Look Out, Roy!

roy rogers

Early in the history of our fair city, there was erected a special gathering place; a place of blinking amber lights and bright posters and pretentious, longed-for confections; a place that beckoned to visitors from town and countryside. This enchanted location was called The Eagle Theatre. The well-loved attraction was first opened for business sometime in the 1920’s. It was where the large, fancy gazebo along Central Avenue now stands; and for many decades was a wondrous, flickering Mecca for hoards of local movie goers.
Not only was it the host to many an old cowboy and mystery film; but the stage was often utilized by small one-night-only travelling shows, like a live wrestling troupe or authentic Hawaiian Tiki dancers. And cinema stars from that era would sometimes make appearances there to promote their movies- Bobby Blake, Roy Rogers, Bob Steele, Tex Ritter, Fuzzy Saint John, to name a few.
Jim Kearce recalls that back in 1947 when he turned twelve, his dad started giving him thirty-five cents for the regular weekend show, instead of the nine cents for a children’s ticket that he use to pay. Even so, Jimmy pretended like he was still eleven when he went. He would reach in his pocket and give the owner’s wife (Eloise- she sold the tickets) his dime, and she would hand him back a penny and a ticket. Then he would give his ticket to R. L. Bailey, the owner. (The Bailey’s had a daughter who was around Jimmy’s age, so Mr. Bailey was suspicious.) Jimmy would use the penny in change and the quarter that was still in his pocket to buy himself and his friends popcorn and RC’s.
He ran this little mischievous, personal scam week after week; for months, actually- being twelve years old while getting in at eleven and under prices. He said he believed that a devil was on one shoulder and an angel was on the other. He could always hear the devil say, “But, she doesn’t know that you had a birthday.” Then one night, Mr. Bailey raised a stern eyebrow and vehemently asked, “Jimmy, when are you ever gonna be twelve?” Jimmy’s eyes bulged and he said, “Next week!”
Years and years later, my kindergarten class had an early morning field trip to watch “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” It was 1968. The bus parked right next to the sidewalk at the very front of the theatre; and we all walked hand-in-hand into that place of wonder; calm and well-behaved on the outside, but exited and about to burst on the inside.
I had never been to a movie before and I thought it was the greatest thing I had ever seen: the daring, out of control car race; all the songs; the sweets factory scenes; the old, eccentric grandfather; the fantastical home of the main character, and all his inventions; the life-sized music box deception; and the absolute creepiness of that sinister child catcher with his giant butterfly net, somehow luring children into his wagon with sugary words and the hopes of candy- in spite of everything seeming so very wrong about him. The spasmodically flashing lights in that dark and narrow room were magical to me, somehow.
But perhaps the best story to ever come out of the old Eagle Theatre was something that shocked and caught everyone off guard one night long, long ago. The story goes that late on a Friday, back in the early 1940’s, the place was packed for a new Roy Rogers western flick that had just come out. All that were present were on the edge of their seats as Roy valiantly fought the bad guys- shooting and punching and outsmarting; trying to maintain justice in his small, dusty, one horse town.
There was a particular woman sitting in the cramped balcony, on the front row. She was a huge Roy Rogers fan, and was completely caught up in all the action; drawn into the movie like she was right there. At some point near the end of the show, as the local crowd held its collective breath, a villain (with his pistol aimed to kill) started to sneak up on the cowboy hero when the cowboy hero wasn’t looking. Unable to take it any longer, that same woman high in the balcony jumped out of her seat and hollered, “LOOK OUT ROY!”
With her arms erratically flinging the alarm, she jerked at an extreme and awkward angle as she yelled out to Roy, and lost her balance. She then doubled over the waist-high banister that was in front of her and let go a panicked scream. THEN her legs kicked up behind her, causing her to exit the balcony all together. The enthusiastic and unfortunate fan cartwheeled through the air and landed with a hard crash onto the preoccupied crowd that was ten feet below. No one was seriously hurt, but there was a lot of talk for quite some time about what ended up being the most exciting part of the show that night- of any night, probably.
Unfortunately, sometime in 1972, the theatre caught on fire. Leann Shoemake said that her mom actually signed her out from school to go and watch. The news of it spread quickly, and almost everyone was already there when she and her mom pulled up; out on the sidewalks and in the street- helplessly watching an icon burn away to ashes. It had been abandoned for a while before then, but the loss was still very profound for the whole town.
It was never determined how The Eagle Theatre was destroyed. Some say that a local vagrant got careless with an initially harmless flame meant for a scant, unimpressive little meal- or maybe a cigarette. And now, the memories and the stories are all that remain of the long-lost Central Avenue legend; the place where cowboys and Saturday night monsters and travelling side shows made indelible marks on the imaginations of every man, woman, and child who ever chanced to survey that fantastic, flickering stage. . .

Local Radio

old radios

When I was a young boy growing up on Pear Street, I remember all the early hours where my sister and I would sit in the kitchen before school, as we ate our oatmeal and bacon. The dial was always turned to WKMK, the local radio station. That station was such a regular part of our routine that the announcers seemed like family. A person could find out about the day’s weather, the community events that were coming up, who had recently died, hear the latest information of local advertisers, and give a listen to all of that wonderful and exciting music from back then, when flower children and small town heroes ruled the airwaves.

The station, which always had an AM and FM component, if memory serves, went through a format change or two over the decades, since its broadcasting began sometime in the mid-1960’s; from sixties/seventies rock and pop, to classic country, to new country, to southern gospel/occasionally contemporary Christian, and now back again to the same music that it started with- they call it classic rock these days. But regardless of the variations, it has had an influence on me that I simply cannot overlook.

I remember hearing the mesmerizing chords of Bridge Over Troubled Water wafting out from Mrs. Shiver’s open window next door- just after a Maloy’s Grocery commercial had been on, on a gloriously breezy day when I was about four years old. I was playing outside- trying to catch a few grasshoppers to put in an old mason jar- but I immediately stopped what I was doing and just listened to the words and harmonies, and the instruments. I remember how moving it was to be out there on such a serenely beautiful day, hearing that song. I was hooked! Years later, when I was maybe seventeen, the family moved in with my grandmother for a few weeks in the Fall; around the corner on Jeffry Street. One afternoon during that time, in Granny’s bedroom, a certain song came on WKMK- a haunting song that is (oddly) little known to this day. In fact, I have only ever heard it by way of our radio station three or so times from back then- no one else has ever played it, to my knowledge. It was an acoustical guitar-driven ballad called Half Moon Silver. It was so beautiful and stirring and somber that I got a lump in my throat as  I listened. Hearing that song on that day continued to shape my appreciation and aspirations for music, and created for me another strong and beloved memory- it was because of our local station that I ever heard it.

And after so much time has now passed, the station that still sits at the quiet end of Kelly Avenue (now known as WYBT, situated at 98.1 on the FM dial) continues to tell of the weather, the local news, and the events and special information that pertain to our little town. And it continues to foster my love for music, just like it did on that long ago day with my grasshopper jar. But it’s not only the music. It is also a comforting thing to hear all the familiar voices of the town folk interacting with the announcers on the Swap Shop every morning; the sounds of all their friendly banter drifting around the corners of the rooms, looking to find old tools, or used clothing, or kittens, or whatever else they might have or need.  I guess for me, the local radio station is something that is always there, either obviously or somewhere in the background, influencing me and comforting me in ways that I am sometimes probably not even aware of. It’s kind of like the musical score for my life, and helps keep me connected to all of the people and sidewalks and hidden treasures of this place that I call home. Thanks WYBT for the memories, and thanks for your continuing presence in our community. You’re doing GREAT!

 

Friendly Fire

fire

       I started a fire a couple of nights ago on the burn pile out back of our property, soon after darkness fell. The spot is near the woods in which a thin little stream bends and gurgles southward, eventually spilling into that lovely, sequestered tributary known to locals as Stafford Creek. The air of that fledgling night had a little early May nip in it, and the sky was so sparklingly clear that it seemed you could nearly see forever. There was a high and dazzling, yellow-white moon up there, companioned by a thousand/million scattered points of shimmering, silvery light. The wind was coming from variable directions- mostly gentle, with an occasional moderate gust- and was nice and cool, as it carried the pleasant and mellow smell of smoke and the dewy, freshly cut grass.

     While I was out there in my little tucked away corner of the world, burning several boxes, some limbs, and a couple of wads of plastic weed barrier that I had ripped up from the vegetable garden, I enjoyed listening to all of the echoey sounds: the neighbor’s children laughing from way across the street; an almost silent night bird that was probably wading in the shallow waters down in the woods; a far-off dog talking to another far-off dog from a different direction; the nighttime songs of the few crickets that were brave enough to cling to the dark and hidden places, under such chilly conditions; the changing breezes caressing and nudging rustling leaves up in the tallow tree; and the raucous noise of an engine racing- probably some young buck in his pickup truck out near the highway, toward the east. And I could hear the usual swamp frog or two.

     But the thing that was most noticeable on that crisp and wonderful night was the sound of the fire; once it stopped its flailing and roaring, as it ran out of most of what fueled it. It gradually changed to a soothing and comforting crackle and pop, and murmur- glowing a golden glow that was tinged with orange and greenish blue in the nooks and crannies, where the black plastic and a log from a couple of months ago were still slowly burning, until the flames eventually died away altogether.

     A fire like that can be a mesmerizing thing for some reason. A fire like that, along with experiencing all of the sounds, and the smells, and the beautiful mystery of such a night, can cause a person’s mind to go to wandering and wondering- at least for me it can. I start to thinking about God, or little green aliens, or the vastness of the universe. I might also consider how tranquil and wondrous all of nature can be, or how badly the nearby fence needs weeding, as the waning flames shed a dwindling light on the overgrowth.

     A fire can also make me think about the people that I roasted wienies with back in younger days; my long lost, beloved grandma; the friends who have moved on; and the new friends that will share future fires with me on future nights, when the cold air makes an inviting situation for needed warmth. But whatever crosses my mind as I tend the flames and stare at the stars, I can be guaranteed that a fire, whether for pleasure or for utilitarian reasons, will always be a warm and welcomed companion when a cold wind blows. Yes, I think that a restrained, worry-free blaze is sometimes the nicest friend that a person can have when the weary nighthawks soar to a far-off roost, somewhere away from the busy, complicated, and sometimes bothersome world. . .

Small Town, Small Time Gypies

fortune-teller

Since this little tale deals with the belief in hocus pocus- a topic which is often seen by many as an embarrassing pursuit; and a black spot upon one’s ancestry, concerning those from the past who were connected to it- most all of the names have been left out of the forthcoming account:

I recently heard this story where, back in the late, late 1940’s or early 1950’s, there were several gypsies who lived for a while in a little woodframe house where the Fairpoint building on Main Street is now located, here in Blountstown. There was a very superstitious townswoman that would take her grown daughter (who happened to live right around the corner from those palm readers) along on a regular basis to get their fortunes told.

Before too long, the gypsies started warning the two women that they were going to bleed out, that all of their food would turn sour in their stomachs, and all other kinds of horrible curses, if they ever told anyone of the subjects of their meetings. It seems that those small town witches were telling tales from the past, controversial tidings of then current affairs, and forthcoming prophecies, on much of the citizenry. Then one morning, the matron of the darksome clan told the mother that unless she gave them $12,000, she and her whole family would die after sunset that same day! The mother was so convinced of their supernatural powers that she immediately and frantically headed to the bank for the requested money.


Meanwhile, another of her daughters got a telephone call from Hilma Barbee, who worked at the bank in question- the Bank of Blountstown; it was a large, red brick building situated on the northeast corner of the present-day downtown fountain park. (Hilma had called because she was aware of the mother’s withdrawal, and believed the transaction to be highly unusual- such a large sum.) This daughter quickly notified her sister- the one who had been in on the meetings with the gypsies from the start. They then telephoned the sheriff, and headed that way.

The two made it to the den of thieves just in time, as their mother had arrived a few minutes before. The original daughter made her way to the back room, pushed aside the strings of purple beads hanging in the doorway, and grabbed the bag of money from the clutches of the head chiromancer- after shoving her against the wall. In just a minute or two the sheriff showed up, but was told that everything was alright, so he soon turned around and left through the front door. And just as fast, the small band of gypsies scrambled together to get in their vehicles and high-tailed it out of town, as they were already loaded up for a quick getaway once they had the money in hand, even though this time- they didn’t. They were never seen again.


Now that is a pretty cool small town story. It is a good example of “you just can’t make this stuff up.” Who knew that Blountstown had such crazy goings-on back in the day?

It Happened One Night

neighborhood-at-night-two

“Wake up Jonathan. Wake up.” It was some time after midnight when Daddy stood at my bedroom door, calling my name from the darkness. I opened my eyes, barely seeing him at first in the dim light.
“Huh?” I asked, with a foggy head.
“I want to show you something in the kitchen.” Dad said in a near whisper, and coaxed me out of bed to lead me through the drowsy silence of our house. As I followed him around the dark, mysterious nighttime corners that led to our kitchen, my slowly awakening brain tried to process why I was suddenly stirred at such a late hour, without explanation, just to see something in the kitchen.
“What is it?” I questioned, with my mind beginning to race; befuddled by the whole situation.
“You’ll see.” he answered.
When we got to the kitchen, my kid sister, Juanice, was already standing there in the dark room, looking through the sliding glass door at the yard beyond our carport. We joined her there and gazed out at the yard, too. The misty light from the early winter moon covered our neighborhood, and filtered its way through the glass in front of where we stood and stared.
“What IS that?” I asked.
“I think it’s Candy Man,” my father replied.
“Candy Man? What is he doing out there?” I questioned, even more confused than I had been.
“I think he’s asleep.” Daddy said.
The three of us watched as Candy Man stood motionless in the quiet stillness of our narrow north lawn. He was facing our back yard, and did seem asleep, or in a trance, with his head hung low to the frosty ground. He glowed in the magical shining of the moon, and I was mesmerized and full of wonder at the sight of him.
“I guess I will have to call Pop,” Dad said. “I hate to wake him up at this hour, but it could be dangerous if Candy Man stays out.”
Pop Peacock lived across the street, and Candy Man was Pop’s small, aging Shetland pony. Pop had had him for years. Some time during the late night hours, the little horse decided to leave his companion, Star (a tall, bay-colored Thoroughbred), alone in the large pecan grove that was their home. He must have squeezed through the gate, and walked over the span of the vacant lot that was next to Pop’s house. Candy Man then apparently proceeded to cross our deserted street; ending his short journey by snoozing in the quietness of our sleepy yard, for some strange reason.
Juanice and I finally crept back through the dark house to our dark bedrooms, and returned to the land of Nod, while Dad made the late night phone call. I can still remember how entranced I was at the unusual site of that scruffy little cream and tan colored pony dreaming on our lawn, glowing in the moonlight. Not to mention the mysterious way that Dad had revealed his presence to me.
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I told my friend Dot Ayers that same whimsical story over 40 years later, while I sat in the living room of Pop’s old house, as she was his daughter, and has lived there since the 1970’s. Dot and her husband, Jimmy, moved into that house to live with Pop after Jimmy finished serving in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Unfortunately, Dot lost Jimmy on Pearl Harbor Day a few years back, after failing health had left him bedridden for a time. Jimmy had finally surrendered to the effects of 92 years of heartaches and joy and everyday life. They were married for an unheard-of 68 years. I had dropped by to check on her that afternoon.
As the two of us visited there in her living room, Dot had her own stories to tell. She proudly told of life with her daughters, Japan, her cherished grandkids, long trips in an eighteen wheeler, and gardening, among other things.
And then Dot told me the amazing story about a wonderfully mysterious encounter she had two nights after Jimmy died, on the ninth of December. She was awakened around three o’clock in the morning by the sound of the coach’s whistle that Jimmy would blow when he needed her, as his voice had become weak. Then she heard him call out “Dot!” So she got out of her bed like always and walked across the short hallway, passed the bathroom, toward the place where his hospital bed was still set up.
“Jimmy, is that you?”
When she opened the door, Dot noticed that the room was filled with the most comforting and wonderful white light that she had ever seen. And as she came to the foot of the empty bed, she heard Jimmy ask, “Dot, are you okay?”
“I’m fine Jimmy. I’m fine.” Dot answered. “What is it Jimmy?”
“I just wanted to let you know that everything is alright.” he told her.
By now, Dot was sure she was wide awake, and this wasn’t just a vision or her imagination- it was all so vividly real.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” she continued, with a sad and troubled heart.
Then she heard the voice of her dear husband say, “Yes, I’m okay. Everything is fine. Don’t’ worry about me. You’re going to be fine, Dot.”
“Okay, Jimmy, good night.” Dot said.
“Good night- I love you.” Jimmy gently replied.
“I love you too, and always will.” Dot answered.
“Me too, I will always love you.” Jimmy said, as his voice faded with the dwindling, phantom light.
Dot closed the door and walked in silence, back to the spare bedroom where she slept. And as she rested her head on the cold pillow, Dot had an unexplainable, overwhelming peace come to her. It was a peace that eased her heartbroken mind, because she knew that her beloved Jimmy was going to be okay- and so would she. Dot said that she has experienced that same peace and comfort ever since.
What a beautifully chilling and awesome story Dot shared with me, in her home that day; and what a touching final conversation between a husband and a wife who had been together for so very long.
So, from now on, whenever I chance to walk down those old, cracked sidewalks late at night, I will think of Jimmy and Dot and a midnight pony; and all the people and stories that have shaped my life over the years. The old neighborhood sure is full of wonderful and fantastic tales.

The One that Got Away

swordtail-122

Dad’s sister- Bonnie, and her husband- Clyde (no joke), lived within walking distance of our house on Pear Street, at the end of a little road that shared their last name- Bailey Avenue. They raised three sons and a daughter in the bend of that dusty clay lane; along with a couple of loyal dogs, a spotted bunny, and a handful of dominecker chickens.
Uncle Clyde was a friendly and happy-go-lucky character of lanky build. He had a great personality, and would give anybody the shirt off of his own back if he needed to. He liked to spend much of his time in the creek that ran through the woods below their house. He loved to take us berry picking down there, or watch his dogs chase wild rabbits off from the thorny trails- to kill time when the summer sun pressed down. And he would often tell us kids about the fantastic creatures that lived in those dark woods- beasts that were born from his wild imagination: screaming meamies and waumpus cats and hootenannies and wawtoosies. He would throw his head back and laugh in a maniacal way after he described the creepy things they did, far off in that swamp at night.
By contrast, my Aunt Bonnie was a more down-to-earth and sensible person. She helped my dad out a lot by taking care of my mom and my sister and me from time to time; while my dad was in town at work, since my mom couldn’t walk. She and my dad were very close. They talked on the phone almost every day- sometimes several times a day back then in the 1970’s when they were each rearing their families. Even years later after so much time had gone by, dad would still call her up when he wasn’t sure if a certain spice was too old in its jar, or if the meat loaf was still edible after being in the refrigerator for seven or eight days. What would we have done without her?
I remember a day in July when I was about seven. Aunt Bonnie spent that afternoon at our house, clearing out expired groceries from the refrigerator and taking out the garbage before Dad got home. When she got finished with all that, and he still hadn’t made it in yet, Bonnie decided to clean up the small, five gallon aquarium that we kept a few fish in, in the front room. (Meanwhile, I was taking it easy in the tub; scratching animal pictures with my fingernails in the soap scum that had built up above the waterline.)
Anyway, that devoted, busy-as-a-bee aunt of mine emptied most of the water from the aquarium with a pitcher, into a bucket that she placed on the floor next to where the aquarium sat on the end table- so it would be easier to bring it to the bathroom to give it a good once over with the scrub brush. She would return the tank, with the eight or ten little fish suspended in the shallow water, when she was done, and re-fill it then. So, Bonnie soon started down the hallway toward the bathroom and said, “I’m comin’ in!” to warn me as she walked through the doorway that I had left open. She placed the fish tank on the counter, between the lavatory and the end of the counter; next to the toilet, while I continued to entertain myself.
Pretty soon, after Bonnie started scrubbing away at the sides of the tank, I saw from the corner of my eye something sail through the air. It was my prized orange and black swordtail, who had somehow figured out a way to get up enough good swimming speed to leap out of the shallow, murky soup at the bottom of the tank, and get air-born. Then I heard a confusing and unexpected sound. PLOOP! THEN I heard what would be perhaps the most sickening sound of my entire life, up to that point. It was the sound of the commode flush!
I quickly turned my head to look at my aunt and asked, “What was that?”
She said, “It was that stupid orange fish- he just landed in the toilet!”
I said, “Where is he?”
She said, “GONE!”
I said, “What’d ya do THAT for?!”
She said, “I AIN’T TOUCHIN’ THAT THANG!”
. . . I was pretty upset at first, but basically forgot about it by the end of the night. And I do remember being impressed at how my little fishy had the forethought and athletic skill to be able to leap from a shallow body of water, soar across the room, and land in another body of water several feet away- even if it did end badly. The ironic part of the whole deal was that the small, green, fish-catching net was right beside the aquarium on the countertop the whole time; and Bonnie knew it was there and could have easily used it to retrieve my sleek and gleaming pet; she just didn’t want to have any contact whatsoever with the nasty toilet water.
Aunt Bonnie was a dedicated and Godly woman. And I’m sure that she and my mom spend a lot of time up in Heaven, sitting on a front porch somewhere; talking and laughing, and remembering all the things that happened down here, during their time here on earth. I sure do miss them, more than I can ever say.

Adventures with Dad

cattle

Not too long ago, the family was sitting around a good supper table, eating a wonderful fried chicken and macaroni dinner, and remembering tales from the past. During the passing around of some huckleberry doobie, I reminded my dad about the time that I made him jump just a little, and a few other adventures. . . .

It happened way back in the seventies when I was in junior high school.  Dad and I were in a local store called Strickland’s Hardware. Dad was looking at some insulators at the electric fence section, right before we were leaving. I stealthily sneaked up behind him and tapped him on his backside, with a cattle prod that I found for sale on a shelf one row over- just for laughs. The problem was I did not know that the batteries were installed in the device. WHY WOULD THEY HAVE HAD THAT IN THERE?!!!! Well sir, Dad came up off of the floor about three inches and let out a good, little yell. Meanwhile, I headed back for the next aisle over, just knowing that MY backside’s fate was sealed. . . And after we got through laughing at the re-telling of it, my sister said that she’d bet money it was the only time Dad ever cussed. I said that it was a good test of his Christianity that he didn’t. Dad said, “If it ain’t in ya, it won’t come outta ya.” Hilarious!
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My father would occasionally take me to the cattle auction in Marianna, when I was a kid. Cattle auctions are usually set up in a large, tall room; with a semi-circular configuration of bleachers, set on very steep rows. If you are sitting at the very top (or anywhere below the top row, for that matter) you can look down toward the front and see the arena where the cows are brought in.
The auctioneer is bellowing out the bids. The individual cows that come through are bellowing out their aggravation. And the bidders in the crowd are actively indicating their pleasure; with a holler, or a raised index finger accompanied by a flick of the wrist.
As they come through, it is very interesting to see what each of the different livestock looks like, to watch their body language, and to notice how much money they end up going for.
But the best and coolest thing of all is what an occasional cow will do when he or she gets a little feisty. You see, every now and then a particular cow will jump, and carry on, and kick up its heels. (Cattle can be quite quick and athletic when agitated.) And if one decides to really kick up its heels, you just might get “lucky” enough to hear and see what comes out of the business end of a bovine go flying through the air- at an impressive loft and velocity. In fact, some cows can make it go all the way up to the top row.
Customers who frequent these venues often have to duck or shift in their seats to keep from getting hit with the stuff, but they react to this unusual occurrence with little or no emotion- apparently they are use to it. Even so, many of those who are regulars come prepared, utilizing raincoats and umbrellas. The after effects are here and there on the walls, and the seats, and sometimes the clothes and umbrellas and raincoats of the patrons.
Even to this day, it is utterly thrilling for me to attend one of these events. And I will admit that even though I love the atmosphere, and the cows, and the social aspect, and even the smells; the fresh, steamy, half-liquid, flying patties are the exciting highlight. It is AWESOME! (haha)
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One summer morning when I was probably just out of fourth grade, I went with Dad to take some diesel to the Overholt’s sand pit, where they lived off of Mason Road. My dad had a bulk plant and gas station back in the early 1970’s, and I would hang out with him on many-a-day, and do a little work with him. (I wasn’t into work nearly as much back then as I am now.) Anyhow, there was a pretty good-sized pond that had formed over time at the pit, as they regularly pumped out the sand- probably from an old creek bed to start with.
So, after we arrived and Dad hooked up the nozzle, he and I walked over to where the men were standing near this pond. Leroy Overholt, the owner, was there, and was casually playing with the moisture in a handful of white sand. He looked at me and said, “Here son, I want to show you something.”
He walked a few steps toward me, pulled open my left front pocket, and shoved that huge handful of wet sand- way deep down into said pocket. “Happy Birthday!” Mr. Overholt, my dad, and all the rest of the guys that were there standing around got a big laugh out of that one. Only one of us wasn’t laughing. The one not laughing had bad little thoughts going through his mind.
Then a few months later, Mr. Overholt walked into my dad’s Texaco station in town, asking to borrow a gas can, so that he could put a little gasoline in it. He had run out of gas in his truck just up the road. I was there that day, hanging out with my dad again (mainly for the hope of some ice cream- regularly begging and bugging him for some money, so I could go next door to the local Dairy Keen- I use to love their chocolate nut sundaes). So, I walked up to Leroy Overholt while he was asking Dad about the gas can, and said- “You want something to put some gas in? Well, why don’t you just put it in your pocket?”  To that he replied, with a tinge of amusement in his voice, “Son, you don’t have to hold a grudge for THAT long!” If only I would have had a cattle prod handy that day. . .