Henrietta, Texas, 1949: If you drive north out of town, the road curves clockwise around the dam of the water reservoir, and after a sharp left turn crosses the bridge. This is the place where a car-owning teenager must determine how fast he can drive around that corner.
In my high school years, Wayne Klein’s souped-up 1955 Mercury held the record. In the movies, all teenagers have souped up hot rods, but the average teenager knows nothing about motors, and doesn’t know how to change the oil, much less how to “soup up” a car. Besides, what does soup have to do with it?
Wayne’s car was actually souped up, because his father had souped it, and it ran like a bat out of hell, so Wayne could drive that curve at 55 miles an hour. Since the posted sign says “25”, this was a wonderful accomplishment. And, unlike unfortunate Beckham Guthrie Jr., Wayne wasn’t even killed.
Now, if you chose not to take that left turn, and just followed the curve of the dam, you would drive onto a dirt road and come to a gate. This wooden gate is usually padlocked, but if it were open, you’d drive behind the dam, and in a dry wood of mesquite and oaks and dappled sunlight, you’d find an open meadow of sandy soil, with a cream-colored building beneath trees to the left, and to the right picnic tables and horseshoe stakes. This grandeur was the Henrietta Country Club.
Who belonged to this Country Club? I do not know. Why would they go out there? I do not know. Was there golf? There was not.
Earlier, in sixth grade, a very slender and elegant man who had a poodle and clapped his hands frequently held dancing lessons there on Tuesday evenings. Professor Rudolfo taught me to dance the waltz and the foxtrot with Linda Brown, to my eternal delight. And he taught a bunch of other kids, too.
I can report that the cream-colored building has a wooden floor, an air of mystery, and a kind of kitchen in the back, not that different from the Avenue Ballroom aside from being out in the woods behind a dam.
Even earlier, when I was five, Mrs. Miller took me and Rex and Mike to a cookout, a Fourth of July celebration. There in the sun and the shade and the scurrying dust, a hundred children darted about like wild animals, playing chase and Red Rover. Campfires smoked in the brick firepits, roasting hotdogs and hamburgers. And to top it off, a grand drawing.
When we’d driven in, tickets were issued to everyone. I had one. Rex had one. Mike was too little to hold his, but Mrs. Miller held it for him. And when it came time for the big drawing, the man pointed me out and asked me to help.
I nodded yes.
He had a cage of wood and wire, and the tickets tumbled inside. The numbers on tickets matched the ones we were holding. My job was to reach into the cage and pull out a ticket. Then he would call out the number, and somebody won a toaster.
After the toaster there was a cash prize. Somebody was going to win a dollar. But when the man called out the number, nobody had it. He called the number several times. It was a mystery. Who would have the ticket?
Finally, he looked at my ticket. It was me.
I had pulled my own number from the cage, winning the dollar. I was pleased to win a dollar, though I didn’t exactly know what a person would do with a dollar.
Later, when we got back to Rex and Mike’s house, I bragged happily to Rex that I had won a dollar. He’d seen me win it, of course, and he grew angry. I was puzzled.
“Why didn’t you win a dollar?” I asked him.
He said it was because I didn’t pull his number out of the cage, stupid.
Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota, May 18, 2017 — Jerry Lefevre was two grades older than me in High School. He bought a Chevrolet. It looked much like this picture, except that it just wouldn’t do.
Not according to Jerry.
The problem was the red panel. Jerry thought it was not cool.
He had the red panel painted white like the rest of the car. Therefore I cannot now find a picture to show the car. Perhaps it was the only one of it’s kind.
As was, in my eyes, Jerry.
Gravelly voice even as a teen, speaking in short bursts of [Read more…]
North Texas University, Denton, Texas, 1965. Heartbroken, after running off my high-school sweetheart, envious met her new flame, a boisterous trumpet player driving a red MGB.
Shortly thereafter when crazy Becky Jarvis said, “You ought to get a Morgan.” I said huh? And then …
I bought a Morgan Motor Car in Dallas from a garage guy named Big John, who imported them and raced them. This one was blue, with tan upholstery and black top. Three thousand dollars.
Built with a wooden frame atop a steel z-frame, whatever that might be. The whole car flexed. Weighted 1400 pounds and had a 1.5 liter engine, hopped-up Ford Cortina with Lotus modifications, Jaguar trannasaurus, ran like hell, whining high-pitched, a redline at 9000. About four inches from the ground. That would be your butt, flying above your asphalt.
The first night, driving it home, in the dark, was terrifying. It was so fast. Seemed like piloting the bolt from a crossbow, rocketing down that dark backwoods highway. Later discovered it had the wrong speedometer; and my highway trip at 65 was really around 90. It did seem sprightly.
The jack arrangement was to insert the jack through a hole in the floor. This hole normally was covered by the rubber floor mat. However, on rainy Dallas days I have seen the puddle splash up through the hole, lifting the floor mat, to spash against the windshield, on the passenger side. Kind of a defroster system.
Paul Miner drew up cartoons of our gang at that time. Mine was ‘Richard, the sports car nut’. It showed me in riding pants, saying “Of course, she won’t start on cold mornings, but at $2999, she can afford to be a little temperamental.”
Paul was right on the money. One of my proudest moments at that time was during an astounding snowstorm. On Dallas freeway and headed back to Denton, I let the air out of the tires down to about 15 pounds. Then, my 1400 pound car could walk up the icy hills where the big sedans just skidded and spun. Got me through. Good thing. That heater. I probably would have died out there.
A year or so later, living in Dallas in an apartment rented from Dunia Bean, which had a swimming pool, driving to work at the Cabana. And a fool oncoming lost it and bent my car. That was the end of the Morgan.
Regarding that swimming pool. It had an underwater light. Have you ever, at night, on LSD, opened your eyes underwater to look at a light? No?
Well, that Morgan was something.
Mount Shasta, California, Memorial Day, May 28, 2007: My cat Percy was found in the Mendocino countryside by a short-term roommate when I lived n Mill Valley. The roommate was moving and I asked to keep the kitten.
“Sure,” said the roommate.
There we lived with Morgan, my durn ol kitty, who liked the kitten, and taught him such cat wisdom as she could. Then we moved and became trailer trash in San Rafael. Percy the kitten grew quickly into a long-legged male with yellow eyes, and a short gray coat. Together they roamed the trailer park. There Percy discovered a vile enemy. Black cat.
Black cat, and Percy had many rumbles. It was a scandal.
At the end of the day, as the sun sunk slowly over Toys ‘R Us, I’d step from the trailer and whistle loudly twice. From somewhere up the way would come wandering Morgan and Percy, tired from the day’s toil, and ready for supper.
And then we moved to San Anselmo.
We’d been invited to live with Adrienne and the dog Tulip. Morgan and Percy spent three days locked in the bathroom while Tulip went ballistic outside the door. And when Tulip became used to them living in the bathroom we introduced them all around, and as expected they became fast friends. Tulip and Percy invented a complicated and fun game which involved who could get their paws around the rungs of a chair. This game made Tulip smile.
We weren’t sure how trailer-trash cats would fare in this more upscale neighborhood, but you’d never know their origins from their behavior, as if they’d always been ritzy cats.
And then in his travels around the neighborhood, Percy discovered an evil enemy. Orange cat.
There were fabled rumbles. It was a scandal.
When the sounds of battle arose, Tulip leaped up as if electrified and ran out the door, followed swiftly by myself. There, in the distance of the drive way, the two battling cats froze, as Orange cat stared in growing horror at Tulip bearing down the driveway, and at myself on the deck.
(I waved my arms and gibbered like a wild ape and made loud growling threats, you see.)
Flying away into the underbrush, Orange cat beat a hasty retreat.
Percy, his tail much larger than usual, stormed grouchily into the house. We told him that he was whipping Orange cat’s butt, though sometimes that wasn’t totally clear.
So we lived, and then in time packed a household into the Big Yellow Truck, and Percy into his cat carrier, and moved to Mount Shasta. He complained all the way. Morgan had left us in San Anselmo, so she couldn’t make the ride.
Percy and Tulip enjoyed the yard, and Percy discovered that the railing and the apple tree led to the roof, and like a pirate of old, he kept a weather eye on the neighborhood.
It was not long, wandering the neighborhood, before Percy discovered an dreadful enemy. Striped cat.
There were wild rumbles. It was a scandal.
He’s been happy in Mount Shasta. He likes the weather, except for the snow, which he blames on me, and he likes the water. He likes watching the birds. He leaps the gate to the fence, and comes and goes, and in the twilight can usually be found on the front porch steps, watching passers-by. When he’s not there, I whistle loudly twice, and then call his special call.
This is his name with a loud gargle in the middle, and then “What you doin, boy?” These sound wacky, and perplex the neighbors no doubt. However, the sound carries, and he comes trotting from whatever errand he had in the vacant lot woods behind George Brown’s house.
In the night, he likes to slip into my room where he snores on my chest until I fall asleep, and then, offended when I begin my own snoring, he scratched at the door so I have to wake up and let him out.
Then he goes to Adrienne’s room, and entertains her during the night.
However, no more.
Today, he appeared to have some sort of intestinal blockage, as he’s had before. He’s fifteen, which is getting on for a male cat. I found a vet willing to help us on this holiday, and so I bagged him up the carrier, and assured him that he’d be right as rain soon.
But the vet had other news. Serious and bad news. It was something else. Percy was very lethargic. In my way I asked him if he could get well. He said no.
I stayed with him while the deadly injection made its way to slow and still his breathing. Tough fellow, his heart beat on, and grew weaker. I stroked his face the way he likes, and told him how grateful I’ve been for his staying with me all these years. I reminded him of our many adventures. And finally he was gone.
The world is a smaller place without him. Percy was his name. A great warrior. My good buddy.