Friday, April 18, 2014

Me 'N Poot Get Mopeds

When I started the seventh-grade, Dad promised to buy me a Moped if I could make it to Christmas without the school calling him one time, or somebody’s daddy calling on account of me whipping a boy, or if I didn’t get caught smoking, or chewing tobacco, or sneaking out at night, or setting something on fire. I think he also said something about disturbances in Church, passing gas at the supper table, and low grades. I can’t remember everything, but the gist of it was I wasn’t supposed to have no fun at all until Christmas.
Why was he always against me having a good time? I never understood that. He had fun when he was a boy. I know because one summer we went fishing in Louisiana with my uncle CD. While we were out in the marsh trying to catch a red fish, Dad and CD got to talking about when they was boys. Gosh, they had a whole lot of fun. They snuck out at night, smoked cigarettes, robbed a store, pushed a car off into a thirty-foot ditch, got into fights, stole a car, and made home brew when they was eight years old. They stole and resold chickens to finance their home brew operation, and one time they sold scrap iron, then stole it back and resold it to the same man they first sold it to in the first place.
They even put a bucking saddle on a heifer and rode her, hunted on posted land, and did bad stuff at school like peeing on the radiators and flushing firecrackers down the toilet. CD said he got suspended from the 4th grade because he wouldn’t shave. I don’t know if that really happened, but that’s what he really said. Did they forget I was in the boat and could hear everything they said? Heck, compared to them I ain’t never had no fun at all.
The way I figured it, since we didn’t have no lions to shoot or Indians or Yankees to fight in the war, the only way a boy could really have fun now was to fight or fish or tear something up. I was aiming to do me some tearing up if my friend Poot would help me.  
        Dad saying that about me setting stuff on fire had hurt my feelings. I hadn’t done that in a couple of years and it was an accident then. But Dad acted like I done it on purpose and like I done it every day. I burned up the front yard one time, just once in the winter. Since the grass was dead anyway, what was the big deal? To Dad it was a very big deal.
Anyway, right before the Christmas break, me ’n Poot was playin’ with matches in the back yard. Dad kept several bales of hay, which he used for his bird dogs’ houses, stacked against the storage room. Poot was sitting on the hay and holding his hands with index fingers together and thumbs pointed upwards creating a goal for me to thump burning matches through. I had already scored several field goals and was about to win the Super Bowl when I sailed one wide left.
We didn’t get too excited when the hay caught fire. We figured we had plenty of time and the water hose wasn’t too far away, but by the time we started squirting water it was already too late. And by the time the fire department got there, all that was left for them to shoot water on was a heap of ashes. The storage room and everything in it was totally destroyed.
Up in smoke was a lawn-mower, a boat motor, several coolers, camping equipment, tools, saw-horses, bicycles, a chain saw, fishing poles, tackle boxes, lawn chairs, a couple of basketballs, fishing rods, trot-lines, Christmas decorations, boat seat cushions, hip boots, hunting clothes, dog-leashes, some mattresses, garden chemicals, and some scrap wood.
I already knew what Dad was going to say before he whipped my butt. It would start with him yelling, “Why in the Sam Hell. . . ?” One time Poot heard him say that, and he liked to laughed himself silly. He said it was supposed to be ‘Why in the Sam Hill?’ but for Dad it was ‘Sam Hell.’
Anyway, I remember all the stuff I burnt up ’cause Dad wrote it down on a poster board and nailed it to the wall on the doorway between the kitchen and the den. That way I had to look at my “sins” every time I went into the kitchen. He said I might have to work the rest of my life to pay for it but by golly pay for it I would.
And I did pay for a couple of things. With my allowance and yard cutting money that I kept in a jar under my bed, I had bought a used lawn mower, two fishing poles, and a cooler. That’s when Dad took the poster board down and gave me the lecture on grace. He was marking my account paid just like God did with our sins because of Jesus. I was so happy, I almost got saved. I even got my allowance back. Since then, I always liked girls named Grace.
Then he told me I could still get the Moped if I didn’t get in no more trouble. I don’t think it’s possible to make you understand how bad I wanted the Moped. Many a night, I lay awake in bed until the wee hours of the morning, thinking, day dreaming in the dark about a Moped. My fame and glory from the sixth grade had worn off. I was just another kid now, and in my mind nothing was worse than being ordinary. Once you have had fame, once you have been a hero, it is difficult to have to go back to being normal. A motorcycle would set me apart not only with the guys, but the girls would stand up and take notice too.
I pictured myself riding down the road in front of all the babes who went to our school. They would notice me, wave, and want to go with me, to be my girlfriend. If they had nice legs and wore shorts, I would give them a ride. I have always admired nice legs on girls.
It was that school year when a few of the girls started sprouting boobs. This drove a lot of the guys crazy. I didn’t understand. The boobs didn’t do much for me, but the legs sure did. If a girl had good legs, she had everything I wanted. Besides a Moped.
You might need to know that in those days a Moped was not one of these sissy scooters they are today. Back then they was real motorcycles with gas tanks on top, a 50cc two-stroke engine, and a three speed transmission that you shifted on the left handlebar. They would go fifty-miles an hour, fifty-five if you had a tail wind, and for a nickel’s worth of gasoline you could ride all day.
A motorcycle not only meant cool, it meant freedom. I really thought I was going to get on my Moped and ride to Africa where I would get a job as a white hunter and shoot stuff and kiss my clients’ wives.
I had read every book in the Bankston Elementary School Library about hunting in Africa. That was one of my dreams. From one of those books, I got the idea that the white hunter often smooched on the clients’ wives if the client was foolish enough to bring her on the safari. One hunter even had a special double-sized cot in his tent so he could accommodate wives visiting him in the night. Did the teachers know this good stuff was in the library? Hot dog! Riding Mopeds in Africa, shooting lions and tiger and bears, wives with pretty legs!
With all the thoughts about Mopeds and Africa and legs, I hardly ever slept anymore so I always felt bad, didn’t want to eat, and had no energy to get into trouble at school or church. Instead of being happy, Mom was worried sick and was always asking me to tell her what was wrong, what was bothering me.
Then she started giving me worm pills. When that didn’t help, she shoved a thermometer up my rear end and gave me something nasty to drink and made me go to bed. So this is what happens when you don’t get into trouble. You get promised a Moped but really you get a foreign object shoved up your butt, made to drink oil, and banished to your room. Parents. Jeez.
When all of that didn’t work, she took me to the doctor, a fat man in a lab coat who listened to my heart, made me cough, stuck a needle in my arm, and asked me a bunch of questions. I finally let it out that I was always thinking most of the night about motorcycles and stuff like that. I didn’t say nothing about Africa or legs. He and Mom had a long talk in another room and we left there and went to a drug store and got some pills. I had to take one every night before I went to bed. They must have been anti-motorcycle pills ’cause I didn’t think about motorcycles very long after taking one of them pills, but slept all night and peed on my leg the next morning when I got up and stumbled into the bathroom.
Well, to make a short story long, I got my Moped the day after school was out. The Delta Motorcycle Shop was downtown on Howard Street and Dad took me there and he and the owner went behind the counter and did some talking. I can’t remember the owner’s name, but after he and Dad talked, the owner showed me how to crank the motorcycle and how to shift gears and then I was off on my way home. No helmet even.
It’s hard to believe that now but that’s how it was in small town Mississippi in 1969. Sensibilities about so many things were just different then. Some of those differences were good and some of them not so much.
When I got home, I rode around to the back and parked on the patio. Momma came out and she even had a smile on her face. “It’s pretty,” she said reaching out and touching the red gas tank. I had never been happier in my life.
Two days later, Poot’s dad bought him one just like mine. I didn’t need nobody to tell me this was going to be a special summer.