Who is Jerr y
It sure feels funny trying to tell someone about myself; I mean it is supposed
to be human nature to talk about your self and I am sure it will get easier
as we go along. I suppose if anyone would know my father’s son, it
would be me. Now I have bad memory and will embellish all I can to
make my life interesting.
Some time back in 1969, a man named Carey Taylor Smith was in the US Air
Force stationed in California. The government jobs were good, but it
still didn’t pay as well as it should if you were just an enlisted man. Therefore,
many of these men, Carey included, took second jobs for the money (or to
pass the time or to meet girls). Carey was no exception. He was
the coolest cat in his rear view mirror. You know, the hair just right,
looking good, smelling good, and a hot ride. And that is the ticket
there – the hot ride. Carey had to pay for that ride. He took
a second job at the local McDonald’s Restaurant. Now back then, McDonalds
was an all Male establishment, meaning no females were allowed to work there.
On the social scale what this done was make for a great place to check out
the chicks. All the girls went to McDonalds, not just to eat but to
see if there were any good looking guys. I think you know the drill.
Now Carey and his good friend, Ken Hollingsworth, who just happened to also
be in the Air force with him were working at McDonalds one night, when two
girls came up. Ken had been working on one of the girls for weeks to
go out with him, but she just wouldn’t. This night, she finally consented
on one condition: they go out on a double date.
Now Ken was excited, yet never forgetting his cool, went back in to the restaurant
and pulled his mate to the side, Carey. He explained that he was in
a desperate situation. He just had to take this girl out but he needed
some one to take out her friend so he could double date. This was his
big chance. Carey, being the cool cat he was, told Ken to hold on and
let him go see this girl he was to take out for his friend. He strolled
out to the car where the girls were at, leaned over in the window, and introduced
him self. After checking the chicks out, finding out the girl’s names,
he nodded and agreed to take out the girl if she would go; after all they
were only going out to help each of their friends out. The girl Carey
was to take out, whose name was Karen, agreed. Then it was set.
Finally, the night came and they all went out on their date. All went
well from what I know about it. At the end, Carey took his date home
for the night. He walked Karen to her front door to see her off.
As he was turning around to go back to the car, she dared to ask him, “Am
I going to see you again?” Carey replied, “You never can tell!”
The next week, Carey called up Karen up to go out again, but on their own
this time. She agreed. He picked her up in his hot ride and guess
where they went? McDonalds. They were eating in the car as you
did back then (they were drive-ins; like in the old “Happy Days” TV show)
and Karen spilt her drink (Orange Juice I believe) all over Carey’s pants.
Karen said to her self, “Well that is the last time I will see this guy”.
But for some unknown reason, the OJ was the seal on the deal. Carey
kept going back to Karen time and time again, until on 20 June 1970, Carey
and Karen became Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
This may not seem very important to most of you, a nice happy story, but
not significant. How wrong you are! This was probably the most
significant event that happened since Moses parted the seas. If these
events did not take place at the exact times and places, it would not have
led to the most important event to date, my birthday. You see, Carey
and Karen just happen to be my parents, the parents of Jerry Allen Smith.
On an eventful day at the metropolis of Altus, Oklahoma, USA in the Altus
Air Force Base Hospital, specifically on Friday, 16 July 1971 at 17:22, yours
truly was introduced to this world. (You see, it didn’t take long for
it to get easier to talk about my self – a little too quick). Mom’s
first words were, “It’s a boy, Carey will be Happy” while dad’s first words
were, “I’ll be Damned”.
So who is Jerry Allen Smith? Why would anyone really care, save my
family? Well, that is what this is for, my family. Although I
feel I am a simpleton and not worthy of explanation, I also feel that for
those around me whom the Lord has blessed me with, those who have loved me
without reservation (thank the Lord), and those who’s lives I affect immediately
deserve to know these answers. This will be a small journey into my
life as an attempt to explain who, what, where, and why.
My earliest memories were not of riding on cotton sacks behind a plough or
having my gown trapped under the bed post. No I am not that old.
Dad is though. The furthest I can remember back is looking over the
bed at my Grandma Smith. I remember her lying on the bed as I came
over towards her. I was barely tall enough to see over the bed.
I remember her reaching for me, smiling, and putting her hand on my face,
and then she looked up at mom and dad behind me. That is all I remember.
I couldn’t really tell you if it actually happened. Strangely enough
for this to be my first memory, it is my only memory of my grandmother as
she died just days after on 7 May 1975. As I was born in July 1971
and she died in May 1975, I must have been about the age of 3 ½.
This isn’t too bad since I have a friend who claims he remembers being in
his crib. Thus, the first three and a half years are pretty much a
blur to me.
According to mom, I was 8 lbs 13ozs, 22 inches long, blues eyes and dark
brown hair at my birth. My hair turned sandy blonde soon after for
a few years. Mom recorded many things about me growing up:
My first words were at 7 months (Dadade, kitty, dog, thank you), my first
step was at 7 ½ months, and I scratched my finger once and told mom,
“The top came off, the blood will come out”. She recorded that I was
a daddy’s boy who loved cookies, crackers, and peppermint candy. She
said I hated being left alone yet loved to go to the library. Medically,
she recorded that I had bad ear infections and almost had to have surgery
on them. She said my hips were growing outwards or inverted and I had
to wear a cast for a long time. She also recorded I had to wear a bar
or leg braces to correct my pigeon toes and bow legs as a result of my inverted
hips. I was a mess. My spine is still like a corkscrew.
She tells me stories such as me digging up an old butcher knife in our back
yard and then climbing up the 7 foot fence in the back yard, waving the knife
like I was a knight saving the world. But bear in mind, I don’t remember
any of this.
The birth certificate says I was born at the Air Force base, but dad says
that we lived about 22 miles outside of Altus in a town called Snyder, OK.
I did a bit of snooping around on Snyder and found that this town was pretty
indicative to most of the places I would live from here on. Snyder’s
median income was below average, the house values were below average, the
house ages were above average, and the number of college educated people
was well below average. Mom told me that we were so poor that we didn’t
even have a refrigerator and she had to put my milk (as I was a baby) out
side at night, because it was much colder out there than inside. She
said sometimes it was frozen by morning. Dad says we lived there for about
3 years before moving closer to work, into Altus. Mom says we moved
across town (still in Snyder) a couple of weeks after I was born which seems
fitting. Dad could have just forgotten about that. Mom says we
had a neighbor in Snyder named Mrs. Ava Dempsey. Mrs. Dempsey was my adoptive
grandparent (and the first of many as you will soon see). Mom said
she helped her and taught her so much. Basically all Altus had going
for it was the Air Base. Yet we didn’t stay there long. Dad made the decision
to leave the military not long after and join the ministry. That is
right, he became a preacher. He went to Oklahoma Baptist Missionary
Seminary and College located in Marlow, OK for three years. We eventually
moved from Altus to Marlow in late 1974. Again, the town of Marlow
was below average in the income and education departments. Dad got
a job a meat packing plant (they slaughtered cows) and went to school.
Mom stayed home and looked after me. I vaguely remember the plant.
I can remember walking through the building in to a huge room in the back
and seeing the cows hung up really high from the roof. This apparently
was where the cows were placed just after they were killed but before they
were eviscerated. I remember leaving the room and seeing a huge field
behind the plant. I can even remember playing ball in this field which
seems fitting because dad said I through a baseball once through the front
window of the plant. This wasn’t one of those bathroom windows; this
was the big 5’ by 8’ windows. Dad said his boss, Bill Wheat, was all
that kept me from certain death (meaning Bill kept dad from beating the tar
out of me). Dad and Bill became good friends and kept in touch over
the years. Bill even brought his family to see us some 10 years later.
I remember them well because we were playing with firecrackers and I had
one go off in my hand right next to my ear. That was my last experience
with a firecracker. Dad has written me and said that Bill died about
2005. Ok, back to Marlow.
The next thing I remember was the face of an old lady. Mom has told
me the story many times although I don’t remember doing what she said.
As dad has surrendered to preach, we had moved to a house that was in the
center of town. Mom and I walked to town to pay bills and pick up dad’s
suits from the cleaners. One day we had walked into the dry cleaners
to pick up the suits and while mom was talking to the lady behind the counter,
I made my way around the counter and tugged at her dress. She bent
down and said “Hello” and then I asked her why she had so many “cracks” in
her face. Mom said she was so embarrassed, but the lady said to leave
me alone because that what it looked like to young boy. She later told her
that it was natural for little boys to be curious and not to fuss at me.
So far, other than my first memory, my earliest thoughts were of doing or
saying something that was wrong. You would think times would have changed
by now; but alas. The next memory I have of Marlow is at our new house.
Mom and dad had a three bedroom house built in an up and coming suburb.
It was a brick house with white trim (for some reason I remember yellow trim,
but dad says white). Mom had a friend here by the name of Jeanine.
Jeanine had two children, Janice who was my age, and a brother named Roby.
They were around quite a bit. I can remember Jeanine trying to teach
me how to write the letter “D” in cursive writing. To this day, I still
use her technique. We used to go places with her and her kids.
If you were privileged to have grown up in the Midwest you must have stopped
once at an “A & W” restaurant. “A & W” was a popular root beer
that even tried to branch out into the complete meal deal. The started
their own restaurant chain. The buildings were A-framed, go figure.
Don’t ask me why, but I remember eating hotdogs and onion rings on a picnic
bench in front of the restaurant with Janice and Roby. Jeanine wasn’t
always my friend, for she once ran over my brand new thick blue plastic skateboard
- Cracked in two. I cried all day for that. This was just after
I had already lost my new puppy. If I am not mistaken, it was run over
as well. Oh, the repressed memories. I really don’t know how
Her daughter and I went to kindergarten together. The school was one
big room with a partition in the middle so the group was split in two classes.
I was in one and Janice was in the other. I remember we were riding
to school together and she told me that her class was supposed to watch a
film (on history or something) that day. I was a boy and oblivious
as to what I was going to be doing. I just took it as it come.
My wife says I still do this. But knowledge is power, because when
my teacher asked me if I wanted to play with the moulding clay or play on
the “Fire pole” (you could climb on it inside the classroom and it had a
real fireman’s pole to slide down on in the middle), I chose the fire pole.
Why did I do this you ask? Not just because I am a boy and clay stuff
was for girls, but as calculating as a 5 year old could be, I chose to be
able to play in my class on the pole so I could also climb up high and see
over the partition in the room to watch the film. I thought I was hot
stuff. I got the best of both classes. Janice wanted to tell
me about the film, but I told her I got to watch it with her even though
she didn’t know it.
I can remember getting my first swimming lessons here in a big city pool.
I can see the pool in my head but that is all I can remember. I also
can remember mom going to the grocery stores and bringing home what we called
Green Stamps. Back then I didn’t know any better and just thought it
was neat to help mom lick the stamps and put them on a card. We were
poor and didn’t know it. I liked going with mom to the Green Stamp Store.
I can still see it; big high walls on a building that stood alone with a
huge green letters out front saying “Green Stamps”. They had all this
neat stuff you could get and all you had to have were enough green stamps.
I believe it is more like a Salvation Army store. Times were tough,
but mom knew how to pinch the penny. If it is one thing I have learned
about women, all women, they know how to make the most out the dollar. I
will tell more of my wife when the time comes.
Dad was a pastor or learning to be one I should say. Through his school
he had many friends and teachers. I believe one of his teachers, who
consequently were also a trusted friend, was S.K. Robinson and his wife Pat.
Now I don’t really remember much about them but I know they took care of
me while my brother was being born. I remember watching out the screen
door as mom and dad drove off (I can see it now; they drove off to the left).
I believe I was crying when Mrs. Robinson motioned me out of the door to
close it. I can remember seeing the umbrellas in a pot in the corner.
She took me to the dinner table and we started putting a puzzle together.
Then the world goes blank. Jimmy was born on 2 Jun 1976. He had
a bit of trouble coming into this old world. We spent lots and lots
of time at the hospitals over the next year. I mean he had three surgeries
before he was even one year old. I am, well over thirty, and have had
none. He was, and still is, a tough guy. It wasn’t long afterwards
that dad finished his school and a huge church in Clinton, OK (aptly named
Clinton Baptist Church) offered dad the post as pastor. Now this came
with what we call a parsonage as well. A parsonage is another name
for a house for the preacher and his family to stay in while there basically
for free. He took care of the sheep and the Lord had his sheep take
care of him.
Now it is 1977, I am 6 years old, and I have already moved 6 times.
Do we see a theme happening here? As dad was preaching we moved around
a bit more than the average person. And while we were in between moves
we travelled to other churches as well. I can remember going to one
old church some where in back woods Oklahoma (when I think about it I think
of a large flat plane of land with no trees and a lonely church in the sunset,
sounds funny but that’s how I see it). We were too far out to drive
back home and the church members had made provisions for us to spend the
night at one of the member’s house. After church we drove to this person’s
house and they had dinner prepared for us. We sat down to eat, but
I noticed that it was only mom, dad, and me (Jimmy was still a baby) sitting
down to eat. I asked mom why the others were not eating. She
said it was because the family couldn’t afford any more silverware.
They only had enough for us to eat. They would come and eat after us
and wash the dishes. She told me not to say anything and to be sure
and tell them thank you for the food. To this day, every time I see
a fork or knife, I think of that day and wish I knew where they were so I
could send them a whole set. I learned other things as well.
I learned that even though we had it tough, there is always some one else
out there who is worse off than me and I should be thankful for what I have.
I learned to give. These people literally had nothing, but they gave
to a pastor and his family anyway. This was their way of giving to
God. I pray God is still looking after them. And lastly, this
is when I began to learn about God, for I was learning why these people acted
this way. Personally, with all jokes aside, I have seen God working
in my life everyday. I hope I can bring this to light through out this
We travelled many other places including back to California to see Grandma
and Grandpa Marsh, mom’s parents. There are pictures proving the point,
but I don’t remember hardly anything. I do have an old pillow case
that my Aunt Annie made for me. She sewed in the nickname she gave
me, The Pest. I don’t know what ever she meant by this. Mom and
dad took me to the ocean for the first time while out in California.
She said I thought it was one big bathtub. I still do. Then on
another one of these trips I remember asking mom and dad if I could change
my name. I saw the cartoon Felix the Cat and wanted to be like Felix.
He was a cool cat with all the right moves. Mom and dad kept asking
me where Jerry would be. I said what do you mean, I am still Jerry
– I will be right here? They said if you are Felix, then you can’t
be Jerry. They got me so confused that I just dropped the idea.
Parents! On these trips we also got to see much of the country.
I remember the Painted Desert that never really looked painted to me.
I remember the huge dinosaurs at the Home for Fred Flintstone. I remember
the Grand Canyon. My little brother, who then and now fears nothing,
broke loose from mom’s hand and dashed for the rail that kept most people
from falling down into the huge canyon. Jimmy, not tall enough to let
the rails bother him; they were just like being on a play ground, for he
was swinging on the rails. Dad snatched him so quick; we were back
inside the building before we knew it. I don’t believe we have ever
I was still in Clinton, OK with an overactive mind and imagination yet I
can recall only bits and pieces of the following year. Can you guess
what happens to most people at the age of six? They get to experience
their first day of School. I don’t remember school too much, I couldn’t
tell you who my teacher was or where the school was. All I remember
about the school was one eventful trip home from school. You see, dad
had bought me a bike. She wasn’t the best looking girl in the parking
lot, but she had it where it counts. I can remember the small 20” wheels,
the rainbow banana boat shaped seat, and the long & high handlebars.
Yes, if I had tassels hanging from the handle bars, it probably would have
been a girl’s bike. I wanted the seat because it looked neat, but afterwards
I didn’t like it as it began to hurt my “nether regions”; thus I was always
riding it standing up. But it was my freedom. We apparently didn’t
live too far from the school as I was allowed to ride my bike to and from
school. I was one bad dude. As I rode home from school one day,
I can remember going down a hill. It always starts with a hill doesn’t
it? I was gaining speed with the thrill of the air blowing through
my hair and in my face. How fast could I go? I probably got up
to about 15 mph when I realized a brown object creeping up behind me.
As I looked around to see what it was, I realized it was a station wagon.
Ok, common sense would say slow down and move over out of the way.
Well, that is what I tried to do. When I turned back around to see
where I was going, I had already veered towards the curb. I remember
thinking I should have been on the sidewalk (or footpath for those of you
down under), but it was too late. I hit the curb with my front wheel
and began to wobble. Then I found some loose gravel on the curb which just
made the wobble all the better. The handle bars twisted around with
the wheel and the next thing I knew I as airborne. With my hand and
arms out I hit the ground, skidded, and rolled. I was wearing my book
sack on my back. The book sack and my hands are probably all that kept
me from hitting my head. God always has a way of taking care of us.
Other than a few scapes and bruises I came out alright, but that wasn’t the
worst of it. My bike, oh, my bike. I had lost my puppy, my skateboard
and now this. When I got up to find my bike, I noticed it was parked
neatly under the brown station wagon. It didn’t look my old bike, but
it had all the same parts, just rearranged. A lady jumped out of the
wagon and came running towards me. She eventually helped me get the
bike in the back of her station wagon and took me home to mom. The
last thing I remember is mom checking me head to toe while she was saying
thank you to the lady for bringing me home. I couldn’t understand why
she was thanking her; if she hadn’t been behind me I would not have lost
concentration and had the wreck in the first place. I would still have
my bike, such that it was. Let’s put it this way, I had a lot to tell
my best friend, Doug. Doug is the only person I remember from the first
grade. I can remember mom driving me over to his house to play.
But the only real reason I remember him is because of his friendship.
Let me back up just a little, Dad was post military. If you know anything
about the military, once you are in you can never get out or at least never
get it out of you. Therefore, it was on his advice that I assume I
received a military haircut at the age of six. Terrible year this was.
I hated it. All my friends at school were going to make fun of me –
“Look at the skin head”, “What’s the matter, did the barber screw up”, “Did
you have head lice”. You know all the usual comments. The first
day of school after this was painful, but I survived. Doug didn’t pick
on me. As a matter of fact I was going to his house the next day to
play. I remember mom driving me over that afternoon and Doug came out
to meet us and guess what I saw! Doug had gone and had his head shaved
liked mine. That’s right; my best friend in the whole world either
liked my haircut or felt my pain and joined in the fun. I have never
forgotten him for that.
I recon I may have actually hit my head during the bike accident because
after this I began to do some crazy things. I don’t know it could have
been the haircut as well. I remember one morning I woke up with all
kinds of ideas in my head before school. I was trying to figure
out how things worked (physically and mentally) and wanted to make sense
of it all. And all the time I was paving the way to become an economist.
It was here that I remember gaining my first real experience - that there
was more to logic than meets the eye. Have you ever heard the old phrase,
“trying to kill two birds with one stone?” I was a student of this
logic even at this early age. I tried experiments at all stages of
the day, even at breakfast. What do most young boys have for breakfast;
Cereal, right? You know, you have your milk for the cereal and orange
juice to drink; that kind of stuff. A young man of logic, unlearned
of course, with the intent on savings (economics) attempted to try his theory.
I envisioned saving mom as much milk as I could. I would just cut it
out all together. But you ask how would you eat your cereal in the
morning – dry? No way. I would use the Orange juice. I
loved cereal and loved orange juice and couldn’t give two cents for the milk
(I still don’t). I would just put my two favourite breakfast foods
together. The OJ was wet and would serve the purpose of the milk.
Thus mom could save on the cost of milk. This would kill the two birds
with one stone (cut out the milk in my diet and save mom money). Can
you see the logic? It really works out well on paper, but the truth
of the matter is that I forced myself to eat the worst bowl of cereal I have
ever seen. Pride would not allow me say it sucked. I experimented
without asking mom for permission; therefore, she allowed me to entertain
my theory. The logic all worked out, but the practicality of the theory
was just not feasible. Most would say that I was a stupid kid who didn’t
know any better but I maintain the belief that this was chalked up to the
development of a brilliant mind; the theory had failed, but the spirit lived
My next experiment was not so bright. To a young boy, church can be
awful boring especially to the son of a preacher man. I can not tell
you why but the mischief gremlin got a hold of me and made me sneak out.
I managed to find my way outside in the parking lot. It must have been
on a Sunday, because the parking lot was full… full of cars…cars with tires.
I was bored and checking out these cars seemed a quite more interesting than
church at the time. It was 1977, these cars were nothing really to
write home about but it was something to do. So in my Sunday clothes
I began kicking tires and seeing what was under the cars. I have seen
guys on TV rolling out from under there and I wanted know what was so interesting.
After a while I realized there wasn’t much there and went back to the tires.
I found a stem sticking out on every one of them. They wouldn’t pull
off. However a pocket knife would make the stems blow out air.
How cool. I know you are thinking why did I have a pocket knife?
Where I grew up and when I grew up was the country. My dad was raised
in the country. It was considered that every man wasn’t a man until
he had a Buck pocket knife. So the fathers always wanted their boys
to grow up and be men and they started them out early in life practicing
carrying a knife. The proper use of a knife was always explained,
“You always cut away from you son” and there just seemed nothing like carving
the bark off of a stick and making the ends sharp. But then you could
whittle with it as well. You could make animals, guns, boats, cars,
anything. An then there was the medicinal uses, like cutting string,
tightening screws, getting the dirt out from under your fingernails, or getting
that annoying piece of meat out from between your teeth. But occasionally
in the hands of an inexperienced knife wielder, they were used for experiments.
I also found that the same knife was good for sticking inside the stems on
the tires to hold the pins down and air came out this way as well.
I reckon I tested out 5 or 6 tires before Dad came looking for me and found
me squatting down next to tire. I don’t recall if he knew what I was
doing or if he really cared because I remember he telling me to get over
there in hurry and he walked me back into the church and I had to sit with
mom the rest of the day.
I don’t believe the following events were connected to the previous, however,
it is evidently clear that will all my experiments and mischievous endeavours
I had not learned the art of not getting caught. I don’t know exactly
what I had done; I could have had bad grades or something, but I remember
being sent to the room for punishment. I am sure no one remembers anything
like that. I shared a room with my baby brother and we had bunk beds.
I can remember staying in my room all day and doing nothing. Things
were not so tough at this stage because I remember having a 9” Black and
White TV on my dresser. But I was not allowed to watch it. I
was bored had to look at a blank screen all afternoon. However, that
night as I was supposed to be asleep, I turned the TV on and turned the volume
down low. It was late and the late night show was none other that King
Kong. You know the one where King wrestles the big snake and rips his
jaws open. Exactly, I was only young and got scared as well.
Well mom heard me came in and I got in trouble again. This time my
punishment continued. I went to school in the mornings, came home and
then I had to sit in my room, in my special red plastic chair till dad came
home. Talk about torture. Keeping a young boy still for any length
of time is unbearable. Again, I don’t know how I survived. It
was these types of actions that eventually prompted my parents to find an
outlet for me. Dad took me to a Boy Scout club house for one of their
weekly meetings. I remember dad standing me up on a table holding on
to me as I looked over the other kids and the scout master. I declined.
I just couldn’t see my self sitting around a camp fire in a funky looking
green suit. Then dad took me to a wrestling match. Not the fake
ones where they put on the big light shows; no this was the kind you played
on the mat in high school and went to the Olympics with. I had never
seen this before and I liked it. So I tried it for a bit. I remember
two things. I remember dad buying me some new gum on the way to my
first match. This was called Gatorade Gum. It tasted just like
the drink. I loved it. I can still remember the taste now.
It is funny how things stick in your mind for years that are as simple as
the taste of a piece of gum. The next thing was my first match with
some other school boy. He obviously was much better than me for he
pushed me down and jumped on top of me and wouldn’t let me up. I guess
I really didn’t get the gist of what I was supposed to do; I just knew I
didn’t want to be pushed, stepped on, or held down any more. I quit
that quick smart.
Now dad being a pastor, never really gave us a place to call home.
We were always moving and travelling up till now. We lived in parsonages
provided by the churches for the pastor and his family. So instead
I have many places to call home. I don’t really remembering that being
a problem for me other than I learned to keep to myself as I had very few
long lasting friendships. The next place was one I gladly call home
and could do so again. I don’t know the reason why we moved again,
but we packed up and moved to a place I am not sure was even on the map back
then. I kid you not, if you were driving down this stretch of backwoods
country road in Oklahoma and blinked, you would not know it was there.
In a way I think that is why I liked it. No one bothered us.
We lived as we pleased. There was never anyone new, you knew everyone
and they knew you. Now to some people that is a bad thing because they
like their lonely anonymity like in the city. People now allow others
to entertain them or expect things like the movies or bowling alleys and
such, instead of being with the family and friends, enjoying the beauty God
created around them, and being happy within themselves. Don’t get me
wrong, I love movies and the like, but it has never made me as happy as I
felt in Watson. I prefer the small town environment where there were
no pretences because the person walking down the street knew you and you
knew them just as well, probably enough to know exactly why they were walking
down the street. The name of this place is Watson, OK. If you
pull up a map of Watson, OK on the Google Website, the map it brings up doesn’t
even have the name Watson on it. That is how small it is. Try
to look it up, the zip code is 74963. The population for the entire
district is 770 people. This is an average of just over 7 people per
square mile. The population change is a negative 1%. This means
no one comes in or goes out. The entire population consists of 80%
white race and 20% American Indian. The average income per household
is $20,000 per year. Do you get the picture? I love it.
These statistics are from 2003 but it hasn’t changed since 1978. We
moved to Watson in 1978 and only lived there for a little over a year, but
I have so many wonderful memories there and some of our greatest friends
still live there.
The entire community consisted of two convenience stores (one carried food
stores and the other carried more garden and farm supplies), a post office,
one church, and a school that went from 1st grade to the 6th grade.
That is it. Don’t think the convenience store was anything like today’s
stores in the city. This store had one old-timey gas pump, one cooler
for drinks, milk, cheese, and ice cream and few shelves of food items.
As a matter of fact, a semi-trailer was bigger than this store. You
could have fit both stores in a semi-trailer. I remember they had the
best RC Cola’s and Mud (Moon) pies. The closest real grocery store
was 7 miles east in another state (Arkansas). The next closest town
of notable size (which contained places like a bowling alley, a Wal-mart,
or a car dealership) was Mena, AR as shown on the map above.
There was not an African American within a 50 mile radius. There were
however mountains, mountains springs and creeks, trees, deer, racoons, squirrels,
ticks, and religion. All of our friends were either farmers (chickens,
cows, crops); lumber jacks, or worked for the state of Oklahoma. It
was a place where no one ever went hungry, no one ever lacked friendship,
and no one locked their doors. It was here that I developed many of
the likes, dislikes, and loves I have today.
As you can tell there wasn’t many attractions to keep you busy; therefore,
we learned to keep ourselves busy doing other things. Religion was
one of those. As Dad was the pastor of the only church for miles, we
were the center of attention. We lived on about a 2 acre lot which
contained a small church, a gravel parking lot, and a house for us to live
in. I remember one street light just outside the church. At night
after church the kids and I would take the gravel and throw it up towards
the light. It wasn’t to be mean and break the light. It was the
Bats. The light attracted the bugs and the bugs attracted the local
bats. We would throw the small gravel rocks up towards the light and
watch the bats dive after the rocks, thinking it was a bug. This was
just another one of my many science experiments – learning about bats using
radar in lieu of sight, what they ate, and when they ate it. I had
many friends at church: Sheila Keiss, Vickie Keiss, Shoney, Jeff Turner,
Derrick Blake, Patrick and Paula Blake, and a few others. Sheila was
my sweet heart. We were too young for the boyfriend/girlfriend stuff,
but we liked each other nonetheless. We would always have competitions
with each other. Who could hold your breath the longest, which could
learn the books of the bible the fastest, who could write (or copy) and memorize
the bible the fastest, or who could throw the rock the farthest. Of
course my best friend Jeff Turner and I always one the rock throwing contests,
but Sheila was very quick and smart. I remember one Christmas dad had
the kids put on a play at the church of the birth of Christ. I played
the part of Joseph and Sheila played the part of Mary. I remember the
practices we had for the play always ended up in Sheila and I playing around
(like me trying to steal her baby doll we used for the baby Jesus) and not
practicing, but we would always try to out do the other in memorizing our
lines. She was the cutest thing I had ever seen up till then.
I don’t know what ever become of her. Her cousin, Vickie, who had an
older brother Kelvin, was our friend, but she always was more interested
in girl stuff. My family went one day over Vickie’s parents’ house
for dinner (as a pastor dad was always being invited to everyone’s house
for dinner). Vickie and Kelvin’s dad was a logger or actually he owned
their own logging company. They were the richest people I knew back
then when in reality he probably only made about $40K a year.
They had a nice dark red brick home just off the main road. It
must have been just after Christmas because Kelvin had just got the newest
and greatest toy ever. He had got an ATARI. For those video game
freaks out there, this was the very first video game ever out on the market.
Computers were still the size of a large room and only for huge companies.
We had never really heard of a computer back then. He had several games,
but the only one I remember was Pong. You know the game where a ball
bounces back and forth from one side of the screen to the other and you control
the bars on the each side. The screen was only black and white.
I am really feeling my age now talking about this. Hey at least I had
electricity, a TV, running water, and an indoor toilet. I was told
that back in the 1990s Kelvin was killed in a logging accident. We
went to several houses for dinner; it was just the thing to for the preacher
and his family I guess. I remember going to one particular family’s
house whose daughter was named Shoney. She was from what I recall,
a red head and freckles. We ate a tenderized steak with some veggies.
After I finished mom asked me how I like the meat, I said reluctantly it
was Ok, why, what was it? She said it was venison. I said what?
I don’t like venison! What is venison anyway? She laughed and said
it was deer meat. I was unsure for a while, but later I realized that
was the best tasting meat I have ever eaten and love it to this day.
Jimmy was about two years old then and I was about seven. I can remember
mom playing with us building tents in the house. We would take every
blanket and sheet we could find and use clothes pins, books, or what ever
to tie the ends down and made tents for us to crawl around in. She
made the small of our house seem like a whole new world; but I also remember
mom smacking me with the fly swat and making me memorize my times tables.
She bought a pack of index cards and wrote out the multiplication table out
from “0x0” to “12x12”. I used to lie on the couch backwards (my head
was hanging where most people put their legs and feet) and read the cards
out loud for mom. The answers were written on the back of the cards
to check if I was right. What mom didn’t know was that the couch was
below the window. When the sun shown through, I could hold the cards
up and see the answer on the other side without flipping the card.
Mom thought I was so smart, I knew I was. All I wanted to do after
school was come home and watch Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Green jeans (a popular
kids show back then). Imagine that, Captain Kangaroo and look where
I am now.
Other than the church, the house, and the gravel lot, the rest of the land
we lived on was in grass. Dad always kept a neat yard. He grew
up cleaning off fence rows, cutting grass (or in his case brush brooming
– if you don’t know what brush brooming is, it was a bunch of stick or brush
all tied together at one end and the user would beat the ground with it where
ever there was grass. This kept a nice tidy yard, dusty but no grass.
Back when dad was a kid they didn’t have or couldn’t afford a proper lawn
mower), and picking up dead sticks. Dad attempted to pass on this tradition
to his children for as long as I was under his roof. But by the time
I came on the scene, motorized lawn mowers were available; however, given
our current status economically, we were unable to afford the latest model.
Dad did manage to have what I believe to be the best lawn mower ever built,
the Lawn Boy. This green machine just never knew the words die or quit.
In 1978 in Watson, this Lawn boy was already 10 years old and if memory serves
me correctly lasted till well into the mid 1980s. Dad bought another
one then and probably still has it. This old lawn boy wasn’t perfect
always though. I remember the fuel pump went out for a while, but that
wouldn’t stop my dad. I learned to adapt, overcome, and improvise at
an early age and this has since become my family motto. Just because
the fuel pump didn’t work, wasn’t going to stop my dad from cutting the grass.
Dad took me off “Picking up Sticks Duty” to be a human fuel pump. He
put me on top of the push mower leaning on the handle bars and every time
the mower began to die (run out of gas) I was to press the Primer switch.
In essence I kept the mower supplied with fuel with the manual pump.
It was a bit dusty and little scary when we got close to the gravel, but
it was fun.
As dad used to keep the fence rows clean around the property, you could find
interesting stuff as dad stirred things up. Once I remember I had one
my school friends over to play as dad was doing his fence row thing.
I hollered out to us boys to come over quick. Dad had found a garden
snake. The snake was relatively short (about 10-12 inches), dark green
on top and light green on the belly. We watched him as he slithered
along the barbed wire fence, and then dad grabbed him. He let us touch
him and feel the skin. Then he asked if I wanted to hold it.
I asked if it would bite me, but dad said no – if you hold him right.
Now anyone should know that garden snakes were not poisonous but mom didn’t
care. I took hold of the snake being careful to hold the head close
to my thumb. Dad said, “Why don’t you go show your mom”. We smiled
and took off. I can remember yelling, “Momma, Momma look what we found”.
I ran up the wooden steps to the back screen door. As we walked in I snuck
up behind mom as she was at the sink doing something. When she turned
around there was no sounds, no screams, and no nothing. We couldn’t
understand why mom never said a word. We walked down the steps and
yelled out to dad, “She wasn’t scared, she just told us to get out”.
I was so disappointed. All mom did was move her mouth as if she
was talking and wave her hands towards the door. Later I realized she
was too petrified to talk. She hated snakes and dad knew it.
We let the snake go and went to play in my tree house. Now this was
no ordinary tree house. Kids from miles away came to play in my tree
house. There were kids there that even I didn’t know at times and we
knew everyone. As dad was cleaning up around the yard, he had discovered
a bunch of discarded lumber, plywood, and some old ¾” galvanized pipe
that was about 20’ long. The pipe could have been coupled together
but it was in one piece when I saw it. This lumber was in various pieces
and lengths and the plywood used to be the old church signs. Dad had asked
me to help him pull all this stuff to the back fence. When we finished
I asked him what he was going to do with it. He said build me a tree
house. We went to the farm supply store just walking distance from
the house and bought a bag of nails. Dad had a hand saw, a tape fold
out tape measure, and a hammer. That was all we had. In a couple of
days, dad had a ladder made out of 2’ 2x4s just nailed every so often up
the tree’s side and a platform between the major braches about 20’ high in
the air. Dad had cut the old signs up to fit flat amongst the tree
limbs and then braced it off with 2x4s up under it. Then he made wooden
rails around the edges. Eventually I had a one room house (about 4’
x 6’) with an open platform outside of that and access to climb higher to
another platform from the left over plywood. This was a two story tree
house – the best in the world. But we are not through. There
was so much lumber left over plus the pipe. So dad constructed a ladder
of sorts on the ground out of what was left of the 2x4s, and then covered
the ladder with the remaining plywood. He then took the pipe left over
and made hand rails on both sides of the ladder. I climbed up to the
tree house and dad threw me a long rope and I swung it over a large limb.
He tied the ladder to the rope and hoisted one end up to me. When he
got through I had a walking platform (not a ladder) to access my tree house.
No one had ever seen such a tree house. Not only the kids came from
no where, this tree house was the talk of the community for about a month.
The grown folks came over to see it and stayed after church to see it; and
it was all mine. I remember mom making me lunch and I took it up there
to eat every day for weeks. I could see everything from here.
I could see the mountains, the hills, and my neighbors who where very far
I had a friend who happened to just be a girl who lived just across the road
from me, but way on the other side of the huge field. Between us were
the main road and her dad’s fishing pond. Her name was Dena W.
I can’t remember the last name. We were not big friends because her
father was of a different religion, Presbyterian or Pentecost, I can’t remember
and dad was Baptist. But we rode bikes together and hung out near the pond.
We used to skip rocks from her drive way across the pond and throw the ball
together near the pond. One day I had a small rubber ball we were throwing
and she must have threw it bad because I know I wouldn’t have missed it,
but it ended up in the pond. I ran over to the edge of the water and
could just see the ball at the bottom. I kneeled down and reached for
the ball. I got it but pulled out more than I bargained for.
Attached to my ring finger on my left hand was a baby snake.
I have always called it a water moccasin but to be honest I don’t know what
it was. Fortunately, only one fang made it in me. I shook my
hand not because it hurt but because I was scared till it came off and landed
in the pond. Maybe it was because I was not supposed to be there or
something, but I don’t ever remember telling mom or dad that one. I
still have the scar to prove it. I also don’t ever remember playing
with her again. Instead I rode my bike around the yard and on the road;
which reminds me of another event. One evening I was out riding my
bike on the road - just up and down keeping the house in sight. A good
walking distance down the road lived a family that was pretty rough.
One of the older boys, I would say about 14 or 15 years old, was walking
up the road going to the store no doubt. When he was about 20 feet
from me he yelled out for me to get off his road. I ignored him and
kept riding around. As he got closer he yelled again to get out of
his way and get off his road. Now even then I had a large, quick mouth.
I quickly informed him that this was not his road and I could ride on it
all I wanted. Apparently this statement didn’t set well with him because
he pushed me off my bike and then threw the bike in the ditch. I ran
back to the house and told mom and dad what happened. Dad immediately
went outside to find the boy. After a while dad came back and questioned
me. He said the boy told him I had a smart mouth and deserved what
I got. Now my first thought was why dad didn’t believe me. I
told him what happened. Why would he take his word over mine?
I was right no matter what anyone said. He was just mean. To
this day, I don’t remember if dad ever believed me.
Now I was in school, the school that only went to the sixth grade, but that
was alright because I was only in the second grade. Not only did I
learn my multiplication tables I learned about basket ball and girls.
My classes were small so they put in my class 2nd and 3rd graders.
My friend Derrick Blake was in my class but a year older than me. His
mom and aunt both ran the cafeteria. Derrick had two older siblings
that were twins, Patrick and Paula who were just two years older than Derrick.
Their parents, Lester and Phyllis, and the kids also went to church with
us. The whole family and our family have remained friends for over
20 years. Mom still goes there on holidays. Anyway, Derrick and
I had the same teacher, Mrs. Williams. She was my favourite teacher
of all time. I loved her like a mom. I don’t exactly remember
why. She taught us not only English, math, and all that other stuff;
she was our P.E. teacher and basketball coach. She was of average height,
good looking, with long brown curly hair. I only remember her
wearing sweaters. I remember she didn’t have any kids when she was
teaching us and always wanted one. I do believe she got her wish some
years after, but I learned that Mrs. Williams was killed in a car accident
not long after her baby girl was born. I had a photo some where with
my whole basketball team including her. The picture says it all.
We were poor kids from the back woods. Or at least I was anyway.
The majority of the kids had tennis shoes to play in. We couldn’t afford
them, so I played in my boots and thick sock along the school uniform of
shorts and a shirt. I was so homely and skinny. Mrs. Williams
used to take us to basketball games with other local schools. I remember
many of these schools were mainly of Indian origin. One of these schools
had a gym that was so old; I wondered how it stood up. The entire building
was made of wood, the walls, the benches, the floors. Everywhere you
looked there were nails and splinters. When the basket ball bounced
it echoed loudly. But despite all that I enjoyed it.
I remember playing some game called Red Rover but to this day I still never
could understand it. So back then a couple of my friends, including
Derrick, found other things to occupy our time at recess. One of these
things was spying on one of the cutest girls in the school, Becky.
She was skinnier that I was with long blonde hair. She and her friends
would spend recess in the class room. She knew we were watching her
through the window as she pretended not to notice. We would be mean
and knock on the door of her classroom and run around the corner. The
guys dared me to kiss her one time. So I snuck around and knocked on
the door. When she opened it, I grabbed the door knob and swung my
self around and gave her a big (but quick) smack on the lips. She was
startled, but she just smiled. I, of course, ran away. Becky
and I were friends but I don’t know what ever happened to her.
After school was usually pretty fun. If I didn’t watch my TV shows,
I went to play at the old saw mill. Remember the town of Watson was
very small. I could walk 10 minutes from my house through the woods
and be at the stores and just across the road from the stores was the school.
But between the store and the house in the woods were the remnants of an
old saw mill. There were no blades or anything, just the old building
and the biggest pile of sawdust I have ever seen. As I had never lived
near and ocean, this was as close as I got to playing in the sand.
You could dig holes; jump and slide down the pile, and climb it. Even
during the winter, dad would tear up an old cardboard box from the store
and we would snow ski down the hill. It is not hard to figure out why
I love the country so much. We could do anything. During the
summer months, dad would pack up and meet our friends down at the mountain
springs (thus the name of the church, Sulpher Springs). All the Blake’s
(Lester, Phyllis, Patrick, Paula, and Derrick) would be there, Jeff Turner,
my best friend, and others such as the Willingham’s (TJ, Sharon, James, Thomas,
and they had a little girl) would also show up. TJ was also a pastor
at another church and became our friends as well. The spring came out
from the ground at it was ice cold which was fun in the hot summer.
The water was so crystal clear you could actually see the bottom as if it
were only 6” deep when it was actually about 8’ deep. We would jump
off the high bank or swing from a rope into the water. We took the
old inner tubes from cars or tractors and just floated in the creek.
We would stay there all day. If that wasn’t enough for us, we would
pack up and go to the Mountain Fork River close to Smithville. Here
we would take our inner tubes and brave the rapids down the mountain.
I would give almost anything to go back and swim in those springs again (with
every one else of course).
In the winter months, I would go to my Jeff’s house to play. We would
get up early in the morning and go down to his mom’s, Louise, chicken houses
to shoot the varmints (foxes, skunks, cats, dogs, or whatever tried to get
into the chicken house for a free meal). Jeff’s dad was always gone,
driving trucks. Then we would head for the hills. We climbed
so many mountains I lost count. I remember Short Mountain the most
as we would sit on the top and just stare out over the range. It was
here in Watson that I developed my love for the mountains. We used
to go Coon Huntin’ (racoon) and squirrel hunting a good bit, especially with
the Blake family. I remember going out one night and this time we run
the dogs. They were howling as if they had caught the smell of a coon
and we took off into the woods to find them. When we found the dogs,
they had treed three coons in the same tree. Sounds good right?
It was the dead of winter, snow on the ground, and the tree was on the other
side of the CREEK. That meant for us to get over to get the coon, we
had to strip down and cross the creek that was colder than a witch’s titty.
Patrick and Derrick both began to strip. I on the other hand only took
my boots off to test the water. I put my foot in and probably howled
louder than the dogs. I put my boots back on and said the coon ain’t
worth it. The boys kept going as I went back to the truck and fell
asleep. They came back finally with all three coons and the dogs.
The last time I say those guys, they still were picking on me about that.
The Blake boys were just like my brothers. We went every where together.
Lester Blake was a Fire Marshal (investigator) for the State of Oklahoma.
Phyllis, his wife, was in charge of the cafeteria at the school in Watson.
Mom didn’t work and Dad was usually free, unless he was studying or travelling
to another church to preach. This meant that we spent much of our time
with the Blake family. They lived for over 20 years in an old white
trailer that wouldn’t have been bigger than 12’ wide and 45’ long.
I remember coming in the front door into the living room. The master
bedroom was to the right and the bathroom with two more bedrooms was to the
left through the kitchen. I remember having Christmas there once.
We had 9 people (5 of us were kids) cramped in to the trailer. I got
a walkman cassette player with the cassette tape of “The Cars”. Derrick
and I listened to that for two days. My brother got a race car track.
When we got up, Dad and Lester had the track put together all over the kitchen
table and floor. I think they played with it more than we did.
That was the first time I remember we got more for Christmas than just clothes.
I didn’t really care about what we got; I honestly enjoyed just being with
everyone. I think I got some long johns that fit me that year as well.
Pat, Derrick, Jimmy, and I went walking through the woods just behind the
house once when it was just about dark. When all of the sudden the
loud noises were in front of us screaming and yelling. We were so scared
we ran all the way back to the house to find out that it was dad and Lester
trying to scare us. We got so many deer ticks on us we had to strip
down and roll around in the dirt to get most of them off then take a bath.
If we could count on anything going over to their house it was having fun
and eating Mexican. We love tacos and burritos. They were cheap
and easy to make and we all ate tons of them. To this day Mexican food
is still my favorite.
I remember Paula was old enough to go out on a date. Her date, Eddie
who was half Indian, came to pick her up and just before they drove off,
dad and Lester ran out to stop them. They asked what the matter was
with all the commotion and Dad just said he wanted to see this new truck.
Eddie was confused because his truck was very old. Dad said he had
never seen a truck that took two people to drive it, as Paula was sitting
right next to Eddie. They finally drove off after Paula got upset.
Lester’s parents lived just up the road and all the land in between also
belonged to them. Lester had cows, pigs, and a few chickens.
Derrick was so strong, I seen him pick up a young cow on his own. They
had a four wheeler as well. We were riding the four wheeler way back
in the woods checking out the fence lines and found one of the cows stuck
in the mud. She was pregnant and wanted to give birth, but had been
stuck in the mud for a day or so. We rode back to the house to get
help and a rope then went back. Derrick and tied a rope around her
head (not that it would choke her) and Patrick and I took her tail.
We finally got the cow out of the mud hole after an hour or so. Then
you could see the legs of the calf coming out of her. Obviously this
was wrong or backwards, but the calf was already dead and almost rotten.
We pulled the legs but only the legs came out. We had to reach inside
the cow with both arms and hands and pull out the dead calf. When the
calf finally came out about two hours later and it was almost dark, I remember
the worst smell I had ever had the pleasure of smelling. The vet finally
made it out to where we were and made sure the momma cow was alright.
I have smelled some bad things in my life, but that one ranks up there with
I really could just keep going on and on about Watson. We only spent
just over a year at this place but we packed in so much at this place that
is will always maintain a place in my heart. For a place that had no
shopping centers or major entertainment centers, we sure knew how to have
fun. But once again, destiny was determined to keep variety in my life
for soon we left Oklahoma to go to Mississippi.
Being a pastor was dutiful work and living in the parsonages was all good
and well, but there were a few problems. First of all we had no money.
Remember I was wearing my boots to play basketball. Secondly, we had
no security. And by this, I mean on this earth we had no real place
to call home, we owned nothing. And lastly, Dad was missing home.
If I am not mistaken, out of the blue, a company that dad used to work for
tracked him down and asked him if he was interested in working for them.
When dad was a teenager, he worked at the warehouse of TWL, Inc. TWL
was a small chain of retail stores like a Fred’s or Family Dollar.
A bit of history here about TWL. If anyone remembers a retail chain
store called Ben Franklins, you are doing pretty well or you are pretty old.
Ben Franklins was founded by two brothers. It was a small town retail
store catering to the small town public. It had a great beginning and
started to go real good. The brothers for some reason began to see
the future of the company in different ways; thus, there was conflict on
how the company was to run. The result was one brother retained Ben
Franklins and went on to prosper for a long time, till they just died out
in the 70s while the other brother took his portion and created another chain,
TWL. TWL stands for Thomas-Walker-Lacy. Mr. Thomas did not have
enough to begin all on his own, so he signed on two more partners, Mr. Walker
and Mr. Lacy. These three gentlemen are who I have to give thanks for
many of memories and not to mention my meals. Mr Thomas has already
died by this time and his nephew was acting a President, Mr. Toxy Hall.
Mr. Walker was still active there and the original Mr. Lacey had passed the
torch to his son, Mr. Lacy Jr. It was Mr. Walker who remembered dad,
who was nicknamed “Foots” at the warehouse, and tracked him down to work.
He made dad an offer he couldn’t refuse. This offer would put more
money on the table, give the propensity to buy a house, and in the same breathe
take us all back to Mississippi where dad was from. That was just too
good to be true; therefore, I believe it was God who worked this out; for
dad eventually found a church to pastor at as we will see. But that
was just it; Dad was leaving the ministry, his calling, to accept this position.
I was only 7 or 8, I can’t explain it. The fact of the matter is in
the summer of ’79, I was about to start school in the third grade in my third
school in as many years. I was in a new state. I was in Canton,
Talk about a culture shock, Canton was the place of all shocks for me.
I had at this point grown up in the Midwest, in the small town environment,
in the mountains. I had been to Mississippi before, but really had
no memories of the place. I had just left the best friends I had ever
had and moved to my dad’s home town. I knew nothing anymore.
I had met Grandpa Smith before but this time we had come to live with him
for a while. We lived on Washington St. I can see the house now,
pale – almost white – fibro tile house with a small front porch. The
porch had rose bushes planted out front that had survived since my grandmother’s
death. She had planted them. On the right side was the drive
way with a shelter to park the car under attached to the house. You
couldn’t drive the car any further, but the drive way led to the back yard
and the old tool shed. The shed has seen its better days and was packed
with everything, tools, chairs, beds, lamps, you name it. It had a
lock on the front part and a lock on a side door. The back yard was
nothing to speak of except for a few trees or flower bushes rather, the fence
the partitioned off the back yard of three other houses, and a huge well
built brick BBQ. This really was the center piece. Although I
don’t remember using it more that once or twice, the BBQ was very nice.
For some reason, I believe Grandpa and some other relatives built that thing.
The only thing left was on the left side of the house which was a swing;
a white metal swing that could seat three adults. Inside were three
bedrooms, a living room, one bathroom, a kitchen and laundry room - all the
basics. I was used to large spaces and being able to through rocks.
I couldn’t throw a ball anymore without hitting someone’s house. I
was in the city if you choose to call it that. Dad drove us around
the block to show us where we lived. Our house was old, but it was
one of the best looking houses around. Why? As dad drove around,
his purpose to expose us to something new as well; the house was in a bit
of a slum area. The slums were mainly occupied by Blacks. What
was a Black? I was 8 years old and have never seen a black person in
my life. I mean they were not just black in places, they were black
all over. I was scared for a while till I realized they were no different
than me; God just put a bit of color in the world with his people.
So not only was I shocked by leaving my friends, moving to another state,
living in a city, being confined to a yard in stead of a field, and seeing
a darker race than myself, I now had to start school at a new school, new
people, new teachers, new rules, and private. By private, I mean it
was not run by the government and could pick and choose who attended the
school. All this really meant was that is was an all white school.
This was my first interaction with the fact that even thought the Civil War
was officially over in 1865; segregation and racism still existed in Mississippi
in 1979. This school decided that since I had come from another state
(and from a backwoods school) that I would be tested to ensure that I would
be able to handle the level of work they required for the third grade.
Basically, they thought because I came from “Podunk, Oklahoma” I might not
be smart enough to handle it. I remember taking the test and mom telling
me to go outside in the playground to play and she would come get me.
About thirty minutes later, she came and got me and told me the results of
the test. She said the teachers were very amazed because my scores
revealed that even though I was in the third grade I was mentally at the
sixth grade level. This was good right? She said it was very
good and basically she started to make me work harder mentally at home, but
I will get to that in a minute. My first day at school was less than
exciting. All I remember was crying. Why? Boy do I remember
why, this school expected me to take my books home and do “homework”.
I had always thought that I was through with school once I left. I
though homework meant that I would never leave, I wasn’t going to be able
to go out and play. I had never been give homework before. For
an eight boy who was supposed to be thinking like a twelve year old, I sure
messed that up. Mom picked me up from school and helped me with my
homework. It wasn’t all bad. I eventually got used to it.
When I did get some free time, there were some kids across the road that
I tried to play with. One boy was my age, but he had three older sisters
as well. The only remember I have of them, is one of the sisters was
about to leave in a black Trans Am as I was coming over to see her brother.
She stopped in the middle of the road to say hello. I put my arms on
the door, to rest or lean on it as I was talking and she reached out and
grabbed me. She laid one big kiss on me. I just stood there dumbfounded
looking at her. She just smiled and drove off. I never looked
at her the same way again. Nothing else in Canton, MS really happened
or stood out to me. My Aunt Jenny and Uncle Terry with their son, Christopher,
lived just around the corner, but I just don’t remember anything with them
while living there. I know I was able to finish the third grade at
Canton Academy but as I mentioned earlier, mom began to work me harder mentally.
I remember school was out for the summer but mom made me go to the Canton
City Library. I had to pick out any book I wanted, mother approved
of course, to read. I picked out a book about Benito Mussolini.
As much as I hated it, I did learn something about him and history.
She then made me write an essay about it. It had to be grammatically
correct and everything. But this wasn’t the end; I had to get more
books. I was glad to hear that we were going to move again as it meant
that I didn’t have to do any more reports.
Yes, one more time. I am not yet 9 years old and I was
moving for the 9th time. Dad was being trained to be a district manager
and eventually the Director of Store Operations. His first port of
call was to be a store manager for a year. TWL had a few stores that
needed a manager and dad was given his choice to go to of which would be
his home base later. He chose the town with the best chance of a good
education for us. He chose Union, MS.
Union is a quiet little town with about 2,500 people. It is located
in central Mississippi in Newton County and is a low wage, good education,
and generally safe community. We arrived in May of 1980. Mom
and dad found a house to rent on County Line Road (as it was the border street
between Newton Co. and Neshoba Co. MS. The house was small with three
bedrooms, white with black trim, one carport, and had a small back yard with
a tree. If I am not mistaken, I remember climbing that tree and helping
Jimmy who wasn’t but 4 or 5 at the time, up the tree as well. I can’t
remember if Jimmy fell out or not; I believe he did. We were not in school
yet because it was summer vacation, but I was going to start the 4th grade
in August. The 4th grade year was something of a turn for me. Once
again I am in my fourth school in as many years with no friends, a new environment,
didn’t know the teachers, and didn’t really know about life in general.
Dad searched for us a church to worship at during the next month or so and
we went to the First Baptist church in Union. It was ok, but not what dad
was looking for. Then we went to a church called Greenland Baptist church
out in the country. The church at Greenland was in transition between
a pastor leaving and trying to find one. They asked dad to preach once
just to hear him. If I am not mistaken, it wasn’t too long that they
contacted him and asked him if he wanted to be their pastor. He accepted.
So there you can see the Lord works in mysterious ways. The Lord wanted
the word preached at Greenland. So he took a family from Watson, OK
gave him a job to support his family via TWL with flexibility in locations.
Then he led dad to Union via the education system, which brought him to Greenland.
It is so amazing to see how things always fall into place. As a matter
of fact, this all worked so well we were in the area for at least another
13 years. I started school in August, but by September we had moved
from Union, out to Little Rock, MS or Greenland Baptist Church. This
was move #10 and I was not just 10 years old. The church had a parsonage
or house next to the church where the pastor and their family stayed.
We moved in and this was to be where Jimmy and I grew up.
School was indicative of what I felt about my life – Separated. Those
in the 4th and 5th grade in Union were placed in what they called Middle
School as opposed to Elementary, Junior High, and High School. We were
not even on the same campus as the others. We were a good 10 min walk
away with trees in between where we couldn’t see anyone. At 9 years
old the class rooms were large with a huge hall way (I went back 10 years
later and it felt like the whole school had shrunk – small and narrow).
The big thing for all the kids was getting a paddling. The long dark
hallway was conducive to the echoes of those unfortunate souls. Yet
if you endured the pain, the embarrassment, the lectures you were revered
among the students. You were a legend. You challenged the system,
you lost, but you were “the Man” for a while till some one else received
the licks. Now these licks came from no ordinary paddle. This
paddle was a work of art. The teacher took pride in their art and even
gave them names. These named paddles, such as Stinger (as it was appropriate
to our school mascot – the yellow jacket), took on a culture of their own.
Their were some painted yellow and black of the school colors, some with
other more death defying themes, and there was even one, that those who had
endured the wrath of, could sign or engrave their legendary efforts.
There were those whose names were permanently there, but they were the one’s
who spent the most time with the paddle. The art took on forms of scientific
means as well. There were those that were wrapped in tape to give a
more padded effect but were sure not to slip off the behind and hit the back.
There were those that had holes drilled in them to theoretically allow the
airflow to pass though it quicker; thus, allowing a quicker swing for the
sting. The art was so well attended that in later years those who were
involved in Shop class (Woodworking, Metal working, etc.) would practice
making new models and giving them out to the various teachers. This
is probably why were separated from the rest of the school as to not be able
hear our screams.
I discovered this phenomenon of acceptance through defiance early in my years
at Union. I would ask the teacher if I could go to the bathroom.
If they agreed, I would walk down the hall and as no one was looking I would
lean my back against a class room wall that was empty and smack my foot (the
flatter the better) as hard as I could. This essentially gave the sound
effect desired that had the whole school going “Ooohhh”. Once the bell
rang for class to be over, you could hear everyone asking in the hallway,
“Who was it that got it?” “Did you hear that one, it was hard?”
It was the stuff of legends, albeit fabricated. When someone asked
me if I knew who it was, I would just slyly admit that it was me. I
was instantly accepted into the toughest crowd on earth, 4th graders.
However my thirst for fame soon became greed. My intuitive mind didn’t
follow through with the affects of repetition. I learned a valuable
lesson – there can always be too much of a good thing. My greed was
cut short when Principle Pinson caught me. Now this didn’t diminish
my status among the kids, but it did actually hurt this time. I came
face to face or was it face to butt with “Stinger” and believe me the name
was most appropriate. I had accomplished my goal in the long run and
therefore gave up the risk of getting caught again.
Now to make sure you are still aware that I was living in the heart of the
south. I was living in the middle of the Bible belt with pine trees.
I was in a place where most tried to give the appearance of righteousness
but would sneak away where no one knew them to do the things they themselves
condemned others for. That’s right; I was living in Mississippi.
This is where they teach you that it is wrong to, lets say gamble, but 20
miles down the road they build one of the largest casinos this side of the
Mississippi. Anyway, a group of my new found friends were all huddled
in a corner. I wondered over to where they were and they were throwing
pennies and nickels against the wall. At first I though cool, but then
I began to wonder why. Then I managed to get someone to tell me the
rules. The person who could throw their coin closest to the wall got
to keep all the coins from that toss. Is this where they get the term
“tosser”? I didn’t have any pennies, but I had a nickel left over from
lunch and asked if I could play. Once again I was cast in “the Man”
category as I played with the high rollers. The odd thing is I didn’t
know what I was doing as I played and every one said I won. I started
with a nickel and went back to my desk with a quarter. Things were
just going my way. I went home feeling like a champ. The next
I rolled into school with my back pack and head held high. I held it
high enough to see the Principle standing at the front door waiting for me.
Mr. Pinson asked me to come see him in his office. The asking wasn’t
the bad thing here; it was the grip from the man’s hand that was bad.
Mr. Pinson I swear didn’t know how to smile. He was a thin man of average
height who wore thick glasses. He laid his hand on my shoulder to direct
me in the direction of his office with a grip that could bring down a bear.
And not your average Boo Boo Bear mind you, but one of those big yogi bear
types. He asked me if I was with the kids who were gambling.
I told him no sir. I didn’t even know what gambling was. I heard
in church that it wasn’t a good thing, but I was the son of a preacher man
and wasn’t shown how to do it. He then asked if I was with the kids
that were throwing money against the wall. I told him yes. He
informed me I was gambling. And gambling was a bad thing. I don’t
know about the others who were in the crowd, but I got to see the Stinger
again. I was getting tired of this and I had only just arrived.
To make matters worse, the one girl in the whole 4th grade that everyone
hated and thought was ugly had a crush on me. How bad was this?
I was picked on everyday. Mom and Dad tried to explain things to me
and ugly ducklings and such, I understood their line of thinking but it didn’t
help. Even they giggled at it. Beth was her name I believe.
I think she moved to another school after the 5th grade. In my heart
I felt bad for her, but I had no need for a girl friend and she was bad for
my image. Who knows, she is probably some big time model now.
By the time I made it to the 5th grade I had become friends with Stinger
and good acquaintances with Mr. Pinson. I can remember one of our teachers
was Coach Nelson. His daughter was in our class. He taught science.
He put me and another boy up against the wall standing on our heads.
No it wasn’t punishment – it was to prove a point in science. It was
to show that even though we have gravity on the earth, when we swallow our
food it just doesn’t fall due to gravity. The food goes to our bellies
(whether up or down) due to muscles. Cool concept. Coach Nelson could
give you a hot concept as well on Gravity. A friend and I were late
for the bus to go home one day. We were running as fast as we could
with our book sacks. I remember running for the steps into the bus.
Just as I was about to jump to the first step my whole body sprung to the
top step, missing all those in between. I would have thought I was
superman if it wasn’t for the stinging of my behind. Coach Nelson was
one of those who took pride in his paddles. He just happened to bring
his along on this trip and used it to propel me into the bus faster than
I could on my own. He was always teaching me science. But fortunately
others were also watching me.
I was sent to a local shooting competition held by the local 4H club down
in Decatur, MS. I don’t know how I was selected or why. I just
know I went. I suppose it was some kind of gun safety thing.
The 4H Extension Youth Agent, Henry Morgan, took me and about 6 or so more
kids of various ages [most were my friends from school]. I remember
not knowing who or why I was there. Mr. Morgan told me to watch the
kids before me and do what they did. When it was my turn, I was given
my .22 rifle and laid down on the ground, aimed at the target and pulled
the trigger. Simple! Soon it was my turn again, I had to kneel
on one knee this time and shoot. Then again I had to shoot standing
up. That was it. The next thing I remember was Mr. Morgan and
me walking over to mom as she came to pick me up. He said, “Mrs. Smith,
your son… well, has done some unusual things today.” I could see mom’s
facial expressions change as if Ok, what has my son done now! He continued,
“It seems that Jerry will have to return with me in a week to…” [Mom was
now looking at me with a very stern look] “… To compete in the state
championship competition. He went down to the match today and scored
183 points out of 200 which was the second highest score in the State of
Mississippi out of all the age groups.” Mom’s expressions went from
disgust to surprise. After that I don’t remember anything, but mom
saved a newspaper clipping telling me what happened next. As the picture
shown here, they even put me in the paper to recognize me. Notice the
add, though. I am being congratulated on my shooting (hunting) skills
and my picture was placed just above the “Animal Health” section. Then
someone else noticed me.
One of my teachers, Mrs. Burroughs, noticed I was mismanaging my time and
efforts. She called my parents and scheduled a meeting. I was
to be given some test. No problem, I love a challenge. This lady
gave me all kinds of pieces and placed them on the table. She showed
me a picture and then asked me to duplicate the picture with the pieces.
Easy – it took me only seconds. Then they asked me all kinds of other
questions, all the while timing each question. I thought it a bit strange
but I was told there was no failing this test so I didn’t worry. Mom
seemed pleased anyway. A couple of weeks later we had to go to another
meeting with mom and Mrs. Burroughs. This time there were no tests.
They told me I made 148 on the test. At first I thought I did real
well. I didn’t know you could do better than a hundred on any test;
but it seems this test was some sort of IQ test out of 200. Mom said
that was an excellent thing and consequently they put me in another class.
But when she told me this and then put me in a special class I thought I
actually did badly; I mean 148 out of 200 is not even 75%. In our school
system (or should I say mom’s and dad’s system) you didn’t pass unless you
made 75% or better [An A=100 to 95, B=94 to 85, C=84 to 75, D=74 to 70, and
F=69 or below]. You know how they pull out the special people from a normal
class room environment and put them in a separate class to help them learn
better; it was a bit like that. I always called it Special Ed (Special
Education) for the slow or challenged learners. I found out later that some
of my new friends had also been given the tests and did just as bad as I
did. They were put in the same class as me. Shane Bishop, Ken
Blount, Angela Cockerham, Pam Burnett, and Sandra Collins were all there
with me. Here they created a Special Ed class just for us.
We must have been real challenged learners, but Mrs. Burroughs told us (looking
at me and Shane mostly) that we were not challenged enough in class and needed
another outlet for our “Creativity”. By creativity I suppose she meant
mischief. This was called the SEEK or Gifted class. I was a bit
sceptical at first, but it turned out to be one of the most memorable learning
Now don’t misunderstand me, this new class was not an all day thing.
This was EXTRA. Not only did we have to do all those things we were
normally doing with the other students, but us 6 kids were put in a van once
a day and taken to a renovated house which now served as a class room.
This class room was huge and had the most interesting things on its shelves,
such as brains from different animals, cameras, planes, rockets, and books
on just about any topic a 10 year old would be interested in. Behind
a desk sat a tall lady with dark red hair and a stern yet kind look on her
face. Her name was Mrs. Richardson. I wasn’t too upset with the
arrangements because I had grown quite attached to Mrs. Burroughs as she
became my favorite teacher and I still got to be in her class every day.
She was the one who helped me discover my most favorite place in the world.
She taught us an art class one day and asked us to draw our favorite thing.
Others drew boats, cars, clothes, their pets, and such. I drew Mountains.
I don’t know what prompted me to draw mountains; maybe it was that I missed
the Oklahoma Mountains in Watson, maybe it was that I missed the Rocky Mountains
where grandpa and grandma march lived; or maybe it was a premonition of me
seeing the Smokey Mountains for the first time. What ever it was, I
have been in love with the mountains ever since.
Alright back to the EXTRA class. Mrs. Richardson was probably one of
the coolest teachers, but she had that streak in her that wouldn’t let you
get out of line too far. She had three kids of her own. We would
do the most interesting things in her class. We were only in the 5th
grade and we were doing things that even 10th graders wished. We were
able to dissect a bird to study the anatomy. I know for a fact when
I call some one a bird brain what one actually looks like. They are
so small. We each built our individual working black & white camera.
Mrs. Richardson gave us the task to write a story. Now this was no
quick story, it was to be perfect in grammar, spelling, prose, tense, and
even the format had to be correct. But this story also had the added
feature of pictures. We were to be creative and think. We were
to take our cameras and take photos to go with our story. We were to
take the photos and develop them ourselves in the darkroom and then used
them in our book. How cool was this to a 10 year old. Positives,
Negatives, Photons, solutions, red lights – this was the stuff that channelled
our minds. Yet as our minds were being challenged we still were able
to get up to mischief. I remember one day Mrs. Richardson asked Shane
and me to go to her car and get the bags out of the back. As we were
getting them out one of the bags broke. It had two bottles of Ginger
Ale. So what you say! Well no matter how smart the books said
we were, we were still kids. We were just smart enough to be dangerous.
Shane and I thought because the bottles had the word “Ale” on it that it
would have been close to something like alcohol, or at least beer.
Don’t laugh, it could have been you. Shane and I opened one of the
bottles and each took a drink thinking we were sneaking a swig. It
tasted nice but fizzy like coke. We were disappointed because it was
no big deal.
Another project was to create a robot. Remember this was 1981.
Computers were just beginning to come out small. Most were small boxes
with black screens and green or orange letters. They only operated
on a DOS system. Windows had not been invented, nor had spread sheets,
word processors, graphics, or games. The biggest video game was ATARI
or Coleco Vision. Nintendo wasn’t even around yet. So to build
a robot was something that was next to NASA stuff. Now each school
in the state was supposed to have a class that was similar to ours.
And every so often we would compete against the other schools in things like
games and puzzles. This particular time we were to build a robot with
a series of rules that would go through a maze and pick up items without
dropping them or touching the walls. The Team that made it through
the maze with the most items, while not touching the walls, and reached the
end the quickest, won. Talk about a challenge. We were 5th graders;
yet up to the challenge. Ken Blount, on of the guys in my class, had
a toy at home we used to create our robot. It already could move on
wheels so we gave it arms with a scoop and then we had to program it.
That’s right; we had to be computer programmers in this project. Once
we programmed the toy to move and pick up things, we then had to program
it to follow the maze without touching the walls. This was hard.
We practiced with our robot picking up tennis balls. When we got to
the competition they had ping pong balls – easy. Actually we won the
state championship that year with the robot, but didn’t have the budget for
all to go to the nationals. I believe Angela and Sandra went with Mrs.
Richardson to the nationals and we lost to some other SMARTER team.
Cool stuff? There’s more. We had competitions with medieval times.
We had to create our own uniforms (Knights, Maidens, Dragons, the works)
along with shields and swords. Then we were to devise a coded communication
system (no speaking allowed) for one person to direct the other 5 of us each
though a maze (of which we had never seen) to fight dragons, capture the
enemy, and save the damsels (all again with out touching the walls of the
maze and finding our way through it the quickest). Pretty cool, hey?
I thought so. Next, she had us create our own rockets. No, not
a model that sat on the shelf, but a real honest to goodness rocket that
would fly. We had to study propulsion, aerodynamics, physics, and math
to get all our calculations correct. We each created our own rockets.
Then the teacher took us out the local ball park to test them out.
We had a gadget that if we held the trigger and aimed it at the rocket as
it took off we could tell how high it went. Every one’s rocket went
between 100 and 200 feet except for mine. I “apparently” forgot to
load and extra wadding in the tube (if you have ever made your own shot gun
shells you will know what I am talking about). This made my rocket
burn hard and fast. Little to the others knowledge (except maybe Ken
and Shane) I didn’t forget to leave it out – I did it on purpose. As
I ignited mine, it made it to just 99 feet and then exploded. I created
to what was essentially a flying stick of dynamite. Shane and I thought
it was so cool. For some reason Mrs. Richardson didn’t let us make
any more rockets. We went on to other subjects.
You would think all this school work and studying would take up all my time,
but that was quite the contrary. Dad had me playing Little League Baseball
too. Each of the local businesses donated money to sponsor a team and
buy uniforms and equipment. I played for the Middleton Shirt Factory.
Our uniforms were Navy blue and white. I had pants that were white
with blue pin stripes, a cool hat with a big letter M on it, and a blue shirt
with my name on it. All of my pals played for the other teams.
So I was on a team that I didn’t know anyone. Some of the guys were
what seemed to me three times my size and big bullies. I was the runt
of the litter. The coach my first year was Coach Knight. His
son played on our team. He put me in the outfield. Now in little
league most of the boys are not big enough to hit the ball out there so if
I wasn’t trying to catch fly balls I was trying to catch butterflies.
Dad and mom said I was pretty good at catching those butterflies the first
year. The next year (age 10), we had a new coach, Coach Henry.
Now Coach Henry’s son played for us as well, but the Coach really loved baseball
and made us all practice hard. His son, Steritt, was very good.
I believe he went on to play for some big name college some where.
Coach Henry brought me in from the outfield. It always seems that my
entire life, my mind is always wandering out some where on things other than
where I was. But once I was forced to focus on the task at hand I could
do anything. He put me as the short stop. Apparently in practices
I had shown him some thing that he liked. If you guys know about base
ball, short stop is where most of the balls are hit. I liked this spot,
I was busy and under pressure – I stayed focused. Mom says I stayed
so focused that I developed a habit of chewing my shirt collar. I am
not sure I ever lost this habit looking at all my T-shirts now. Then
the coach tried me every where, Third base, Second Base, First Base, Catcher,
and finally Pitcher. I wasn’t a bad pitcher, but I never mastered that
curve ball thing. I don’t know if Coach Henry took an interest in all
his players, but he took a special interest in me over the years. I
had a bat at home I played with. Dad and I took it over to the Coach’s
house and he drilled a hole down the center of the bat and filled it up with
LEAD. He made me practice every day swinging the bat 50 times.
When the time came to bat during a game, when the pitcher threw me the ball
I could swing and hit the ball all the way to the fence. I got a couple
of home runs but never from knocking it over the fence. That was the
coolest. Only a few guys on our team could do that, but remember they
were “three” times my size. Win or loose, we were all treated as winners
after the game. Every parent was there and supported their children.
Afterwards we would all go for snow cones, hamburgers, or pizza. What
Ok, I am a part of the community now. Dad has been promoted to District
Manager with his district office at the Union Store. He is still pastoring
at Greenland Baptist church. Some of the members didn’t like what dad
was preaching and caused a big stink, but dad weathered the storm and they
left the church. I learned many things from dad like that. I
remember an old country song that said something like “You have got to stand
up for what you believe it right, Right or wrong. So everyone will
know which side you are on”. It may have appeared to be arrogance or
stubbornness, but it really didn’t matter. The community always knew
where dad stood; which side he would be on. I respected him for that
as I am sure others did, no matter how much it made them upset. I have
tried to do the same. If I believe it is right, I will stand my ground.
I have had many people upset with me, but so far the Lord had taken care
of me. I pray he continues. Mom is mostly at home keeping the
house and taking care of Jimmy and me. Jimmy has started school now
and with his medical problem it became a struggle. Not for Jimmy per
say, but for both of us. See we lived at the Greenland Parsonage which
had an address of Little Rock, MS. But I had begun at Union and was
established. Jimmy had begun at Union as well. But the local
powers that be said that because our address was outside the line, I would
have to go to another school, Beulah Hubbard High School. The biggest
bunch of rednecks you had ever seen. The school was as old as Methuselah
(and was condemned about 9 years later). Now I had friends that lived
near me that went there, but their education level was let’s say behind my
own. But thanks to Jimmy’s medical issue and the fact that mom and
dad fought to have Jimmy and I at the same school together, I got to stay
at Union. The bus that took us home from school however never took
us all the way home. It would drop us off at Mrs. Truitt’s house, about
half a mile from the house, because the local government still maintained
we were out of their district. So rain or shine, snow (rarely) or anything
else we had to walk. At first Jimmy wasn’t at school so I walked my
self. The very first time, I was dropped off I just sat there and waited
and waited. Finally mom drove to see if she could find me. I
was still sitting on a swing out front of Mrs. Truitt’s. She asked
me why I didn’t come home. I told her I didn’t know I was supposed
to walk home all that way. I had never walked that far much less that
particular stretch of road in my entire life. However, from then on
I walked every day. I would throw rocks, play in the fields, in the
woods, and made a friend as well, Randy Smith, all on my trips home.
The Beulah Hubbard bus always came by the house to drop the neighbor’s kids
so sometimes I would try to race home to beat the bus. One day I cut
across the field to get home. Everything seemed fine till I noticed
Mr. Truitt had bought some cows and a bull and put them in the field.
The cows didn’t mind me so much, but the bull looked like he didn’t like
me too much. Dad and Mr. Cannon, a next door neighbor, used to tell
us stories about bulls and how they would charge at you. I am only
in the fifth grade, 10 or 11 years old, and this interested me but was scary
as well. When I noticed that bull in Mr. Truitt’s field had seen me,
all this flashed before me. One of the stories they told was how to
get away from the bull. You were supposed to stand still and move to
the side just as the bull got to you. Once he missed, you were to run
like hell till the bull caught up again and do the same till you reached
the fence. Well that is just what I did. The black bull began
charging from the other side, so I ran as fast as I could towards the fence.
When the bull was getting close, I stopped and then moved just in time.
I ran towards the fence again but made it to the fence in time to jump over.
These fences were made of 4 strands of tight barbed wire and the top strand
was as high as my neck. Some how my adrenalin allowed me to scale the
fence, back pack, lunchbox and all with no problems. The bull stopped
before he hit the fence, snorted, and watched me walk away. I didn’t
go back in the field for weeks. But soon I was game to try again; however,
I always ran through the field and would hide like I was a spy. The
bull never saw me again and the thrill was gone. I eventually gave
This gets us to the sixth grade, but before we get there I have to get you
up to speed to the community I grew up in other than school and sports.
As stated earlier, we lived next to the church. We had huge front yard
and an equally impressive back yard in the country. The main country
road was in the front with a long dirt drive way to two different houses
in the back. On the left was the church building and to the right was
a big pond and field. On the other side of the main road was 1000 acres
of fields, creeks, woods, and ponds; not to mention a small lot for the local
cemetery. The nearest neighbor was 5 minutes walk either way.
Their nearest neighbors were the same. In a half a mile stretch of
road, there were only 4 houses at most including ours. We had two sheds
in back for tools and storage and a large trash bin dad and I built.
There used to be a huge tree in the back yard but it was all but dead and
we had it cut down. This left us with an annoying dried out stump.
So dad cut and pulled and chopped till there was still a stump. We
did no good. So dad decided we were going to burn it. Cool.
Dad poured gasoline on it and let it set to let it soak it up so it would
burn real good. Great in theory, but in reality dad created a bomb.
When he lit the gas in the stump it was the first time I knew what an earth
quake would feel like. The whole ground rumbled. The gas had
flowed through the root system in stead of soaking and all the roots exploded
underground, thank the Lord. In the end we got down so low that I could
push the mower over it no problems. When we first arrived at Greenland,
dad still had the old Subaru. That was one of dad’s nicknames, Subaru
Smith. It was a small 4 seater, but I can remember dad fitting four
adults and 4 kids in it at one time when we were back in Watson, OK.
Some one finally came and bought that from dad. We also arrived there
with the same Lawn Boy lawnmower we had back in Watson (the one with the
bad fuel pump). Dad finally broke down and bought a new one the following
year. I believe it is still going. The only other thing dad drug
around on our moves was and old 10’ aluminium boat. There are some
stories that go along with this boat. The first one would have been
while we were back in Oklahoma. Dad wanted to go fishing and show his
son how to fish. We went to one of the old creeks (the name Washington
or Wichita or Ouchita rings a bell) near there. We were paddling down
the creek throwing in a line or two when all of the sudden we stopped.
We had hit a sand bar in the middle of the very wide creek. Knowing
a bit about dad by now, one would understand when dad decided a sand bar
wasn’t going to stop him fishing the creek. He tried to push us with
the paddle but it was no use. We only got far enough that the boat
was completely on the sand bar. From the bank you couldn’t see this
bar; it was about 12” deep. But with the weight of dad and me, we could
feel it. Dad tried to get out and he was going to pull the boat over
the sand bar, but for some reason he couldn’t stand up. Most folks
think of sand on a beach or a desert. Some people have even heard of
quick sand in the desert, but I am here today to tell you quick sand exists
in the state of Oklahoma. We were stuck on top of quick sand.
This began to panic dad a little but he made a decision that saved us both.
He said, “Son, you get out and push”. I was only a scrawny little thing
and didn’t weigh much, but dad explained to me what I was stepping into.
Now looking back, it would have been better for dad to not give me every
detail at that particular time, because I remember being scared out of my
wit. As a matter of fact, I would wager this is why I don’t fish any
more. I took my shoes off as to not loose them in quick sand and put
my feet in the water. Before I put my feet in the sand, I looked at
dad and said, “Don’t worry son, I can pull you out if I have to” That helped
some because dad was a big man, but it was still scary. I jumped in
hanging on to the boat for dear life. I walked around to the back of
the boat feeling my feet sinking in to the sand with every step. Dad
used his paddle to push while I was pushing in the back. It seemed
like forever when in reality it wasn’t 10 to 15 minutes. But while
I was pushing I can remember dad saying, “Only 10 more feet son”. I
could actually see the drop off where the sand quit and the deep water began.
I pushed and pushed with my head down and my hands on the boat. Then
all of the sudden the back of the boat almost lifted me out of the water.
Dad’s end of the boat was off the sand bar and in the water. I pulled
my end back down and pushed a little more as dad walked to the center of
the boat to help stabilize it and help pull me back in the boat as we reached
the end. Whew… we did it!
That same boat we used stayed with us forever it seemed. The pond that
was next to our house was shallow in most places but deep in one spot.
Jimmy and I took the boat out on the pond as dad stayed on the bank.
It was hot so dad told us to jump in and go swimming. Then dad yelled
out for me to flip the boat. What? Yep, flip the boat so we could
climb on top and jump off. How cool was this? We loved it.
It was a little hard flipping the boat back over, but we managed. We
used the boat in the pond to shoot turtles, fish, swim, go get the balls
we kicked out there, and for anything else we could think of. One day
the old boat finally developed a leak in the corner. My friend, Doug
Smith, and I were in it when it happened. We paddled quickly back the
bank and went to the shed. Remember I have an IQ of 148; so Doug and
I went to the shed and found some “Liquid Gasket Sealer”. Normally
this would be used to replace the gasket seals on your car, but I took it
and plugged the hole in the boat with it. It worked. 10 years
later it was still holding. I bet where ever that boat is today, it
is still there.
Once dad got rid of the Subaru, he bought mom a Ford Thunderbird; black with
maroon trim. The most I remember about this car was me driving it back
and forth in our drive way running over the cross-ties that lined our drive.
This lasted us a good while till mom and dad got a grey Ford Escort (I could
be mistaken – I am not good with cars and types). In the beginning
the drive was dirt and there were no plants or anything. Mom didn’t
like that at all. She planted shrubs along the front of the house with
two small trees positioned in the front. She got the church members
to bring some old rail road cross-ties to the house and dad run them the
length of the drive way. Then mom started her flower bed all the way
down the cross-ties. Some time I thought she did this just so we would
have something to do. We had to weed that whole flower bed. As
we got older, mom just did this by herself. We bought a TV, but being
so far out in the country we had no reception. Dad bought an antenna
and we put it up. This allowed us to get four stations – ABC, CBS,
sometimes NBC, and ETV. Hey at least it was color TV. It wasn’t
long we really got into watching movies on video. Dad couldn’t see
the sense in watching movies over and over again. Once you have seen
it, that’s it. So that hobby was between mom and me. But there
was just so much to do in the country we didn’t watch too much TV anyway.
The church itself was just a square brick building with a trailer attached
to the back length ways. The trailer served as an office for dad, with
a kitchen and rooms for church dinners and get togethers. The building
had the main room with pulpit, bathrooms, two class rooms, a nursery, and
a baptism. The front of the church looked really plain with an old
press wood sign out front. Dad got the church to first replace the
sign with Brick posts and a plywood sign, then concrete the pathway to the
steps. Years later, the older folks wanted a place to stand out of
the rain after church, so the small porch steps were walled up with glass
as it is today. I had to watch out when cutting the grass. It
took me every bit of three hours to cut (with the push mower as we didn’t
have a riding mower yet) the front yard, the back yard, and the church yard.
Then I spent another hour and half cutting the grass at the cemetery.
I did this for almost 8 years. I believe I started out getting paid
$25 which was good back then; then I got a raise to about $40 later.
I turned it over to Jimmy after that but he got to do it with a riding mower
Every summer we had to cut wood as well. Our only heat during the winter
was an old Ashwood wood burning stove. As I didn’t know any better
I thought it was the best thing. We went out to the woods and chopped
down trees. It was awesome watching them fall to the ground.
I learned to chop a notch out on the tree on the side opposite you wanted
the tree to fall. Then to chop roughly the same place on the side we
wanted the tree to fall. But we always had to be careful to watch for
“kick backs” – the tree sometimes would snap and the bottom would kick out.
This could kill you. Then there was the fun part of trimming the limbs
off and pulling them out of the way. This is what I did most of the
time. I would make a big pile out of them. If they were not usable
for firewood, we held a big bon-fire afterwards to burn them off. Then
we used a long saw that two men used to cut the tree into manageable pieces.
Years later we actually got a chain saw. It was very loud but very
quick and easy, however dangerous. Dad tried to use the chain saw differently
once and it kicked back and caught dad in the groin. Ouch! It
was cold and he had on lots of clothes. The chain saw only cut his
pants. Once we had the trees cut into manageable pieces, we then had
to split them into smaller pieces to fit in the wood heater. We used
a wedge and mall or sledge hammer to split them. Then we used the axe
to split them even further. It was a lot of hard work, but I loved
it. For years I tried to out do our neighbour on splitting wood with
an axe. Earnest Cannon was about 80 years old at the time and could
split wood quicker and easier than I ever could. By the end of it all
we didn’t stop until we had at least two cords of wood split and stacked
in the back yard. A cord of wood is about 4’ wide, 4’ high, and 8’
long. Our stacks before we could quit were two rows (equalling 4’wide)
at about 6’ high (because it was taller than me) and about 20’ long (the
length of our old shed). During the winter it was my job to keep the
fire going. Every day I had to shuffle the ash and coals, fill the
heater up with wood, and empty the ash tray (which always was dusty and had
hot coals). Mom would kill me if I dropped it in the house. The
heater was in the dinning room and heated the whole house. The best
part of it all was when we would take an old flat cooking pan (like a cookie
pan) and cover it with peanuts. Then place the peanuts on top of the
heater in the morning. By that evening, we had roasted peanuts – beautiful.
Dad loved peanuts so much that we planted them in our garden. He used
to make us go out there and help him in the garden – dig holes, fertilizer,
seeds, hoe, and pick. There was one particular instance where dad reached
down in to the bushy peanut plants and he pulled out a snake. The snake
was hidden in the bush and bit dad as he was pulling up the plants (Peanuts
grow in the ground – you had to pull the plants up to get the nuts).
He yelled for us to go get mom. When mom came out he was heading for
the car and telling mom to drive him to the emergency room. I remember
the old hospital in Union. I was just around the corner from the school.
It was a three story red brick building and was probably good for its day
back in 1950. In the mid-80’s they built a brand new hospital out on
the highway. I am not sure exactly but I think an ambulance actually
came and got dad. It was rattle snake that got dad. He was pretty
sick for a few days, but the hospital had the anti-venom. Thank goodness
dad knew exactly what bit him. Lesson learned. From that day
on we never planted peanuts again and I started taking over the garden duties
bit by bit.
On the weekends during the summer, I couldn’t go anywhere till the yard was
cut. I would start Friday after school and finish Saturday morning
before I could go anywhere. Parents! One day while I was cutting
grass with the new riding mower I seen a frog. It was too late to stop
and if I turned I would hit a grave stone. So I ran over the frog.
But nothing came out the blower end. I looked back and the frog was
still there. Now being a boy, I was quite curious how that happened.
I turned around and headed back for the frog. He didn’t move, so neither
did I. I ran over him again. But again, nothing came out.
The frog just sat there still staring at me as I looked back. This
time I was upset. I was going to get that frog. I headed for
him again and stopped right over him, I lowered the blade as far as I could
go and still no frog coming out of the blower. I got off with the blade
still turning and looked under mower. That little frog was jumping
up and down on top of the blade.
Sorry I had to do that. Dad, Jimmy, and I used to get people with that
story all the time. Ok, no more jokes.
The next section here I will attempt to tell you about those who lived around
me and helped shape my life, my thoughts, and my feelings. Although
none of the following people are a blood relative, I did, do, and will forever
consider them family. They are closer to me than most of my blood relatives.
But you will have to know about them to understand things that happened in
my life. The biggest influence in my life up until this time other
than my parents was Frank and Melba Smith. My mother’s parents lived
in California. The older I grew up the further away we drifted.
I rarely got to see them and spoke to them only occasionally. My father’s
mom, Velma, had passed away back in 1975 and Grandpa was still around but
doing his own thing. Frank and Melba were my adopted grandparents.
Now don’t get me wrong, I had more than one set of adopted grandparents,
but these two honestly loved (and still do) love me as their own grandchildren.
Frank has passed away since and Melba is still surviving.
If you didn’t think I was busy enough with school and sports, I have packed
even more into my little life. Frank and Melba had 6 children (James,
Johnny, Ray, Barbra Ann, Sue, and Pearl. James and his wife, Betty,
had one son, Doug. Johnny had two kids but lived far away. Ray
had two children as well but they too lived a good ways off. Barbra
Ann was married to Mr. Bryant and they had Donna, Anita, and one more.
Sue was married to Lamar Bradley and they had two boys, Kenny and Michael.
And finally, Pearl was married to Vic Terrell and they had two girls, Amy
and Vicky. The children of each were of my generation, some were older
and some were younger but we were pretty close in age. These guys were
my friends and family while growing up. I spent most of my time with
Doug, Kenny, Michael, Amy, and Vicky. However, Amy and Vicky were girls
and I didn’t do much with them, except for Vicky because she was in my class
as school. Doug lived up in north Mississippi till he graduated high
school and this is when he and I became good friends. That leaves Kenny
As Michael was my age, we did everything together. Michael went to
the other high school, Beulah Hubbard, I mentioned earlier. So we met
up after school most days at his grandma’s, my Ma Melba. She always
cooked our favorites. Mine was butter beans and cornbread with fresh
tomatoes. We would put puzzles together, play in the hay bails for
hours, pick vegetables and blackberries with Melba, throw rocks in the ponds,
tromp through the woods, fish, sleep over, you name it we did it. Frank
had a farm of sorts; he had a few hundred acres of land that was fenced off
to keep the cows, maybe a horse or two, some chickens, three fish ponds,
and several hay fields. I remember Mike and me cutting across the garden
on day as Ma Melba called us in. We were racing each other to the house.
I was going to win and cut though the snap beans. The part I didn’t
pay attention to was the wire that Frank had put up for the beans to grow
up on. Running full blast, the wire caught me right across the face
and through me down on the dirt. I just jumped up wondering what in
the world happened. I stumbled a bit but seen the wire. I walked
the rest of the way to the house. Michael was laughing but Melba was
concerned. The wire left a mark from my right cheek under my nose and
over my left eye. I didn’t know it till I got home and shown mom.
The next day I school I was to have school photos. Ouch. I don’t
have a photo to show you yet.
Michael’s dad, Lamar, also had lots of land with cows. Michael lived
about 5 miles from me so we would ride bikes to each others house all the
time. I would go to his house and go in the woods all the time, help
with the cows, and just watch movies; you know boy stuff. I remember
helping his dad once with the cows. For what reason I know not, but
we were helping him castrate his bulls. That’s right; we were cutting
the balls off the bulls. If you think you wouldn’t enjoy that, think
about a 1500 pound bull looking at you saying HELL NO! What an experience.
Lamar had a tool which was nothing more than a clamp with round metal balls
on the ends. We took the clamp and placed in the nostrils of the bull.
The clamp was attached to a long rope. We took the rope and wrapped
it around the barn posts and Mike and I held the rope tight. This kept
the bull’s mind elsewhere while, Kenny and Lamar walked behind the bull.
Lamar had recently tied the bull up before and placed a rubber band around
the bull’s nuts. If you cut off the blood circulation long enough,
they would eventually fall off. Yet this bull was not cooperating in
the dropping off bit. He was hanging on to his as long as he could.
So in order to not cause infection, we had to cut them off. Oh, we
could have called a vet and drugged the cow and used surgical equipment –
but where is the fun in that? Lamar sharpened up his pocket knife and
eased down by the bull and reached under, grabbed the balls, and quickly
cut them off. Needless to say the bull was not happy. He jumped
and pulled. Remember, only Mike and I were holding the rope.
Mike’s mom, Sue, was an unusual person but that was just part of growing
up a Smith, Frank Smith’s daughter. Her favorite animals were pigs.
She had stuffed pigs everywhere. Her kitchen had towels, paper towel
holders, light switches; every thing had a pig on it. Sue and Lamar
bought a florist business in Union. For years, she ran the florist
along with the whole family. The whole family meaning, her sisters,
her sons, her husband, her nieces & nephews, and adopted kids – ME.
When the holidays came, mainly Valentines and Easter, every one who knew
Sue was at the florist helping create flowers, blow up balloons, and delivering
all over a 5 county area. Mom was even in on it, she loved to help
As you can tell, Mike and I did every thing together - hunting, Swimming,
romping through the woods. Mike’s dad loved deer hunting and had many
acres of his own to do son on. As deer season was in the winter months,
we would all dress up in thick clothes and take off through the woods with
our shotguns and rifles. We would set up positions with all involved
while one person would go way out on the other side and set the dogs loose.
The one who set the dogs loose would also have an old milk jug full of rocks.
The object here was to make as much noise as possible to drive the deer towards
us. Most of the time I was dressed so warm and it got boring just waiting
to see if a deer came by that I usually fell asleep for a while. A
deer could have licked my face and I wouldn’t have known it.
I have however only shot one deer. It was about a 6 or 8 pointer (number
of horn on the rack or antlers). It weighed about 200 or so odd pounds.
We drove down on the four-wheeler and put the deer on the back and drove
back to the shed. This may get a bit gruesome here. We hung the
deer upside down to drain the blood as to not taint the meat. Then
we gutted it being careful not to bust the bladder. Then we cut the
hide at the upper ankles and skinned the whole deer. Here is where
we began cutting the meat into pieces we would later eat. Deer meat
is beautiful and probably one of the best meats ever for you. There
were two local traditions when someone killed their first deer. The
first was to mount the deer head and rack. As I didn’t care about it,
I think Mike’s brother, Kenny, kept it. The other was to rip off the
shirt tail of the shirt you were wearing, soak it in the blood, and smear
it all over you. As mom would have beat me to death for ruining my
shirt, that didn’t happen either. Perhaps that is why I never really
got into hunting. It could have been the fact that dad never went either.
Or it could have been some of the other traditions like eating the heart
of your first kill like the Indians did that kept me from pursuing the endeavour.
Through out my life, I have shot and skinned deer, rabbits, pigs, and chickens.
We will even get to a point where I killed chickens for a living.
During the summer months, Michael and I would go swimming. One of the
local business men who owned the Sunflower Grocery Store in Union and a bible
book shop in Philadelphia and just who happened to be the grandson –in-law
of Earnest Cannon, another neighbor we will discuss soon, cut a deal with
the state government. He would allow his land to be used as a wild
life sanctuary if the government would build a water-shed on his land.
The State wildlife and fisheries department agreed and built a huge lake
on his land. They in essence clear cut several acres around a local
creek and then built a dam and spillway on the creek to fill up the lake.
Once it filled up, the water spilled back into its original path and all
was back to normal. The lake was a good hike from any road out in the
middle of the woods. Mike and I would ride our bikes to the fence,
throw our bikes over, and ride down the access road to the lake. Mr.
Brantley was the owner. He had also built on the edge of the lake an
open boat house with a huge deck on top that stretched far out into the water.
Now this was just too much for couple of country boys. We would swim
all day in the lake. We would swim all the way across and back, swim
over to the spill way and jump off it, as well as use the boat dock to jump
off of. I have many memories at the lake and will share them in time.
But with Mike we loved it. The only real dangerous bit was the reptiles.
First there were the snakes. One day a snake came swimming towards
us. We got out quickly and it chased us on land. We both grabbed
stick and finally caught it by its head. It was a water moccasin at
least 5 feet. We had always heard that if you took a snake and twirled
it around like a lasso and then tried to crack it like a whip the head would
come off. Guess what we did? I tried it first. Mike was
still holding the head down while I grabbed the tail. I quickly began
swinging the snake above my head and then tried to crack it. The snake
only slipped out of my hand and hit a tree. Still alive, I pinned it
down again and it was Mike’s turn. He swung it around and cracked it.
It didn’t work. But we killed the snake any way and threw it by the
side of the lake. The next time we went back, the snake had disappeared.
Some other wild animal must have eaten him. We soon figured out
what it was. Mike and I were jumping off the boat dock. I jumped
in and was waiting for him to jump. Standing on the rail, he yelled
out to me to get out quick. I swam to the bank and ran up to him.
There was an alligator coming our way. You could only see the top of
his head and his tail swishing in the back. Call us stupid or crazy,
we kept jumping in to draw him closer. Suppose it was the thrill as
well as the want to see him up close, but he never did – that day.
Mike and I went back the next day but this time we took our shot guns.
One was always watching while the other jumped in to make noise. Soon
the gator showed up. This time he came closer, too close. As
he came to the bank where we had thrown the snake, we took our guns and shot
him. There was blood in the water, but we never pulled him out and
we never saw him again.
Back to Frank, most of Frank’s land was covered in Hay fields. The rest was
covered in Trees. Frank used us as slaves, but we enjoyed every stinking
minute of it. We learned so much. Frank used to drive the truck
down the fence lines, and Michael and I would be on the look out for broken
or bent fences. If it was broken, we had to repair the “Barbed Wire”
with a wire stretcher and tie it back together. This was dangerous
because if the wire snapped while working on it, the barbed wire would come
at us and had the potential to cut off fingers and hands or poke out eyes.
We would dig post holes to put the fence posts in and build new fences where
needed. At 12 years old, Michael and I were driving tractors around
picking up hay bails and storing them in the barn and then feed the cattle
everyday. We would cut the hay, rake the hay, and then bail the hay
as well. But Frank had a hay bailer that made the big round bails and
not the small square ones. But we used to go to other people’s farms
and help them haul their small square bails. Michael and I looked like
we were body builders. Always on our escapades, we had two more stragglers
– Son and Lassie. I don’t know where Lassie came from but she was our
dog or mutt. She was a mixed breed but looked more like a small tan
German Sheppard. Son was Frank’s dog. He was completely white
and was about 2 ½ times the size of Lassie. They hunted rabbits
together. Lassie looked like a rabbit herself. If you looked
off in a field with tall grass but seen the dogs bouncing up and down you
knew they were after a rabbit. They went everywhere together.
All day they might disappear if we were not doing something, but they always
knew to be home at supper time. I think Son got old and died.
Lassie lived for a few more years but was then the community dog. Her
house was actually about 4 or 5 houses. She was petted and fed and
played with at all the houses. Lassie developed some sort of disease
(or really just got old) to where she couldn’t move even if she wanted to.
Every one felt sorry for her, even dad, but didn’t want to do what needed
done. So one day after watching her try to drag herself to a sunny
spot just to stay warm, I did what no one else could. I put her out
of her misery and buried her in the woods behind the house. Dad called
me a killer for weeks in jest, but it was because I did what he couldn’t.
While we are still on the dog issue, I will fast forward a bit and say we
had two more dogs that I know of. Just before Lassie and Son died,
a small dog of unknown origin and breed showed up at the house. Mom
fed the poor thing and she never left. She was very old when she arrived.
And after a few years, after Lassie died, she too died. We found her
stiff as a board in the back yard. Mom liked having animals around
and now she had none.
Not long after that I was riding on some dirt roads up in North Mississippi
when I noticed something scurrying off the road. I pulled off to see
what it was. I had found a small puppy that had been knocked in the
head and thrown on the side of the road to die. I picked him and took
him to my girl friend’s house as it was closer for a while. Once we
decided she was going to live, I took her home to Mom so she could have her
pet. She named her Angel. Again Angel found that she too had
more than one house to live at. She grew up to be a playful and roaming
community pup. She lived for many years, but her downfall was that
she loved to chase cars. Don’t know what she would have done with then
once she caught them but she did nonetheless. She almost caught one
but didn’t get out of the way fast enough. She was ran over and killed.
That is the last of my dog days.
When there was no work to be done, Frank would take us into his work shop.
We rebuilt engines (mostly small lawnmowers, but occasionally we worked in
the trucks and tractors). We did carpentry by building porch swings,
chairs, cupboards, and little knick-knacks for around the house like toilet
paper holders. At the end of the day, he would toss us both a quarter
each and tell us not to spend it all in one place. That used to get
all over us. Jumping ahead, but by the time I was 14 we were driving
the truck all over the property. I remember one day, Frank told me
to jump in the truck. I did, but he told me to get behind the wheel.
Cool! I got over and cranked it up. Frank got in and said, “Drive
to the stockyards in Philadelphia.” I looked at him real quick as if
to say you’re kidding right? Philadelphia was over 20 miles north on
the high way. He told me he already spoke to mom about me going with
him. I am not sure that he really did ever talk to mom, but I am positive
he never told her I was going to drive. I was only 14, no license,
and little experience. I remember being so nervous but so excited at
the same time. My only saving grace was that the truck was an automatic.
I had never driving the truck or tractor over 20 mph. I made it easy
enough to the high way off the back roads we lived on, but I was stiff as
a board when I got the highway. I didn’t know the road rules; I just
knew stop signs and that you drove on the right side of the road. My
grandpa had told me all I had to do was keep it between the ditches, but
that included all the lanes. Frank got me to drive on the main road
and I eventually got us up to 60 mph. I was speeding. We made
it to the stockyards, parked, and went to buy a bull. Afterwards, I
drove home as well. I remember parking the truck under the shed and
running home to tell mom what I got to do. Frank was a dirty old man,
who at first glace you wouldn’t think twice about, but he was smart, cunning,
and had a big heart. He was nearly bald, about 6’3” tall, and always
wore overalls. He never buttoned up the sides of his overalls, mainly
because his belly was too big. Because of this you could always tell
he didn’t wear underwear, if you know what I mean. He liked to dip
snuff. This was basically powder tobacco. If he wasn’t spitting
it out, it was dripping down his chin. He was a pitiful site now that
I look back at him, but he was the closest thing I had to a grandpa that
I could see and learn from. With just about every step I took with
Frank, his real grandson, Michael, was there as well. We were best
friends. He actually lived about 5 miles away from me, but that never
kept us apart. If he didn’t ride his bike to my house down the dirt
roads, I rode mine to his. Mike and I fixed our bikes up with all the
bells and whistles. I had a speedometer hooked up to mine. We
found a hill we could ride down and get so fast, that we could break the
speed limit on our bikes. If you have ever seen a bicycle speedometer,
you will notice that it only has room for digits. The first digit on
the right side was for every “Tenth” of a mile and the last three were for
miles. Meaning you could go 999.9 miles before it flipped over and
started again. Mike and I both rode so much that before the bikes wore
slap out we had almost flipped the speedometer twice. I kid you not
– almost 2000 miles. To come home and ride my bike for 20miles or so
was absolutely nothing. We even planned a trip to ride some where in
the neighborhood of 60-70 miles one way just to see a girl he was sweet on.
I think dad talked us out of that.
One thing dad didn’t talk me out of was a slip-n-slide. I think this
was one of the most defining moments in my life that told me I was not a
kid anymore. I remember going on a slip-n-slide when I was younger.
For those of you who don’t know what it is, it is a long yellow piece of
plastic about 15 foot long and 3 foot wide. You would hook it up to
the water hose and it squirted water all the down it. You would get
a running start and jump on it to slide all the way down it. Some times
it wasn’t slippery enough so we would put liquid soap on it. As a kid
you would just run, jump, slide, and get up to do it again. But I was
14. Jimmy was having a birthday party with all his friends. If
I was 14, then Jimmy and his buddies were 8 or 9. They had no problems.
However, when I did it, I was heavier and hit the ground like a rock.
It nearly knocked the breath out of me and when I got to the end, I felt
like I had just been hit by a truck. Mom has a nice Polaroid of me
trying to get up at the end of the thing. It is not a pretty sight.
From then on, I began to look at things differently. I spent more time with
Mike and I would come over to my house and watch movies and eat popcorn with
mom and dad, then walk back to Frank and Melba’s house and watch TV all night.
Frank had just purchased a Satellite. This was a huge dish and a big
deal in the early 80s. I remember we were flipping through the 80 or
so odd channels late at night and we found the playboy channel. Mike
and I just sat there glued to the screen for hours. We seen things
we had only dreamed of. We seen people doing things I still can’t do.
One of us finally got the courage to move to a chair from off the floor,
but when we turned around there was Frank standing in his bedroom doorway
watching us watch the TV. When he noticed we saw him, he piped up and
said, “What do you think you boys are doing? Don’t you think its time
to go to bed?” We gave him no arguments. But we both agreed he
must have been standing there a long time. It wasn’t too long after
that, Melba had Frank put some parental controls on the TV. But that
still didn’t stop us. We were trying to have sleepovers at Ma Melba’s
all the time. Kids always know how to get around road blocks such as
If we weren’t up to any good, riding bikes, or helping Frank on the farm,
we were out hunting and fishing. Frank would send us out to his ponds
with fishing poles. He would tell us he wanted to know if his pond
was stocked with fish or not. It was our job to find out and bring
back the results. Mike and I one day fished all morning and afternoon
and brought home a 5 gallon bucket full of brim. The pond we caught
them at was a good half mile walk through the woods. We took turns
caring the bucket home it was so heavy. We thought we had done well,
but Frank then made us cut the heads off of every fish, then scale and fillet
them. That was tough work. By dinner time, we had enough fish
fillets to feed both our families. And that is what we did. Every
one came over and we had big fish fry in the back yard. I could see
only later how Frank was. He could always get us to do things which
was actual work but made it seem like fun, or make us do things that were
fun to do but made it sound like work. All the while we were learning
things that would help us in life. By giving us a quarter every day,
he showed us that there was value to everything we did, but we were to learn
that it was more important to do things, to help others, to work for the
rewards that were greater than money; the satisfaction of a job well done,
the respect of others, and the learning of responsibility. We learned
to help others without expecting anything in return.
Every year, Frank would make us grow a garden as well. Now our gardens
were not little plots of land. As a matte of fact, on each of our gardens
(we had several) you could have three or four houses on. One garden
would be nothing but Corn. Another one would be nothing but Purple
Hull peas. Another one would be full of cucumbers and watermelon.
The one next to the house would have some of everything in it, potatoes,
beans, peas, corn, squash, cucumbers, radishes, okra, butter beans (for me).
Now don’t forget, Dad also had a couple of gardens too; Corn and peas in
one, and all the stuff we liked in the other. Every one around did
the same. The men and boys worked in the fields, planting, hoeing,
weeding, and picking; while the women folk helped weed and pick as well and
then would go inside and cook and prepare the food. Half of it was
canned or frozen, so when winter came, we could still eat. One of Mom’s
proudest moments was when she knew we could tell the difference between a
home grown tomato and a store bought tomato. It is a wonder I am not
bigger than I am, but we stayed so busy we burned off any thing we ate.
I remember our neighbor on the other side of us, Earnest and Madeline Cannon,
asked us over to help shuck corn and shell peas. We would spend all
day, shucking corn, snapping beans, and shelling peas till our fingers were
purple and black for days. Earnest had a corn sheller as well.
You turned the crank and put the ear of corn in. Out came a corn cob
empty and all the kernels would fall in to a bucket. We took the buckets
(plural) to the Grist Mill. There they would grind up the kernels into
corn meal. I can still taste the corn bread now. My favorite
meal was a huge plate of fresh shelled butter beans, fresh picked tomatoes,
and as much cornbread and butter I could eat. I am hungry just thinking
about it. Earnest was born about 1904. He has many children and
outlived three wives. He was one of the wisest men I ever knew.
Remember I told you I was like a body builder. In winter we would split
wood for the fires to stay warm. Earnest, at age 75 to 80, could split
wood better than me any day. I would swing the axe and hack away at
the stumps, but him, he would tap the log lightly with the axe down the center
and then within two swings he would have the log split. I never could
learn that. He and dad were like best friends, although he was old
enough to be dad’s dad. Earnest had an old house still that he
and his first wife built. We would go over there once a year and help
him make sugar cane syrup. This was an all day process. In the
old days, before engines, you would get the horse or mule to walk around
in circles to operate the grinder. The grinder would crush the sugar
cane and squeeze out all the juices. The juices would fall into a catch
pan and funnel to a cooker. The cooker was in stages of heat.
The further along it went the hotter it got. Some one would feed the
grinder; another would make sure the juices were flowing to the cooker.
Others would stand over the cooker to keep the molasses moving from section
to section, keeping the flies off and spreading it out so it all got cooked.
I don’t know if they added any thing to it or not, but at the end, the syrup
would fall from a tap into a jar which we sealed with hot wax. That
would last for years. It tasted so good.
Earnest’s dad was one of the three founders of what we call the Neshoba County
Fair. Every year, people from all over the world still come to this
fair. The fair grounds are such that there are two story cabins everywhere
to the tune of about 1000. No cabin was allowed to be less than two
stories. The fair, now over 100 years old, lasts for a week and catering
for everything from flea markets, fair ground rides, horse races, concerts,
political speeches, and prize winning veggies. I have a couple of Fair stories
but that is for later. Jimmy and I would get to spend the night at
the fair grounds during the fair. It was an experience to say the least.
And during the summer months, the Cannon reunion was held there and we showed
up every year just as it was our reunion. I have a big family.
Earnest lived to be about 95 years old. He was born before airplanes,
computers, or trips to the moon. He was there before TV, Movies, or
modern warfare. He has seen it all. He was the wisest man I know.
But Frank still holds a spot in my heart. Although Earnest could have
taught me more, I spent more time with Frank between 1980 and 1985 when he
died. Frank’s son-in-law, W.R. Bryant, was going to build a new house
for him, his wife, and three daughters. He was going to build it from
the ground up. Frank, as the father-in-law, was there to help with
his tow lackeys’, Mike and me. We helped clear the land of trees and
brush, line out and dig the ditches for the plumbing, lay the plumbing, lay
out the forms for the concrete platform, pour and smooth out the concrete,
put up the house frame and roof, install the wiring (switches, plugs, and
lights), put up the drywall, the siding, the windows, the ceiling, the carpets,
and the shingles. We learned little things like how to hook up the
ground wire for the lights, how to space the planks on the porch to allow
for swelling, and how to line up the bricks so they won’t fall. I couldn’t
wait to work on the house after school.
Frank and Mr. Cannon were not my only influences while growing up.
The entire community was my family. There was Frank and Melba and Earnest
and Madeline, obviously, on either side of us. There was Aunt Ruby,
a very old lady who lived alone in a two room shack, who believed in God
with all her heart and could make the best fried chicken in Newton Co.
There was William and Effie Munn. William took Jimmy under his wing
as Frank did me. He would take Jimmy fishing and rabbit hunting.
Effie was one of the kindest people I have ever met. She however was
also the one who had never left Newton Co. in all her 80 some odd years of
life. Imagine that, never seeing the ocean, a mountain, a large city,
an airport – the things we take for granted. She was perfectly happy
with what God had given her – her home and family. There was Lewis
and Reva Pennington. They are still alive and well. Lewis was
a handy man and welder from way back. He built their house from scratch
all by him self. He could make something from nothing. All his
gates to his land, the fence themselves, the sheds, and most everything else
was made from someone else’s junk. He would weld it all together and
paint it till it looked nice. Reva always had cats and dogs.
Not just your ordinary cats this time. These cats would give any dog
a run for their money - huge cats weighing close to 20 lbs.
There was Dana and Lorene Gordon. Dana was the first man to call if
you ever had a problem. He could fix anything. He repaired and
installed plumbing, run power cable, repaired air conditioners, dryers, or
washers, he built kitchen cabinets, and any thing else mom could break.
That is just what he did for us. Lorene I believe is still alive.
Then there was Ed Smith. Now Ed married Frank’s sister and was family.
We never knew for sure all these years, but after digging around in the family
tree, Ed is actually one of my cousins. Ed allowed us to grow corn
and peas on some of his land. I am telling you, at one point in time;
we had 5 or 6 garden fields at once. He was one of the leaders in the
community and all respected him. He was very influential in getting
dad accepted in the community. I have not done any of these wonderful
people justice in this and will write more as memories come to me.
My life is what it is because of each of these. My grandparents on
mom’s side were out in California and I rarely saw them. Dad’s mother
died when I was young, so Grandpa Smith was all I had and we saw him every
once in a while. These people were my grandparents. They treated
Jimmy and me as if we were their grandchildren. In a sense we were
like the dogs. We didn’t just have one place to call home, everywhere
Frank & Melba’s oldest son, James, as we said earlier had a son named
Doug. They lived up in Sunflower County, MS. James has purchased
a good deal of land and also took care of his father’s land as Frank fell
sick. To do this, James bought a little Cessna aircraft and would fly
down every week. The only airfield to land was a grass field in Union
(about 7 or 8 miles away). James would fly over the house several times
till someone came outside and acknowledged his arrival. He would go
to the field and some one would go and pick him up. Eventually, he
built himself a house down here and brought his family. Doug, being
a couple of years older than me, but intellectually we were a bit above most
of those around us, we became good friends. James bought an old Postal
Jeep and painted it dull yellow. Doug and I used to get in the jeep
on Sunday afternoons and drive for hours. We would drive every back
road around from Little Rock, MS to Starkville, MS. We would talk about
every thing from hunting, girls, fishing, to what we wanted to do for the
rest of our lives. We both decided we were going to be lawyers.
He actually fulfilled his dream where I wanted to be a judge; however, I
had another friend, Brian Gordon, whose father was a judge. I remember
all the death threats he used to receive for him and his family just because
he was a judge. With this in mind, I changed my mind on the legal issue
as I feared for my family. Doug and I would go hunting, but both of
us used this as an excuse to read a book or sleep. We were terrible
at hunting. Some nights, we would go to Doug’s “condo” (which was the
back end of a barn refurbished into a one bedroom living unit) behind Frank’s
house. There we would play cards, do a little drinking (opps, sorry
dad), and just hang out. On some of James’ land, he convinced the government
to fork out money to help him build a lake (or water shed as the government
calls it). Doug and I would take the boat out and go fishing.
I didn’t care for fishing much, but I liked being in the boat and being outside.
So I would do all the paddling and drinking, while Doug would fish and drink.
Although we rarely talk, I still consider Doug to be a good friend.
Maintaining the theme of describing those I grew up around, the next couple
was Mr. William and Effie Munn. William was again an older gentleman.
As Frank and Earnest took me under their wings, William took Jimmy under
his. He would take Jimmy hunting and fishing. I remember one
night going rabbit hunting because the rabbits were eating Mr. William’s
garden vegetables. We would shine a bright light on the garden and
when we saw their eyes, which were huge red or orange eyes when the light
shown on them, dad would shoot the rabbits. Mr. William was too old
to shoot a gun as he has a pace maker in and he also had what I will call
the “palsy” as he was always shaking. His hands would shake as well
as his neck and head. That was the only real experience I had with
William; Jimmy could tell you more stories. I know that up until his
death, he still loved to visit with Jimmy. William’s wife, Effie, was
a very good woman. As most of the older women in the area, she could
cook up a great meal. The one thing that stands out about her is that
she is the only person I ever knew growing up that for her entire life (over
80 years) never left the area she grew up in, Newton Co. MS. Newton
Co. is about 580 square miles or about 30 minutes driving across it (any
which way). This means in over 80 years, she had never been more than
30 minutes or 30 miles from her house. Wow! Dad offered many
times to take her down to see the ocean or the mountains or a city, but she
Next there was the ever faithful, Ruby Munn. I am not sure if she was
of any relation to William. She too was an elderly lady who lived to
about 90. She lived in a small 2 room house with no running water and
no electricity. Her house was positioned just of Greenland road.
She lived in the woods where some one had cleared about half an acre of land
for the house. She drove a car till she just couldn’t see any more
to church but never missed a day of church for as long as I had known her.
We used to go pick her up, if no one else was coming by to pick her up.
Before she died, she used to have us over for dinner. It was the thing
to do for the community – to have the Preacher and his family over for dinner.
The entire community called her Aunt Ruby. Aunt Ruby used to make the
best fried chicken I have ever tasted. I have yet to find someone to
match it. Her house sat empty for a while after she died, but it was
later bought by a man with the surname of Rigdon. He had just got out
of jail for killing a man and he wore black leather and rode a Harley Davidson
motorcycle. Just down the road from Aunt Ruby was another elderly lady
named Helen White. She too lived on her own in a small house, but she
did have running water and electricity. Mom used to volunteer me to
cut her yard. I didn’t mind too much till I turned 15. She used
to pay me $25 to cut her yard – it was huge for a 14 year old and push mower.
At 15, I began to make plans for myself. Mom and I came to a meeting
of the minds – and she never volunteered me to any thing again. Helen
got to where she needed help as she was too old, and she moved to Meridian
to an apartment where she could be closer to her doctors.
The next family that I grew up with was none other than a Smith Family –
Hugh, Martha, Randy, & Darryl. Randy just lived a half mile up
the hill from me. He and his family went to church at another place
around union. But that never stopped Randy and me being friends. His
brother, Darryl was my age, but he has “multiple sclerosis” and cannot take
care of himself. Hugh, Martha, & Randy have fed, bathed, changed,
and most importantly loved Darryl. He has been loved so well that today
is 35 yrs old and still living. Randy and I used to romp through the
woods exploring every thing in a 5 mile radius; tear up the dirt pits behind
his house with our bikes as we made ramps and holes to jump (we later used
it to shoot our guns); ride through the fields on our bikes jumping the terraces
and chasing (or being chased) the bulls; go through the woods kicking down
old rotten trees and shooting old chicken feeders for target practice; we
would find lakes and ponds in the woods and go swimming all day; we would
make trails through the woods using knives and machete’s; and any other thing
we could think of. Randy was two years older than me, but we got along
just fine. I remember that Randy’s church group was taking everyone
to Philadelphia for a skating trip. This skating rink was with the old roller
skates (4 wheels per shoe) on an old wooden floor inside a large Tin shed.
This is where you went to meet girls. Even when he finally got his
drivers license, every weekend we used to go cruising. We would go
every where. We spend most of our time down at Turkey Creek, a beautiful
local lake, where the girls would go to lay out and swim. But we would
go to his church where a group of us boys would play football (grid-iron
for those non-USA folks). We ended up with many bruises but no broken
bones. Hugh owned some chicken houses just across the road from Ms.
Helen White. Hugh had brought back, one day, to his house a rusted
out chicken feeder. If you have never seen one it is as large as an
old western Tee-Pee. As Randy and I were playing around with it, I
was climbing on the top of it when the rusted metal tore and I fell to the
ground inside the feeder. I sliced my right index and ring fingers
to the bone. Randy had to run and get a ladder for me to get out.
I ran home as fast as I could for mom to clean it up. I still have
the scars today. They soon sold their house and bought a trailer to
live in closer to the chicken houses as they need constant care. Then
it wasn’t long (I was only 15) Randy decided to marry his girlfriend, Melissa.
Melissa first attempted to hook on to me, but little effort on my part, she
latched on to a friend of mine named George. But Randy some how she
met me while Randy was around and that was it. They have never been
separated since. But he was 17 and she was 18 and the legal age to get married
in MS was and still is 21. So they decided to go to the neighbouring
state, Alabama, where the legal age to marry is 18 and if person was under
18, only the parents consent was necessary. Randy’s parents consented
and Melissa was legal. Dad gave me permission to skip school to drive
to Alabama with Hugh, Randy, and Martha to be a witness and best man.
I made it back in time to go to football practice. My coach made fun
of me, telling the whole team that if they ever needed a best man, I would
be there for them. It wasn’t 5 months later, Randy was a daddy.
They named me “Godfather” of their first born. I have kept up with
them over the years, and my God Daughter is now a mother – which makes me
the Grand Godfather. Randy went on to have two more girls. They
bought the house across from Hugh where Ms. Helen White lived and still live
there. Randy went to work at Lazy-Boy furniture factory for years,
but now is running the family chicken farm. After Randy was married,
we had little time together as he now had responsibilities.
Then we have one of the patriarchs of the community, Helen Henry. Helen
was married early in life but her husband died and she never remarried or
had children. She adopted dad as her son and Jimmy and I as her grandchildren.
She lived to a ripe old age of 99. Her brother, Ovin, lived with her
for years, but died when he was about 70 or so. Helen was the sister
of Iva Mae Jones. Any thing she needed, dad was always there along
with every one else. We have rebuilt her house to accommodate her lack
of mobility. Dad & I used her land to plant about an acre and a
half of corn and purple hull peas. Remember at one time, we had between
4 to 5 gardens going at once. She came to church almost every time
and would always have a bag full of peppermint candy. She would rattle
that cellophane paper all during church. She literally had nothing
monetarily but would always give what monies she had to every one else, kids
and adults alike. If you wouldn’t accept the money, she forced you
to take her out to dinner so she could pay for it. She had a will and
a spirit that would never quit. I believe that God just took her at
99 or she would still be kicking.
One of those people who would help us at Helen’s was another church member,
Lewis Pennington and his wife Reva. Lewis was an old Navy man.
He was a scrounger and a builder. He saved and scrounged everything.
He built his house from the ground up using bits and pieces from every where.
He raised cows and dogs, while Reva raised cats. Now each of these
cats could have been confused with small bears, because they were so big.
I would venture to say that each one could have weighed 20-25 pounds.
Every one of his fences and gates were welded together of bit of metal he
found around the community. As we had so many gardens, mostly of corn,
when the corn was through, Lewis would come over and cut all the corn stalks
down and harvest them for his cows to eat. They had good hearts.
Lewis always defended dad in all that he done.
The last family that went to church with us I will mention is Michael and
Kelly Miller. Michael started church with us when he was very young.
He was very skinny, sensitive, and had meek mannerisms. He even was
labelled in the community as being gay, but he was not and this affected
him greatly. It wasn’t long that he found Kelly. Kelly was a
great woman. She stood by Michael and he supported her. Together
they have had three little girls that have grown up to be models and singers.
The whole family have great hearts and I am proud to call them friends.
Behind our house (next to the church) is a little dirt road called Daniel’s
road. The only folks who lived on the road were the Daniels’ (go figure!)
- Joe, Peggy, Eddie, Debra, and Crystal. They were not the sharpest
tools in the shed. We could here Joe yelling at Peggy and the kids
and them yelling back all the time. I don’t know exactly what happened,
but Joe thought of himself as a preacher of sorts and hated dad for being
there; thus, tensions were always thick around them. Fortunately we
didn’t spend much time at all with them. I think eventually Peggy left,
and Debra married and left. As for the other, I have no idea.
A few others around but I didn’t have too much to do with, were Harold and
Thelma Ezell who were very good and friendly folks; Ross and Iva Mae Jones,
who were good people but thought they were a little above everyone else;
Dana and Lorene Gordon, of whom I mentioned earlier who could fix anything;
and Ed Smith of whom I mentioned earlier as marring Frank’s sister.
Now that we know more about my surroundings and those who were in my life
at the time, we can probably continue with the sixth grade. In Union,
4th and 5th grade was called middle school and were physically separate school
grounds. I had never actually been to the Big School yet. The
sixth grade was my chance. You know those guys in school who were not
the most popular, who’s parents didn’t make lots of money so they didn’t
wear the best clothes or have the best toys or gadgets – there was nothing
wrong with them, and in actuality they were fairly smart – well, that was
me. Being 12 and in the sixth grade was very trying for me and yet
it was a turning point in my life. Junior High….we had made it… those
of us there were no longer little kids or babies, we were at the bottom of
the elite crowd - High School. However some of us still had trouble
converting. I am speaking in reference to my mother. Mom still
dictated what kind of haircut I had. As she had always done so, I had
noticed no problems until now. The upper crowd kept calling me “Bowl”
for months. I just smiled and kept on going. I had no idea what
they were talking about. One day one of the boys from the upper crowd
asked me when I was going to get a new haircut. I just looked puzzled.
He said my haircut looked like some one put a bowl over my head and cut around
it. This was news to me, but soon realized I couldn’t stop them from
calling me that no matter what I done. So I was the geek. I was
the geek to whom others came for help on their homework. I was the
geek who was offered a chance at being in an exclusive national club – the
Beta Club – that most of the upper crowd belonged to. In all honesty,
this was a great thing, but the initiation was for me (and everyone else)
to not only dress up like a girl for a day at school but to wear those same
clothes on backward and inside out. This was a character building experience
for me and I failed miserably. I refused to dress up just to be in
a club. And from that day forward I have refused to conform to any
standards just to be in a club or in a group or crowd; knowing that I am
just as good as they are outside of the club. I needed no club to or
social status to be my own person. I didn’t compromise my beliefs nor
betray my self to meet some one else’s standards. This stance would
and still proves to be my demise in the social side and probably monetary
side of things, but I chose that route and I have no regrets. But just
to add to my demise, I also chose to be a BAND Geek. Ok, the band is
not all that bad. People think of Guitars and Drums, or maybe trumpets
or saxophones – not me, my band director said I had a great aptitude towards
the Clarinet. I chose the Clarinet. Traditionally a girl’s instrument,
I took it after I found out the greatest Clarinet players were men, such
as Pete Fountain. I took it in the light that I could do what ever
I wanted and do it well, despite any preconceptions others may have.
As a matter of fact, this choice proved a great one. I, along with
Thomas Walden & Ken Blount, were the only males in my instrument for
miles. I had to sit around and look at all those beautiful girls; most
of which were older and more filled out (if you know what I mean).
They sometimes would do the “darndest” things around me or with me – of which
I shall never disclose. As we had schedules of classes, I also noticed
that for the rest of my Jr High and High School career, I was always in the
classes that contained over 75% girls. I began to think, those idiots
out there calling me names are still out there playing with themselves and
possible each other, while I get to play with the girls. I would just
laugh at them as I walked by. As you can see I developed a bit of an
attitude in Jr. High, but it was necessary to survive.
This attitude began a bit of a reputation, a tough reputation. I had
an image to maintain. Yes, all of you who know me, I did worry about
my image – for a while. I had me a black jacket that I wore every day
during the cold months. It was bad… I mean Michael Jackson bad.
I only swapped it with a blue jean jacket as they were both cool. This
is also when I began to listen to music – which coincided with my band duties.
Being in the band was lots of fun. We had a marching band and a Concert
band and every year just before school started we had a Band Camp that lasted
a week. Remember I was just 12 years old amongst girls who were 16,
17, and 18. They used to walk around in their short shorts and tight
t-shirt; it was enough to drive a young man mad. As a matter of fact,
my first real girl friend played the flute. Oh, the things she could
do with a flute! But that is another story. Marching band mainly consisted
of marching on the foot ball fields to music we played while marching during
the half time shows of the foot ball games on Friday nights. The day
started out with school till about noon, and then everyone would begin getting
together for a pep rally in the old gym. We would then go home and
change clothes to quickly come back to the school to get ready in our band
uniforms and march down the street towards the football field. We would
play short catchy tunes during the first two quarters, march during half
time, then have the third quarter off to go get cokes and hamburgers, nachos,
or what have you, then we would play more tunes during the fourth quarter.
We had a special “fight” song we would play every time the foot ball team
scored a touchdown. The town of Union also liked to do Parades.
We would have Homecoming parades, Christmas parades, and Easter parades.
Every year without fail for the next 6 years I marched in these parades.
We would start at the school then marched down towards the library then down
the highway and Main Street then down through the main shops and back to
the library playing what ever festive songs we had at the time of the parades.
Then to top off the marching theme, we always went to the State Marching
Contests to compete against all the other marching bands within the state.
It never was a game to be #1, but it was to get a score in all categories
of the highest mark. I believe there were 4 marks for each category
with a mark of “1” being the best. The categories were Overall Marching,
Flag Corps, Drum Major, Drum Corps, and Concert. That’s right;
we also had to do a concert playing classical music. So at the end
of the day, every band would come together at the grand stands and they would
announce everyone’s scores. Those bands who received a mark of “1”
in all categories were considered the best bands in the state. It was
very hard to get all “1’s” but Union did it three years in a row. We
really were very good. But that brings us to the Concert portion as
well. As a concert band we would play not only at contests, but competitions
at local colleges. The best players competed against one another for
first chairs in their instruments and once every one had been placed in a
seat, we would practice and prepare a concert in about two days. If
we were not doing this, we would be preparing for our local concerts, graduation,
or any other local event the community saw fit to have us play at.
We would play every thing from the new stuff people were creating to the
old Bach and Mozart stuff. We loved it. If there was any down
time between marching and concerts, groups of us would get together and do
what we called Jam sessions. We played what we liked, and some times
we didn’t even use instruments, sort to the early days of “Beat Box”.
Being in the band was one of the best learning experiences I have ever had.
From learning discipline in the marching, learning how to read and play music,
travelling from place to place playing and competing, meeting new and exciting
people, especially the girls on my part. Those long bus rides at night
in the back of the bus with the girls – a young man could learn a lot being
in the band.
Anyway, I was pretty good at the clarinet. After “try outs” between
about 10 of us, I was 4th chair. Not bad for the only guy in the section.
Lisa Philips (very hot, but out of my league) was first chair, Deloris Moulds
(very hot, but also out of my league – I think she liked me because she was
always riding my ass) was second chair, and Beth Finley (good looking girl,
but not as hot at the other two) sat next to me in 3rd chair. Then
there were other girls: Tracy Watts, Stacey Griffin, Dana, Diane Gomillion,
Heather, Angela Dickerson, and Jennifer Conrad – to just name a few.
Lisa, Deloris, and Beth were good buddies and were two years older than me.
Beth and I played most all our music together and we became good friends.
As a matter of fact, she was my first real date. Dad gave me the keys
to the car (an old Oldsmobile), made sure I had enough money and plans of
what to do, and how to get to and from. There were several girls behind
me, but I was always looking ahead; meaning the clarinets and flute.
During the 7th grade, Thomas dropped out and Ken moved off, but another guy
joined the clarinet ranks, Herman Thompson. Herman was a black guy
of whom we became good friends. He actually made it to 5th chair behind
me. But Herman and I also shared other likes, we both played sports
as well. I made it to first chair in the 10th grade only after the
older girls graduated. Herman was right there in 2nd chair with me.
Our band directors were as follow, Mike Tucker, Mr. Richard Germany, Don
Wallace, and Randy Dickerson. Mike was short skinny fellow with black
curly hair and a thick black moustache. I can see him now standing
in front of the band – he had a bad sway back and looked like a pretzel standing
there. He could never stand up straight. He loved his cigarettes
and coke. He left soon after I got there as it was rumored that he
and his wife split because of another rumour of him and one of the seniors
has a little hanky panky (remember the one I said that wore short shorts
and tight t-shirts and never wore a bra). Because of Mike’s untimely
demise, an English teacher who knew music very well, took over as the band
director in the interim. His name was Richard Germany, of which his
younger brother was a year behind me, Randy. Randy plays a pivotal
point in my life but much later. The faculty thought he did well enough
to stay at least one more year. That year was very boring – it was
more like school than band. I think he felt it too, and resigned at
the end of the term. Then they hired a man named Don Wallace.
Don was about 6’2” and 300 lbs. He was big man who wore glasses, smoked,
and loved to eat. He was big man who seemed hard nosed, but had a heart
as big as he was. He came from Louisville, MS and was the band director
there at Louisville HS where my first wife was at the same time - funny how
things work. Don loved the band and worked hard to keep it going.
Remember all the trips we did, well the school didn’t pay for it, all year
long we had to do fun raisers, sell hamburgers at Country Day, donations,
you name it we were doing it. Don had a wife and two kids (daughter
and a son). Don was with us for several years. The greatest thing
I remember about him was the fact that he helped me out. Both Herman
and I loved being in the band; however, we both loved playing sports, track,
football, basketball, and baseball. The problem was that Sports and
Band always conflicted with the schedules. We would play football and
then march at halftime and then play football again. When mom and I
went to talk to Don about the issue, he told us that when he was in school,
he loved both as well. But the school made him choose. He said
he chose the one he could make a career out of - tough decision for a teenager.
However, Don never made us do that. He said he always wanted a choice
to do both, so if we were willing to do the “hard yards” he would support
us in doing both. How happy was I? The only difference was that
Herman and I changed instruments while marching. We played the drums,
base drums. We maintained the clarinet during concert season.
Also at this same time, my little brother joined the band. He too played
the drums. So for the last two years of high school for me, Jimmy and
I both marched in the drum corps. To say the least, I was rarely home
during the last 4 years of high school. The last Band director we had
was named Randy Dickerson. He was the older brother of my classmate,
Dennis Dickerson. His whole family was musically inclined. Randy
was younger and more “HIP” but was very good nonetheless. We had a
lot of fun with him. Other than he really knew his stuff, the only
other thing I remember about him was that he took his brother, Dennis, with
him during the summer months on a 30 day driving trip around the US.
I think Randy has moved on to bigger things, and Dennis is now working in
Nashville for a record company.
Now that you know about my band experiences lets fill you in on those around
me in school. My school mates were as follows: Bruce Adkins,
Shane Bishop, Lisa Branning, Jerry Buckley, Pam Burnett, Angela Cockerham,
Sandra Collins, Jennifer Conrad, Angela Dickerson, Dennis Dickerson, Scott
Dooley, Sharman Fisher, Diane Gomillion, Rocky Harrison, Jeff Hitt, Tracy
Henley, Monica Hodges, Greg Jackson, Robert Killen, Shelly McCraw, Jason
McElhenny, Gerry McNichols, Corey Moorehead, Dawn Nicholson, Carol Phillips,
Tammy Savell, Cherrie Sistrunk, Chris Smith, Monica Staton, Vickie Terrell,
and Thomas Walden. You may remember a few of these name from the earlier
SEEK class. Let’s see if I can give a short rundown on each of these.
Bruce Adkins – mother worked for town Optometrist. I don’t know much
about the dad. He had a little brother named Ben, same age as Jimmy.
Bruce was not the brightest character in our class. He was more of
the muscle than anything. He was large, red headed, freckles, and a
deviant worse than I. His only goal in high school was to play football
and drink Budweiser. In our senior year I ended up doing his term paper
just so he could graduate, along with many others. Bruce usually followed
Shane Bishop around every where.
Shane Bishop – the class rebel. Shane had an older brother who was
a drum major for Union and Mississippi State University. Shane was
and probably is still very smart. However it was more important to
him to be the bad boy in town. We hung around together in the later
years but namely because of football, Joe Hennington, and a rebel cause.
He owned a 1965 Cougar that was painted Black and Gold (our school colors).
He would try anything once. We built swings, diving boards, and high
dives into the local creeks (The Hole and Swanners). Once poured gasoline
down a pipe; lit a match and threw it down the pipe. As he looked down
the pipe he caught is face and hair on fire. Not one of his best moments;
always working on his cars. We used to cut and haul pulp wood out of
his dad’s land to sell and pay for our tickets (speeding, what have you).
It was his car that we generally used to surf down the roads. One of
us would get on top of the car while the other drove down the streets of
Union. He and Joe Hennington worked out they were long lost cousins
some where and from then on, they were like brothers. Shane had the
reputation of being with all the ladies and to my recollection, he was with
a few. Shane could always come up with the beer, the liqueurs, the
girls, the cars, and the parties. I think his wild days have been laid
to the way side. The last I heard he was working some where, still
living at home, and dating a girl for over 5 years. The rumour has
it that her dad said he would disown her if she ever married him.
Lisa Branning – nice girl on most accounts. Her mother was an elementary
teacher at the same school. She dated Shane a little bit, and dated
Joe Hennington pretty heavy there until it was rumored that she had been
cheating on him – with a black guy. She was forever labelled a “nigger
lover”. Not that we didn’t like blacks, the whites and blacks just
didn’t mix in relationships – we were still in the Deep South. Wether
she did or not, I have no idea.
Jerry Buckley – descent black guy in our class – however he always had a
look about him that you really never knew if you could trust him or not.
He was a good team player in football. We were friends because of football
and that we shared the same name. I liked him nonetheless.
Pam Burnett – Ms. athletic. She was one of the smartest people at the
school. She played basketball, track, and in the beta club. She
was very tall. She was best friends with Angela Cockerham and they
went everywhere together. I don’t remember her ever dating too many
people. The last time I saw here was about 8 years ago and she had
gained a lot of weight.
Angela Cockerham – another Ms. Athletic. Her parents owned several
chicken houses, so she grew up on a farm. They were always well to
do. She had a younger brother, Brent. Angela was the second smartest
person in our class. She got a scholarship to go to a nice college
in Jackson and play basketball as well. I think she went into law.
I had a crush on her in the early junior high school. We became descent
friends over the years before graduation. All the guys used to go to
her house and go swimming in their pool. As a matter of fact, when
my first wife and I moved back to Union in 1996, we moved into her grandmother’s
old house in the country.
Sandra Collins – has an older brother who went into law. Sandra was
a quiet achiever and very sweet. She never really socialized, but always
managed to make top grades. She ended up being the third smartest person
in our class.
Jennifer Conrad – Jennifer was and probably still is a very nice girl, little
larger than most. She played the saxophone during concerts and flag
corps during marching. The most I can remember about her, other than
she won as many awards in band as I did was that she was very determined.
Angela Dickerson – cousin to Dennis and Randy Dickerson. Good looking
girl. She was my girlfriend for a few months in the ninth grade.
She too played the clarinet. I believe she ended up marring a guy named
Frankie Jordon who joined the navy.
Dennis Dickerson – Dennis was a wild man at heart. We still maintain
contact as he and my brother go out still in Nashville, TN. Dennis
played the French horn and was very good. His parents were about 50
when he was born. He was the youngest of about 4 or 5 brothers.
He and I would cut up so bad, nothing vulgar, just having fun. He was
one of the main instigators in our “Jam Sessions”. Dennis and I were
of the same mind when it came to band and girls. We loved the fact
that all our classes were 75% girls. His favorite was Diane Gomillion.
Dennis was always playing, making, or learning some new music. He loved
it. I suppose that is why he has a job at a record studio. Dennis
was and still is very cool.
Scott Dooley – Scotty is a stocky, red headed, freckly faced rock.
He was a quiet person, but no one could ever get the best of him. If
you ran in to him in the hall way, you moved not him – not that he was mean,
he was just very stout. One day we were all wrestling down at the football
field. I tried to knock him down where he would hit the ground first;
not so, he twisted around as I hit him and he landed on me and knocked the
breath out of me. We were still friends, but not buddies. His
dad owned a car repair shop and he was always building himself a better truck
Sharman Fisher – Sharman was a small, sweet, and feisty girl. Her mother
was the head of the school cafeteria and mom worked for her for a while.
Her brother, Justin, had multiple sclerosis and was confined to a wheel chair.
His body may not have responded well, but there was nothing wrong with his
mind. He was in the band with us. He played the bells, the chimes,
and other percussion instruments. Everyone accepted him and treated
him with respect, by helping with wheelchairs and such during contests.
I don’t know about Sharman, but Justin has gone on to college and I believe
Diane Gomillion – Diane was a very good looking girl. Her older sister
was good looking as well, but Diane was a bit “as cold as ice”. She
was outgoing, played the trumpet, and had a crush on Greg Jackson’s brother,
Scott, who also played the trumpet. But if anyone else wanted to establish
a relationship with her, they would get frost bitten. Dennis however
did manage to warm her up once on a band trip.
Rocky Harrison – Rocky from all accounts is a nice guy. He would laugh,
play football, and hang with us but he was always the quiet one. He
always wore a moustache. He had a younger brother that seemed to be
Rocky’s alter ego.
Jeff Hitt – Jeff came from a good family. He was a heavy guy during
high school. He had three younger sisters. His closest sibling
died of some disease and his next closest sibling died in a car crash.
During school he was fairly outgoing but in the academic nature. He
enjoyed being with the teachers than us. I guess that seems fair now
that he has returned to our “alma mater” and became a teacher him self.
Good for him. He was pretty smart as well.
Tracy Henley – If there was ever a wild and crazy girl in our class it was
Tracy. She was not promiscuous; she just did not conform to certain
rules. Don’t get me wrong she didn’t get in trouble, but she would
wear the Def Leopard and Led Zeppelin T-shirts while listening to Metalica
and Van Halen. She was a lot of fun to have around. She loved
doing all the extra curricular activities with us. She always spoke
her mind – we got along just fine.
Monica Hodges – Monica was a gorgeous girl. She was the girl
friend of Ken Blount in the 6th grade, then Thomas Walden in the 7th grade.
She was working down the line of us Clarinet boys, but she never made it
to me…. I am still devastated. Monica ended up being the smartest person
in our class. Her mother was our 6th grade history and math teacher.
She lived about 5 miles from me, so during my bicycle escapades, I would
ride over to her house and ride bikes with her for a while. That is
to say we were always just friends. She always tried to associate in
that upper class crowd and did so quite well, which is to say we didn’t spend
lots of time together. The last I heard of her is that she was one
of the few in our class that went overseas, Scotland, to got to school there
and eventually married a Scottish boy.
Greg Jackson – Greg and I were good friends. We would ride bikes together,
play tennis & baseball, and helped each other in school. Greg was
genius in math and went to several math competitions with Monica. Although
Greg was very quiet and reserved. He was the youngest of two, his brother
Scott who played the trumpet. His mother was single as his dad had
left them and she worked hard to keep the family going. I think Greg
took his father leaving very hard, thus, the reason for his nature.
He was very kind and thoughtful. I would enjoy catching up with him
again one day.
Robert Killen – Robert is a tall, “slanky” fellow. He never had much
thought about the future. He played tight end in football with us.
He wanted to be a bad boy, but just never could muster it. He did have
a fast truck, but after graduation only drove to work at the local lumber
plant. My guess is that he is still working there.
Shelly McCraw – Shelly was larger than life and a mouth to match. She
was a great girl who was in activity she could be in. Even though she
was a larger girl, she was well liked and was very close to Tracy Henley.
Shelly was smart but her greatest attribute was her ability to work the crowd
and her street smarts. She was voted our class President.
Jason McElhenny – the first thing that comes to mind about Jason is he was
Tall, Blond, and double jointed. That boy could do things with his
arms and fingers that would make you cringe. He played basketball (obviously),
baseball, and foot ball (for a while). He was like me where he could
linger between the upper crowd and the lesser crowd; however, he spent more
time in the upper where I spent more time in the lower – I had more fun.
Jason and Greg were good buddies for the longest and I guess they still are.
Jason dated Cherrie Sistrunk for years and ended up marring her; at last
I heard they had two boys. Jason was voted our class Vice President.
Corey Moorehead – Corey was a bit mixed up as a kid, but I believe he is
doing great now. He was an unexpected child to an older couple.
He had a nephew that was older than him. He was a bit heavy and a good
guy nonetheless. He liked the horses, the trucks, and fishing.
His dad had his own TV show, a fishing show. So Cory had most anything
he wanted, he was just left to his own devices (no guidance) most of the
time. He held his own and has come out ahead. His term paper
was one that I wrote to help him graduate. He has since married and
has a few children. His wife is a lady I have since discovered is a
long distant cousin on my family tree.
Dawn Nicholson – Dawn was very sweet and a good looking girl, but trying
to get her to speak was like pulling hen’s teeth. She was so quiet,
always sat in the back of the room. She was so timid that she always
took bad grades rather than stand in front of the class room if required.
I probably should have dated her at least once.
Carol Phillips – Carol is the sister to the Lisa Philips that played the
clarinet with me. Carol was good looking but always wanted to hang
with the rough crowds from the other grades. She began to be treated
bad and looking bad. I won’t surmise as to what if anything she did.
I know she married a guy named Kevin from our class. I could not tell
you if she was still married or any kids. I met her some years later.
She was working as a hair dresser and she gave me a haircut. I liked
her and hope she is ok today.
Tammy Savell – Tammy looked like a 10 year old even at 17. She was
so short and small and skinny. She was a country gal who grew up on
a dairy farm. All the Savell’s were farmers. About the age of
15 Tammy for some reason got the nick name “BJ”. I will leave that
alone. Tammy dated and married a guy from our drum corps, Robin Williams
– no not the actor.
Cherrie Sistrunk – Cherrie is a nice, outgoing, Pentecostal girl. She
has a little sister that was “hitting” on me for a while. She is also
cousin to Rene & Amy Breedlove. Cherrie did not do sports or activities,
but she always participated in everything else. Her and Jason McElhenny
dated for ever and eventually married with kids. I liked Cherrie very
Chris Smith – Chris was an outlander. His dad (stepfather) had pushed
him to develop his skills in sports (baseball and football). His dad
was relentless, but a good guy any how. As a result Chris could do
no right – there was always something he could do better in his father’s
eyes. Chris was very good at baseball and held his own as a quarterback,
but he always seemed like he was pushing too hard and not having much fun.
We took Chris with us once while we skipped school. Several of us had
cars and we were “flying” down some old back roads near my house. Chris
was so scared that he curled up in the floorboard till we were through.
David Ezell and I took him to our swimming hole once way out in the back
woods. He decided to get sick on us so bad that we had to rush him
to the emergency room. Chris later joined the military (ARMY) and after
1 year was feeling the pain. He got his dad to appeal to a local State
Senator to request that he be discharged and was so after 2 years in the
Monica Staton – Monica was always a picture of serenity. She was always
calm, quiet, seemingly meek and mild. There was never a bad word spoken
from her; nor about her. She was fun to be around but not active at
all. She married Eddie Truitt, a local boy, who was the son of our
Sherriff of Newton Co. MS. Eddie lived just three quarters of a mile
from my house. One of the neighbor’s house between he and I caught
on fire one day. We had seen the smoke and came running. As we
were the first to get there, we went inside the house while burning and made
sure every one was out as we knew everyone that lived there and the old man
had trouble getting around. Once we found out no one was inside, Eddie
and I began to bring out furniture and pictures and blankets (anything) before
it burned up until it was just too hot to enter. I don’t know the cause
but the insurance had that house rebuilt in 3 months (fastest I have ever
seen). The old man that lived in that house died soon after and the
wife sold the house to Eddie later on. He now lives there with Monica
and their children. Eddie and Monica own a local gas station.
I used to charge my gas there and pay him every couple of weeks on my pay
days. Eddie’s dad, Bill, used to bring the drugs and things he would
confiscate from those he arrested to show us as kids. The point of
that was for us to recognize what someone may try to give us as kids.
Vickie Terrell – Vickie is the granddaughter of my adopted grandmother, Melba
Smith. Vickie was lazy and a bit of a sloth who got mixed up with the
same crowds as Carol above. It was rumoured that in one night (at a
party) she got so drunk that she messed around with 5 different guys.
I knew a couple of them and I reckon that it is true. I never really
had much to do with her as I was growing up. I have been updated from
Melba that she has now left her wayward boyfriends and managed to get a teaching
certificate and is now a elementary teacher. Good for her.
Thomas Walden – Thomas is an only child. He was cool and very laid
back. He owned a Red 1965 Mustang. He had long hair and a moustache.
The girls thought he was very cool and all he could do was smile, turn red,
and pat down his moustache. Thomas played football with us, but he
and I used to also play foot ball on weekends. He went to the swimming
holes with us. He played the clarinet with me for the first year, till
it was un-cool for him. I helped Thomas graduate with his term papers
as well. The last I heard of Thomas he was working with Robert Killen
at the local timber company.
Robert Hedgepeth – Robert had my disease – he was the son of a preacher man.
His father was very strict. I got his dad to let him come with my family
to a family reunion at a lake once. Robert was not allowed wear shorts
(religion or something). Dad bought him some shorts and told us to
get lost and have fun. We swam and played pool and all kinds of stuff
other kids do. Back home we played football on weekends with Thomas.
As his dad was so strict, Robert rebelled a lot. We used to cut up
in school so much. The teachers would try and separate us but that
just made it worse; keeping us together was the best option. We were
in a typing class together. Robert and I were talking about our parents
not having an indoor toilet until they were 17. There were other things
as well going on, but when the teacher asked us what we were doing we told
her. She made a smart comment about dad must have been hurting not
being able to go to the bath room for 17 years. It doesn’t seem that
funny now, but Robert and I fell on the floor laughing so hard that the teacher
was literally kicking us to get up off the floor. He had a sister,
Vickie that was very feisty. The whole family were red heads, but she
had a deep red head of hair. I used to go over and act like a good
little preacher’s boy for his dad to pick him up and get him out of the house
for a while. We would drive down the dirt roads as fast as we could
and turn doughnuts.
David Ezell – David is probably the longest close friend I have ever had.
He is the same age as me, but his mom held him back a year in the 3rd or
4th grade. His mother, Susan, was like my second mom as I was over
at his house so much. His dad, Robert, was always working but he always welcomed
me. His little sister, Amy, was just like my sister. I still
think of her as my sister. His grandmother treated me just like her
own grandchildren. She would let me know quickly if I was out of line.
David lived in a trailer with three bedrooms and two baths. When I
first met him he was living just off of Hwy 15, north of Union. I knew
of David because of the band but had never done much with him. David
was very big into the band and music. He played the saxophone and before
he graduated, he was a drum major. In the 9th grade a new boy named
Joe Hennington came to live in Union. I had made friends with him and
went over to his house one day. We messed around the house for a while
then we went for a walk behind his house. When we came out of the woods,
we were on a dirt road in front of trailer. It was David’s house –
the only house on the road. David and Amy both came out as Joe and
I arrived. Then we all walked down to the end of the road. I
was just along for the ride, but they had a purpose. The a few days
before, Amy and David had spotted a suspicious car driving slowly past their
house. As kids are nosey, they snuck down the road to follow the car.
What they believe they witnessed was a drug deal as another car came up and
stopped. The same car came everyday about this time since and met other
cars. Sure enough the car was there but this time I believe they spotted
the 4 kids (us). We ran back to David’s house and ran inside.
The car drove back by slowly. Later we went back down to where the
cars were and found some foil wrapped up neatly on the ground. We picked
it up and opened it. There was some white stuff in it. We immediately
assumed drugs and called the police. They came and got it from David’s
mom and dad and that was the end of it. But from that point on David
and I were best friends. The following weekend, David invited me over
to his house to watch a video with him and Joe. Mom dropped me off
at David’s and we watched “Red Dawn”. Prior to that, I had never watched
a video. I was too busy to stop and notice one. I loved that
movie and we watched movies from then on every weekend, 5 and 6 at a time.
I remember the movie “Platoon” came out and dad took me and Dave to the theatre
to see it. David and I were inseparable. Over the years, Dave
and I did everything – swimming, running, pool, movies, football, volleyball,
band, girls, school, eating, and church.
David and I probably went swimming every single day during the summer months.
At the local lake or water shed where Mr. Brantley built his boat shed as
I mentioned earlier, we would swim for hours with the snakes and alligators.
We would swim across the lake and back (about a quarter mile swim) or jump
off either the pier or spillway. If that got old, we would go to the
HOLE. The hole was a sharp bend in a local creek (about 8 miles from
the house). Over the years the bend in the creek was like a whirlpool
and has dug out the bottom till about 30’. Over the years, a tree has
grown up on the bank of the bend and has split in three ways. This
has allowed us to build a platform between the three trunks. From here
we built a diving board. One of the trunks leans far out over the creek
and is about 30’ above the water. We built a ladder up the trunk and tied
a swing made of rope and an old lawn mower handle to swing out into the creek.
Then to top it all off we continued out ladder to the top of the tree where
we could jump out as a high dive. Jumping off the high dive was the
only way to touch the bottom of the pool. To prove we did it we had
to bring up a handful of mud – but be careful not to get tangled in the massive
root system at the bottom. We had to park our cars out on the dirt
road, then jump a fence and walk a 100 yards to get there. Then if
we wanted something different we would go to Swanners. This was closer
to the house (5 miles) but it was much harder to get to. We had to
drive to an old field, sneak through the gate in a fence, and drive about
three quarters of a mile in a grass field and hide the car in an old log
road. Then we had to get out and walk about a half mile down the log
road through the woods to get to the creek. Once you got there you
would see where the creek had flooded some years back and washed away a huge
wide open space; a gully if you will about 8’ deep and about 100’ wide.
The creek never stopped flowing and built a pool with a hard sandy bottom
(just like a man made pool) about 15’ deep. On the side of the 8’ bank
a large oak tree had leaned over about 45 degrees due to the wash out and
stretched out over the pool. If you climbed down the bank, you would
have to cross a 10’ wide sand bar before reaching the pool. The quickest
way to the pool however was to crawl out onto the leaning tree and get someone
to throw you the rope swing tied to the top of the tree. This rope
had an old metal pipe about 2’ long tied to the bottom of it. Holding
on to the swing, you would make your self fall off the tree, pick your feet
up high (and your bum) as to not hit the sand bar till the rope swing took
you about 15’ above the pool. Then you would let go and jump in, dive
in, or do flips in the air. Swanners became so popular that at any
given time you could find a parking lot in the field. The land owners
finally caught on to what we were doing and had us kicked off due to the
liability of someone getting hurt. But we found another way in there
and kept going for years. The owner of the land at the Hole didn’t
like us there either and tried to run us off, but there again, it was futile.
We knew the owner of the lake and never got kicked out of there.
Then if Dave and I were not watching movies or swimming, we were playing
pool at Rigdon’s. Rigdon’s is a restaurant / video store / games room
/ pool hall / haven for the ill repute. We would run up to Rigdon’s
and play pool for hours (or until the money ran out). When we started
it was 25¢ per game, but after a while and the place was busy they increased
to 50¢ per game. As I was the only one who worked at the time
(at TWL and cutting grass), I paid for everything, the games, the videos,
the gas in the car, and the food and drinks. What else did I have to
spend my money on? Honestly, Dave and I were very good and won most
games with anyone else. We could make the ball do just about anything
we wanted. To bad I can’t do all that anymore. Dad came with
us one day and just whooped our tails. That was the last time we invited
him again. During the week we would be at each other’s house if we
were not at school or in band. He came to all my family events and
I his. Mom called him her other son. We had a family reunion
at our house and we cooked or BBQ 50 or so chicken breasts. David and
I took a plate with about 25 and ate the whole thing. Uncle Larry never
lets us forget it.
There were times, especially during the winter months, that we would play
football. Now this was in the front yards of people houses, such as
Bill Russell. We would play hard hitting, full tackle, but with no
pads. There were a few who went home with broken bones (Chris Gardener),
but all of us went home with massive bruises. I was very fit as I played
High School Football and David was a big boy himself (about 6’ and 220 lbs)
– we made a good team. And if the games were not going on, David and
I went to Cherrie Sistrunk’s house to play volley ball for a while on weekends.
Cherrie’s house was over on the western side of Union, close to Sebastopol.
It was David to whom my first real girlfriend used to find out more about
me. David introduced me to Lea Boykin from Sebastopol.
Joe Hennington – The only person to match David was Joe Hennington.
As I mentioned earlier, he was a transfer from another school. He came
from Bay Springs (Louin), MS. He came in the 9th grade. The first
time I had ever met him was in Algebra class. I was sitting in my desk next
to the wall (which has a chalk board). The only empty desk was in front
of me. One of the teachers brought Joe in and Mrs. Adkins (my math
teacher for three years) told him to sit in front of me. This of course
woke me up as I usually slept through Algebra class. He was short,
stocky, with long curly hair. He walked like he was a bad ass in his
camouflage pants and Van Halen t-shirt and could whip anyone who challenged
him. I leaned forward and asked him his name. He turned around
and quickly said, Joe. I had stolen a piece of chalk earlier to break
up my boredom in class. I took the chalk and wrote in big letters G.I.
JOE. Then I drew an arrow from the letters pointing to the back of
his head. When he turned around he couldn’t help but laugh. We
have been friends ever since. In algebra class I used to sleep most
of the time. Joe was always upset with me because every time the teacher
woke me up, thinking she would embarrass me to answer a question, I would
give her the answer correctly and go back to sleep. This frustrated
Joe as he was the only person I knew who could get a NEGATIVE score on any
exam in algebra. He just could not get it.
Joe was a bit of a wild child but with some weird logic that actually worked.
I suppose he got it from his parents. Joe was a Purple Belt in the Shotokan
karate. Prior to meeting me, he used to spar (or fight) all the time.
He continued this ritual mostly with Shane, but the rest of us as well.
He had hit so many things with his hands that he could crack his knuckles
every time just by flexing his fingers into a fist. His dad, Billy, was a
X-ray technician at the local hospital and his mom, Ruby, was a registered
nurse. His parents were as cool if not a little cooler than my parents.
Billy was a bit of an enigma. You never really knew which was he was
coming. He could cook the best Frog legs in Mississippi as far as I
am concerned. My first interaction with Ruby was she talked my parents
in to letting me go with Joe and David to “roll yards”. She taught
us to wear dark clothes, to cover the car tags with mud or muddied up toilet
paper, and the art of the angle of attack when throwing a roll of toilet
paper over tree limbs and houses. We had so much fun. We got
to be pretty good at it over the years. We experimented with other
items as well, depending the feelings toward the person we were rolling.
If we liked you, you only woke up to a white yard as if it had snowed during
the night. But if we didn’t like you……..
We used other items such as soap powder, powdered milk, clear plastic forks
and fishing line, Styrofoam (smaller pieces than in bean bag), or rotten
eggs on top of the rolls of toilet paper. There were times we set out
to only “roll” one house because what we wanted to do would take hours.
I worked at TWL (a chain variety store) and could get cases of toilet paper
and huge boxes of washing powder. The powdered milk, forks, and eggs
came from the grocery store, and the fishing line came from our homes.
The Styrofoam came from the rubbish bin of a local insulation plant (of which
I worked at for a while later on). A person whom we really hated would
get the following: First we would plan it months in advance (3 month
old eggs were perfect). Second we would on the night spread the Styrofoam
pieces all over the yard (you could never get them out of your yard) while
rolling the trees and house, then we would sprinkle the soap powder and powdered
milk all over the yard as well (when it rained the soap suds and the smell
of sour milk was awesome), we would stab plastic forks all over the yard
especially around the steps and tied fishing line from each fork very tight.
The yard was destroyed. Then we would stand back admire, then bomb
the house with the 3 month old eggs. We never threw the eggs on the
cars as it would eat the paint off, but the yard and the house were fair
game. Mind you, Ruby only promoted the rolling of yards; we came up
with the rest on our own later.
Joe and I played side by side in football. He was #64 and I was #65.
We both played Guards on offense and we both played linebacker on defense.
I was the Defensive Captain and Joe would play in any other position as well.
Although we could not out run the black boys, we were the fasted white boys
out there. Joe and I were equals in running the 100 yard dash, lifting
weights, and we always had fun. Before each game we had a ritual to
eat bananas and fruit cocktail or honey to build up our potassium.
When came home with bruises, we would (under the direction of Billy) create
a mixture of vinegar and red clay dirt. This mud would be applied to
our big bruises and wrapped up. By the next morning, our bruises were
gone. Don’t ask me how it all works, it just did. It never was
serious for us playing foot ball, Joe and I always had fun. Once during
a game against Scott Central we were so far ahead they would never catch
up. We were playing at their field and it smelt like they covered the
entire field in chicken shit before we got there. We decided we were
going to have fun on defence and scare the quarter back. Shane Bishop
and I were linebackers and Joe and Bruce Adkins were playing defensive linemen.
We knew the quarterback always took his count on the ball on THREE, so the
plan was for Joe and Bruce to jump off sides on the count of TWO and take
out the offensive linemen while they were unaware. As they were doing
this, Shane and I would bust through the hole at full blast and take out
the quarterback. I believe there was a hole in the ground where we
left the quarterback. We lost 5 yards for being off sides – but who
cares. We won anyway. I remember we had spring training and we
were coached the whole camp about this guy playing for Enterprise (our rivals).
He was supposed to be the ‘badest” thing on two legs. When we finally
got to play them, this guy proved to be nothing as Joe and I kept him occupied.
He didn’t know which way we were coming. Joe and I were going out after
a game one night, and he came over to my house first. He asked if he
could have a shower before we left. Of course we let him, but to me,
if Joe felt comfortable enough to ask for a shower at my house, I felt he
considered me a good friend – in the south, we just didn’t do that anywhere.
Funny how little things stick in your mind. That was probably one of
the many nights we went car surfing as I mentioned earlier with Shane.
We would get in to town and one of us would drive while the others would
crawl out on top of the cars (the hood or the roof or both). We would
drive between 30-40 mph and attempt to surf down the road and not fall off.
Some of us fell down, but never off the car.
During school, especially during the junior and senior years, Joe and I hated
the cafeteria food. We would sneak out and jump in my car and drive
to a local restaurant. They served those personal pan pizzas (they
were just coming out) or home made hamburgers. We used to do this so
much that we got orders sometimes. Some one caught us leaving one day
and told the principle, Mr. Jones. When we drove back, Mr. Jones was
standing in the parking lot waiting for us. Mr. Jones was big and tall,
but he was probably the coolest principle I know of. He set the record
straight that if he caught us again, we would be in serious trouble and let
us go. We never got caught again. But we did find out who told
on us and Joe and I literally picked up their car and turned is sideways
in the parking lot so they could not get out until everyone had left.
We did this for a while and then started doing it to everyone. The
last time we skipped school was our senior year. About 10 of us decided
to go for pizza and bowling, but in Meridian (30 mins away). We stopped
off at my house first and I told mom where I was going. Then we made
a fast trip down the back roads (this is where Chris curled up in my floor
board) to the Pizza Hut. Joe and I had both signed up for the military
already and we already had our IDs. We ordered about 3-4 pitchers of
beer and a few pizzas. They let us have it. Shane, Joe, Bruce,
and I finished the beer, the girls wouldn’t drink it – nor would a few of
the other boys. When we finished, we put the beer glasses in the girl’s
purses and Shane snuck out the empty beer pitchers – for mementoes of our
trip. Then we went bowling for about 4 hours till some of the guys
had to go home.
During our escapades, Joe came along with Dad, Jimmy, Grandpa, and I down
to the local lake we used to swim across. Jimmy and dad wanted to fish
and took the 10’ boat to the other side of the lake. Joe and I stayed
with Grandpa (Eulon) at Mr. Brantley’s pier. Grandpa sat in his
chair at the top in the shade watching Joe and I jump off the pier in to
the lake. It was like clockwork for a while; one would jump and run
straight back up and the other would jump and come strait back up.
I jumped off once and didn’t go back up as I was tired of climbing the stairs.
Joe was about to jump when grandpa spoke up and said, “Jerry, Where You At?
Are You Down There Beating Your Meat?” Joe nearly fell of the railing
he was laughing so hard. We always remember that and laugh. I
think that is the legacy between Joe and me. From the day we met, if
either one of us came to school or anywhere upset, the other one would do
his best to make them cheer up.
Joe and his parents began coming to church at Greenland with us; Ruby and
Joe mostly, because Billy and Ruby split up a few years later. Joe
continued to go to church with us and dad had him starting to teach Sunday
school. When dad left, they asked Joe to the pastor. I believe
he did so for a number of years, but eventually gave it up.
Ok, you know about most of my life up till the 6th grade (age 12, December
1982) and a few things about the people I grew up with. Let’s continue
with the 7th grade, 1983. At age 13 the first thing that comes to mind
is a trip on my birthday with dad. Dad at this stage only worked as
a manager for a year and had now been promoted to District Manager for TWL.
So he travelled a good bit from store to store. I love travelling with
dad, seeing new things, and working in the stores. Dad took me with
him down south this time towards Waynesboro I believe. As we were coming
back the weather got really bad, a tornado was near and we didn’t know it.
All of the sudden it got really dark and the winds died down. Then
just as quickly as the winds died, they picked back up and we could see right
in front of us was a tornado. We kept driving forward and the car shook
from the winds. Dad and I were discussing getting out of the car and
lying in the ditch, but then every thing calmed back down although it stayed
dark for a while. Later we heard the news and they reported a tornado
exactly where we were. We had driven through it. That evening
when we got home, mom had a surprise for me. Up until then Jimmy and
I had always shared a room in bunk beds made by dad. These bunk beds
were made out of 2”x 6” and 8” bolts. They withstood 2 boys for years.
Mom had cleaned out her entire sewing room (a small room) and had a bed and
my dresser drawers in there. I had my own room – happy birthday!
To add to my mental growth mom and dad saw fit to attempt to put some culture
in me. They insisted that I be taken to some local entertainment; mainly
at East Central Community College. I had to go to Symphonies, an Opera,
several musicals and / or plays. Dad said you don’t have to like it,
you just have to go and experience them – and then you can make up your mind.
I hated that back then, but now I respect that and want to do this with my
own children. I do like the symphonies but I still hate the operas
and musicals. Actually I just don’t like crowds or loud music.
To add to my mental growth, other than learning the names of all 82 Mississippi
counties and relearning the multiplication tables and finishing the SEEK
class; I began to be creative in my thinking. Yes, I was not always
the perfect student. As a matter of fact I did have a few exams come
back with a less than desirable mark. I am sure it was not because
I did not know the information, but more because I was more involved in other
important activities, such as paper football or throwing spit balls.
However, I believe the entire class also had the same dedication of other
activities which led to a less than desirable mark for everyone. As
a result the teacher, Mr. Germany (Randy’s brother who also was our band
director) insisted that every student have their exams signed by the parents.
You’re kidding right? She wanted me to show my dad a piece of paper
that could potentially get me a trip to the woods for a switch? I think
not. I got my old buddy and old pal Thomas Walden to whip up a wonderful
forgery of my father’s signature. I made him practice a few times before
he wrote on the real thing. I thought Thomas did a wonderful job.
And because Thomas was in the same predicament as I, I did the same for him.
The work we had done however was not completely thought out. Thomas
and I were both in the band at this time playing the clarinet. The
former band director was relieved from his present duties and replaced with
none other than Mr. Germany. This meant that he would have known our
parents and signatures. I can’t believe we missed this vital piece
of information. We turned in our signed exams and immediately were
asked to come up to the desk. We flat out lied and said yes they knew
and signed the exam; if he didn’t believe us to call them. That is
just what he did. Mr. Germany called our parents. I am not sure
about Thomas because I didn’t see him for days, but I myself didn’t sleep
well for a few days. I couldn’t roll over on my backside. I suppose
this was the same reason I sleep on my front and sides now – meaning I was
conditioned at an early age. Mom used to smack us for the longest time
with a fly swat; till the time came when we just looked at her when she did
it – from then on we were sent to the room to wait on dad.
This growing could see no end with dad and mom. As you can tell we
were not the most wealthy of families but we were having fun. And any
vacation we may have had was never over a couple of hours away – we went
no where during this stage of our lives. Mom always tried to save enough
for a plane fair to California just in case something happened to her parents,
but nothing besides that. But mom and dad saved up once to go on vacation.
They took us, Jimmy and I, to Disney World. I couldn’t tell you much
about it. I remember a long drive and a huge parking lot. I remember
one of the parking lots having a robot running around. I remember being
in the line at Space Mountain and dad finding someone he went to school with
there. And I know we went to the Epcot Center and saw a light show.
Other than this, I remember not liking it at all. That is right, I
was the perfect age group for Disney World and I hated it. I don’t
know if I was being a little bastard, whether I didn’t get to see what I
wanted, or I didn’t like the drive, but I do vividly remember mom and
dad saying they would never take us there again. I haven’t been back
since (as of 2006). During this same trip we drove across to New Orleans
from Orlando. The reason was because the 1984 World’s Fair was going
on. I remember collecting a hat and a Frisbee with the World’s Fair
logo on them (lost them by now) and I remember dad meeting someone at the
gate entrance to the parking lot who came from the same location as he did
in Mississippi. I can still hear dad telling him, “We sure have chewed
some of the same dirt”. He meant this literally as kids in Mississippi
used to eat the red clay dirt. I can only remember going on vacation
with mom and dad on two other occasions and we haven’t got to that point
in time yet.
During the 7th and 8th grade years, I was learning my self and pushing all
the boundaries. I had pimples, attempted to part my hair down the middle
rather than on the side, and attempted to climb greased poles for fun.
I was trying to be cool. I had girls starting to call me at home, I
had girls at school that everyone didn’t like take a shining to me, I even
had my first and last fight. I had an image to create.
I had dad picking on me and grandpa giving me advice on women.
I suppose the pimples beginning was a good thing as it marked the beginning
of my puberty years. On second thought, It really wasn’t a good thing
in some ways; my puberty years. An old tale told by many of the old
men in the community was that all young boys started getting pimples because
they were masturbating; as this would be the time that the boys begin discovering
what penis is for. I am here to say that that tale is untrue.
I had to have got my pimples from something else. But nonetheless those
pimples did come and lots of them. At one time I found some of mom’s
make up and used to dab a little bit over them to cover them up. This
was the beginning of where I decided it didn’t matter what people thought.
At this stage though, I still cared. It was just a matter of whether
I cared if I had pimples or if I cared that people saw that I had mom’s make
up on. I chose the earlier. I would rather the pimples than people
to think I wore make up. After a few weeks, I just dealt with the pimples.
Thank God, they went away a couple of years later. I still get them
but only when I get extremely hot. But also I began to experiment with
my hair styles. How did I want it? I grew up with one of two
styles, a crew cut or a part on the left side. I liked them both, but
I was trying to discover things about my self. I tried to part my hair
down the middle for a while. My buddy Randy Smith had his parted as
well. I believe I let that fad go the day I started working, as the
norm in business was to part your hair on the left (it could have been because
dad did it and was my boss). To put another example of finding
out who I was and what I could do came with an event during Country Day.
Now Country Day was an annual event the town of Union put on to celebrate
its long history. See Union was established in 1834. In 1984,
the city celebrated its Bi-sesquicentennial birthday (or 150 years old).
The reason for its longevity was because of its name. During the civil
war, General William T. Sherman was making his path down through the south
chasing Gen. Grant. Gen. Sherman camped for the night in Union, at
the Boler Inn which is still standing. As Sherman belonged to the Union
(versus the Confederates), he refrained from burning the town to the ground
based on its name. Country Day was a big deal to the community.
Folks would start arriving early in the morning and begin setting up little
booths up and down the streets, like a giant flea market. You could
get anything from cheap little toys, to hand made quilts and wood furniture.
There were all kinds of entertainment, singing, the band playing, and lots
of running around (water fights, balloon fights, and pole climbing).
Us kids would play all day and run around the town. The parents, at
least mine anyway, were always working at the Band Concession Stand selling
drinks and hamburgers to make money for our band trips. As mentioned
earlier, pole climbing was one of the things we did as a kid. Down
at the park, they put a 20’ log which had been trimmed and shaven all smooth
in the ground with about 15’ still showing. This seems like nothing
but they guys nailed a $50 note on the top and then greased the entire pole
with lard. All the kids my age and some older tried to climb this pole.
I myself tried three times and failed. However on my fourth try, I
figured out how to climb this thing and made it to the top and brought down
the $50. I was so excited that I had beaten everyone else and ran back
through town to tell mom and dad even though I was covered in lard.
But this is also when the girls started being noticed and noticing me.
Beginning from the 4th grade and lasting till the 7th grade, there was a
certain girl named “Beth” of which her surname I am unable to recall.
I don’t know much about Beth except that I think she came from a poor family.
She wasn’t the best looking thing, but I don’t remember her being just dog
ugly. What ever it was, she was the designated outcast. Every
class or school has one. Now if the kids knew where I came from and
how poor I was, I too would have been in that category, but to them I was
in between these classes. Because I was not too indifferent from her
I never picked on her or condoned the like from others, however, I was never
her friend and never spoke to her. As a result, I was probably what
she would have considered being nice to her. This resulted in her “liking”
me. Not only did I get picked on in school about my haircut, but I
was also being picked on because the “Outcast Girl” made it known that she
liked me. This was not good for my reputation, yet I retained my composure
and didn’t do or say anything negative towards her. Dad used to pick
on me about this a lot and this made me mad. Thankfully, she either
went to another school or moved away by the 7th grade and that was the end
of it. Until, I was in the band. Where Beth left off, a little
black girl, named Penny, took a shinning to me. Now I knew nothing
about her, nor did I even know she existed until then, but she knew me and
the word got back to me that this girl was “keen” on me. She was not
much to look at and I didn’t like the thought of it anyway. I mean
I was taught and grew up in the south, in middle of Mississippi. Blacks
& Whites just did not mix in that way. It was more of a joke in
the 7th and 8th grade and it was never really an issue except at home.
Dad still picked on me about it. I can remember it now like it was
yesterday. We were all sitting at the dinner table one night just before
church on a Wednesday night. Dad and I sat at opposite ends of the
table, while mom and jimmy sat opposite one another. Dad was picking
on me about Penny. I don’t know what happened or even how, but I suddenly
found my hand in the air giving dad the middle finger, “the Bird”.
I will allow you to determine what that meant. It was like second nature
to me from the kids at school but dad was making me mad about it. Once
I realized I had just basically told my dad, my father, a pastor, a man three
times my size, to F*** Y**, I immediately attempted to hide my hand behind
the small vase of flowers in the middle of the table, but it was too late,
Dad, mom, and Jimmy all had seen it. Then I just lowered my hand and
my head and then looked at dad. He was staring at me with the stare
that could have killed me. I believe that if dad could have reached
me he could have. But he got up from the table and left for church.
I looked at mom. She was just as scared as I was, but for me.
Jimmy was just glad it wasn’t him. Mom and Jimmy went on to church
while I just lagged behind. I don’t even remember what was said at
church, I was too worried about what was going to happen afterwards.
After church we went home, I waited in my room knowing dad would be here
soon. Sure enough, dad came in my room and shut the door behind him.
This was it; my ass was about to turned to mince meat. I could see
it in his eyes, the anger and the concern of what he would do if he put his
hands on me. He took a deep breath; I just knew he was going to tell
me to go the woods behind the house and cut him a bit switch, but he just
looked at me and said, “If you ever do that again, I will beat you to a pulp.
You will not be able to sit down for a month – do you understand”.
I just shook my head Yes. Then he left. I went to sleep and tomorrow
was a new day. I learned a valuable lesson, be careful who you tell
to F*** O** - no, my lesson was to respect my dad.
Not only was I having trouble with the girls, I was getting advice from Grandpa
on women as well. I remember going to pick up grandpa from his house
one day and taking him for a ride. We stopped off at the SONIC restaurant
and ordered our favourite, a #2 burger and large onion rings. Grandpa
was a severe diabetic and not allowed to eat this stuff but he did anyway
because he wanted to. Dad took us all to a park with picnic tables
where we could eat outside. Just before we got there, Grandpa busted
out with his famous words of wisdom. Out of the blue, he said, “Jerry,
don’t ever marry a fat woman”. He was sitting up front with dad, while
Jimmy and I were in the back. I asked him why as I was laughing (under
my breath). He said, “Because it will cost you too much to buy enough
powder to keep them smelling nice”. I couldn’t hold it any more… I
laughed and laughed.
Grandpa was a man who only made it to the third grade yet did so much in
his life and was a rascal while doing it. His overwhelming quality was he
loved his family, but I am speaking from a grandson's perspective. I respect
him for that. He worked and supported his huge family the best he could.
Dad says they grew up desperately poor, but I think dad and all my uncles
and aunts turned out great. I have his last set of driver's license and I
sometimes just stare and look at him remembering. Grandpa Eulon was born
on 18 Dec 1917 in Smith Co. MS. He was the son of Vander Bill Smith (b. 1889
/ d. 1970). He came from a long line of good, tough and stubborn men
who were mostly farmers and had lots of time to make children. As a matter
of observation, I do believe that Eulon was the one who broke the mold from
farming to public work when farming just wasn't enough to support the family.
I remember stories grandpa would tell us while he was older. Dad remembers
that Eulon was known for his fast driving. He once told me that the highway
patrol stopped him, walked up and said," Sir, are you aware that the speed
limit is 55mph?” Grandpa replied, "Yes sir, I was doing every bit of it!"
What got the highway patrol's first attention was grandpa using the yellow
lines in the middle of the road as a center for his truck. He explained that
he was just keeping it between the ditches. Grandpa's favourite thing to
do was go fishing down at Cohay Creek. While he and the oldest children were
ploughing the fields, my dad, was to walk behind them and pick up the worms,
putting them in a Prince Albert can, so they could knock off early and go
fishing. Dad says that Eulon taught him to swim by throwing him overboard
the boat in the local pond. It didn't work that time, but finally worked
after several attempts.
Grandpa was always full of wisdom and how to deal with people. Once while
over at our house eating, I watched him rattle his glass on the table for
a couple of minutes. After a minute I realized he was politely telling my
mom to hurry up and refill his tea glass. He always had such a way
with words. He even knew how to save money on finances. Rather than use the
tap water in the sink, I caught him using other cheaper, more inventive methods
to wash his false teeth - My idol. He was even a great dancer. He used to
tell me that he loved going "jukin" because the people thought he was a good
dancer at his age. Later I found out he was just trying to stand up. I have
other stories of profound statements, but I probably couldn't publish them.
Even with all this, I still love him. He was himself, spoke what was on his
mind, honest, and loved his family. I remember dad telling me that he loved
my grandma something awful.
With all this going on, the girls still kept calling me at home too.
However this time they were the one’s I didn’t mind calling. The word
was out that Preacher’s kids were the rebels. I dated a preacher’s
daughter once, and she proved that theory true. I believe her name
was Tara. Dad was not that strict; therefore, I didn’t feel the need
to rebel, I liked having my parents around – I could still have fun and get
money from them if I needed it. Dad and mom were very cool parents
– although I learned respect as I proved above. They didn’t mind me
hanging out with Randy Smith and Michael Bradley, as this was the time I
was doing all those things I mentioned with them earlier. But in the
7th or 8th grade, I don’t remember exactly when (during the moon of the falling
leaves), but I did something that changed me and other’s perception of me.
All my life, no matter how mad or upset I was I never ever was in a fight.
I never swung in anger. But on this fateful day, I got in a fight.
It was for no reason. I started it over some thing stupid such as the
guy sitting at my desk or something like that. Why was not important
to remember. What was important to remember was that I made a fuss
about something trivial with a guy that was bigger than me but not as strong
as me. As there were other people around I had to stand my ground no
matter how stupid it was – reputation. I pushed and kicked some desks
out of my way moving towards the guy (Bubba Chamblee was his name who ended
up marrying Debra Daniels who lived behind me). I wrestled him and
got him in a head lock. When I did this so easily, I felt like a piece
of crap. I let him go quickly, fixed the desks, and sat down.
I never spoke of that day again. I did apologize to Bubba a day or
so later. From this point forward, I have never been in a fist fight
since. I have always managed to negotiate or walk off. I realized
that fighting never really accomplished anything and just started letting
things go – like water on a duck’s back. The scuffle did do two things;
however unintentional. I began to never worry about what others thought
– meaning I didn’t worry about my image anymore. If maintaining an
image was going to make me feel like this, I didn’t want any part of it.
This eventually developed into not worrying about what anyone thought and
doing my own thing as you will see later. The other thing this scuffle
accomplished was that I was never picked on again. As a matter of fact,
I was more or less respected. The older I got, the bigger I got (lifting
weights, playing ball, and all the work I was doing at home – gardening,
chopping wood, etc) and people would second guess whether they wanted
to mess with me or not; so far - so good.
The 9th grade was a bit of a change for me. I was no longer the out
cast. I was 14 years old and filling out quick. I didn’t play
football yet, but I was in baseball, band, and track. At home, I was
still hanging around Frank & Melba Smith every afternoon. After school
I would run over and help Frank cut and rake the hay, bail the hay, and store
it in the barns. We would feed the cows and check the fences to make
sure they were all good. We would build porch swings for ourselves
and the neighbors. We would work on and repair old trucks and tractors.
We would still drive (me driving without a license) to the stock yards to
buy / sell cattle. I was still cutting the grass for the Church ($40
a pop) as well as my own. I was cutting other people’s lawns as well
for money. I hired myself out to cut lawns, clean off fence rows, clear
of road banks, and split or stack wood. I even worked for free at TWL
in town with dad (dad gave me some money though). This was also the
time when we had 4 gardens. I was in the FFA (Future Farmers of America)
club and to get credit I had to prove I had a garden. What this meant
was that on my own, I took over the garden next to the house. I ploughed
the ground with a tiller (dad broke it up on the tractor borrowed from Earnest
Cannon). I made the rows. I chose the fertilizer, the seeds,
and the plants. And I planted every thing. I then maintained
it – hoe, weed, and pick. I actually liked it. While on the FFA
theme, I was also on the land judging team and was elected as an officer
which meant I went on the trips up to MSU in Starkville for the annual meetings
and went on competitions every where (all the guys tried to sneak on the
busses vodka and Orange juice as vodka has no smell, but Mr. Savell was always
up to their game). If we were not doing things pertaining to the FFA
we were learning about computers (as they were just coming out), types of
animals (cows, pigs, you name it), or we were in the shop welding, carpentry,
and auto mechanics. The computer was a new thing. The old screens
were black and orange letters. To log on, there was no such thing as
Windows or Apple. You logged on to a C: prompt and had to know all
the DOS commands to operate it. What we were learning was the basics
the computers of today still operate off of but you never see. If not
on the computers, I spent my time building things with wood. My first big
project was to build a TV stand for mom. When I got through with it,
it was big enough for a small wardrobe or cupboard. It was so well
built that if a train hit it on the tracks it would probably only have a
scratch. It was so heavy and mom still has this thing.
In my spare time, I still rode my bike with Michael, rode in Randy’s camero;
went riding with Doug in the yellow jeep, hiking in the woods, swimming with
Joe and David, and my homework. Occasionally, when the time was right,
we would all gather in the truck or just go for a walk to gather the wild
plums and blackberries. We would take old one gallon ice cream buckets
and fill them over the top. Mom, Melba, Madeline or any one else around
would come over to the house and we would not only cook and “Can” the vegetables
out of the garden to put in the freezer, but we would take the plums and
blackberries and make Jelly (or jam as they call it in some countries).
There was nothing like black berry jelly on biscuits in the morning.
However, Strawberry still remains my favourite. Some times we would
just eat all the berries before we made it home. The plums were so
good going down, even with salt, but they would tear up your stomach that
evening. We would spend a little extra time on the toilet then. It
was worth it. If mom wasn’t cooking, cleaning, or canning, she worked
part time at odd jobs. I don’t remember the dates or the order in which
she worked them, but she worked part time at Sunflower Grocery Store as a
cashier, she worked at the Electric Co. for a time at the counter, she worked
at the Sears Catalogue store (where you ordered what you wanted and picked
it up there a few days later), and she worked at the school cafeteria for
a couple of years part time. We did what we had to do to make ends
meet. With jimmy and I in school and helping out around the house,
growing the gardens, and mom working part time every where, Dad was busy
with two jobs (one of which didn’t pay) – the church and TWL. We hardly
got to see dad as he would get up and leave just before or as we were getting
up in the mornings and he would get back late because he travelled all over
three states (if he came home some nights as he had to go too far away).
When he came home he would always go to the study and prepare for his 4 lessons
a week he did at the church (not including any other churches he may preach
at). Dad and mom never argued in front of us on purpose (although I
don’t know if that was a good thing) but I can see why as they never really
had time to argue. Dad was always home on weekends as he preached on
Sundays, which meant that Saturdays were always very busy working in the
fields, working on the yards, working on the wood pile, or helping the neighbors
with their fields, yards, and wood piles. All this going on was enough,
but don’t forget… I was also back to school in August.
As I mentioned before, I was working for TWL for free, but during the summer
I began working there for real. I was making about $30 - $35 per week
at $3.35 per hour. Mom had to drive me for a while, but not for long.
I took a week and enrolled in a driver’s education class at Newton High School.
I didn’t want it, nor did I need it, but those who supplied mom and dad with
insurance on the car said that if I took the driver’s education class and
kept my grades at a “B” average, the premium for me driving would be considerably
lower. So I took the class. It was the easiest (and most boring
week) I remember in a long time. There was one other guy in the class
and both of us had been driving for over a year. We could change a
tire in less than 5 minutes together. We did our driving test at the
end of the week and that was that. The hard part was to understand
I had to keep my grades up. I received my driving permit (a yellow
piece of paper saying I could drive anywhere as long as I had a licensed
driver with me) that was good till I turned 15. During this same summer,
we took a trip back to our old stomping grounds in Oklahoma. I got
to drive some of the way there and I drove around the old road on my own
a few times. Those grey clay dirt roads, the beautiful mountains covered
in trees, the creeks and springs – I loved it. Most of the guys I grew
up with had moved on but the Blake’s were still around. The Blake boys,
Patrick and Derrick, had all grown up. We took off one night and drove
to Arkansas and went to a race track. There were sprint cars racing,
their favourite. I hate watching things go round and round, but this
was actually fun. The sprint cars are extremely loud and very quick.
Some were so quick that the cars got away from the drivers and rolled into
the crowds. Wicked I believe was the word for it at the time; however,
I couldn’t hear anything for the next 24 hours afterwards. That is
really all I remember about that trip.
I believe that will get us up to the 10th grade (the summer of 1986,
when I turned 15). I figure that this point in time in every one’s
life would have been significant; my life was no different. The summer
of ’86 was a major turning point in my life. There were events that
changed my life forever – I grew up. Jimmy was about to turn 10 years
old in June. Mom was working part time in several places. Dad
was now the Director of Store Operations for TWL (answering only to the Owner
of the company) and still the pastor of Greenland Baptist Church. And
I was soaking up so much of life I am not sure if I can tell you every thing.
On the 16th of July mom drove me to the courthouse in Newton. I took
my official driving test and obtained my full license. I was legal
to drive anywhere. I was 15 years old. In Mississippi, I was
pretty much legal to do anything I wanted except drink alcohol (all I had
to do was join the military three years later and I could do that).
As dad was always travelling, TWL gave him a car to drive. Every time
the car reached 100,000 miles, dad would trade it in for a new car.
He would get good trade-ins as Mr. Hall, dad’s boss, always kept the cars
serviced well. A couple of weeks after my birthday, it was time for
dad to trade in again. Mr. Hall called dad up and said if he wanted
his old car for me, as the car dealer was a good friend of his, he could
get dad the car for $2200. Dad had $1000 saved up, Mom had $800 saved,
and I had (would you believe it) $400 saved. That night we drove to
Canton, MS and picked up my first car, a Chevrolet Celebrity. It was
cream color with brown interior. It was brand new when dad first got
it, so it had been in the family and we knew it was well cared for.
I was on cloud nine. That night was one of the worst nights as far
as weather was concerned - lighting, raining, and thunder – but it never
fazed me the whole hour and half drive home. Freedom was a new word
for me now. I was working and could afford the gas for the car.
I drove my car every where. However I learned a valuable lesson.
No one ever told me how to maintain a car. I didn’t know you had to
change the oil. They all assumed because I worked on cars with Frank
I knew all this stuff. I knew how to change the oil; I just never knew
you had to change it regularly. As a result I through a rod in my engine
and burned the engine up after a few months. This cost dad $500 that
we didn’t have. I felt so bad, that it never happened to me again.
As a matter of fact I changed the oil in the car so much and maintained it
so much that when I went to trade it in later for another car, it had over
200,000 miles on it and they loved it.
So now I have turned 15, I have my driver’s license, and I have a car.
My life is changing but that is not all. It wasn’t long till I got
the feel of my car. I would drive the car down the back roads of Mississippi
pretty fast every where I went. David Ezell pretty much went every
where I did. I remember one night just a couple of weeks after I got
my license, the Neshoba County Fair (http://www.neshobacountyfair.org/) was
still going on. Mom and David’s mom let us drive to the fair that night.
It was dark and I was flying. I remember coming around the last curve
before the fair grounds and I saw blue lights in my rear view mirror.
Yes, this was a sight I would soon come to recognize frequently. The
highway patrol had set up camp just outside the fairgrounds to catch those
like me and the drunks attempting to drive home. I pulled over and
the patrol man walked up to my window. David and I were scared to death.
He knocked on the window and I rolled it down. He said, “Where were
you going so fast?” I told him to the fair. He said, “You almost made
it!” He took my license and went back to his car. We sat there with
what seemed forever. Finally he walked back to the car. He handed
me back my license attached to a long piece of paper. He said since
this is your first offense, I dropped the speed you were going from 78 to
70 so it wouldn’t look so bad to your parents (this also lowered the cost
of the ticket). I thanked him for doing so, not knowing really what
he had done – I was just glad to see the end of him. He said slow down
and walked off. He was right, though, I was almost there. One
more hill and I was there looking for a parking place. Dusty roads,
dirt parking, at night, people everywhere, and trying to see the parking
attendants with their waving flash lights. We made it. That was
the first of so many tickets I have received, it really isn’t funny.
I didn’t tell mom and dad about the ticket and as far as I know they never
found out. I had my insurance with State Farm Insurance; same as my
dad. I had to pay the bills out of my TWL money. I also had to
pay for my gas and any other things I wanted. So if I didn’t have enough
money to pay the tickets, I would have to help my friends haul pulpwood or
haul hay to make the cash to pay for them. I never told anyone about
my tickets. This turned out bad some 14 years later. I finally
actually had an accident in the city of Nashville, TN. I hate and still
have trouble driving in the cities. I called State Farm and they took
care of what ever was needed on the other guy’s car. However, they
discovered my secrets. Can you believe it? After driving and
paying my premiums on time for 14 years they had never checked up on me.
What for? They knew me personally, my family, and I paid regularly.
But when they did, they got a big surprise and so did I. They dropped
me like a hot potato. I don’t blame them, but I had no insurance (illegal)
for over a year. Ok, back to the fair.
David and I were walking into the main gates when a friend of David’s (I
had only seen him, never met him) called us over to come to his Cabin.
We went over and said hello and looked at his cabin (his dad’s). His
pride was the unlimited stash of beer his father had of which he had access
too. He practically shoved the beer at us. David and I took a
cup each and left. We walked around the dusty lot, full of people from
every where checking out the rides and entertainment. While we were
walking around we met some girls David knew through the band. They
went to a nearby school, Sebastopol. One thing about David, he was
a net worker. I don’t care if we went to another state, we would always
run into someone David knew. We kind of got friendly with a couple
of the girls and David and I agreed to split up for a while and meet back
at the gate around 11:00 as he had to be home by midnight. I never
really had a curfew, but mom and dad didn’t have to worry, I didn’t like
staying out late at night anyway. I believe the girl I was with was
named Melissa, but I couldn’t swear to that. We walked around for a
while, went on a couple of rides, and we were holding hands and hugging.
Let’s stop here for a minute. Up until know I had only had three girlfriends:
Angela Cockerham (actually more just a thought than reality), Donna Ponder,
and Angela Dickerson. Donna was short brown hair and had some meat
on her bones. She was a year younger than me. She was very pretty
and she had huge knockers. We hung around each other for months but
we were actually only a couple for a couple of weeks. I hung around
a few other girls and played around. Then I was a couple with Angela
Dickerson for a little while till I decided I didn’t like her very much.
This was the extent of my sex education. We had no classes in school
and the best I got at home was dad stopping me in the middle of hoeing our
garden and asking me if I had any question about sex. I was 14 at the
time and my comment was no. He said if I ever had any questions, just
to ask. That took all of about 1 minute. I never asked him any
questions, ever. So my extent was based on the playboys there were
stashed around and the adolescent conversations the inexperienced boys had.
Melissa and I vacated the fair grounds and found a spot on a grassy hill.
Both of us at this time were virgins. We kissed and played around with
each other for a while but there were too many people around. We got
up and walked toward the edge of the fairgrounds in the woods. It was
here that we lost our virginity. I will not go into any other details,
I am sure those who read this will have their own similar experiences and
can fill in any blanks. We walked back to the fairgrounds, looked around
a little longer holding hands, and eventually went our separate ways because
it was getting late. We knew what school each other went to and we
knew we were both in the band but we didn’t exchange any numbers or anything.
I finally found David and we started out of there. He couldn’t believe
what I told him. I dropped him off at his house and drove home.
Mom, dad and Jim were out at a neighbor’s house and hadn’t made it home yet
(they must have been playing dominoes or something). I went inside
and took a long shower. Just two weeks after I turned 15, I had my
license and a new car, and in one night I got my first ticket and lost my
virginity all at once. I went straight to bed, but didn’t really sleep
that night. I was worrying about all kinds of things – the ticket,
diseases, pregnancy; just basically fear of the unknown. Imagine the
mind of an uneducated teenager. All your life you have been bombarded
with information of what happens to people who have unprotected sex and living
in the bible belt, the culture has the appearance of no sex before you are
married (everyone understands this, but only the naïve believe it).
The next morning was a new day; I was still unsure but I felt better about
the situation. And of course, it didn’t take long to discover I actually
The very next week, it was time to go back to school to start the 10th grade.
Things had changed. I was different. I never really realized
it until my science teacher (Mrs. Meador) told mom that I was a completely
different person. I was more attentive in school, I was paying more
attention to my sports and I don’t know what caused the change. Even
the other girls around me noticed. I started getting offers for dates
with out asking. I had a car, a job, decent looking, fairly smart,
and my attitude changed. I had become a hot commodity over the summer.
As a matter of fact, it wasn’t a month that I went out on my first date.
Remember my clarinet friends – Lisa, Deloris, and Beth. I asked Beth
out on a date and she accepted. I don’t remember everything, but I
remember heading to the car and dad running out to catch me. He wanted
to make sure I had plans and enough money to do those plans. He made
me tell him how I was going to get there and back – not to check on me but
to make sure I didn’t look bad on my first date. I finally got dad
to let me go. I drove to Union to pick her up. She came out and
got in the car with me and set right next to me. All I could think
about for a few minutes was Dad running out in Oklahoma to Paula and her
first date. We drove to Meridian and went to a Mexican restaurant then
we went to see a movie (couldn’t tell you what). The date was not that
eventful. I did almost make a wrong turn on the interstate because
we were playing around. I had to back up down the road and get back
on the right path. Thank goodness it was past 22:00 or there would
have been a lot of traffic. I got her home safely and kissed her good
night, but we decided we were really good friends.
I began to really get into my school work as well. Things were just
making sense to me really easy. I won the school’s science fair as
well as the next stage, the district science fair, and even went to the state
competitions for the science fair and won 2nd place with a project I made.
I attempted to create a Perpetual motion machine out of wood and magnets;
the theory behind was very good. It almost seemed to work. I
took dad’s band saw in the shed and made a balanced wooden gear with negative
magnets on each spoke. I then strategically placed the same type of
negative magnets in a larger circle around the gear. Once I gave the
gear a spin on the shaft and placed it in the vicinity of the larger circle
the polarization kept the gear spinning. However, my hand made
model was not perfect in weight and measure; thus, it worked only part of
the time. The theory behind the model was what got me the prizes.
Another teacher, my English teacher (Mrs. Shackelford), was the hottest teacher
we had. All the guys loved to be in her class; however, she was one
of the toughest teachers when it came to teaching. For some reason,
everything she taught us I just soaked up – reading books, poetry, speeches,
research, and writing papers. I have read so many classic stories because
of her and learned to interpret them in a way that was meaningful as well
as memorizing and reciting (in front of the class) countless poems and famous
speeches. As I mentioned earlier, most of my classes were predominantly
female. So when I had to recite poetry in the class I had fun with
it. I would start off in the front of the class. If the poem
was a romantic poem, I would soon work my way over to Mrs. Shackelford during
the poem as if I were talking to her, then I would walk out into the class
and pick a girl, get down on one knee and finish my poem. I always
got good grades in her class. It didn’t hurt with the ladies
as well. The research thing I picked up and loved it. I guess
that is why I loved learning new things such as my family tree. I would
write papers about anything. My first major term paper was about “the
cost and maintenance of owning a vehicle”. Strange topic to most, but
if you remember the part where I told you I blew up an engine in my first
car, you can better understand why I did it. I wanted to learn more
about “the cost and maintenance of owning a vehicle” as it was practical
to me and interesting; therefore, my paper was easier to write. It
was safe to say no one else had my topic. My second term paper was
different but on the same lines as it was based on something I wanted to
learn. Mrs. Shackelford knew what I was doing and let me go with it.
I wrote so many papers (nothing extra – just those required) that I gained
a bit of a reputation. All the guys that sucked at it (who were my
friends of course) paid me to write a few of theirs or at the very least
proof read them before they turned them in. I my senior year, I was
personally asked by several teachers to help several students (Bruce, Shane,
Joe, Robert, Thomas, to name a few) finish their papers or they would not
graduate at all. Since most were my buddies anyway, I had no issues.
Yes, I was a bit of a geek. I enjoyed my math (geometry, trigonometry,
algebra, and calculus), my science (biology, zoology, and physics), my English
(literature and writing), my economics, my business class, my typing class,
my agriculture classes, and my extra curricular activities (band, basketball,
baseball, track, weights, and football).
I kept my “B” average in school easily. I had a system worked out.
I knew exactly how to get my averages. I would take the first couple
of exams in each 6 week period (we had report cards go out every 6 weeks)
very seriously and ace them. From then on, the law of averages (which
I learned very early – maybe why I attempted to get my masters in statistics),
was on my side. I knew the lowest mark I could make to maintain my
grades. Therefore, I knew how much studying I needed to do. If
I could fail the next test, I didn’t study at all. If I needed a passing
mark at least, I would study a little bit. I however had developed
a bit of a photographic memory. I could recall all my notes in my head
during the tests and usually passed them anyway. And I was not the
smartest person in our class. If I really needed to pass, I would spend
my time at home making “cheat sheets”. Meaning I wrote everything I
needed on as small a piece of paper. The time I spent attempting to
do this, the information usually soaked in anyway. But dad also taught
me how to study and read text books. I used this same technique when
writing my papers earlier. The technique is simple: First, tell
them what you are going to tell them; second, tell them; and third, tell
them what you told them. This was perfect for writing papers, but the
stink of it is that all text books used the same format. This meant
that when reading the books, if you read the first paragraph you basically
knew every thing that chapter had to offer. This was so in depth that
it worked for every paragraph. The first sentence in each paragraph
explained the rest of that paragraph. This was just a quick study.
Then if I really wanted to study hard I would flip through the pages and
write down all the BOLD lettered words. It was quite obvious that when
some one bolds something, they want that word to stand out – so it must be
important. Therefore with standardized tests, it was safe to assume
if I knew the gist of the topics to be covered and knew the important words
and their meanings I pretty much had a sure bet on passing the exam.
If I really needed to pass, I would actually sit down and read the required
stuff. This system worked very well for me and freed up much of my
time for other things, extra curricular things.
I really loved basket ball. It was my favourite sport. Dad, Jimmy,
and I would play for hours in the front yard shooting and playing games.
We wore out the grass to where it wouldn’t grow anymore. Yes, my court
was the grassy front yard. Learning here made playing on the court
easy. However, I had a few things going against me – two actually.
I was not tall, nor was I black. If you were neither of these, you
were not even considered. I tried to play in the 9th grade, but I sat
on the bench the whole time. I could shoot better than half the guys,
but the Coach Harbor never gave me a chance. So my next favourite sport
was Baseball. The high school baseball team was quite competitive but most
of the guys were the same ones on my little league teams. I got to
play a good bit more, 2nd base and short stop. But there again, I had
Coach Harbor as the baseball coach as well. For some reason he still
only liked the tall and black type. I guess that is why his two daughters
dated blacks and were the outcasts in the community later on. He actually
chewed me out before a game one day in front of the team for not being in
uniform (a special belt and leggings). When he got through, I proceeded
to yell back in front of the whole crowd now that if he was any thing of
a coach he would have known that he didn’t give me those particular items
when passing out the uniforms. I informed again that I had already
told him this. I also told him he could shove them up his ass when
he got them. I left and never went back. I told mom and dad what
had happened. The next day, dad drove me up to see Coach Harbor in
the basket ball gym in his office. Dad told me to wait outside while
he and Harbor had a chat. About 20 minutes later dad came out and said
come on son. I asked dad what happened. He said Harbor told him
how disrespectful and smart-mouthed I was and anything else he could think
of. He told me he asked Harbor one question, “Was he wrong?”
Harbor had no choice to say “NO, he wasn’t”. Dad told him that I was
raised to speak my mind and to stand up for what I believed in - if Harbor
didn’t like it that was tough. Dad was a man of few words when he was
angry, but those few words said enough. This upset Harbor a little
bit. He apparently said something under his breath and one of his “not
so bright” students heard it, Brian Gordon, aka “BroGo”. He was mouthing
off all over the school that he was going to whip my butt for what happened.
I again told dad what was going on, he told me to confront him and call his
bluff. Brian was twice my size, I said, WHAT? Dad said, you have
to stand up for yourself and what you believe in. Dad told me not to
worry about getting in trouble for fighting. So the next day when BroGo
started mouthing off again, I told him to put his money where his mouth was.
I said, let’s do it, try and whip my butt. He was quiet but he couldn’t
back down in front of everyone so he said meet me behind the gym after school
at 5:00 pm. Mom drove me to the gym, I waited and waited, but BroGo
was a no-show. The next day I asked him in front of everyone where
he was. Dad was right. He backed down and never said raised the
At the end of the 9th grade, I joined the track team. This had two
coaches, Coach Harbor and Coach Carter. Harbor knew what I thought
of him and left me to Coach Carter. Carter was a tall, well built black
man. He could barely speak good English and taught junior high history.
But not only was he the track coach, he was the defence coach for the high
school football team. I ran the 440 relay, the 880 relay, and the 1
mile “fun” run. I was pretty fast for a white boy. Remember Herman
who played the clarinet in band with me. He was on the relay teams
as well. As suspected I was the slowest of the four on the team and
always got the 2nd pole position, but I was faster than all the rest.
We were pretty good. We won the district competitions and drove all
the way down to Port Gibson, MS for the state finals. Those guys were
at the state level were very fast – faster than us anyway. We came
in third in both relays (but out of 8). I came in 3rd out of 4 in my
mile run (I ran a 5 minute 15 second mile – but those guys were running close
to a 4 minute mile). I remember that there was a competition to run
the short hurdles. We had no one entered in the comp. Carter
asked me if I wanted to try it. I said why not, it couldn’t be any
worse. I had never tried the hurdles in my life. But I got out
there with 5 other guys and came in 3rd place as the other three tripped
and fell. How was that for what some people call luck, but what I call
divine intervention? Any way, this got me in with many of the other
guys in track who played football and also with Coach Carter who coached
football, not to mention that most of my friends played it too. They
all got me to try out for High School Football. It couldn’t have been
any worse that playing full contact football over at Bill’s house where we
actually broke bones.
So I tried out in spring camp in the summer before the 10th grade and made
it. As a matter of fact, I made it to Captain of the Defense as the
middle and side linebacker. I also played the right guard on offense
and played on all but one special teams (kick offs, punt return, field goals,
etc…). As you can tell, I would rarely come off the field during the
game. I was in the best shape of my life (don’t forget I was still
marching in the band at half time). I remember the first time in spring
camp I was practicing tackling and the head coach, Coach Tom Johnson, put
me up against Marlo Rush. Marlo was a short, stocky, black boy who
was our primary running back. I don’t remember much because Marlo nearly
knocked the crap out of me. I was lying flat on my back for 5 minutes.
He taught me to always tackle low. Coach Johnson has us all running
minimum 6 minute miles, doing sit ups, push ups, high steps, he even had
us do something I will neve forget. At the edge of the spring camp
grounds was a small wooded area. In our full dress, helmet & shoulder
pads, he would line us up one by one and we had to squat down in the starting
position (as a lineman in a three point stance) and when he yelled go (or
blew the whistle) we had to tackle the TREE. Yep, the 50’ tall, 3’
wide pine tree with roots that went deep. The TREE that was never going
to move no matter how much we hit it was our nemesis. We thought it
was stupid at first, but during our first game, hitting those other guys
seemed like falling on a bed – soft. We were tough little bastards.
Probably didn’t help my corkscrew back though. We never won any champion
ships but we were always contenders. My number was #65 and I was very
proud of it. My senior year in the first game of the season (the best
game of my life) I injured my left knee. So Coach Johnson took me off
offence and left me on Defence. I finished the game in good spirits
and all was well. The next week we were practicing every day after
school. On the first day of practice one of the guys tackled me and
hit my knee again. This time I dropped to the ground like a sack of
potatoes and yelled. This time it really hurt. My whole left
leg froze up and went stiff. The muscle was damaged. One of the
guys helped me in their car and took me to the emergency room at the local
hospital. I don’t know exactly what it was but it took many soaking
in the hot tub, ice baths, and physical therapy for over three months to
get my leg where it could bend normally. I was walking on crutches
for ever it seemed. It didn’t stop me from driving around though.
It did stop me from finishing out my senior year in football, though.
After wards, coach Johnson let is slip out that there was a major University
who came out to watch me play my first game. They were recruiters.
Coach wouldn’t tell me who they were but that it was not from a University
in the state of Mississippi. I was so upset – this would have meant
a full scholarship to a major university. I would have my college paid
for and good education with options to possible move higher. It is
amazing how one little accident changes your life. This was #3 on my
things that changed my life list (the first being the car and the second
being Melissa). In my senior year I was given a letter jacket.
It was gold wool like material with black leather arms with a black/gold
#65 of the left arm. On the left side of the jacket was a big letter
“U”, obviously for Union. On this letter I had three bars for lettering
all three years of football, I had 4 bars for lettering in track ever year,
I had 6 bars for lettering in Band every year. I loved that jacket.
I jumped ahead a little bit, so let’s go back to the beginning of the 10th
grade; when I was playing sports, in the band, skipping school with Joe,
going swimming at the hole, Swanners, and the lake, growing gardens, doing
well in school, and working at TWL. At school to put a point on it,
I was nominated and got something I never really understood. My teachers
nominated me for Who’s Who in American High School Students. I understand
it was to recognize the positive achievements of the many students they knew
whose goal was to make a positive difference in their communities, get good
grades, and continue their education. This list was to represent the
top 5% of American High School Students. I received this award in the
10th grade and in the 12th grade. This is consistent with the fact
that most everyone in a 30 mile radius had either known me personally, met
me at work, or at the very least had heard my name from the newspapers and
radio. I was getting very popular and I didn’t even know it.
Everyone knew I was at Union High, I worked at TWL, and my dad was a preacher.
That is pretty high profiling the south. However I still had my troubles
at school. I remember being in Mr. Savell’s class down at the Agriculture
building. The school had just released a policy and rule book.
Instead of having class, Mr. Savell took us through the book and we just
discussed it the whole time. When the class bell rang, we all went
to our next classes. Mine just happened to be American History with
none other than Mrs. Savell. Yep, my agriculture teacher’s wife.
Back in her high school days she was a “looker” but today she was looking
more like … well, let’s just say the ugly stick was worn down to splinters
as they hit her with it. She reminded me of Mrs. Trunchbold in the
movie “Matilda”. She obviously wasn’t having a good day and was being
a bit of a bitch in class. In the middle of the class she began talking
about the new policies. She happened to mention something that was
contradictory to what Mr. Savell just told us (and we read for ourselves).
I immediately spoke up and attempted to correct her. Hhmm…. This was
not the thing to do at this time, but hind sight is only 20/20. I don’t
remember all the argument between her and I in the class full of students,
but I do remember her last statement. She said yelling at the top of
her voice, “Jerry, for one thing I wrote the rule book, and for the second
thing…..Go to the office!” I began to get up and gather my books, but
that wasn’t fast enough for her. She yelled at me to leave the books
and just get out. So I did. I went to the office. Mr. Jones
(the coolest principle in the whole US of A was there and asked me why I
wasn’t in class. I explained to him the situation. He wanted
to smile, but to keep order he couldn’t so he told me to just sit in his
office until the class was over. I asked him, “What about my books”
and he said just go get them after class. And that was the end… or
so I thought. The next day, got even more heated. When we got
to her class, she was late. As she came in she spoke loudly that she
wanted her head ache to go away. I, trying to make amends, just happened
to have some Tylenol (similar to Panadol for some of you). I took two
of them up to her and said something wrong….. I meant to say, “Here
is some aspirin to make your head ache go away” but what I said (and the
whole class heard) was “Here are some aspirin to make you go away”.
Ouch. You could have heard a pin drop in the class. Have you
ever seen a bull get really mad? I mean almost mad enough to see the
red eyes. Well, Mrs. Savell’s blood pressure must have gone up
to over 200 because she was as red as Rudolph’s nose. She never said
a word but just pointed to the door about three times. This time I
grabbed my books and walked out. I went to the office again and just
sat in Mr. Jones’ chair. He never showed up as he was doing something
else. When the bell rang I went about my business. I was the
talk of the school because no one had ever stood up to her like that, and
I wasn’t even trying. Two days later, I got a message to leave class
and go to the office. I was getting tired of going to the office.
But this time it was to go to Mrs. Gordon’s office, the school councilor.
As I got up there I noticed something that scared the “poo” out of me.
I heart sunk to the bottom of my stomach – Dad was sitting there. Mrs.
Savell was so mad that called a conference with dad, the councilor and me.
I never said a word. Dad motioned for me to come on in and sit down.
I sat next to him as he put his huge scary hands on my shoulder. Then
Mrs. Gordon said, “Mrs. Savell has something to say to you Mr. Smith”.
And for a half hour it seemed, Mrs. Savell ranted and raved like a mad woman
about how disrespectful, smart-mouthed, and whatever else I was. When
she got through, Mrs. Gordon asked dad if he had anything to say. He
said, “Was he wrong?” meaning me. She replied, no. He said thank
you very much and dad and I walked out just leaving them there with their
mouths open. I walked dad out the front steps of the school and he
put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Son, some times in life you have people
like that, just like Coach Harbor. You just have to ignore them and
go on!” I just looked at him. I wasn’t in trouble? He said
now go on back to class and I will see you tonight. He told me he loved
me and left. I was two things: dumbfounded and empowered. My
dad supported me, backed me up, I almost felt untouchable. I was no
longer scared of anyone or anything (life changing event #4). As long
as I knew what was right and wrong and I did that which was right, I never
worried about what others thought of me. I figured out that I can’t
control their thought no matter what, so it was up to me to be the person
I believed I was and stand up for my beliefs. My theme song for my
life began here, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. I have lived by this ever
Working at TWL was not so bad. I started out at 14 as a box boy.
Meaning I came in after school on Wednesdays when the delivery truck came
and distributed all the stock to the departments, emptied the boxes and stocked
the shelves. Later I began doing other things around the store such
as repairing doors, making window displays, and running the cash register.
Then later I was given my own departments and was in charge of ordering and
maintaining them. By the time I graduated high school I had done everything
in the store but management. I worked with many others off an on, but
the three ladies that trained me were the manager, Barbara Roebuck, Mrs.
Lilly Windham, and Mrs. Georgia Banks. I learned so much from these
ladies. Dad had his office here in Union as well. He took a portion
of the upstairs and built a wall partition. He was there a good bit,
but you never knew if he would be there or not. So I spent most of
my time with the ladies. As you can tell, the generation gaps in Union
were large. I am not sure about other guys my age, but I spent a lot
of my days with the older generation and learned so much. Barbara trained
me on the cash register and all the ordering stuff. Mrs. Lilly was
like a grandmother to me. The best way to describe her was more like
an Aunt Jemima. She was a short, heavy, black lady. She was the
nicest lady except when little boys came into her toy department and started
acting up. She felt it necessary to give every one a little instruction,
but she was normally right no matter what. Mrs. Lilly could make the
best cakes and home made French onion dip. She would always make me
a birthday cake for my birthday at work. She treated me just like her
own. She has three grandchildren that I can remember and then me and
Jimmy. Her oldest grandchild joined the Navy and married a big man.
Her other two were twins, Kerry and Kevin. They were the best mannered,
polite, and Super smart kids I knew. Kerry got his Doctor’s degree
in Psychology. Kevin joined the Army and became an officer. I
had the chance to serve with him for little while. Mrs. Lilly’s husband
was a very good man. Every time he came in the store, he would buy
the biggest bag of my favorite candy, tootsie rolls or short bread cookies.
He would always take a few for himself and give me the rest of the bag.
This had a two fold purpose. He like me was one and he was a diabetic
was the other. If Mrs. Lilly caught him with the candy he would be
in loads of trouble. So this way, he could get the best of both worlds.
Mrs. Georgia was a short skinny red headed white lady. She has several
grandchildren. She would teach me things like telling the difference
between men’s and women’s clothing by looking what side the buttons were
on. I think every person in the whole county shopped at TWL because
I couldn’t go anywhere without someone knowing me from the store. Everyone
knew me, but I didn’t know all of them. One of the ladies that I worked
with for a brief time was named Glenda Goforth. I worked well with
her. She was married with children that were a few years younger than
me. Her youngest was about 8 or 9 at this time. I was working
at the cash register one day and Glenda came up to me. She said, “I
need you to know something. My son [meaning her youngest] looks up
to you.” I said what do you mean. She told me that he watched
and kept up with everything I did and was trying to be like me. I had
only met him a couple of times and was nice to him I suppose. She just
wanted me to know that because she wanted me to be very careful what I said
and did around him. Not that I was going to be bad, but just to be
careful. I had never noticed that other people were watching me, much
less looking up to me. Her statement made me grow up even more.
I was so conscious about others watching me for a while it was annoying.
I was scared to do anything wrong. But that soon dissipated and I was
In 1986, during the moon of the falling leaves, our band was participating
in a contest (marching, concert, and the works). Our schedule was stretched
out over two days. This meant that all the bands in the state participating
had to stay over night. This was a logistic nightmare for the parents
and an experience for the band members. We happened to stay at a hotel
where two other schools were also staying, one being Sebastopol High School.
David Ezell and I were huge buddies at this time and went most every where
together. David was the socialite of the duo and virtually talked to
everyone from every band. I met most of them as well but couldn’t tell
you anything about them. However, there were a few that apparently
remembered me. On the last day we were all packing up and one of the
girls from Sebastopol called David over and gave him her phone number to
give to me. David kept it and didn’t tell me till we got home – I would
suppose she told him to do that. The next day after we returned, David
called me at home and told me what happened. He told me a girl liked
me and gave him her phone number to give to me and wanted me to call her
on the weekend. Girls had already been calling me at the house.
We had one number but two phones; one at the front door and one in mom and
dad’s room. I used to shut mom and dad’s door and talk (mostly listen,
I never liked to talk on the phone) to the girls. So I was game to
call her. On a Saturday afternoon, I called the number she gave me.
Her name was Lea Boykin. Her father was David Boykin. He worked
as a mechanic at a local poultry plant. Her mother’s name was Annette
and she drove a school bus for Sebastopol High School. They also owned
a good bit of land where they raised cows and they had 4 chicken houses.
She also had two younger siblings, Adam and Ellen. At the time I met
them, I was 16, Lea was 14, Adam was 9 or 10, and Ellen was 6. For
a week or two we just talked on the phone every other day. The most
amazing thing, other than the fact I didn’t mind at all talking (listening)
to her for hours, was that her birthday was the same as mine. She was
born on the 16th of July. Of course she was born in 1973 where I was
1971. Finally I decided I was going to meet her. I got directions
to her house and told her parents I was coming over. I can still remember
that day, I got all dressed up (blue jeans, nice shirt, dress shoes, and
even combed my hair. I remember driving up to the house. Just
off the main road about a quarter mile down a dirt road, passed the chicken
houses on the left, sat a brown timber house on the left. It was a
three bedroom, one bath, kitchen, dining, living rooms, a laundry room and
a carport. The house was at the front of a small field cleared for
the cows with a huge portion of woods behind the field. In the carport
was a gold Jeep Cherokee. And playing in the small front yard was Adam
and Ellen. Adam was giving me the evil eye (coming to see his sister,
and probably given the task of keeping an eye on me by his dad) while Ellen
was over the moon. She ran in side and told everyone I was there while
Adam stayed out side with me. I shook his hand and said you must be
Adam. He said yes and said that Ellen went in to get Lea. Lea
finally came out side. She had long black hair, about 5’ tall, skinny
with some nice boobies. Lea and I talked outside for a little bit with
Adam and Ellen tagging along. Then we went inside to meet her mom.
After we talked a while, Lea and I (along with the other two) went for a
walk down the road and back just talking. Then I went home. We
continued to talk on the phone and I enjoyed going to see her. More
and more I kept going back. Any time I had to spare from cutting grass,
working at TWL, football practice, going out with David, and working at home.
Basically I went over on the weekends. Finally after several months
of going over, sometimes staying over for supper because I helped them on
the farm clean chicken houses or feed the cows I got my chance. I was
helping David and Annette clean one of the chicken houses while Lea, Adam,
and Ellen were in another house cleaning the chicken feeders, David asked
me how much they owed me for helping them. I told them to keep the
money, just let me take Lea out on a date. They both looked at each
other and laughed and said they couldn’t charge me to take Lea out.
I told them to keep the money anyway; I wasn’t helping for the money.
So David said I could take her out the following weekend. I don’t remember
exactly where we went, but I am sure we had no intentions of watching a movie.
Her dad gave me instructions on when to have her back and I always managed
to get back on time if not early. Now I did this so there would be
no problems the next time we wanted to go out, but that didn’t always set
well with Lea. I suppose she wanted the “Bad boy” image. I got
on real well with her parents so much that they would not let her go out
with any of her friends if she asked, but if I asked she could go anywhere
and do anything.
I spent the next year travelling back and forth to her house and mine.
I would come and get her to take her to church and then drive her back.
Sometimes we never made it to church and sometimes we were just plain late
coming home…. Hmmm, I wonder why? Lea and I had so many hiding
spots it was pitiful. I am not sure we even made to the back seat some
times. Then there were nights that I drove her home and I stayed with
them for a long time. Everyone else would go to bed, while Lea and
I stayed up!! I can even remember one time I fell asleep on the couch
with Lea on top of me. I woke up around 11:00pm because her mother
was shaking me to get up and go home. By my senior year, I was sending
flowers once a week to her school. I would buy the flowers from Michael
Bradley’s mom’s shop in Union and have the flowers delivered to her school
(30 minutes away). If they couldn’t deliver it, I skipped school and
delivered them myself. I reckon I spent a small fortune on that girl,
the flowers, the teddy bears, the gifts, and the gas back and forth, even
the wear and tear on the car. I drove that road so much that I broke
down twice. Once I was bringing her home from church when the car just
quit on me about 5 miles from her house. It was dark about midnight.
The problem was I had no way of fixing the problem. I had to get some
help. I walked up to the next house but no one would answer the door.
I walked back to the car and seen some lights coming down the road.
I flagged them down to help. But once they slowed down I realized they
were not the type of people I wanted to help me. All I could see was
these two thugs killing me and taking Lea to what ever. It took me
5 minutes of fast talking but I convinced them to leave. I then took
Lea with me back up the house and knocked on the door again. This time
the lights came on. The lady would not open the door but agreed to
call Lea’s parents to come and help. My radiator had busted and I needed
some water to crank the car and get it to a shop. Annette came to the
rescue. I got Lea back in her mom’s car and put some water in mine
with a bucket Annett brought. I drove the car to a local repair shop
and they followed me, and then drove me back home. This was the first
time my parents had ever met hers. I learned two lessons that night.
First, I would never ever flag someone down in the middle of the night to
help me no matter what. Secondly, I would always come prepared for
any emergency. I began to carry spare parts in my trunk (boot) along
with the tools needed to fix anything I though might be trouble from them
on. What I couldn’t plan for was ripping my car’s radiator up in another
instance. David Ezell, Lea, and I were going over to Joe’s house for
a little party. It was late at night and very foggy this night.
Just before we got to Joe’s house, out from no where something came running
at us head on. Remember I am driving down the road. The thud
hitting the car was so hard it shook us all. I got out and went to
look, the front grill seemed dented pretty good but all was looking normal.
We looked around and saw nothing we hit. So before we ourselves got
hit we jumped back in and continued to Joe’s. But the car began to
run funny. At Joe’s we had a better look. I had apparently hit
a huge dog (found him the next morning on the road) and he busted my radiator
real bad. I had to dismantle my car and take the radiator to a local
mechanic to fix. It was here I learned how get my car to a shop in
an emergency if something like this happened again. If you take an
egg and pour the egg white in the radiator, the egg white will act as a temporary
plug to any leak inside. Then all you had to do is put water in it
(piss in it) or what ever you had to drive it to a shop. Thank goodness
I have never had to do this.
There were other trips we would take. Sometimes we would pack up and
take off towards Jackson and Vicksburg. We would go to the old capital building
and see the history, go to a museum and see how the old people used to live,
other museums and the planetarium, and a couple of times go to the new capital
building to look around. Then we would drive down to Vicksburg and
go to the Mississippi River or to the Civil war Park. There were times
we would drive north to Nanawyya, an old Choctaw Indian burial ground.
This was where the Indians would bury their dead but not underground.
They built huge mounds, almost shaped like a pyramid but with the top cut
off. We would climb up to the top and just lay down looking at the
clouds or stars, depending on the time of day we went. We would lay
there for hours just talking. David went with us on a few of these
trips but not all of them.
Lea’s grandmother and grandfather lived on the same dirt road but just at
the main highway. You had to pass their house before you could get
to hers. Lea and I spent a lot of time up there as well. We didn’t
care where we spent time together, just as long as we did. A couple
of years after Lea and I were dating, her grandfather died. No funeral
was ever a good thing but this one stood out to me. I dress up and
came as part of the family. I was 17 years old. It was a solemn
affair as you would assume. I was there for Lea, but it seemed I was
there for her the least. Adam and Ellen both clung to me like flies
on stink. While we were sitting in the church, Annette began to cry
on my shoulder with Lea on the other side. Then as we went to walk
up to the casket to see the grandfather one last time, I stood back a little
to let the family look, but David just couldn’t handle it. He turned
around and cried on my shoulder for a good 10 minutes in front of the whole
church. If ever I felt accepted into the family it was then.
After that Lea and I spent a lot of time up with her grandmother, just as
company. We spent so much time there, that when mom and dad decided
to travel to Oklahoma again to see Lester and Phyllis I didn’t want to go
and asked to stay at home. I was working; I wanted to be with Lea.
Dad didn’t want me to stay at home alone but we asked Lea’s grandmother if
I could stay with her for a week, she agreed. I don’t know if it was
a good thing or a bad thing, but I got very sick while I was there.
So sick, that Lea’s mom had to take me to the emergency room. I was
a bit embarrassed; I had to drop my drawers to get a penicillin shot in the
Bum with Annette watching. I couldn’t work so I stayed at Lea’s grandmother’s
house for several days. Lea was there everyday taking care of me.
So I still don’t know if getting sick was good or bad.
Eventually I was spending so much time with Lea that David Ezell and my brother
became good friends and David and I began to grow apart. David and
I are still good friends we just went our different ways. Lea would
come to my football games and sit with mom and dad (sometime her whole family
would come and watch). And I would go with them to watch Adam and Ellen
play baseball and softball. Lea played a bit when we first got together,
but she soon lost interest in sports. We would sit on the side lines
and watch or go for walks. There was a public pool but you had to have
a key to get in. Annette had such a key and Lea and I would go swimming
from time to time. Sometimes we would sneak off with the key and go
swimming alone – skinny dipping. Unless we were working or at school,
Lea and I were inseparable. She took a part time job once at the local
hardware store in Sebastopol but that didn’t last long. It wasn’t long
that her dad bought her a car. It was a Blue Volkswagen Beatle and
it was a standard. She could drive a standard because she had been
driving my 2nd car, a Toyota Tercell. We got matching license plates.
She had July 73 and I got July 71. She drove it to work and to school
but wouldn’t take it further that that. Her mom, her grandmother, and
she would sometimes drive together to Union to the TWL and shop while I was
at work. Needless to say, I didn’t get much work done while they were
there. It was well known in two counties who I was, who she was and
that we belonged together.
I mentioned a 2nd car earlier. I was beginning to have a lot of trouble
with my Celebrity. I mean after I drove in to the ground with over
200,000 miles it was time to trade it in. Dad took me to Meridian to
a used car lot near the old Coke-Cola factory. He traded my car with
about $5,000 for a Toyota Tercell, hatchback. When we bought the car,
it had 48,000 miles on it. When I sold it 6 years later it had over
250,000 miles on it. I gave it to Jimmy with 197,000 miles on and he
gave it back with 230,000 miles. The car was red (almost maroon) with
three doors including the hatch back. That car was better than a four
wheel drive. I could get close to 50 miles to the gallon at first but
over the years it never dropped below 35 miles to the gallon. I drove
it from Union, MS to the Mississippi river down to New Orleans, up to Memphis
and over to Birmingham. I drove it through corn fields, cow pastures,
over fallen trees, and practically every day to Starkville and back for college.
As a matter of fact, I during the Gulf war I drove it from Union to Meridian
to Jackson everyday for 18 months. I would work all night at the Guard
base fixing planes, fly down the interstate to Meridian to school (I was
taking 24 hours of classes – maximum you can take) and driving back to Lea’s
to eat and sleep. I never really went home to mom and dads for a year.
And I still kept an “A” average with only one ‘B’. Lea didn’t really
like the car at all (image) but she went everywhere with me in it.
Her dad taught me how to change brakes on my car. I bought the brake
pads and took them to her house. He made me do it all, but showed me
what to do. But I am getting ahead of myself. I am going to leave
the “Lea Story” for a while and pick it back up later.
Still in the 10th grade, at the end of every year our school had a banquet.
Our town was too uptight about being religious and wouldn’t allow us to have
a PROM (Dancing). So the student designed a big banquet with entertainment
and stuff then everyone left to many little parties going on around the area.
Only juniors and seniors were allowed to go and I was a sophomore.
However, a few of the sophomores were the ones who put on the entertainment.
This particular year was the highlight of the movie “Dirty Dancing”.
So the sophomores were putting on a theme of Dirty Dancing with a few up
on stage doing the dirty dancing. How we got away with it – I don’t
know. I was popular, but not a much as some other. I just never
fit in that elite crowd. As the sophomores were practicing their dance
routine one of the favorites dropped out (my buddy Joe). For whatever
reason, they asked me if I wanted to take his spot. I agreed and found
that I could do some things I never thought possible. The girls seen
it and seemed to be very impressed. I got the spot and was given the
‘rare’ opportunity to be a part of the elite stuff. This meant that
when I was a senior I was part of three banquets rather than two. It
was a status “thing” back then – no real big deal. The junior year
them was based on ZZ Top’s “every body loves a sharp dressed man” – top hats,
canes, and all. It was pretty good. Our senior year’s theme had
something to do with a Beach Boy’s song. I don’t remember. I
do remember though that Joe, Shane, Bruce, Thomas, Dennis, Robert, and I
all agreed to come to the banquet with cowboy boots, blue jeans, a tuxedo
shirt and coat (long tails) and a hat and cane if wanted. What could
they do to us… kick us out? We were planning our parties afterwards
anyway. We were not allowed to bring our girl friends to the party
if they were from another school. So the quicker we got through this
thing the better. That is why I don’t remember much about it.
Mom let David Ezell and I drive my car and hers to Lea’s house so I could
leave my car there for her while David and drove back in mom’s car.
Lea was going meet us at the school afterwards. I still had the
celebrity at this time. Come to think of it, it was on this very night
that we were heading to Joe’s house when we ran over the dog that busted
my radiator. And it was on the way home taking Lea back to her house
that we broke down on the side of the road. Joe’s dad had cooked up
a mass of frog legs (Cajun style – as he was from Cajun country). They
were the best frog legs I have every eaten.
In January of 1988, Grandpa Eulon was going down hill fast medically.
He had had a stroke and also had many other heart related issues. His
kids put him in a local nursing home as he could not be cared for at home;
he just needed to much medical attention. They had to sell his house
in Canton to keep him there. The law (will) state that the proceeds
to the house had to be split up equally among the kids. Each of the
children agreed to accept the money then give it back to dad so he could
pay the bills for grandpa. I believe they all did but Aunt Linda.
She found some other use for the money. What could be more important
that your parents (it certainly wasn’t her kids as they all left her).
I remember dad telling me to jump in the car one evening we were going to
see grandpa. The doctors had called and said it wouldn’t be long before
he died, if you wanted to see him now was the chance. Dad drove an
hour trip in half an hour. I am not sure if anyone else came at all.
Uncle Jerry was dead, Darlene was in Birmingham, Ginny was in Canton, and
Linda could never be found no matter what. I just don’t remember Uncle
Larry showing up at all. The point here being Dad was the only one
who really gave a damn that was close enough. We stayed there till
about 8:00 pm, and then dad drove us out to Aunt Elizabeth’s. I fell
asleep on the couch. The next thing I remember was dad waking me up
at about midnight saying that grandpa had passed away in the night.
It was the 7th of February 1988. Grandpa was uncouth, rude, stubborn,
hard headed, and uneducated but I loved him for every thing he was.
He was in love with his wife, Velma, who died back in 1975. He remarried
twice but they just could never match up or take the place of Velma.
He loved his children. He was very harsh on them (even tied daddy up
to a tree and whipped him with a hoe handle) but he loved them dearly.
He would work till he almost died attempting to support his family during
the depression winter months. He knew more about being a family than
most educated folks do today. He was who he was and apologized to no
one. He stood up for what he always thought was right. You could
take him or leave him. I took him.
On the 28th of March 1989, I made a decision that would alter my life forever
(life changing event #5). Before I even graduated, at the age of 17,
I had mom and dad’s consent and had to have two non-family members verification
that I wanted to join the military. Those two non-family members were
Earnest and Madeline Cannon. As you no doubt know by now, my family
was not the most well to do in the neighborhood (however I didn’t know any
better). And everyone knew that the key to making it and getting ahead
in this world was a good education. Dad beat this into my head.
When I was graduating high school, just to get your foot in the door for
a decent paying job you needed a Bachelor’s degree. Today, I know people
with doctor’s degrees working blue collar jobs. But for me to go to
college, mom and dad really just couldn’t afford it. If they could
afford anything at all it would have to be for my brother. Jimmy was
born with medical problems. His issues would have prevented him from
entering any form of military or the like. So if was going to college
mom and dad would have to pay for him. I knew they couldn’t pay for
both of us. So I joined the military. I couldn’t decide which
branch I wanted to go into. At first I wanted to join the Marines.
They were the badest of the land. Then I began to look at the Army
as they were pretty bad themselves. I never looked at the Navy as I
was too afraid of being on one of those ships – I didn’t want to be one of
those bad boy’s bitch. I would have no where to run and be out to sea
for 6 to 8 months at a time - no way, Hosea. Then I remembered dad
was in the Air force. But they all seemed a bit wimpy for me.
Then dad stepped in and said something that has always stuck with me.
He said, “Son, think about it, do you want to sleep every night out in the
woods in the mud when raining and dirt fighting the bugs and mosquitoes and
eating what ever you can find OR do you want to eat a hot meal and sleep
in a bed in a building every night where it is warm and no mosquitoes?”
It took me all of two seconds to make up my mind when he put it that way.
I was going to choose the smart way and not the hard way. The Air Force
was the way for me. Dad retired early as you already know, but Uncle
Larry was still in. He was a Major commanding the supply unit at the
Air National Guard Unit in Jackson, MS. Dad drove me out to see him
and let him walk me around to see things and tell me about the military to
make sure I wanted to do this. When we got through I was so pumped
about it, I just couldn’t wait. I was going to join the Air National
Guard. They would still pay for my education and I got trained and
paid to work one weekend a month and two weeks a year annual training.
Now I got picked on a lot being called a weekend warrior (meaning not a real
one) but who was the smarter one. I got all the benefits of the military,
the insurance, the education, the training, and didn’t have to wait to go
to school or leave my family. It had everything I was looking for.
Once I had decided and had all the required signatures the next step was
to choose what I wanted to do in the ANG (Air National Guard). I knew
I was going to do something towards business in college so I chose to something
completely different as to keep me active and not bored doing the same thing
all the time. I chose to be a Crew Chief, an Air Craft Mechanic (Engineer).
My recruiter didn’t lie to me like they do to most everyone else because
I told him when and where I was going all he had to do was the paperwork.
Uncle Larry saw to that. Mom was all teary about it. Dad was
very proud (I was following in his exact footsteps; I would be working on
the same planes he worked on). Jimmy was, well to tell the truth, I
don’t know how Jimmy was. Lea was sad I was leaving for a while but
she also was supportive as well. It was done.
A little over two months later, I graduated high school. Finally it
was me walking down the isle and the band play “pomp and circumstance” for
me. On 2nd of June 1989, I was handed my high school diploma.
Again we had a bit of a party, but this started at my house. Lea and
her whole family came to watch me graduate. Mrs. Lilly, Georgia, and
Barbara call came. And someone whom I have failed to mention up until
now made a special trip to see me graduate, Mr. & Mrs. L.T. Myers.
Some of the best people in the world are black people. LT was one of
them. LT worked for TWL as a handy man. He could build and fix
anything. He travelled to every store in the chain and solved problems,
structural problems. Dad was no stranger to getting dirty either so
the two worked well together. When I went with dad on his travelling
trip, LT was usually where we were as well. Dad would go do his thing,
while I was under LT’s wing. He was like a part time dad to me.
Let’s put it this way, I would have trusted him with my life and my family’s
life. I loved learning from him. I used to travel with him in
his van instead of dad sometimes. He didn’t have to work, he owned
a car wash and two convenient stores back in Canton, MS, but he did it to
stay busy. He was the most polite and well mannered man ever.
Jimmy used to work a bit with him, but Jimmy never really wanted to get too
dirty. LT named him “Boss Man” because he would rather stand back and
watch than get down and dirty. Anyway back to the graduation.
I acted up a bit, but I was excited I was graduating. Joe’s parents,
David Ezell’s parents, and half the community came over to our house at Greenland
after graduation. I really didn’t realize how many people were in my
life at that time. I remember getting all kids of gifts, one of which
was a manicure set. At the time I though how lame a gift was this but
later I realized it was the most useful and practical gift ever. I
had that set for years long after those pens and other things were lost.
As a Class we decided to give our selves shirts with a huge “89 on the front.
Inside the ’89 was everyone from the class’s signature. I decided not
to get a class ring. It was $400 that would have only gone to
Lea. It meant nothing to me, I hated jewellery. Lea was very
disappointed as it was common place for the girlfriend to wear the boyfriend’s
class ring. I bought her another ring and gave her my prized letter
jacket. She was happy with that.
I worked for the next moth and a half and spent as much time with Lea as
I possible could. I was going to leave on the 18th of July, two days
after my birthday, our birthday. If I remember correctly mom baked
a birthday cake and drove it all the way to Lea’s house for us. They
were both pretty teary at this time. I can remember Dad telling me
about his “Dear John” letter when he joined the military and not to be too
surprised if this happens. He only wanted to take care of me.
I didn’t like that story at all, but I knew once I left if Lea sent me one,
now would be her chance. I knew that when I got back if she was still
mine, she would be mine forever. However, almost 6 months apart can
change a person, I was not naïve. I was to spend 6 weeks in Basic
Training and at least 3 months learning how to be an aircraft mechanic.
We both could have changed in that retrospect. There were a few things
I needed to do before I could leave though. One of which was set up
a bank account with my mother’s name attached so she could do my banking
for me while I was “indisposed” for a while. And the next thing was
to get a Medical done by the military. Jackson, MS had its own approved
medical facility. I showed up at the office about 7:00 am one morning.
There were about 30 other guys there. We were all crowded into a room
with desks. We were given form after form after form to fill out.
I had always heard the military does things in triplicate and I am learning
this first hand. As we finished and turned in our paperwork, we were
called to have our blood drawn. This was my first time. I had
never given any part of myself to anyone and here I am giving a complete
stranger my blood. All I remember was that he had the hugest needle
and stuck it as far as he could up my arm. I was just proud he got
it one go – there were few guys that had to get stuck several times.
Next we were finger printed. It was apparent to me that these guys
wanted to know who I was. Then we all had to do some strange things
– go in to a small booth and click a button when we heard a noise; blow into
a hose the size of a vacuum cleaner and make a little ball float for as long
as we could; read a book that was nothing but colors (this was a Ishihara
test testing our color blindness); then the fun stuff came. We all
had to strip down to our underwear. I had never seen so many different
types of underwear in my life. Some of the boys had underwear like
me, whity tightys, but there were some with boxers with Disney characters,
cowboys and Indians, and the like. We had to tell a person coming by
with a clipboard if we had any identifying marks on us such as scars or tattoos.
I showed him the scars on my right hand but his comment to me was that won’t
do us much good to identify you if your hand is blown off. My reply
was neither will a tattoo on your ass if it gets blown off. He just
ignored me and went on to the next person – I suppose he had heard them all
before. Then we all had to sign off that we had never had any major
medical problems, no broken bones, and no surgeries in the last 5 years.
Some of these guys were dropping fast as they couldn’t answer these questions
with a NO. The rest of us were rushed into a another room. Remember
we are still only wearing our underwear. This room was cold.
There was a cold tile floor and the air conditioner was going. We had
to all stand at attention, then place our hand and arms straight out in front
of us and squat down till our thighs were parallel with the ground and hold
it. We were looking silly. Two guys in lab coats were looking
at us up and down. Then we had to put our hands on our hips and “Waddle
like a duck”. I really don’t know what they were looking for, but I
assumed they wanted to know about flexibility and if we were flat foots.
A person with flat feet (no arch) would find it very difficult to march.
Then we had the grand finale. We got to see one last doctor.
This guy had a dream job. All he had to do was sit on his butt and
look at other’s butts. That is right. We walked into him one
by one. He said, “Drop ‘Em”. I assumed he meant our underwear
as I had nothing else to drop. My balls were shrivelled with the cold
air. He looked at my nether regions. Wearing gloves of course,
he picked up my left nut and said turn your head to the right and cough.
Then he picked up my right nut and said to turn my head to the left and cough.
Then he said turn around and bend over. All I could think was this
was it. I was going to be violated. I realized that my life was
no longer my own – I belonged to the military. I was so relieved when
he told me to pull my shorts up and get out. He never touched me, but
I still didn’t feel right. They told me to get dressed and go home.
I neve knew the results of the test, but I assume I passed as they didn’t
pull me to the side. What an experience!
Sooner that we wished, that day came - the 18th of July 1989. I can
remember packing my one black bag. I remember Lea giving me something
to put in her bag to remind me of her while I was gone – a pair of her panties.
Funny the things you remember. I remember Mom, Dad, Jim, and I loading
up in the car and heading for Lea’s house to pick her up. We all went
to the Jackson Airport. To date, I had never even flown on an airplane
that I remember and now I go to learn how to put them together. I remember
hugging everyone goodbye; Lea last, looking in her eyes and telling her I
will be back. I gave her one last kiss and walked down the aerobridge.
I was off on an adventure of a life time.
My flight was from Jackson, MS to San Antonio, TX ending up at Lackland AFB.
I caught the late flight as I could arrive early in the morning. I
couldn’t tell you how long the flight was, but it seemed like forever.
I can remember looking out the window at the wings and the back of the engines
thinking I was going to learn to fix them. When I arrived in San Antonio
I was told to go to a particular exit. The Air Force apparently had
their own waiting room for us new recruits. I was sitting there when
I heard someone yell out, “Smith, Jerry Smith”. I jumped up and said
“that’s me!” The guy was an Air Force sergeant dressed in his “blues”.
His reply was, “that’s fucking wonderful, get on the blue bus”. I quickly
learned that anyone in the military rarely missed the opportunity to inflict
any kind of pain or at the very least be a smart ass. I took my bag
and walked outside to the bus. There were about 5 guys on board already,
so I chose an empty seat and waited. About 20 minutes later, we had
about 30 guys on board and we were taking off to a destination unknown.
We drove around and around and around which seemed liked forever to where
even if you were from the area you didn’t know where you were. I believe
the idea was to confuse or disorient any of us who decided to bolt back to
the airport. For the next six weeks, I knew nothing of the outside
world. I understood later there was a hurricane, Hugo or something,
and we never knew it. We arrived there to what seemed a day late.
What we didn’t realize was every one of us on the bus had joined the Air
National Guard (ANG), not the regular Air force. We were to receive
the same training as the regular guys and therefore trained together, but
apparently there were some budget constraints where those of us from the
ANG didn’t have to do certain things, one of which being there a day early.
Later I found out that they didn’t care when the regulars arrived (they arrived
at midnight). We found out that we missed some important training.
The guys before us (regular air force) had to endure some ridicule and pointless
exercises. They were told to stand in a formation with their bags to
their right side. They spent the next couple of hours learning to pick
up their bags and put them down again and again. I guess they figured
us ANG recruits could learn this exercise in their own spare time.
We, however, did have to get off the bus, run to a building, and get in formation.
But we threw our bags to one side before hand. Now just to clarify,
formation meant that you should be at arms length from the person in front
of you and to the right of you. This simple process was called “cover
down, or dress right dress”. You were to do this with out moving anything
but your feet. Then the other guys were told to come down and join
the formation. We were given instructions, “If the person is front
of you is shorter than you, tap him on the shoulder to swap places and move
forward.” Then we were told, “If the person to your left is shorter
than you, tap them on the shoulder to swap places and move to your left.”
In essence the biggest or tallest guys were pushed forward and given the
titles of Squad leaders. The biggest of us all was given the title
of dorm chief. Now I was not blessed with my father’s height but I
was not at the back of the formation. The smallest guy was from New
Jersey and was covered with tattoos. He was also the one with the worst
attitude, a huge chip on his shoulder, attempting to compensate for his size
no doubt. And as it turned out, the biggest guy was a wimp. The
age ranges in our group of 50 recruits from the minimum 18 years to two guys,
one being 28 and the other being 30. The oldest the Air force will
accept is 32. Then we were given instructions on how to stand at attention,
as there were a few who happened to have trouble: “Attention!
Heels together, toes slightly out, back straight, shoulders back, thumb and
forefinger touching the seam of your pants, eyes straight ahead, no motion,
no sound, staring at the back of the head of the person in front of you.”
“You will not move while at the position of Attention. There will be
no picking of the nose while at attention – if you cooperate you will graduate!”
Some of the guys were snickering at the antics of the TIs yelling and screaming.
So the TIs took this time to mention something else: “If anyone here
thinks they are smart enough and big enough and believes – and I stress believes
– they can kick my ass, now is the time to step up”. Strangely enough
the snickering stopped. Then he yelled out, “now all you four-eyed
freaks fall out to the rear of the formation and fall back in!” All
I could do was remember what my father told me. “Son, these guys are
going to try a break you mentally. All they want to do is break you
down and build you back up. They want to know if you have the ability
to follow orders.” Living with my dad for the past 18 years, following
orders was a piece of cake. Then the TI explained that starting from
the left we were to scream “Sir, yes Sir” and “Count off” (1,2,3, etc..)
as we ran into the building and up the stairs. This number was to be
our bed number. Once we got upstairs we were to find that number we
yelled out and stand by the beds. Some of the guys who arrived early
and picked out their beds had to move to a new bed.
He led us into the building up to the third floor. This was our home
for the next 6 weeks. We came in the door looking at a wall.
Immediately to our right was a meeting room or what they called the DAY room.
We were all crammed into the room with no seats – we were to sit on the floor.
We eventually called this the mail room as this is where we received any
“Air” mail. By Air Mail I mean the TI would call our names like “SMITH”,
we would reply, “Here Sir” “Sir, Yes Sir” or “YO” which ever we felt we could
get away with and the TI would literally throw the mail to us like a spinning
Frisbee. If you didn’t catch it, you lost your mail. Sometimes
they would intentionally throw it away from you to make you jump and catch
it. Here we received further instructions and placed our bags in a
locked closet. It was here I heard the strangest request and first
realizing that I “wasn’t in Kansas anymore”. Growing up I had never
really paid attention to mom and the washing. I just knew she always
used “Tide” in the orange box. I was stunned when they asked the question,
“Who has an allergic reaction washing powder?” I realized I had been
living in my own little world, I realized I knew nothing of the outside world
– and until then I had never wanted to know. Strange how one little
statement can lead to all these thoughts. This was the beginning of
me missing home. At this point, I can’t remember spending more that
a few days away from my family ever – I was stuck here for months with no
option of returning home; unless I failed and that was no option either.
Next we were told to run back down stairs and get in to formation.
We were going to go for a little march. We were all still dressed in
our “Civvies” or otherwise known as Civilian clothing. This was what
we learned to call a Rainbow flight. By rainbow, we mean all the different
colors being worn by the guys versus what we were about to wear. We
marched for about 30 minutes down the road with two TIs screaming at us to
march in step and for some of us to stop bouncing. Marching in step
was easy as we did this at band contests, but some of the guys had some real
trouble with it. I never noticed before how people bounce as they walk,
but it is true. In a group of 50 guys, a bouncer really stands out
like a rabbit in a hay field. When we got to our destination we realized
by the sounds coming from inside we were about to have our ears lowered.
These guys were real smart asses. I loved it. Some of the guys
had afros; others had hair as big as side show bob on the Simpson’s cartoon.
Then there were a couple of proactive guys who had their heads shaved.
Before we were allowed inside, we were handed an envelope each. This
envelope had part of our first pay check in cash, about $85 or $90 if I remember
correctly. Why were they giving us money? Because they were making
us pay for everything. First we had to pay for our haircut. That’s
right; I paid $1.70 to have my head shaved. The barber asked me if
I wanted to keep my hair when I sat down. I said sure if that is alright.
But for some reason he still cut my hair off and made me pay him. However,
he did give me my hair in a zip lock bag. I thought that was quite
considerate of him. And those poor unfortunate guys, who spent their
money having their heads shaved prior to arriving, still had to get their
heads re-shaved and still pay the money. We were to fall back into
formation outside once we were through. We were all outside rubbing
our heads feeling the short hair and laughing at each other. The best
thing was it saved time in the shower. We didn’t take long to wash
Next, they took us single file into the next building. Here we were
to tell them our shoe size at the door and keep walking as they handed us
a big green duffle bag. One of our guys was very happy as he was excited
about getting his very first pair of NEW shoes. There were some guys
with measuring tapes looking at us then handing us brown T-shirts, black
socks, green camouflaged shirts and pant, a matching hat, handkerchiefs,
and at the end of the line there were a pair of boots waiting for us.
We crammed everything into our duffle bag and got back into formation.
Some guys that needed them were ordered military issue eye glasses.
If you have ever seen one, you could never forget it. Again, another
affectionate name given to these glasses was “BC Glasses” where the BC stood
for Birth Control. The reason for that was that no girl in her right
mind would ever come near you wearing them; thus, you could never hope to
get her pregnant. From here they marched us to the base PX (Post Exchange
or store where you could buy most anything you needed for the military).
We were given a list of items were to purchase: Soap, toothpaste, a
tooth brush and holder, razors, shaving cream, washing powder, a pad lock,
black shoe polish, a lint brush, a small notebook, tweezers, a stencil set,
a bottle of liquid paper, a black permanent marker, and a few other items.
They inspected everything to make sure we did not buy any “Contraband” like
candy bars and such. We were being treated as if we were children,
but afterwards I could see the logic as some of those guys older than me
still needed to be told how to clean them selves. By this time it was
high noon and in the Texas summer heat is was very hot. The base had
a flag system. A green flag signified that it was ok to be outside
about your normal duties, a yellow flag signified that it was 90 degrees
(F) and limited duties were allowed (basically we had to take our shirts
off [still wearing the T-shirts] and we could not Double Time it or
run fast in formation). A red flag signified that you were only allowed
outside if absolutely necessary as it was too hot. I would have swore
it was a red flag day but we were marching nonetheless back to the dorms.
Many of our dorms had nicknames depending on the TIs. I don’t remember
our dorm’s name, but it wasn’t the worst. There were names like, The
Green Monster and Little West Point. The worst one was called “Disney
land” as being there would have been like being at a park for the TIs were
easy. There was another one for the one’s who could play an instrument
and were in the band. I had got the word from a few guys before hand
about things to do and not to do. One was to buy a tooth brush holder
that was square because it didn’t move around in your locker and the other
was to say you played an instrument. I bought the holder but I didn’t
say I played the clarinet. I was glad I didn’t because they may have
had it easy, but they were playing everywhere for everything - good call.
Our next step was to make our way to a legal sweat shop. By this I
mean the sewing room. There were about 15 old Mexican ladies operating
sewing machines. We had to write down our names clearly on a piece
of paper. This inturn was given to the ladies who made our name tags
and sewed them on our shirts and jacket. We had to wait till the next
day to get them but again we had to pay for this service out of our money
in the envelope.
We finally made it back to the dorm and were rushed back upstairs to our
dorm room. We put stuff in the Mail room and had to rush back down
stairs. As you may see a pattern here, the military is full of “hurry
up and wait” procedures. We were in formation and received some more
instructions on how to eat. We were about to go to the mess hall and
there was specific rules that needed following. We could order anything
we wanted as long as we ate it all. We were to sit at the tables from
the left and fill them up moving to the right. Each table had 4 chairs.
The first three to reach the table were to put their tray down and stand
at attention until the fourth member arrived. The fourth member was
to say something like “Airmen, sit down”, then you were allowed to sit and
eat. There were no words to be said. You were there to eat, not socialize.
We had to stare straight ahead and side step through the line when we ordered
our bacon, eggs, toast, and even grits if you wanted them – anything, and
of course the same routine as ever. If you didn’t like the food each
table always had a bottle of Louisiana Hot Sauce. This was a stroke
of genius. It could cover the taste of anything you had to eat.
And boy did you want to eat it. On our first visit to the chow hall
one of the TIs waited at the door where we put our trays and if there was
any food left on our trays we had to grab it with our hands and eat it right
then and there – all of it. The TIs all sat at their special table
in the middle. The area directly in front of their table was affectionately
called the “Snake Pit”. No one wanted to be in the snake pit.
If you were doing something not according to procedures or if they just felt
like being mean, you were call over; “Airman Smith, Get over here now!”
You were to maintain military composure and follow all the marching moves.
You would march to the table and do the correct manoeuvre in front of them;
praying you didn’t make a mistake or you would be doing push ups or crappy
odd jobs later. Once you were there, they would grill you on the stuff
you were supposed to be learning and you had better get it right. I
only had to go once and I got it right – whew. Then there were the
ladies serving the food. It was our first day and those ladies were
uglier than a dog on crack. They could cook anything you wanted.
And if you were nice to them, you could get extra. The problem was
by the end of the 6 weeks, those ladies didn’t look too bad – Ouch!
I don’t know about the other guys and I don’t know if it was because I came
from a family with two other males or because I was from the country but
for some reason many of the guys could never finish their meals. I
however always had time to go back for seconds. One hamburger
was just never enough. There was a slight issue; no one could leave
the table until everyone was finished. So if I was finished in 5 minutes,
I had to wait till the others were finished or the allotted 25 minutes was
up where we all had to leave. And if you didn’t finish your meal, you
were yelled at for wasting food while people in the world were starving.
We were given three square meals a day but as you can tell, it was not always
the place you wanted to be. I went there in pretty good shape weighing 155
lbs. When I left I was in even better shape weighing in at 158 lbs.
I was one of the few people how gained weight in basic training.
As each table finished, each of us were to go back upstairs to the Mail room
and wait. Once everyone was back, the TIs made us pull every item of
clothing out that we were given. We were instructed to pull out the
stencils, the markers, and the liquid paper. In the approved places
using the approved tools, we were to put our CODE on every item (I don’t
think we did the socks, but we even did the handkerchiefs). Our codes
were the first letter in our last name and the last 4 digits from our social
security number. My code was S3436. We spent the remainder of
the day doing this. Once we were finished we were to strip down and
put on our new clothes and put our civilian clothes in our bags in the locked
up closet. This would be the last time we would see our clothes for
a long time. At this time we only knew of the front door and our mail
room. There was much more to it. We had the “latrine” with about
10 urinals, 10 toilets with side walls but no doors, a shower that could
hold about 15 at a time. This bathroom had to be spotless every day.
There could be no pubic hair on the urinals, no piss splatter on the floors,
no soap residue on the floors, and no shit stains in the bowls. We
learned to take a shit only once a day and longer if possible. I heard
some guys had to go to the medics for an enema as they tried to hold it longer
than anyone else. Believe me, they checked every day. Then we
had two long bays separated only by a cement block wall with entrances on
either end to get to and from. These bays would sleep 25 each.
Some with bunk beds, but most were singles. I had a single. The
floors were grey tiles, cold and slippery. There was an air conditioning
vent at the end of each bay. Behind each bed were lockers lined up
against the walls. It was here that we stored our clothes, our bathroom
stuff, and our money. Our dirty clothes were kept in a laundry bag
tied to the end of our bag. I can see it clearly. Near the front
door in the middle was a two room office of sorts. It was where the
TI kept their records and slept if necessary. Our TI was a male with
a mustache and big sunglasses. You could hear him coming with the taps
he had on his boots. He stayed with us for two nights and never stayed
We already had a hierarchy, a Dorm chief and squad leaders, but there were
four more positions that needed filling. The first one was what was
affectionately called the “House Mouse”. The TI asked the group who
wanted to be the House Mouse. I remember dad telling me to never volunteer
for anything, just lay low and disappear. One guy spoke up and thinking
he would get on the good side of the TI volunteered. This person was
the only person, other than the TI, allowed in the office, which meant they
were doing all kinds of administration work and gopher jobs for the TI.
This was not so bad. The second position affectionately called the
“Latrine Queen”. This person was delegated and not volunteered for.
This person was in charge of the bathrooms. He had to keep them clean
and answer for any thing that wasn’t. It was he who laid down the law
to the rest of us about the use of the latrine. The third person was
what we called “the Outside Man”. This job didn’t sound too bad and
someone screwed up and volunteered. They said he would make a great
outside man, now go outside and introduce your self to the mop and broom
stand. There were mops and brooms that were never used along with trash
cans and a water hose that were unused. This person was in charge of
keeping the grounds clean and free of trash. Obviously they would throw
things down to harass him with – and he was not allowed to use the cans;
therefore, he kept the rubbish in his pockets till he found a dumpster.
However he did have one other useful function. As he was allowed outside,
he would be the one we could sneak our letters home to. He had access
to the mail box. The last position was called the Dorm Guard Monitor.
Up until now, as we were going in and out of room, we had a dorm guard from
another squad that had been there long before us. Now it was up to
us to begin taking care of this duty ourselves. While we were stencilling
our names on our underwear the TI spoke up and said, “SMITH”. I said,
“Sir, Yes Sir”. He says you are now the Dorm Guard Monitor. What?
At this stage in the game I didn’t even know what that was. But who
was I to argue with the one person who could make my life hell for the next
six weeks. This appointment soon turned into the best thing that could
have happened to me there. I may not have been the Dorm chief or a
Squad leader, but I learned how get things done we wanted and had the power
to make things happen. I was suddenly everyone’s best friend.
The dorm guard was a lowly position. They were to walk up and down
the bays wearing a battle helmet, a whistle, an ammo belt and carrying a
baton, a clip board, and a flashlight. They were to monitor who came
in and out the doors. Meaning you could not get in without their approval,
not even the TI. This was a source of fun for the TIs. In order
to get in, the first person had to show their military ID. The Green
card was for regular Air force and a red card for the ANG people, but each
had to have the correct dates and photos. The TIs would show the correct
color IDs but have a photo of Mickey Mouse, or have one with the wrong dates
(an expired ID). You could also let some one in on recognition.
If you let someone in unauthorized you were in violation of a security breach
and you received a tongue lashing and a few demerit points. If there
was a female entering the dorm room, you had to yell out “Female in the Dorm”.
I was responsible for ensuring every one who was a dorm guard knew the rules
(which was the whole group). Also I was responsible scheduling 24 hour
rotations in 2 hour intervals. So if I didn’t want to do something
the group was doing, I scheduled myself. Mostly I scheduled myself
on Sundays during church time, as I gave everyone else a chance to go and
I didn’t want to attend a Catholic Mass. I went the first time but
never went again. I was sick one night and scheduled myself during
the morning training session. This also worked for everyone else.
If they didn’t want to go to training, or class, or what ever we were doing
they had to ask me. Scheduling was so easy for me that, the TIs started
giving me other dorms to cover as well. This just gave me more power.
You see those who wanted to be off at certain times would have to iron my
clothes, shine my boots, and the like. Or if it was a squad leader
or the dorm chief, well, let’s just say I never got a demerit point or a
negative mark on my record. But also I made sure a dependable person
was always on during the 4am to 6am shift. We always had a 5 am wakeup
call. At 5:05 we were to be dressed and downstairs for PT (Physical
Training). In order to facilitate this, we had the dorm guard wake
us up at 4:50 to give us time to go to the bathroom and get ready.
If we were unable to finish something, the dorm guard would normally finish
it for us so everyone could make it back outside on time. On qualification
days, we always scheduled the weakest link to be doing dorm guard duty.
On the second day of basic training, the TI, who slept there with us the
first two nights, woke us up at 4:55 am turning on the lights, yelling “Get
up, Get up, Get up!!! What do you think this is, a Holiday Inn” all while
banging trash can lids together. What a wonderful start to the
day. We were fumbling around like chickens with our heads cut off looking
for our PT clothes. He was kicking beds over and tossing people out
of there beds who were not moving. I believe when they woke up they
were in mid-air. We had to have our rooms clean, beds made, before
we went down stairs. Remember this is all in 5 minutes. You would
first think this was impossible, but you soon realized “nothing was impossible.”
When we finally all got down stairs in formation, we went for a little jog.
At 5:00 in the morning it was still hot even if the sun was still asleep
and a little jog was close to 5 miles. Ouch for those guys who were
out of shape? The TIs would scream and yell telling the guys to stop
bouncing and run in step. Thank goodness none of our group fell out,
but we actually seen ambulances pick up other from other flights that collapsed.
After the little jog, we stopped in the fields and rested. By resting,
I mean we did push up and sit ups. I tell you we were all feeling 100%
by the end of the session – NOT! About 6:30am we drug our sorry butts
upstairs; we were to shower (a daily requirement), shave (a daily requirement),
make our beds (a daily requirement), and clean the dorm including the showers
(a daily requirement) and be back down in formation by 6:50 am ready to go
to breakfast. Let’s stop for a minute. We spent an hour and a
half doing PT. We were learning to act in unison as a team – very tough.
By the end we could run in unison, no bouncing, and do the “mile run” in
under 6 minutes. We were doing 50 sit ups and 60 push ups and running 5 miles
all in about an hour (if you are counting the minutes – the other half an
hour left was the 15 minutes to and from the PT fields. Now we had
20 minutes to shit, shower, and shave 50 guys and clean the dorm room.
It took a couple of days, but we began to do things in shifts (pre-planned
the night before). As there were only 15 shower heads and 10 sinks,
the first 25 in the door would go shower and shave while the others began
to make their beds. This was the first 10 minutes. The next 25
would rush in during the following 10 minutes. During this same 20
minutes, the first 25 were wiping the showers down, moping the bathroom,
cleaning toilets, and sweeping the floors (I sware during the night they
pumped in dust in through the air vents). We learned quickly to only
use one urinal and one toilet to keep the cleaning down, per the Latrine
Queen. There is also another interesting fact in the latrine.
I was also warned to buy a bar of soap that had a rope on it. You never
wanted to drop your soap and bend over to pick it up. These guys had
been alone for days and weeks and you didn’t know what one might be thinking.
As a guy you don’t go looking at the other guys while you are taking a shower
as this could be considered a bit homosexual, but you couldn’t help noticing
the black guys. These guys had dicks that would put a hard white man
to shame. I really don’t know how these guys could run with something
like that between their legs. I always felt I could hold my own (no
pun intended) with the white boys but the black guys just put us to shame.
Once this was done, we were making last minute adjustments to our lockers
and beds. The beds had to be just right with hospital corners and be
able to bounce a quarter on the mattress. I knew people who could slip
into bed, never move while they sleep, and slip out without pulling out their
hospital corners. We learned to sleep with out moving except for the occasional
person who couldn’t keep his hands off his pecker. Most of us gave
up that practice as we were just too tired to care. However, I spent
so much time under my bed - pulling the blankets tight.
Our lockers…Our lockers had to be beautiful. We were issued 5 sets
of clothing; which meant that we were allowed one set to be on our bodies,
one set in our laundry bag (supposedly dirty) and three sets clean, neatly
ironed. The uniforms had to be pressed and hanging at specific intervals
in the locker; the t-shirts, underwear, handkerchiefs, and socks all had
to look as if you folded them, pressed them, and then cut them with a sword.
We used to spend hours with the tweezers pulling each little fold to be flush
and straight with the others. As you could see we didn’t want to mess
up our work and we wore the same clothes for days before we had to mess it
up. If the TI caught us doing this, they would come and rip all our
clothes out, dump the drawers on the floor and turn our beds over; then we
had to do it all over again. Sometimes they did this just for the hell
of it anyway during our daily inspections. And to really seem like
they were anal, we had to keep a copy in our notebooks of every serial number
of every bill (money) we had in our possession. If we had 19 one dollar
bills we had better have 19 serial numbers that matched in our notebooks.
Remember the heads up I got about the toothbrush holder, this was one of
the benefits. When the TI opened our drawers, a round holder would
move, obviously, and a square holder would stay in place. I noticed
that everyone that had a round holder always had their lockers and beds torn
up. I never did. Great Advice! And don’t ever forget to
lock your locker. You kept your key around your neck hidden at all
times. If the key ever came out and you were caught, it was considered
a gross violation of security and you were quickly punished. We finally
figured it out that those who were the best at ironing – did the ironing,
those who were good at folding duffle bags or polishing boots – did the folding
and polishing. I sucked at ironing. I was the only one who could
fold the duffle bag correctly, so I folded all 50 of duffle bags but at least
I did no ironing.
After the clean up and back down in formation at 6:50 am, we had 25 minutes
to eat breakfast. Then our next port of call was a bit unusual.
With all of us being treated as regular air force, it was assumed that no
one was yet assigned their jobs. So the guys next to me could be cooks,
administration, or pooper scoopers; none of them knew. However, as
I was in the ANG, I had already been pre-determined as to my destiny, an
aircraft mechanic. This meant that this portion of the training would
have been a mute point for me as my TI told me. But it was fun. We
were taken to a computer building and sat in front of several radar screens
and given specific instructions. What they were doing was seeing if
we had a natural aptitude for being Air Traffic Controllers. As they
didn’t give me any instructions, I failed miserably. This test took
until noon and we marched back to the dorm for lunch. After lunch,
we fell out for formation again and were given a new surprise. Our
male TI was going to bring in more new recruits and we were given 2 female
TIs. A training TI, short black woman, and our Head TI, a skinny white
woman named Gutowski. She was looking like she had been on an all night
drinking binge wearing huge black sunglasses and spiky hair. Yes, she
looked like she could have been a dike with a bike. She turned out
to be pretty cool, but this wasn’t the cool part. In order to re-establish
her authority we began to be yelled at again. She yelled at us all
the way to the medical center. But along the way we were trained in
the proper procedure for crossing roads while marching. She made the
two guys in the rear of the marching formation (as we approached any intersection)
run ahead of the group to block traffic by yelling our “Road guards OUT”.
They had to stand at parade rest with one hand extended toward the traffic
as if to say stop. Once the group was through they were to run back
and get in the rear of the formation as she said “Road guards IN”.
Once we arrived at the medical center we were instructed to take our shirts
off. We walked in single file and found a line of medics waiting for
us. They had what I would have described as Sci-Fi guns. These
guns were hooked up to hoses that went into the wall. These guns were
the military’s answer to the needle. We were getting inoculated.
It was an assembly line and we were the products. At the end of the
line you had 6 wounds, three shots per arm and taken two oral medications
such as polio. This was easy but one wrong move and you were deep in
the hurt. If you stood too far away from them or at a wrong angle to
them, this gun would tear your skin or you would end up with a baseball size
wound. The blood would drip off your elbows and all they gave
you was a cotton ball. The reason for this was usually because the
medics were talking constantly to one another and did not look at what they
were doing. We were so scared into doing what we were told that if
we were not told to move to the next medic the same medic would give you
the same shot again. Those who screwed up the first time moved on pretty
quick after that. We finished rather quickly and marched back to the
dorm again. This time we were sent to the Mail room to wait.
The TI brought up 50 books. They were called our Basic Bible.
It was a thick, but small pocket size book. This carried the instructions
on how to do everything from how to fold the duffle bag to the history of
aviation. This is what we were to learn front to back over the next
six weeks with a final exam at the end. This is what they grilled us
on at the snake pit. This is what we spent a minimum of 4 hours per
day in a class room being taught the correct procedures. The class
rooms were on the bottom floor of our dorm room. We were instructed
to read and learn this book and get our lockers and barracks squared away.
Then she left us to our own accord till morning.
In the beginning there were 50 guys. After a couple of days we dropped
to 48 for reasons unknown. At the end we had 42 to 45 people who finished;
I don’t remember the exact number. I had a photo of our graduation
class but I have lost it. There were people from every part of the
US in our class, even Puerto Rico. Most were from the east coast (New
York, New Jersey) but there were those from California, Texas, South Carolina,
and of course I was from Mississippi. Until we learned everyone’s name
we called each other by the states we were from. This was my first
real cultural experience. I found out that the civil war may have been
officially ended back in 1865 but the issues never really resolved.
The perception of those from the north toward those from the south was less
than favourable. I can hear the New York guy saying, “Mississippi,
Don’t your people still marry your sisters and stuff?” I had grown
up in the south most of my life and had never heard this. I knew back
in the 1700s and early 1800s this may have gone on as there were not many
people around the area. This could have been offensive but I learned
at an early age, you can’t control people’s thoughts or mouths. So
I just said I don’t know what you are talking about and let it go.
However, my South Carolina counterpart had some problems with letting it
go. He was about 6’1” and about 200lbs. He was not someone you
wanted against you. He seemed quite offended with the comment and it
took several of us to hold him back from pulverizing the little New Yorker.
I don’t know, maybe this was a sensitive issue for him – maybe the comment
hit too close to home or maybe he was defending his wife (I mean sister,
I mean….). Then there was the smallest man in the room from New
Jersey who had what I call the “Little man’s disease”. The big southerner
coming after the smaller northerner was not fair in his eyes. So he
thought he would intervene as well and attempt to help out his northern partner.
Well didn’t this just light a spark in the middle of a hay barn? The
group was beginning its first teething problems before becoming a true team.
Bull shit, this was all out war for about 20 minutes. The team never
gelled as a unit (except when running in the morning). We did manage
to keep them apart for the duration. I took South Carolina back to
his bunk to calm him down. I soon realized what was bothering him;
he was missing his fiancé. He started crying on me, which made
me really think twice about being his friend, but I did nonetheless.
There were a few of the guys were anal and tried to do every thing by the
book and there were a few who used the book for toilet paper. As for
the rest of us, after the initial shock of being yelled at, it became fun.
Another issue was concerning communication. What one person said didn’t
always mean the same thing to the other. If someone said the word bum,
to one person this meant your butt, but to another it would mean a person
on the street. This was a nice example – I won’t expand on this.
Then there were the accent problems; if someone from the south yelled “Fire”,
those from the north understood “Far”.
On the third day, we were all downstairs and information at 5:10, but there
was something different. We were no longer the only flight (group)
there. There were people coming down with us that we didn’t know (but
would like to). We were now an official Co-Ed dorm. We had a
female flight in the dorm room below us. Strange that we never heard
the girls arrive. They trained with us every morning (more like at
the same time and same place – not together). They were in the same
classes as us (4 hrs per day). They ate with us as well – but we were
not allowed to sit together. Other than the boobies, I don’t think
we considered them any different than us. However, yes however there
was an incident. Some people out there in the world are… well…stupid?
I mean I missed my girl friend pretty bad but I didn’t let my little head
do my thinking! About 4 weeks into our training, one of the TIs was
coming in to work early and noticed the trash (rubbish) bin moving around
or actually rocking a bit. Maybe a stray dog or a wild possum had made
it in the bin scrounging for food. But as the TI checked it out, they
found one of our guys ‘hunked’ up to one of the girls. Now this was
a mating ritual not normally seen except at Lackland AFB as it seemed to
be a ritual dating back to the early 60’s. And because of its abnormality;
oh, and not to mention because it broke several rules (including the PDA
–public display of affection); these two individuals were not just recycled,
but released from their duties in the Air Force. I hope they were worth
it! By being recycled I mean they were transferred to a new group and
started basic all over again. My only incident with those of the room
beneath us, was at least once a night the female dorm guard monitor would
come knocking on our door asking for me to come and help her with questions
she had. She would always bring one or two others with here, never
the same people in a row. Never allowing them in the dorm room, I stepped
outside to help them. I may have been naïve and not noticed they
were really wanting help in other ways (I was not naïve, the thought
crossed my mind every time) but I was not about to be kicked out for any
Every day became the same routine (PT, shower, breakfast, class, lunch, class,
dinner, sleep), except on weekends. Unless we needed special training,
the Dorm chief was responsible for getting us down stairs for chow.
He was also responsible for getting us to church on Sundays. But other
than that, we were on our own on weekends. Our dorm chief, remember
who was the biggest one of the group, turned out to be a wimp and was replaced
by the second oldest member of the group at age 28. The second weekend
we were there we were given phone privileges. Any one who didn’t have
any demerit points could go down and wait in line for one of 5 pay-phones.
Those who did have demerit points were allowed to go last, but they didn’t
know it until the end. I waited in line for 45 minutes till my time
came around. I ran to the phone and tried to call Lea. No answer
three times. Then I tried to call home and I got Dad on the first go.
Hearing his voice was the greatest thing I had heard in forever it seemed.
I talked to him for 20 minutes and then I had to go to let someone else on.
Then I snuck back in the line and took a second turn to try and get Lea again.
I did finally get her. Again, one of the sweetest voices I could have
heard. We talked the whole 20 minutes. At this stage I had never
been away from home more than a few days. When I got back upstairs
it hit me hard. I broke down and cried for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Up until now I had been the one the guys turned to for help, but now I had
several of the guys sit on the floor with me next to my locker and talked
me through it. One of them was South Carolina. I hated the weekends
because of the idle time to think. We had no phone privileges until
the 4th weekend again and every evening after that. When we arrived
they were very strict on us, but as we learned the rules, we gradually were
given our privileges again.
I have mentioned demerit points a couple of times. These demerits were
actually pieced of paper we were required to carry around called Form 341,
commonly referred to as just a “341”. This form was requested by the
TI every time we screwed up. They were to have our names, unit #, and
other identifying information on it. In the old days (60’s and earlier)
the TIs had these as well, but they were also allowed to HIT the trainees.
They would hit them with broom sticks or throw them down the stairs.
The times have changed and they are no longer allowed to touch a trainee
physically. So other than push up and pointless details, the way to
punish a trainee was via 341s. If your record had so many 341s, you
were not allowed privileges such as patio breaks; the more the 341s the higher
privileges that were taken away, such as phone privileges. And it didn’t
just affect the single individual, it affected the whole flight. This
would go on till a person could be recycled (sent back to the beginning of
basic training to do it all over again as they apparently had not learned
what they were supposed to).
After the first two weeks, the initial shock had worn off and thing were
beginning to be routine. We attempted to stay awake in the monotone
classes and entertained our selves in many ways, but mostly getting up and
standing in the back of the room. I remember one day coming out of
class we were marching back around the side of the dorm when all the boys
instantly got a hard on. There was a smell in the air that was unmistakable.
A fresh rainbow flight of girls had just arrived. The smell of perfume
was in the air. The TI Gutowski also noticed this and immediately told
us to settle down. Nature is a hard thing to keep under control.
So to attempt to get our minds off things, we were marched over to the dorm
furthest away from ours, the Disney Land Dorm. It was currently empty.
The dorm was going to be refurnished and all the old stuff was going to be
burned or thrown away. So we went over to clean it out. We were
told what to bring out and where to put it, but we were not informed on how
we should accomplish this. So the TI went to sit out under a tree while
we went up to the third floor and began throwing mattresses and bunks and
desk and anything else not nailed down out the window. There were over
100 mattresses in a pile out side along with metal bunks to match.
It was hot, sweaty work but it got our minds off the rainbow flight.
I don’t remember everything that went on over the next couple of weeks (weeks
3 and 4) nor in the order that they happened but I do remember a few things.
I remember qualifying on the M16, self defence training, being issued our
Blues, taking our photo in the Blues, a group photo, and being sorted by
aptitude. Being in the Air Force our priority was being smart. We were
to operate and support air operations; however, as being part of the military
where we defend our country no matter what or how, we were to be qualified
like every other soldier in any branch of service in how to operate and maintain
the M16. I grew up in the country hunting and just shooting and had
a slight advantage over the other guys not to mention I was pretty good shot.
Some of these guys had only seen a gun on TV. We were given classes
on the use of the weapon and the parts thereof. We were trained to
break them down and re-assemble them quickly. We were threatened with
DEATH if we ever abused them. I still believe them. We were driven
out by bus out to a shooting range. We had to line up in an orderly
fashion and were assigned a rifle. We had to prove our ability and
qualify standing up, sitting down, kneeling down, and laying down while shooting
the rifle. We were issued 50 rounds of ammo and had to account for
every single piece before and afterwards. This was 10 rounds per position
as we did the standing up twice (I believe they allowed us to practice on
the first 10). I do remember what my score was and I do remember being
able to keep my target (of which I have lost since). I was very upset.
To achieve a medal of an Expert marksman you needed to get 48 out of 50 and
I apparently got a mark of 47. I had missed my mark by one and they
would not give it to me. Ouch.
I remember falling out to formation on a weekend as we were going to the
PX to buy candy bars, make phone calls, and I believe get my photo done to
send home in one of those booths where you pull the curtain and it takes
three or four shots. It was something to do on a weekend as we were
left to our own accords. However we always had to go in formation,
marching, and fully dressed. The first time we were allowed to do this
as we were falling out, who do you think was standing there, our TI?
She was not in uniform. As a matter of fact I don’t think what she
had on could be called a uniform. She was dressed in a blue tank top
(singlet) and camouflage shorts (they must have originally pants but were
ripped off at the thigh as the strings were still hanging down). She
wore flip flop sandals and huge bug eyed sunglasses. Her hair… her
hair was like a mullet. She had short spiky hair on top, shaved on
the sides, and a long mullet of hair down the back. She was drinking
out of a thermos mug but you could smell that it wasn’t coffee. Gutowski
was drunk from the night before and only showed up out of duty. She
stumbled beside us as we marched to the PX and then she disappeared.
For the duration of our stay, she was a little more personable to us.
We still had to follow the rules, but she wasn’t always in our face.
We got our first taste of chocolate and junk food in over a month.
We had been purged and were missing out. However, my first port of
call was the phones. I knew we were going to be able to call ahead
of time and made arrangement for Lea to wait by the phone at this time.
I loved our weekend privileges. I believe once we even went to see
a movie but I think we went to a pool hall on base instead.
During the week we were to be issued our Blues. Our Blues were our
formal or nice dress uniform. We got 5 light blue shirts, 4 air force
blue trousers, a couple of ties, a blue belt with a shiny buckle, a pair
of black blister making dress shoes, a blazer or coat, and two different
types of hats. One hat was called by the guys a bus driver’s hat.
As we didn’t have bus drivers, much less busses, where I grew up I had no
idea was this meant. But following the group I managed to see that
this hat was big, blue, and round like a steering wheel. Or second
hat had a more affectionate name. This had when not worn would lay
flat. But when worn on the head, you would look like a rooster.
The top of this hat was where the two sides came together attached by another
piece of cloth that allowed for flexibility. This extra piece of cloth
could not be seen as it was inside the cap, so when you put your fingers
in the top of the hat, they would disappear. This is all well and good,
but the name of the hat says it all. When we had to get dressed we
were told not to wear the bus driver’s hat but to get our Cunt Cap.
I will not elaborate on this at this point in time. Once we got our
issue we were instructed to try on the shirt, a tie, a jacket, and our bus
driver’s hat. We looked a little funny with our upper half dressed
in the Blues and the bottom half in our Greens. The hardest part was
the tie. I didn’t know how to tie a tie. One of our guys did,
thank goodness. He and Gutowski went around making sure we did them
right. We had to tie a Windsor knot. To this day I can still
remember how to tie this knot. I will never forget. Nevertheless,
we were told to stand in line. They were going to take individual photos
of us. I still have copies of this photo as they sent it to our home
town and put it in the local paper to let everyone know we graduated basic
training. And to even make it better, we all got back into our fatigues
(greens) and got in formation outside on a set of small stands. We
took a group photo. How I wish I could find this photo again.
I have no idea where it is. I would love to put a face with these names.
Speaking of sorting these guys out, the last thing during these two weeks
I remember was all of us going to a large building and taking an exam.
This was more of an aptitude test to determine what if anything you were
most likely capable of doing. Most of us knew we were not going to
be Air traffic controllers. And a couple of us from the ANG already
knew what we were going to do, but the regular guys had no idea what they
would be doing after basic. This test was to help out in that area.
I had to take it anyway. Some guys were on the bottom and only allowed
to do such things as KP (Kitchen Patrol) and MP (Military Police).
Others were given other jobs from administration to motor pool to actually
working on an aircraft (imagine that after joining the air force).
None of them found out till the last day of basic training.
The 5th week was probably the most rememberable of them all to me.