The Saturday Night Dippity-Do Torture Trial

We get into the strangest subjects on road trips. I swear I don’t know why. But when you’re stuck in the car for hours on end, things come up that never get talked about during life’s normal days. So, when some friends and I spent five hours headed for the coast, we got talking about the childhood memories we wish we could erase. One of them recalled an intolerant church he was forced to attend. Another talked of grade school bullies. I admitted, my pain didn’t begin to match theirs, but I still don’t like Saturday nights because of a childhood routine. Some might call it “getting ready for Sunday”. For me, it was the Saturday Night Dippity-Do Torture Trial.

Some Things Never Change

Once a month, my family drove across two states, so my Dad could see his folks in Oklahoma, and do all the small chores and repairs beyond the skills of my uncles. That was a fine and laudable practice, but one that recurred too often for the rest of us. My Dad’s folks and brothers were kind, but they expected us to entertain ourselves, and there wasn’t much to do in that small town. Buy a Coca-cola, take a trip to the variety store, and chase the chickens in Mimmy’s back yard was about the limit of each trip’s entertainment options. After that, we had to go inside and sit.

My father’s family were world-champion sitters. They could sit for eons, without moving. Well, they were a farm family, which means they were tired and entitled to some Hard-Core sitting. But they sat long past my endurance. And, every Saturday, they sat through the same exact shows.

First was Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. One or two grown men (usually just the younger one) would travel into a wilderness and film/interact with various indigenous species. Then the older one would explain how humans imitated (or improved on) the natural world by buying life insurance. Porter Wagoner’s show followed this, a program of country music and rube comedians. The minute the last twang of the steel guitar ceased, a drift of bubbles crossed the TV screen, a champagne cork popped, and we were in for another hour of sitting with Lawrence Welk’s band, Poligrip, and Geritol. Every. Stinking. Saturday. Night.

Now, let’s just say, those shows were not to my taste. No surprise, since I was a kid at that time and their target audiences shopped for denture adhesive and life insurance. But, what made this a true torture test was my mother’s habit of rolling my hair in curlers (so I’d look pretty for church on Sunday) while the TV blared.

Beauty Must Suffer

While the zoologist chased chimps, and Porter sang with Dolly, Mom would section my wet hair with a comb. Then, she’d pick up a lock, lubricate it with a cold setting gel called “Dippity Do”, and coil it around a hard plastic and metal hair curler. Once the lock was anchored securely around the plastic tube, Mom would wind it tight to my scalp and lock it in place with a long, plastic pin. The pin was angled so torque and gravity kept the curler in place but it felt like it was being forced into my skull. Then Mom would locate and gel up the next lock. If I complained or suggested Mom was in danger of impaling my brain, she’d mutter “Beauty must suffer” and keep going

By the time Lawrence Welk was striking up the band for its third polka, (No matter what the band played, all of Welk’s arrangements ended up sounding like polkas) my head was covered with sore spots where the curler pins stabbed, and soaked with that wet, sticky gel, that had the consistency of snot. Finally, Mom would grab two last handfuls of gel and slick down the last hair strands too short for curlers, my bangs and the fringe at the base of my neck. Then, she’d fasten them down with (I’m not kidding) pink, hair setting scotch tape. My head, now plastered and taped like dry-wall, I was allowed to “enjoy” the rest of the program, as long as I didn’t move, squeak, or interrupt the program or its Geritol commercials.

They say kids never appreciate all their parents do for them, and I suppose that is true. My folks and their ancestors worked hard and sacrificed so I’d have the opportunities they missed. And over the years, I’ve learned to appreciate some of my parents’ musical tastes. But polka music still triggers my terror of long, plastic hairpins, especially if I hear it on Saturday nights. And I’ll always loathe Dippity Do.

Daddy, Mr. Pryor & The Big Mistake (Pt. 2)

Like I said…

Like I said, locking Mr. Pryor’s utility meter shut wasn’t our smartest idea. But buying the lock at the Wide-Awake was the big mistake. How big, I didn’t really understand until the sheriff served me with a Summons to appear in Court.

“Robert, you’re being charged with a serious crime. You can have an attorney if you want one, but be in Judge Brown’s Court at 7:00 p.m. tonight. And you’d better tell your folks.”

Like I was going to do that! Mimmy might believe her boy, Bob, was a good boy, but your Papoy knew better. And, as much as my Mama fussed at all of us, it was Papoy who laid down the law. So I figured I’d keep this news to myself.

I got ahold of Jack and Ick and found out they’d been served as well. We didn’t have time to talk right then, so we agreed we’d meet early at the courthouse, come up with a smart story, and keep our parents out of it.

Just getting to the Courthouse was a Problem

So, right after supper that night, I said, all casual, “Well, I think I’ll go downtown. Same as I’d said a bunch of times without a word from my folks. But this time, your Mimmy speaks up.

“Oh, don’t go downtown tonight, Bob. Stay and listen to the radio with us.”

“Uh, what? Mama, I’d like to but I’ve got to go downtown. I promised I’d meet Jack and Ick.”

“You see Jack and Ick every night,” my Mama said, unperturbed. “You can sit home for once..”

Now, this was a pickle. I had to leave, but I couldn’t tell her why, not if I wanted to keep my skin. Part of me wondered if she knew about the court hearing, but I kind of guessed she didn’t. Knowing would have made your Mimmy mad and she never kept those feelings to herself. So I kept saying over and over that I’d like to stay home, that I’d rather stay home, that I’d stay home for every night for the next three weeks, but tonight I’d needed to leave. After ten minutes of sweating, she finally let me.

All Rise….

I drove to the courthouse as fast as I could and got there with about seven minutes to spare. Jack and Ick were mad at me being late but I think they were more scared than angry. Anyway, just as we sat on the first bench in the courtroom to try and get our stories straight, the courtroom door opens up and in walks Jack’s Dad. He doesn’t say anything but “Jack”, but we all know what that means. Jack goes and stands by his Dad. Then Ick’s Dad walks in the same door.

Well, after that, I sat by myself, on that front bench, watching everyone filter into their seats. The bailiff and court reporter, behind the judge’s bench, and other people clutching summonses in front. And Jack, and Ick, both standing by their Dads and looking pretty puny. Still, the clock’s getting pretty close to seven and I’m beginning to hope I can at least keep this from my folks. Just as the clock clicks to seven and the bailiff says”All Rise”, that back courtroom door open again and my Dad walks into the courtroom.

Well, there wasn’t any point fighting after that. Mr. Pryor testified about his power getting locked off, and the man from the power company testified about having to cut the lock. Then the sheriff talked about his investigation into the lock and the cashier said her piece. Tell you the truth, I wasn’t feeling pretty sick by then. So when the judge said, “Boys, are you sorry for all the trouble you’ve caused here tonight? “, we all answered, “Yes, Sir, we are.”

“Boys, you need to apologize to Mr. Pryor.”

“We’re sorry, Mr. Pryor./”

“Are you’re going to harass this man again?”

“No, Sir. We won’t, Mr. Pryor.”

“You boys are going to pay the Power Company back for the time their man spent cutting off your lock.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“And you’re going to pay the costs associated with bringing all these people to Court tonight.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Fine. Next Case!”

And last…

I turned up the center aisle, glad the Judge hadn’t decided to throw me into jail. As I passed my Dad, he opened his hand, and quietly said “I don’t think you’re going to need the car for awhile.”

I gave him the keys.

Daddy, Mr. Pryor, and The Big Mistake

I always connected this story with the last days of Summer, when days shorten and vacation has ended. So, as autumn begins, I start one more of Daddy’s stories, the one where he finally got caught…

It was me, and Jack, and Ick Nault, one night. We were driving around town, looking for something to do. You know how it is: late night, small town, teenagers with time on their hands. Someone always finds an idea. We found ours in an alley.

There we were…

There we were, in my Dad’s car, driving down this one alley when someone points out we’re right behind Mr. Pryor’s house. We could see his back yard, and laundry line, and his utility meter at the edge near the alley. And one of us, (I don’t remember who) got the bright idea of turning off Mr. Pryor’s power at the meter. I don’t think we’d have bothered with anyone else, except, we knew Mr. Pryor wasn’t home, and he always seemed to have it in for us. Anyway, we grabbed one of the wrenches Dad always carried in the car, twisted the power off and drove on away.

I didn’t think anything about it until the next week at school, when one of my girlfriends started talking about her job at the phone company. Those were the days when people didn’t dial a number direct, they called the telephone operator and asked her to connect then. My girlfriend worked part-time as a phone operator and she said, “I got the strangest call Saturday night. Mr. Pryor called the utility company to see why his lights were off when everyone else on the street had power. Isn’t that odd?”

I tried to act real cool, but I think she guessed I had something to do with it. Anyway, we all laugh, and the joke worked so good, we decided to try it again next Saturday. But that idea wasn’t good. We barely had ducked out of sight from shutting the power off this time, when here comes old Mr. Pryor, with a wrench in his hand, to turn it back on again. That wasn’t any fun. So we decided to up the ante.

Our Big Mistake…

Now I’ll admit we’d have been smarter to quit right there, but “smart” wasn’t in our vocabulary back then. Planning was, so we made a plan. We found out when Mr. Pryor and his family would be out of town next. We packed up our tools. And we bought a combination lock. Sure enough, when the superintendent next came back from out of town, the power was locked off at his house. Cutting the lock off meant getting the utility company and the Sheriff involved which uncovered our big mistake: buying that lock at the local dime store, a place we called, “The Wide Awake”.

The Sheriff went down to The Wide Awake with what was left of our lock and showed it to the cashier. Of course, she identified it. Yes, they sold that model lock, they were the only store that did, and they’d only sold one that year. She didn’t have to look up any records to see who bought it, she remembered that very well. It was Ick Nault, and Bob Zumwalt and their buddy, Jack. She remembered because we were laughing and hee-heeing the whole time we were buying it, and we paid for the lock with change.

How do I know what the cashier said? Because she testified to it in open court! I ended up in front of a judge over this! But how I got to court is another story right there, so I’ll pick this up tomorrow night…

Daddy, Lloyd, & Lisa*

You kids remember the Andy Griffith show? Set in Mayberry, North Carolina? The barber in that show was a funny guy named Floyd. Well Grandfield had a funny barber too, only his name was Lloyd. And he was sweet on a gal named Lisa.

Now, Lisa worked in an office, in Grandfield. And she was married to somebody else. Fact is, Lloyd was married too. But that didn’t change how he acted around Lisa!

Like this one time…

I was at the barbershop, getting my hair cut. Harvest was going on, and Grandfield was full of people; so full, Lloyd had this other barber working with him. Both of them, cutting hair, fast as they could, and a bunch of men still waiting in line.

Well, my turn came up, and instead of old Lloyd, I got the other barber, Harold. And this young guy working the harvest, up from Mexico I think, he was sitting in Lloyd’s chair. Now, the Mexican fella didn’t speak much English, but he pointed to a picture Lloyd had on the wall to show he wanted a crew cut. So, Lloyd got out his hair clippers.

My, that kid had a thick head of hair! Hot as it was, and working outside, I can see why he wanted it cut. Anyway, Lloyd slapped the No. 2 guard on his clippers, and they went bzzzz-bzzz-bzzz up the back that young guy’s head. The Mexican closes his eyes. And that thick hair starts falling on the floor.

Then, here came Lisa

Just as Lloyd swung around to the front of this guy’s head, here comes Lisa, walking up the sidewalk outside. Smiling, and wearing one of them dresses where the skirt flips up in the breeze. How Lisa’s dress found a breeze in that heat, is more than I can say, but it did. And old Lloyd starts watching her.

And that’s when the guard slipped off Lloyd’s clippers. Instead of bzz-bzzz-bzz, the clippers start growling, grrowll-rrowlll-rrowll, but Lloyd doesn’t notice a thing. From where I’m sitting, I can see the poor Mexican fella asleep in Lloyd’s chair, and a white strip starting behind those clippers and stretching up the center of his scalp. I started laughing so hard, my shoulders start to shake. And Harold has to stop cutting my hair too.

Scalped!

Lloyd’s still watching Lisa parade up the street, and his customer’s still asleep, unaware his crew cut’s become a reverse Mohawk. But everyone else in the Barbershop is watching when the clippers grind to a stop, stuck at the crown of that poor man’s head. And that finally gets Lloyd’s attention.

He looks down and sees the bone-white landing strip he’s shaved up the middle of his customer’s head. He sees his clippers, caught in the middle. Then he looks around and sees every man between Lawton and Wichita Falls staring at him. And Lloyd says the words they should have put on his tombstone.

“I can even that up.”

* to protect the guilty, I changed names and stuff here.

Daddy & the FFA

Even if kids don’t like being in school, there’s always extra-curricular activities. You girls have your school sports, and music, and clubs. I had the FFA.

What’s the FFA, Daddy?

The FFA is Future Farmers of America and Jack, and Ick, and I were all in it. Well, we grew up on farms, so it made sense. But I’m telling you, we didn’t join the FFA because we planned to be farmers! We joined for the annual trip.

See, every year, the school sent their FFA boys to the national convention. We all wanted to go to. A week with no school and no chores sounded like a great idea to us! But there were two downsides to that trip: it meant spending a week with Mr. Pryor and…well, a week with a guy I’ll call Roy.

Remember Mr. Pryor?

I already told you about Mr. Pryor, the superintendent, and principal of the high school. He didn’t like me too much. He went to keep an eye on us boys and he drove the bus all the way there and back. If you think driving from Oklahoma to the coast is long now, you should have made the trip with Mr. Pryor! No air-conditioning, no interstate, and the man never drove over 45 miles an hour. And he only stopped when the bus needed gas. So getting anywhere took a long, hot, boring time.

See, Mr. Pryor was a nervous driver. He’d grip the wheel and drive real slow, just looking at the road in front of him. Which meant, he didn’t keep an eye on the back, where we kept letting down all the windows. My buddy, Ick, was really skinny back then. He shinnied up onto the roof. Then, he belly-slid all the way to the front and stuck his hand down on top of the windshield. Mr. Pryor saw that hand flopping over the top of his windshield and he had to pull the bus over. Thing is, he took so long parking the bus, we were back in our seats before he stopped! He yelled but he didn’t know which one of us to hit until Roy tattled to him that night.

…and then, there was Roy.

Roy liked to tattle a lot. He talked all the damn time. He also liked to pinch, and steal your stuff. If your Mom put cookies in your lunch sack before you left for school, Roy would smouch them long before lunch. Or he’d ask you for a share and then gobble everything up. Whatever was yours, he wanted it.

Well, by the time we were headed back home, we’d had enough of old Roy. Mr. Pryor stopped the bus for gas by this roadside stand one day, where they were selling apple cider. Jack and Ick and I wanted to get a jug of cider together but we knew Roy would just try and steal it. That’s when Jack had a real good idea.

While Ick and I paid for the jug, and Mr. Pryor was pumping the gas, Jack snuck into the front of the bus. That’s where he found the box of Epsom Salts Mr. Pryor brought to soak his feet with every night. Jack grabbed a handful of salts and then joined us back at the jug. The three of us drank all we could of the cider. Then, Jack tipped his handful of salts into the bottle and shook the rest of it up together. Then we got back on the bus.

Sure enough, there was Roy, with his hands in a bag of salt-water taffy I’d bought to take home to my folks. Didn’t even apologize. I grabbed for the candy while he looked at Jack and said, “Whatcha got in the jug?

“Cider, Hard Cider” Jack said and tipped the bottle up to his lips. It looked like he was drinking but I could tell he was just blowing air bubbles into the jug. “Sure is good.”

“Yeah, it’s tasty,” says Ick, and he pulls at the jug. “Gimme a swaller, I want some more of that stuff.”

“Aw boys, why don’tcha give me a taste” Roy wants to know. “My throat’s all dry from that salt-water candy.”

“Whose fault is that?” I growled, “Ick, don’t give him a drop.” Then I grabbed for the jug myself.

Well, after about five minutes of playing keep-away with the Cider, we agreed Roy could have “just a sip”. Course you know what he did once he got his hands on the neck of that bottle. He drank every drop there was left inside it; barely slowed down long enough to swallow. Then he laughed at us for finishing it off.

Cider and the Bus Rules

Well, that ended the cider drinking that night, but it wasn’t the end of the cider. About half an hour after we got back on the road, Roy started asking Mr. Pryor to stop. Like I said, Mr. Pryor only stopped when the bus needed a break, and we all knew it. But that didn’t matter to Roy. “Please Mr. Pryor, pull the bus over. Mr. Pryor, I need the bathroom bad.”

“If you didn’t need to go 30 minutes ago, you shouldn’t need to go now.” Mr. Pryor said. That’s the way he always talked. That and how we had to make time. “We need to make Albuquerque by nightfall,” he said the next time Roy whined for a break. “You can hang in there till then.”

We weren’t too sure about that. Roy was moaning, curled up on the seat, with his knees pulled up to his chest. And Albuquerque was a good 45 miles away. So we scooted as far away from him as we could.

By the time we hit the campground we stayed at that night, old Roy wasn’t talking anymore. He only moaned when the bus hit a pothole. But he had begun to smell. He didn’t smell like flowers, either. And he could still move. The minute Mr. Pryor shut down the engine, and opened the doors, Roy was off like a shot. He ran, hunched over, out the bus, through the parking lot, and straight into the campground shower building. We didn’t see him all the rest of that night.

Now you might think we were hard on old Roy, and I guess maybe we were. But not as hard as Roy was on that campground staff. Cause when we hit that shower-house, late that night, you could tell that old Roy had been there. And left his pants behind on the floor.

Now that’s what I call an FFA, extra-curricular activity that’s hard to forget