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Listen up, Prius owners . . .

Listen up, Prius owners . . .

Your noiseless ride in your Toyoto hybrid is coming to an end. If I understand it correctly there is now a law, fashioned by Congress and signed by the president, that will force automakers to equip hybrid autos and all-electric autos with additional sound-making equipment. The sound must reach at least 20 decibels, the minimum level of noise that is required to alert bicycle riders and pedestrians, particularly blind pedestrians, to an oncoming vehicle and enable them to take evasive action. Whether the law will be retroactively applied to older models  of such autos is unknown, but the demand by the blind will probably mandate the application of the law to all models—I mean, like, hey, you know, an older model Prius will dispatch the blind and the hard-of-hearing just as effectively as the latest models off the assembly line.

My first thought when I learned about the law was of the bicycles. Unless a bike rider produces at least 20 decibels of sound then pedestrians, blind or not, are endangered by bicyclists. When I was a kid we made a tremendous amount of noise on our bikes with clothespins and plastic playing cards. The clothespins held the cards in place, inserted between the wheel spokes—with a card in both wheels we probably exceeded the requirement for a minimum of 20 decibels. I can state definitely that our system worked because I never—not even once—ran into or over a blind pedestrian or a sighted person—never  even  came close! While bikes can easily be configured to produce the required decibels, what can be devised for fast-moving pedestrians? And what about joggers? Both could conceivably endanger blind pedestrians unless they produce the required decibels of sound.

Where does it stop? Will the mindless drones in Congress require whistling shoes, perhaps, or mandate that pedestrians and joggers carry some sort of noisemaker to warn any blind persons in their vicinity? Our government could require fast walkers and joggers to carry any one of numerous party noisemakers to warn the blind and the hard-of-hearing pedestrians.

Perhaps we could follow ancient China’s practice of having someone run ahead setting off fireworks to let people know an important person is coming behind them. Should we embrace that practice, we could hire some of our unemployed to run ahead of silent automobiles with the firecrackers—this would effectively warn any blind persons and hard-of-hearing pedestrians that may be loitering in the middle of the street.

This intrusion by the federal government into the auto industry, a business about which it does not know doodly-squat, is just the latest effort to expand its control over American businesses. The federal tentacles are reaching into virtually all areas of our economy, with government’s intrusion into the health industry the most visible and the most egregious threat to our economy and our well being. We should demand the right to utilize free social services on the same scale as undocumented immigrants—100 percent including professional, medical, educational, recreational and procreational.

The feds are endangering our society and our American way of life. MacDonald’s fries are endangered, school lunches are endangered, soda drinks are endangered and all references to Christianity are endangered, and the list goes on interminably. I have no doubt that at sometime in the near future the feds will place restrictions on our use of toilet tissue, probably restricting us to a maximum number of squares for clean-up purposes. Just imagine how many trees would be saved should we be restricted to one square of tissue—just imagine that!

In closing, I freely acknowledge that mine is a voice crying in the wilderness, virtually unheard and probably ignored even if heard, but one must press on. One must do what one can do, in amounts however infinitesimally small, to retain and enhance our right to flatten blind pedestrians and hard-of-hearing pedestrians, to pollute our atmosphere, to denude our forests, to poison our children with MacDonald’s fries and the heavily caffeined sodas of Pepsi and Coke, to exterminate the whales and porpoises and salmon to provide feed for our pets, and to maintain our American way of life.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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19th Street South and the Big Ditch . . .

In my memories as a small boy, let’s say from the age of five up to the age of nine, a place called the Big Ditch looms large. No, it’s not the Panama Canal or the Suez Canal or Big Dig of Boston fame or the All-American Canal that winds through Arizona. My Big Ditch was—and perhaps still is—a trench that winds through the city of Columbus, Mississippi, lined with concrete at the bottom and carrying various effluvia on its way to the river—among other functions it serves as a storm drain for the city. I know not what sort of effluvia it carried, nor do I want to know now—I was advised by my folks that playing in the Big Ditch was an unhealthy practice, but hey, it had water in it. As a young boy I was drawn to water, and please forgive the time-worn analogy, like a moth to a flame—time-worn, perhaps, but highly picturesque.

The Big Ditch meandered a half-block or so from a small three-room house with a real toilet added to a back porch, one of the old time stools with a big tank of water directly overhead and a long chain to pull to release the water—trust me, if that tank ever sprung a leak the sitter below would know it. That house on Nineteenth Street South was where I lived for several years with my mother and three sisters—my sisters were all my elders by at least eighteen months.

During my time at that address I cut my reading teeth on romance magazines such as True Story, True Romances, Ladies’ This and Ladies’ That, ad nauseum. However, I’m pleased to report that my early reading pursuits among those periodicals were adequately balanced by True Detective and True Crime and various other magazines of that ilk, if you get my drift!

Now on to my story of the Big Ditch:

I’m fairly certain that if I were standing at the bottom of the Big Ditch now I would have a 360-degree view of my various surroundings, but as a boy if I made it to the bottom I was hidden from sight unless my searchers were standing on the edge of the ditch.

I won’t dally on this posting—my readers may not be ready for a story that follows a young boy uptown from home to the beginning of the ditch, and downtown to the point that the ditch connects to a river, a point which included a long concourse of concrete, a man-made slide of great proportions, a slide lined with algae that allowed one to sit down in and on and zip to the river’s edge, bailing out just before the drop to the fast-moving current. Such slides required that one be clothed from the waist down, whether in long or short pants, especially after numerous slidings had removed patches of the algae.

I realize that such activities may be difficult for adults to understand, but for us, a group of kids that craved adventure, the Big Ditch equaled and surpassed everything that the Bobbsey Twins ever did. Our play mirrored the adventures created by Zane Grey and James Fennimore Cooper and Edgar Rice Burroughs—we played cowboys and Indians, Riders of the Purple Sage, The Last of the Mohicans and Tarzan of the Apes. We sneaked out of the house with matches and cups and a pot and a fry-pan and had lunch in the Big Ditch, dining on frog legs and hackberry tea—the frogs resided in the ditch and the hackberry trees grew along the un-cemented sides of the ditch. Please don’t ask me where we got the water to make the tea.

A special note: I have no memory of having lured girls to join me and others for lunch—I must confess that girls at that particular phase held little interest for me, and I am not aware of any interest displayed by the other boys.

Yes, we caught bullfrogs, and with our pocketknives—every kid in town carried a pocketknife—we dispatched the frogs to somewhere else in the cosmos, then separated the legs from the rest of each frog, skinned the legs and then burned them in the skillet and boiled hackberries to make tea for the repast. Hey, I’m not making this up—it’s a miracle, one of God’s wonders, that we didn’t fall prey to fatal diseases, but the only thing I can remember suffering was awakening with double mumps on a memorable Christmas day—click here for a truly heart-rending narrative of that calamitous event.

As I promised at the beginning, I will not dally on this story. There’s lots more to talk about, some of which I probably won’t discuss until I make my final report to YOU KNOW WHO at the conclusion of life’s journey—let’s face it—all of us have things that we like to keep to ourselves!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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19th Street South & an American Pitbull in church . . . . (via The King of Texas)

This should have been the latest posting, the first to appear on my blog, but somehow the date placed it far back in my postings. I’m reposting it to bring it to the forefront for viewing.

19th Street South & an American Pitbull in church . . . . This posting is based purely on a description of an incident in which a dog named Buster—my dog, a full grown sixty–pound American Pit Bull Terrier, a dog sporting a bobbed tail and surgically pointed ears, the marks of a fighting dog—caused worshipers to end a Saturday night gathering earlier than usual. Buster was christened at birth by the American Kennel Club as Mars but my brother, his first master, named him Buster in memory of his bo … Read More

via The King of Texas

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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19th Street South & an American Pitbull in church . . . .

This posting is based purely on a description of an incident in which a dog named Buster—my dog, a full grown sixty–pound American Pit Bull Terrier, a dog sporting a bobbed tail and surgically pointed ears, the marks of a fighting dog—caused worshipers to end a Saturday night gathering earlier than usual. Buster was christened at birth by the American Kennel Club as Mars but my brother, his first master, named him Buster in memory of his boyhood pet.

I was not there—my mother and my sister described the incident to me in considerable detail on the same night that it took place. I hasten to add that my sister was given to extreme exaggeration in her story-telling, and in such instances my mother would confirm the story as told by my sister, purely to avoid confrontation with her. This posting therefore, should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt.

When we lived on 19th Street South there was a small church down the street from our house, just across the Big Ditch—I have capitalized Big Ditch because it figured so prominently in my life while we lived on that street, and it is definitely a subject for a future posting—stay tuned!

I don’t remember the name or the denomination of the church, but I do remember my mother and my older sisters occasionally strolling down to the church in the evening, usually on Saturday nights. I am hesitant to use the term holy rollers, but in my memory that would describe the assembly. On summer Saturday nights in the absence of air conditioning, the doors and windows of the church were left wide open to provide relief from the summer heat. The sounds that I remember coming from the church reinforce that memory—no, I wasn’t invited but I sometimes sneaked down the street and listened and watched through the open door of the church.

Holy Roller as defined by Wikipedia:

Holy Roller is a term in American English used to describe Pentecostal Christian churchgoers. The term is commonly used derisively, as if to describe people literally rolling on the floor or speaking in tongues in an uncontrolled manner. For this usage, the Oxford English Dictionary Charles G. Leland, in which he says “When the Holy Spirit seized them..the Holy Rollers..rolled over and over on the floor.” It is generally considered pejorative, but some have reclaimed it as a badge of honor, e.g. William Branham’s statement “And what the world calls today holy-roller, that’s the way I worship Jesus Christ.” Similar disparaging terms directed at outspoken Christians include Jesus freaks and Bible bashers. The name Shakers was created as a portmanteau of shaking Quakers. Gospel singer Andrae Crouch stated, “They call us holy rollers, and what they say is true. But if they knew what we were rollin’ about, they’d be rollin’ too.”

Now fast forward some eight years later to a time when I lived for several months with my mother and my youngest sister on Seventh Avenue South—yep, I intend to devote some time and effort to pulling aside the curtain of time and revealing some interesting facts about life on Seventh Avenue South, life in a small three-room house just fifty feet from railroad tracks, a house with running water and electricity but no bathroom. Strategically placed several yards behind the house was a small tin-roofed two-hole wooden privy that served quite well for toilet purposes.

Our sojourn in that house, immediately adjacent to an active railroad lasted several months, an interim period during one of various times that we were separated from our stepfather and on our own, living life as best we could with the resources we had—spare resources, indeed!

Buster was my dog, a left-over from the time I lived with my brother in Maryland—yep, that is also a future posting—is there no end to this?!! Buster spent his early years as my brother’s dog, but was inherited by me when my brother returned to military service with the United States army. Click here to learn how Buster fared during my service as an indentured servant on an Alabama farm.

Now on to Buster’s breakup of a Saturday night worship service. On a special summer Saturday evening my mother and my sister walked several blocks to the church on Nineteenth StreetSouth to join the assembled worshipers—well, they really went to observe—and Buster, as always when anyone left the house, walked with them. He was a well-trained and obedient animal and stayed outside the church as ordered. However, he could see much of the activities and could hear the sounds, and at a moment when the sounds of the worshipers reached a crescendo he broke and charged through the open door and down the aisle to the altar where those that had been entered by the spirit were demonstrating the spirit’s presence, both physically and vocally. Apparently some of the sounds consisted of keening, high-pitched tones that aroused the bulldog to action—he joined the group gathered near the altar, howling mightily in tune with the worshipers, and pandemonium ensued.

Hey, I’m not making this up—I’m relating the incident strictly as I remember it from the tale told to me by my mother and my sister, with no embellishments other than those that may have been added by my sister—I wasn’t there so I can’t vouch for its truthfulness. I do believe, however, that the basic facts are true. My mother tended to go along with my sister’s embellishments, but she was not prone to supporting details that were obviously untrue.

The way my sister told it, some worshipers abandoned the church through the two open doors. Others climbed up on benches and crawled under benches, and still others exited through open windows leaving the bulldog at the altar, still howling. He made no effort to attack anyone. There was no biting or attempts to bite, but his presence and his howling was enough to empty the church.

After my sister calmed the dog and the congregation returned with its sanity restored—not all returned, but some did—the pastor politely but forcefully asked my mother if she planned to return for future services and if so, to please refrain from bringing the bulldog. I have no recollection of my mother or my sister or my bulldog attending later assemblies of worshipers.

So there—I’ve related the incident as told to me, succinctly and completely as possible—in fine (that’s Latin for at the end), that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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11th Street South and a stolen candy bar . . .

At some point during the time I resided at the house on Eleventh Street South with my family—three older sisters and one older mother—I stole a Payday candy bar. Yep, I casually strolled into Mr. Fuqua’s corner grocery store at the opposite end of my block, cruised around pretending to shop and purloined a full-grown Payday, perhaps the most exotic and tastiest candy bar in existence both then and now, and casually strolled out of the store undetected.

I stuffed the Payday into my pocket while the proprietor was busy with a paying customer and exited the store. Calendar points—days, weeks, months and years have dimmed considerably over time, but I can say with confidence that I was either six or seven years old when I stole the Payday, an age that most would consider a bit early for one to begin a life of crime. I hasten to add that shortly after the theft, on the same day in which I committed the theft, I reluctantly but firmly renounced that life—read on for the details.

I researched the history of Payday candy bars in preparation for this posting and learned that the Payday candy bar and I were born in the same year, an amazing coincidence. We’ve both grown since that time, but in opposite directions—I’m considerably larger—Payday, conversely, is considerably smaller and considerably more expensive—for a brief history of the storied candy bar, click here: Can’t get enough peanuts? Try a PAYDAY Peanut Caramel Bar, with sweet caramel and tons of salty peanuts.

As was Macaulay Culkin, the child actor in the Home Alone movies, I was alone at home that day and thus free to roam at will. My roaming took me to the store and started me on a life of crime, albeit short-lived. On that day I became a criminal—small time and insignificant in the overall history of crime in the United States but a criminal nonetheless, a doer of a bad deed—a lawbreaker and a thief.

I’ll fast-forward and confess that after hiding the candy bar, still in its original wrapper, its sweet caramel and tons of salty peanuts untouched by fingers, lips, teeth or tongue—at least untouched while in my possession. In retrospect, I felt that if my theft was discovered I could return the item, virginal in every respect and thus avoid prosecution and subsequent incarceration. I probably planned to plead guilty and hope for probation and community service at some place other than grocery stores with extensive candy displays.

I hid my purloined Payday in several places in my house. Each seemed logical at first but doubt soon set in and the hiding place was changed—none was satisfactory. I briefly considered hiding it in our outdoor toilet, but wisely rejected that location. At one point it spent some time beneath a bush in the vacant lot across the street from my house, craftily hidden under dry leaves.

I finally returned the Payday candy bar, that concoction of sweet caramel and tons of salty peanuts, to its original display shelf in Mr. Fuqua’s corner store, its wrapper a bit wrinkled from its unauthorized and illegal sojourn and covered with my fingerprints but with its innards pristine, ready for sale to and consumption by anyone with the necessary nickel.

I would like to believe that the proprietor of that corner store, a long-time friend of my family, was aware of my criminal act—that he witnessed its departure from and its return to the candy shelf and decided to overlook the incident, to consider it insignificant in the greater scheme of things but resolving to keep a sharp lookout any time I entered the store in the future. If he did reason in that manner, it was a good choice—I never took another item from his establishment—I was tempted, but I never again succumbed to that temptation.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

Oops, I forgot something—a few years later at some time during the conflagration of World War II, I rescued a turtle, a teeny tiny real live baby turtle with its one-inch-diameter shell sporting a painting of the American flag. I’ll save that story for a future posting, but as a teaser I’ll say that by my action I mercifully released the turtle from its display case in a five-and-ten-cent store, one of a chain that is now defunct. That little guy—or little girl, perhaps—such determination with turtles is quite difficult—lived a long and varied life following his—or her—release, rescued from and no longer subjected to the stares, giggles, anti-turtle comments and unlimited handling by untold numbers of an uncaring public. McLellan Stores were a 20th-century chain of five-and-dime stores in the United States. You can click here to read McLellan’s history.

The first image above shows the size of my turtle—no, that’s not my hand—I didn’t steal three turtles—I stole only one. The second image is a somewhat expensive representation of a turtle, size unknown—it’s available online for anyone with $995 to spare.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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The legend of Lee and his wives . . .

The legend of Lathan:

Internet research reveals that the proper name Lathan is pronounced to rhyme with Nathan, but apparently the folks in Alabama ‘way back in the past century didn’t know that. I don’t know how he spelled his name, whether Lathan or Lethan or perhaps Leethan, but everyone knew him as Lee. Then, as now, Alabamians have their own set of rules on pronunciation of the English language, and for that matter, rules for all other languages. Click here to read about names.

Lee was my first cousin, the elder of two boys born to one of my mother’s sisters. Lee’s younger brother was indirectly responsible for their father’s death from an accident involving a farm tractor. I will cover that in a future posting, so stay tuned.

Lee’s mother, my Aunt Ellie, figured prominently in my pre-teenage years. It was to her home that I and my youngest sister, a lass just eighteen months older than I, were shipped annually for our summer vacation. I know now that it was to provide some relief for our mother and two older sisters. Our banishment to Alabama for several weeks each summer was their summer vacation, relieved of the need to look after us.

I won’t speak for my sister because she’s not around to defend herself, but I must admit that I needed around-the-clock supervision. I was inexorably drawn to water in all its locations, whether pond, lake, creek, river, swimming pool, mud puddle or sewage ditch—yes, sewage ditch. Because of water’s attraction I had great difficulty staying home, a trait—call it a fault—that will be the subject of a future posting—stay tuned.

Aunt Ellie lived with her husband and children some five miles south of Vernon, a small town in west central Alabama that served as the seat of Lamar County. Vernon was only thirty miles east of Columbus, Mississippi, just across the state line—the towns were connected by a two-lane graveled road, the negotiation of which was an adventure in itself.

I’ll discuss that road in a future posting—I promise! Just as a teaser, I’ll say that my uncle, one of my mother’s brothers, drove an interstate bus for a company called Missala Stages—get it? Miss for Mississippi and ala for Alabama? Missala looks and sounds like something from Hebrew history, right? Right!

That uncle’s lofty profession was at the top of my wish list of what I wanted to be when I grew up. Another of my uncles was a city policeman in Columbus, Mississippi. His was the second profession on my wish list. I never realized my first dream. The closest I ever came was owning and driving a full-size customized van, a vehicle that I still own and drive around the block frequently to keep the battery charged. I did, however, fulfill my second wish—I became a federal law enforcement officer in a second career following retirement from military service.

And now back to my cousin—Lee was married five times, I believe. I may be off one or more—that’s one time less than five and one or more than five. There may well have been others of which I have no knowledge. Two of those marriages are indelibly fixed in my memories of my cousin Lathan.

His third, or perhaps his fourth bride was a 16-year old girl that his younger brother, a youth not much older than she, had managed to impregnate. The brothers were in the state of Washington at the time—many of my Alabama relatives migrated to that state each year seeking employment among the many apple orchards.

I don’t know whether Washington state law at the time prohibited coitus between minor girls and not-much-older boys, but it really made no difference in this instance. The girl’s father was not seeking legal retribution for his daughter’s deflowering—this was the proverbial shotgun-toting father demanding that the boy marry his daughter, and as might be surmised, the boy was in a state of panic. It was my understanding that the girl was willing—nay, eager—to comply with her father’s wishes.

Lee soothed the emotions of the father and his daughter, and skirted serious damage to his younger brother by saying something on the order of, “Hey, baby brother, don’t worry about it. I’ll marry her for you—I’m used to it and besides, she’s kinda cute.”

And so it came to pass—Lee and the girl were married quickly and remained married for a long while, at least as long as any of Lee’s previous marriages. I have no knowledge of the whereabouts and health of the bride, the baby or the father, but the brothers are long gone from this realm and the others probably are also—that shotgun marriage was consummated far back in the past century.

Lee had another quaint habit. He was known to cross over the hollow behind his home to visit the home of an ex-girlfriend, one then married to the man that owned the home. Lee’s visits were naturally made during the husband’s absence. And here Lee’s acuity in all things daring is demonstrated. He always told his mother where he was going—he did not feel it necessary to tell her why he was going and what he planned to do when he got there. His mother knew that he had learned that the husband was away from home and the wife was there alone, and she knew that the husband was subject to return later, perhaps while her son was still there and perhaps still involved in certain activities.

At this point one must suspend disbelief. Lee’s mother—my aunt—stood watch on the highway for the husband’s return, and if Lee had not returned by that time she would give a warning holler across the hollow to prevent Lee from being caught with his pants down, so to speak. Her holler was something that sounded like whooooeeeee, whooooeeee, a sound that could carry for a mile or more on a still night. I realize that some may consider this a Ripley’s Believe It or Not issue, but both my mother and my aunt—Lee’s mother—told me this story and I believe it.

Just one more story and I’ll close this posting. Lee was an irreverent prankster, and his ultimate prank was played on his last wife, a lovely lady that cleaved to her husband through thick and thin, and even stayed with him after he pulled this prank on her.

Lee’s last wife, the one he spent the most years with after marriage, was different from all the others. Lee said he married her because she needed to be cared for and there was no one else to do it. She was marred in the womb, perhaps, or could have been afflicted with polio or some other debilitating disease as a youngster. Her body was terribly misshapen, with gnarled arms and crooked legs and a prominently hunched back.

I met her only once, and the person I met was a beautiful woman, one that withstood and accepted the worst that illness, or perhaps nature, could throw at her, and she persevered. She had a pretty face, a brilliant smile and a personality loved by all that knew her. I can only think of one fault—she loved and married my cousin Lee and never faltered in her love.

And now for Lee’s joke—his wife had a specially built toilet seat, made to accommodate her physical features. One night after she had retired, Lee raised the seat, covered the toilet bowl with Saran-wrap and then lowered the seat.

The result was predictable. At some time later in the night his wife needed to empty her bladder, and did not notice the addition to the toilet—in Lee’s words, she flooded the whole bathroom.

He said that when she returned to the bedroom she straddled his chest and began beating on him with both fists. He was a big man and she was a tiny woman, so she couldn’t do much lasting damage. Before it was all over, both were laughing at the incident. Both are gone now, and may God be merciful with Lee when he pulls his shenanigans in heaven—if he made it to heaven, that is.

Everything I have told about my cousin and his wives is hearsay—however, I heard the story about the saran wrap from Lee himself. He was considerably older than I and we did not move in the same circles, but I believe the stories are true.

Lee also spent time in Walla Walla State Prison in the state of Washington on at least two occasions, both for passing bad checks. He was paroled from the first sentence, couldn’t find work and decided to commit suicide. He wrote a bad check for an old Cadillac sedan, another bad check for a garden hose and a roll of duct tape, parked under a highway bridge, taped the hose to the Cadillac’s exhaust, ran the other end through a window, taped the window, started the engine and lay down and went to sleep.

He awoke several hours later with a splitting headache, but was very much alive. He was told by the used car salesman that the tank was full of fuel, but it seems that the fuel gauge was inoperative and was stuck near the full mark. Having failed to take his own life, Lee returned home to Alabama and waited for the authorities to return him to Walla Walla for violation of parole—writing the bad checks.

Lee was eventually paroled again, and as far as I know he spent his declining years without further problems, all the while enjoying life with the most beautiful and sweetest of his many wives.

That’s my story—it consists mostly of hearsay, but I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Cowboys, coffee shops and overnight in jail . . .

The year 1948 was a really busy one for me. I began the year in high school in the second semester of the tenth grade, but I left school to travel with my family—stepfather, mother and sister—from Mississippi to Midland, Texas. Although dropping out was not my decision, I must honestly say that I was not too upset.

As a preteen and teenager, I was a voracious reader of adventure novels—Zane Grey was and still is one of my favorite authors.  I looked forward to being in the land of wild Indians and cowboys, horses and rustlers, crooked bankers and comely maidens, cattle drives to the rail head, stampedes and shoot-outs, fast-draw sheriffs and outlaws, snake-oil peddlers and bible-thumping circuit riders—I was not obsessed with all things western, but I was an avid—okay, rabid—fan.

I spent the rest of the year, at various times traveling, living and working in Midland, Texas and El Paso, Texas. In September of that year I traveled by auto with my older brother from El Paso to New York City, with a Sunday overnight stay in jail in Valley Park, Missouri, a small city a few miles west of St. Louis—it has probably grown a lot since then. On release from jail, we paid a brief visit in St. Louis to my stepfather’s sister and her husband in an effort to borrow gas money to get to New York.

They declined to help out, saying they couldn’t be certain that we were who we said we were—some really cautious people there. We only asked for $20 (gas was twenty-six cents a gallon in 1948) but they were adamant and refused. And here I will be just as cautious as they were by offering my apologies in advance if some are offended when I say that their refusal to help two people adrift on a sea of uncertainty may have been based on the husband being of a certain ethnic persuasion—if you catch my drift. Hey, give me a bit of credit—I’ve already apologized for the slut—oops, I meant slur.

The fact that my stepfather’s sister and her husband apologized to my stepfather and my mother at a later date does little to soften their refusal to finance the remainder of our trip to New York. Twenty dollars? The couple owned and operated an upscale coffee shop in one of the finest hotels in St. Louis. They could not possibly have believed that my brother and I were anyone other than who we professed to be—I told them things about my stepfather, both pro and con, that I could only know from having lived under his rule for some seven years.

Here’s a not-so-brief discussion of our futile chase of a wife, a bus and a train enroute to New York City. While my brother was at work at the El Paso Smelting Works (we lived in one of the company houses on-site), his wife took his wallet, his car and their two children to town, ostensibly on a shopping trip. Around noon on that day, a Friday, we received a call from a parking lot attendant in downtown El Paso. He said the woman that left it there told him to call her husband to pick up the car. My brother called a taxi and asked me to go with him to pick up the car. I unwisely agreed to go—big mistake.

We retrieved the car and immediately headed east. My brother had checked the Greyhound bus schedules and said that she had probably taken the bus and we could catch her in Dallas, more than 600 miles distant. He neglected to ask me if I wanted to go with him—he simply pointed his 1942 Mercury coupe, the one with the steering wheel lock hack-sawed off and the ignition system hooked up to the fog lights—yep, it was hot wired—turn on the fog lights and the engine could be started. We left El Paso and headed for Dallas with my brother driving—I was riding shotgun.

The Greyhound had a fair start on us, but we arrived in Dallas before it did. His wife and children were not on it. My brother then checked the train schedules out of El Paso and decided that she must have taken the train to New York. He said that we could beat the train to St. Louis, so we headed for St. Louis, another 6oo miles away.

A funny thing happened to us on that leg of our journey. We were only 27 miles from St. Louis, and had our forward motion not been impeded, we would have beaten the train from El Paso. However,  around noon on that Sunday in Valley Park, Missouri, a small town (then) just 27 miles west of St. Louis, we passed a drive-in restaurant where two uniformed city police officers were having lunch in their police cruiser, with an attractive young short-skirted female carhop leaning into the driver’s window. We were in slow-moving city traffic as we passed, so we had time to admire the rear view of the carhop, and that was probably a fatal mistake. The cops dismissed her and scattered gravel as they dug out in hot pursuit of us, siren blaring, red lights flashing and a bullhorn roaring Pull over! Just as in the old black-and-white Boston Blackie, Charlie Chan and James Cagney movies.

Following the stop and a few questions and answers, my brother and I were arrested, patted down and placed in the city jail. We were suspected of auto theft, and the police posed the probability that we were guilty and possibly had kidnapped and murdered the owner of the car—yes, they used those words, and repeatedly asked us what we did with the gun and where had we hidden the body of the person we murdered after stealing the car.

I hasten to add that the only thing we were guilty of was being stupid enough to first race a Greyhound bus from El Paso to Dallas, and then race a cross-country passenger train from El Paso to St. Louis, all the while driving a hot-wired car with the steering wheel lock hack-sawed off, three different sets of license plates in the trunk, no personal identification and no luggage. Add to that the fact that neither my brother nor I had a scrap of identification on us, and I had a handful of .22 caliber long-rifle cartridges in a pocket of my jeans. We were arrested on Sunday, and after our overnight jailing we were released just before noon on Monday. We were told that we could only be held 24 hours without being formally charged with a crime and booked. We were released after 23 hours in jail, with no apology offered, just an emphatic, Get out of town and don’t come back—just as in those old-time western movies.

We had valid explanations for the hot-wiring, multiple sets of license plates, no identification, no luggage and a pocketful of rifle cartridges, but the officers obviously did not believe us, and told us that none of our story could be checked on Sunday because the offices that could verify our story were closed and inquires could not be made until Monday. We  asked them to call our mother in El Paso and she could verify our story. We also asked them to call the parking lot attendant, but they had no interest in calling either. No computers could be checked, of course, because computers had not yet been invented—well, invented perhaps, but none were in use at the time.

The police station boasted two cells in a metal cage, constructed with flat metal strips rather than bars, located in a back room. Apparently the two sections were bolted together after being placed in the room. Each section was approximately 6 x 10 feet, and each had a steel bunk bolted to the middle partition—just the flat knee-high steel platform—no mattress, no pillow, nothing in the way of bedding.

The only other furnishing was a ceramic toilet with no seat and no lid, filled nearly to the brim with things that defied descripti0n. My brother’s cell was similarly equipped and similarly filled to the point of overflowing. I had a faucet on my side, and early in our stay my brother asked our captors for a drink of water. One of those worthies retrieved a pint milk bottle from a pile of rubbish in a corner, passed it to me and told me to get my brother a drink. The bottle was dirty, so I filled it partially and then shook it in an effort to get it clean, then poured the contents into the toilet, and that was a huge mistake. It stirred up the contents of the toilet and unleashed odors that filled the air and our nostrils for the rest of our stay. I told my brother that I couldn’t get the bottle clean and he wisely decided that he wasn’t really thirsty after all.

The cells were separated by a metal partition—I was placed on one side of the partition and my brother was secured on the other side. We could talk but could not see each other. The room had no lighting—daytime lighting was furnished by one double-sash window on my side, with the lower sash raised and no screen—the back side of my cell was against the wall with the window.  Flies, mosquitoes, sounds and odors entered with ease—sounds and odors seemed to come and go, but the flies and mosquitoes only came and never left. A single overhead naked light bulb mounted near the room’s ceiling far above the top of our cells served for night lighting—it was never turned off while we were incarcerated.

My brother and I were smokers—I had the matches and he had the cigarettes, but we were able to improvise. There were several small holes drilled through the partition, just large enough to pass a cigarette through, so he would pass me a cigarette and after lighting it, I would pass the lighted match through the hole so he could light his cigarette—we thus confirmed the adage that necessity is the mother of invention.

Late in the afternoon nearing dusk, I glanced out and saw a young boy standing outside the window and staring at me—he was probably twelve or so—I asked him if he would run an errand for me, and if he would I would reward him for it. He agreed, so I gave him fifty cents and asked him to bring back two packs of Camel cigarettes. Don’t laugh—in those days with cigarettes at eighteen cents a pack, a half-dollar would buy two packs with fourteen cents left over. With an apology in advance for using the word bastard, the little bastard took my fifty cents and never came back—hey, I said I apologized!

The cops came to us at about dark-thirty and asked what we wanted for supper, saying that sandwiches were available at a nearby restaurant. My brother and I asked for milk and two cheeseburgers each, and I must admit that the burgers were first-rate. As an aside, burger buns and burgers came in one size in those days—small—nothing even approaching the huge ones we enjoy today. We learned later that the food was not furnished by the city—our suppers were paid for with the few dollars they took when they searched us before placing us in our cells. If there was any change left over they kept it, because no money was returned to us.

There’s lots more to tell about our trip, but I’ll save it for another posting—this one has rambled on long enough. I tried to make it brief, but posting is closely akin to eating peanuts, running downhill and having sex—once started it’s hard to stop. Stay tuned for additional information regarding our jail stay, including a discussion involving a length of rubber hose.

That’s my story—partially—and I’m sticking to it!

I’ll get back to you later with more details.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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