Welcome to My Autobiography

 

 

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Chapter Eight

 

No Brain, No Gain

 

††††††††††† The Owlsí football team won back-to-back state championships in 1963 and í64, and I got caught up in the mania. I went to all the home games and walked around and around the stadium during the game, stopping to watch when the Owls got close to the goal. It was like all the kids were walking around and all the parents were in the stands. I would cover the front of my shirt and pants with banners or ribbons for each weekís game. I even went with my aunt and uncle to all the playoff games. I was into high school football.

††††††††††† I already mentioned a star end for the Owls lived next door to Mommy and Papa, but also, the quarterback and one of the defensive players lived on my paper route. During the playoffs I made posters with their names and numbers, and wrapped them around their parentís newspapers. I always wondered if it boosted their egos.

††††††††††† I got so caught up in the hype that I turned down a ticket to see the Beatles, in Dallas, on Friday, Sept. 18, 1964, because the Owls were playing their biggest rivals, the Highland Park Scots. The Owls lost 6 to 7, their only loss that year. Iím not sure if I cried because they lost or I missed the Beatles to watch them lose.

††††††††††† When I think back to that night, I know why I cried. Good football teams come and go, but there will never be another band quite like the Beatles.I had played my Meet the Beatles album so much, I had every song memorized and in the order of which they played. To this day, when I hear a song from that album I automatically hear the next song in my head when it ends.

 

Random Thoughts about Jr. High and Angry Grandfathers

 

††††††††††† Jr. High school was thumping woody balls across desk tops, flipping coins and calling them even or odd, pitching pennies against the gym wall, and jerking ďfruit loopsĒ off the back of kidís new shirts. After a couple of my shirts were ruined, my mother started cutting those stupid loops off my new shirts as soon as she got them home from the store. I never was quite sure what those loops were for. I guess if you took your shirt off you could hang it on a hook.

††††††††††† Eighth grade was the first time I ever had to do a science project. The day before the projects were due I found a dead bird and cut it open, then put the parts in jars of rubbing alcohol. I labeled the jars with the names of organs, not knowing if the one marked heart was the heart, or the one marked kidney was the kidney. I canít believe I didnít win a ribbon that year.

††††††††††† That was also the year Mommy finally made Papa mad, nagging him about the electric wires that were stretched across the backyard to give him light in his clubhouse. I remember that day very well. He grabbed a pair of wire cutters and stormed into the backyard. I couldnít quite understand the words he was mumbling. I was standing at the backdoor and he shouted for me to turn off the switch behind the piano. There was a wall switch behind the standup Chickering Brothers piano in the den and, since I assumed it was on, I flipped the switch and shouted to Papa, in the backyard, that the power was off. Apparently the switch was already off and I had, unwittingly, turned it on.

††††††††††† As he cut into the wire, a spark of fire shot from his hand and the wire cutters flew across the yard. This time I had no problem understanding his words, because he wasnít mumbling. I donít know what happened after that, because I disappeared. As I mentioned in the very beginning, the only thing we own is now, and I wanted to hang on to what I owned, so I gave Papa a couple of hours to cool off. He usually didnít need more than five or ten minutes to cool off, but I had never seen him that mad before and I wasnít taking any chances.

 

Weed

††††††††††† This didnít have anything to with the incident with Papa, but I spent the first half of the summer 1964 in northern California with my uncle-to-be. He and my motherís youngest sister were to be married the next year. But for that summer he was still living with his parents. He lived in a little town called Weed that lay at the foothills of Mt. Shasta. In retrospect, it seems there was something prophetic in the name of that town.

††††††††††† I never knew I talked funny until that summer. The moment I pronounce the word acorn; akern, I was marked. They tried to tell me it was pronounced, ďa-corn.Ē A corn was what my grandmother had on her big toe.

††††††††††† That summer I caught a five pound bass. That was and still is the largest fish I ever caught. We went rabbit hunting. It was the first and last time I ever hunted anything except birds. I killed a jackrabbit and to this day I feel bad. I just donít have a hunterís instincts, although, I donít have a problem with fishing. One night we chased down and ran over kangaroo rats with a truck. Kids in small towns find strange things to occupy their time.

††††††††††† But, all-in-all it was a great summer of doing stuff I had never done before or since, while hanging out with older guys. Probably one of the things I enjoyed the most was the climate. The high during the day would be in the mid-eighties and at night it got down into the low forties. Back in Dallas it was a hundred during the day and maybe the low eighties at night.

In Weed I slept with a window open, under several quilts and it reminded me of sleeping on a feather mattress on Momís screened-in porch in the winter, an era that had long since ended.

 

Letís Hear It One More Time for Mom

††††††††††† Mom (the giantís mother) broke her hip that summer and her children put her in a nursing home in Winnsboro, where I saw her for the last time after I came back from California. It still brings a tear to my eye when I remember. She was over ninety and only a memory of the woman I had known. A woman who always took care of herself and didnít need anyone elseís help. In fact, she helped others, and mostly people who were younger than herself. We were told she was taking food to her sick neighbor when her hip broke.

††††††††††† I remember how she laid, helpless, in that bed and told us how she prayed for the Lord to let her leave that old body behind. About a month later God answered her prayer.

††††††††††† Mother, Joey, and I went to Momís funeral with the man mother was soon to marry. He was a Yankee from New York and he even looked a little like a red-faced Mickey Mantle. I didnít have any of the Mickís baseball cards, but I got a cheap imitation of the real thing.

††††††††††† I remember mother asking me what I thought of she and fake Mick getting married and I told her I didnít like the man and she shouldnít marry him. She got mad and told me I had better learn to like him, because he was going to be my stepfather.

††††††††††† To this day I donít understand why people ask your opinion of something when whey really donít care what your opinion is, unless itís in agreement with theirs. By the way, I never did learn to like the fake Mick and mother and I just kept putting more bricks in the wall.

 

The Only Trophy I Ever Won

††††††††††† I strove to be the best paperboy in the Land of the Gar, and I made it. To this day itís the only trophy I ever won. In the sixties they didnít give out trophies for participation. You actually had to win. I put every paper on the porch and, if it was raining, I made sure the paper was in a dry spot, even if I had to put it inside the screen door. We didnít have plastic bags, like they do today, to put the paper in (so when it rains the bags fill with water and turn your newspaper into a fifty-pound bag of mush).

††††††††††† I took care of my customers and many of them tipped me, but I did have a few who stiffed me by moving away without paying their bill. I had to pay for the paper even if the customer didnít. I do remember one guy who was never at home when I went to collect. At least, he never answered the door. I left notes on his door and in his paper asking him to pay me. Finally, toward the end of the second month, I rang his doorbell at 4:00 a.m. until he finally opened the door and paid me. He also canceled his subscription, which was fine with me.

††††††††††† Once a week the paperboys met with their area managers and went out soliciting new subscribers. They either paid you twenty-five cents cash, or fifty-cents in script for each new subscription. I took the script and ordered things out of their catalogue. I got a new stereo and a football uniform and a few other things over a two and a half-year period. I won carrier of the month almost every month. The grading was based on the number of new subscriptions and the fewest complaints. I got plaques for each carrier of the month award. The trophy was for carrier of the year.

††††††††††† I also won a bicycle, a trip to a dude ranch, and a trip to Lake Murray near Ardmore, Oklahoma. But the best was a trip to New Orleans. Fifty teenage boys on a bus trip to New Orleans where we stayed in a fancy hotel on Canal Street. It was the best time I had ever had up to that moment. My roommate and I went all over New Orleans. We took one of those bus tours that show you all the points of interest. We missed our boat ride on the Mississippi because we lost track of time. We walked down Bourbon Street on Saturday night and looked in all the strip clubs until the hawkers either closed the door or ran us off. We saw a man get stabbed with a broken bottle. Okay, it was across Canal Street, which means it was a quarter mile away, but I saw people shouting and running. We could have run across the wide street in time to see the blood, but we were too busy losing our money in a penny arcade. It was great fun.

††††††††††† Just a side note; why is it lots of locals live in towns that only they know how to pronounce like Nawlens, Lousiana / Dooírant or Puska, Oklahoma; yet I live in Dallas which is pronounced the same whether you live in France or spent your whole life here like me? Some people have all the luck. Iím serious.

††††††††††† I think I worked so hard to win the trips, because that was the only times I got out of getting up at 3:00 a.m. I even had to get up on Christmas morning and throw papers. Even if it snowed I had to throw papers. No wonder Carol Wayne was so nice to me when I took over his paper route.

††††††††††† When I won the trophy, I got my picture in the Dallas Morning News with a write up, and I was riding high for about a day. But that, too, passed. Fame is like a drug. You feel good for a little while, but then you always come down and it seems lonelier than before.

 

Get Out of the Way, Iím Driving

†††††††††††

††††††††††† I took driverís ed. in the summer of í64 just before I started high school. The first thing that comes to mind is the bloody, gruesome films we watched and second was trying to parallel park between two posts in a Rambler with a standard transmission. I never did get parallel parking down very well.

††††††††††† I got my driving permit before I started my first semester in high school, so I could drive as long as a licensed driver was in the front seat with me. Iím not sure what the reasoning behind that was, because I side-swiped a telephone pole with my mother sitting right beside me in the front seat.

Because of the parallel parking thing, I barely passed my driving test the second time I took it. But pass I did and I wrecked my motherís car two more times after I got my license. One wasnít my fault. A man rear-ended me when I was waiting to turn into the Dairy Queen.

By this time mother had married the fake Mick and we were renting a duplex just a couple of blocks from the house mother and daddy had bought when I was a baby. That didnít have anything to do with driving, but I just thought of it and stuck it here.

††††††††††† The third accident was the night before mother was going to trade the car in on a new Ď64 Mustang. She had let me use the car to throw my paper route and I had picked up Rabbit and Goober (the kid Rabbit and I had skipped school with). Rabbit had a paper route, too, and we were helping each other that morning. Goober had spent the night with Rabbit, so he came along.

††††††††††† When we were through, I drove to the newspaper managerís office for some reason that I canít remember, now. He always made us go down the alley to his backdoor. I guess he was ashamed of us. I know I would have been.

††††††††††† When no one was looking, I took Rabbitís jacket and threw it on top of the car. When Rabbit asked where his jacket was, I said, ďLook out the front windshield,Ē and I jammed the car in reverse and floored the gas pedal. We were all looking out the front, but the car was going back the other direction. I was waiting for the jacket to slide down the windshield, but before it did the car slammed into a telephone pole. The jacket slid down the back window. Goober didnít see that, though, since he couldnít turn his headÖfor about a month. It was one of those times you wish you could live over and this time actually think first. Did your parents ever ask you what you were thinking and you answered; I donít know, because you werenít thinking?

††††††††††† Mother wasnít too happy about it. Her rear bumper was broken in half, and so was the carís. She got less for her trade-in than had been offered the previous day. I eventually got to drive the Mustang, but not until the new smell was long gone.

††††††††††† I almost never drive backward while looking out the front windshield anymore.

 

††††††††††† High school was a strange place that first year, which was my sophomore year. During the first few days we were harassed and bullied by, what seemed like, every senior in the school. If you stepped on the owl mosaic that was on the floor just inside the main front doors, you had to scrub it with a toothbrush. Of course, the seniors were standing there waiting for you. It was a blatant case of entrapment. Why would you put something on the floor that no one was supposed to step on? Iím serious. I want to know.

††††††††††† When the seniors got their class rings, later in the year, they went around bopping the sophomores on the head. It was called ďringingĒ and it sure did.

††††††††††† On Mondays we came to school with our clean tennis shoes around our necks, tied together by the laces, and a tightly wrapped towel with gym shorts, t-shirt, jock strap, and white socks inside. If you wrapped them right you could play football with them before school started. If you didnít wrap them right your gym clothes would wind up scattered all over the schoolyard and guys would be playing keep away with your jock strap. Like I said, this was on Monday morning when everything was clean. By Friday, when you took them home, they were like having garlic around your neck. Vampires and everybody else stayed away from you. I still, vividly, remember that smell. Even the seniors wouldnít bother you on Friday.

††††††††††† That first year got off on the wrong foot and it never really got back on the right one. Instead of school work, I was thinking on things like: Why is it Andy and Opy donít have a tackle box during the opening credits of The Andy Griffith Show? Theyíre carrying fishing poles beside a lake, but they donít have a tackle box. What if they lost a hook?

††††††††††† There were other useless things occupying my mind like: was the color orange named after the fruit or was the fruit name after the color? And if you begin to count from one, would you die before you reached the very last number? How far could a blind person drive before hitting something? Anyway, you can see why I didnít do well in high school or, at least, why I didnít get off to a good start. I didnít end well, either.

††††††††††† I should have enjoyed art class, but I didnít. I had a terrible teacher. She was actually an English teacher who knew how to paint flowers and trees, and she wanted all her students to paint flowers and trees, too. The creative process was removed from her instruction and my artistic abilities have suffered because of her. Or maybe I just use that as an excuse for not being very good.

††††††††††† I remember painting a man hanging by his neck in a hallway that appeared to go on forever. I called it, The Infinity of Death. She held it up in front of the class and said my color scheme was good, and my perspective was excellent, but she was giving me a ďcĒ for subject matter and she wanted that to be a lesson to the rest of the class. She also showed us a great painting by one of her other victims, of a skeleton wearing an army uniform with a bullet hole through its helmet. She had the same type of comments about that work, too.

††††††††††† I donít know what happened to the artist who did the skeleton, but I started painting stiff works of realism that I did from photographs. I learned that I had a knack for painting exactly what I could see, but I never really learned to work from my imagination. I envy those artists who can.

††††††††††† To make matters worse, everyone in my family started bringing me photographs, wanting me to paint a picture in colors to match their furniture. I started knocking out bland, uncreative junk, and everybody was elated, except me. I was miserable and didnít know why. I thought it was from my inability to talk like Donald Duck.

††††††††††† For the next few years I cranked out paintings as fast as I could. I wasnít enjoying the process and it showed in my work. Most of the paintings were terrible. Iím sure that now most of them are in attics or garages or have long been thrown in the garbage, which is where they belong. I grew to hate painting and it showed, except for that little 8x10 canvas entitled: The Infinity of Death. I kept that piece with me everywhere I went until 1972, when I gave it to a friend, who had always appreciated it. I hope heís still got it and enjoying it.

 

The Cool Kid

 

††††††††††† In 1965 I thought Ken was the coolest kid alive. He had a skateboard, when nobody had a skateboard. His mother let him drive her car anywhere he wanted. She paid for him to go to private school, so he could let his hair grow to his shoulders. She bought him drums and every new record he wanted. He even had Beatle boots that he let me borrow sometimes and I would walk with my head down, watching my feet, pretending I was a famous rock star.

††††††††††† Kenís father was dead and my family said his mother was spoiling him rotten. All the kids envied Ken. He had everything I wanted: long hair, Beatle boots, and no step-father. My mother wouldnít buy me a skateboard, so I had to make one by nailing old metal skates to a flat board.I saved up money from my paper route until I finally had enough to buy a real one. The skates kept coming off the one I made.

††††††††††† Ken was the one who offered me the Beatleís ticket that I had turned down. I thought his mother was rich. Now I realize she was just in debt. She probably had some insurance money and her little house was paid for.

††††††††††† Ken had one major problem. Nobody ever said no to him. A couple of years after we graduated high school, his fiancťe broke up with him, and he put a shotgun to his head and pulled the trigger. It made me think that, maybe getting everything you want isnít such a good thing.

††††††††††† Usually the kids everybody thinks are cool are really just spoiled brats, like the girl who lived across the creek in a more affluent neighborhood. Her mother and father were divorced and she was left at home alone, while her mother worked and dated. The daughter was two years younger than my fifteen years, but a whole lot smarter in the ways of the world.

††††††††††† She asked me over to her house one day and she started kissing me, I knew I was in over my head. I had never been intimate with a girl before. I had never even kissed a girl on the lips. In Jr. High school someone told me what French kissing was and I thought I was going to be ill. The idea of someone sticking their tongue in your mouth was disgusting. If I had a choice I wouldnít have even had my own tongue in my mouth. Did you ever see one of those things up close? Theyíre disgusting looking and it corrupts the whole person and sets the whole course of your life on fire (James 3:6).

††††††††††† I have to admit, though, this girl was stirring up things in me that had never been stirred up before. When she put her hand on my thigh, I jumped up and told her I had to go home. I think I ran.

I should have kept running. (2Tim. 2:22)

 

 

 

 

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