told him that if it was true, I wanted to buy it.  I got one back home that’s supercharged that’ll blow the doors off of this one.”  The cop said “Oh really? What chu got under the hood?”  Then they all got out and I climbed out behind them while they raised the hood.  I looked behind us, deserted, what a lonely stretch of high way, where’s Rod Sterling?

The three car enthusiasts gabbed for about a half an hour, finally they came back to me, Joe and the cop started buckling on the two helmets.  They looked like the bears at the circus that ride the little motorcycles in a circle. Joe came up to me and said that they wanted me drive the patrol car and follow them back.  The guy that owned the car was gonna ride with me.  Joe and the cop finished strapping on their helmets, the state trooper got behind the wheel, they fastened their seatbelts and then, they were off, hauling ass.  Two of a kind I think.

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I couldn’t resist the opportunity, I tried to give them a run for their money.  The cop had told me that his engine was called a “police interceptor” but after the trooper hit that second bottle of nitrous there was no way it was gonna intercept those two.  At least I got to drive it with the lights on.  First time I ever got to ride in the front seat of a police car.

I can’t remember the car owner’s name but he was so scared that he was going to jail that he didn’t seem deflated at all about Joe telling him how slow his car was.  I started to tell him that Joe was just putting him on but I didn’t want to ruin the story he was gonna be able to tell his grandkids.

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A few years went by.  I was no longer selling tools.  I had heard that I was the last Jackman alive.  All the rest of the fellas have moved on.  Yep, Buddy, Gary, Roy, Tex all of them.  I’m the last man standing. You can imagine my surprise when I got a packet in the mail, in it was a folded up magazine cover.  I unfolded the cover and to my surprise there was “Jumping Joe” standing in front of a bright red mustang.  The caption read “World’s Fastest Mustang,” as I unfolded the magazine cover, a picture fell out.  It was the picture of me in the back seat of a limousine, receiving a kiss on the cheek from two bare chested New Orleans Saints Cheer leaders.  This was a few years ago, I was sure glad to see that Joe was still alive but what I was most happy about was the fact that my wife didn’t open the mail that day.