Drunk Driving on Golf Carts

March 29, 2015

This will be in “Notes About Growing Up”.   Have you ever gotten on golf karts, drank beer, and run amok in the dark?

Many teenagers get drunk and do stupid things, or die in car accidents.  We did some stupid things too but we also did some relatively harmless things when smashed too.  Like what Jeff?  Like riding around the golf course at Lake Kiowa in a golf cart.  Well, it was better than driving drunk and fast in our cars, right?  That’s what we thought too.

My friend Mike Johnson lived out in the gated community oif Lake Kiowa east of Gainesville out in the eastern Cross Timbers.  It had a lake and an eighteen-hole golf course.  We were members through the bank and we actually thought about living out there but in the end didn’t.  Donald Lynch’s family was also a member and like us lived in town.  So we would drive out to Mike’s and could get into the gate unlike your average drunk or high non-member teen.

We would get to Mike’s house, usually when his folks were gone someplace – remember the beer – and load our small ice chests on the cart and pile on.  One person would sit with Mike,in the front and the other would cling to the back.  I preferred the back since I was higher up and it was more fun to hold on with one hand and a bottle of beer in the other.

We did this only in the dark  to conceal our quaffing from the security guards who were not tolerant of young drunks speeding around the streets.  We would leave Mike’s house and take a leisurely drive around the cart paths and across the fairways and usually stop on one green which was a little island in an arm of the lake connected to the land by two bridges, one on each side.

Once on the island we stopped the cart, drank beer, ate chips, cussed teachers, and “pissed in the grand style” when needed.  What’s the grand style you ask?  Simply put we walked to the middle of one of the bridges which was elevated above the surface of the lake and then increase the water level of the lake with our “recycled beer”.  I do not know if the fish were harmed by this act but it became a ritual of sorts in our repeated drunken visits there.

After some time on the island and the bridge we would finish our tour, return to Mike’s, and depart back to Gainesville hoping our parents would already be in bed.  No need to endure he Inquisition and needless questions, right?  We did this frequently, even in the cold, the island and the bridge were part of our teenage world but one time the bridge almost became our doom.

One warm night we were on the bridge taking another long leak and we heard something loud. It was the sound of a car but no lights were seen.  We stood there trying to see if was the feared security guards using a new and dastardly surprise tactic but all of a sudden in the dim light from the nearby houses and street lights came a wide Pontiac Grand Prix travelling at very high speed right towards the bridge.  And come over the bridge it did. The bridge was barley wide enough for it but not wide enough for us and the car.  We ran to the island side of the bridge and jumped off the end of the bridge into the grass a fleeting Moment before the car, probably driven by a drunken classmate, flashed by and did a doughnut around the green leaving some horrific tracks, and vanished across the other bridge and into the darkness again.  We picked ourselves up, cussed the unknown vehicular assailant and had another beer.  The incident with the Grand Prix was the only excitement like that we ever had driving around the course guzzling cold beers.  An adrenaline storm in a sea of booze induced calm.

So if you live on a golf course like that go out there in the dark one night and see if some loud, crazy teenagers drive by on a cart swilling beer.  But also listen in the distance for the sound of a growling car; you might need to jump aside with them when it flashes by your own island of calm in the sea of living. Life’s surprises are like that car on the bridge that night. Just when you think all is calm it’s not so calm.


Working & Feeding the Cattle

March 22, 2015

This will be in Notes About Growing Up, which I am editing now.  This is a story about my Granddad’s Hereford cattle….

TR, like a lot of farmers in the area, was really a “stock farmer”.  That is, besides the crops he raised he also had livestock too, in his case a herd of Hereford cattle.  I do not recall how many he had exactly but let’s say around a 100 perhaps.  Some of our relatives on the Turner side of the family, the Calhoun’s, had cattle too but we were not around their herds like we were TR’s.  And that is the tale here, being around his cattle especially when we fed and “worked” them over the years.

Feeding the cattle was a daily task in the winter when the grass was dead or non-existent.  During the cold months they were fed hay which was stored in the big barn on the Roach place.  The routine was pretty simple; we would back a pickup, or TR’s beat up light green El Camino into the big barn and load it with bales of hay.  Next, we would drive to the pasture the cattle were in, they were moved around some so the grass, depending on the time of the year, would not be overgrazed.

When we got to the herd we would stop, drop the tailgate, cut the wires of a bale, and kick it off the back of the vehicle. And repeat that until all of the hay was unloaded.   The cattle knew the drill and gathered around each bale that we dropped off for them.  Cattle are not real smart but they do know what food is and who brings it to them, they are creatures of habit if you will.

Speaking of them knowing that the humans meant food, I can recall twhen we would drive up to the barns and if the herd was in the pasture there they would mosey on over to us expecting some hay.  The “cow in charge” or the bull would lead the way and the rest of them would fall in line behind them and stroll over to us.  We called that slow, bovine procession the “Cow Parade”.  As a side note for you city dwellers a “cow” is a grown female, a “bull” is a grown male, a “heifer” is a young female, and a “steer” is a young castrated male.  Castrated you say?  Yes castrated, which brings us to “working” the cattle.

When the calves were born and had matured some they were “worked”.  This process consisted of separating the males from the females.  Both groups then got injections to keep them well, I forget what disease they were treated for, but the needles were big enough to scare a little kid watching what was going on.  And the calves did not seem to like it either.

Next, the males were “dehorned”, some type of substance was plastered on their beginning to grow horns to stop them from getting any bigger.  Then the real fun began, the males were all castrated.  One of the grownups would grab the calf, roll him over, and another would get a knife and whack off his testicles and then apply some medicine to make it heal and not get infected. The calf, now a steer, did not enjoy this at all and many times bellowed out when they were cut.  But that did not last long at all and soon enough they were back to running around and playing with their brothers and sisters of the herd.  This is where “Rocky Mountain Oysters” – calf fries – come from too.  They come from the seas of the plains not the oceans that are the seas.

I will say some of the calves took great offense to being neutered.  I remember one time when my Dad was helping with this and he got kicked in HIS testicles by an angry calf.  He grabbed himself and fell over face first into the dust and dirt of the corral, at the Leach place’s little barn, like a scene out of some “B” grade western movie.  Something to think about if and when you have some calf fries, eh?

Feeding and working the cattle was a regular event, as is it with many types of stock.  And it is not done to be cruel to the calves but in the end keeps the males from fighting and killing each other to get to the females.  Standard procedure if you own stock and is not something that the PETA fanatics should fear. I wonder how many of them have ever been around a farm.  If they had been, and had gotten kicked in the nuts like my Dad, they might understand and know better, right?  I think so too.

Stitches And Casts

March 14, 2015

Well, tales of stitches, broken bones, and casts.  This will be in “Notes About Growing Up” which I am editing now.

Many kids, especially young boys, wind up breaking arms and legs and getting stitches as they romp about playing and sometimes doing things they should not have.  Was I any different?  Of course I wasn’t and I have the stories and the scars to prove it. To wit:

Breaking my arm.  This is a funny one. We were at TR’s house in his front yard playing with our cousins Paul and Mike Seyler and their friends George and Jack Highfill.  What were we playing?  Not hide and seek or tag but throw me and my sister on a big tire inner tube and see if we would bounce.  Two of them would pick me or Terry up and toss us in the direction of the inflated inner tube hoping we would hit its die and bounce.  Well, we never seemed to hit the thing, we would hit the ground and the bigger boys would grab one of us and try it again.   But one time Paul and one of the Highfills did score, I hit the tube, bounced, and then hit the ground, but not in a good way.  I jerked up screaming and holding my left arm and ran in TR’s house to my mom and Aunt Mildred (Sissie).  They took me to Denton to Flow Memorial Hospital’s emergency room and X-rayed me: I had cracked my left wrist.  They put me in a cast which I wore for six weeks as a first grader which my class mates signed and made playing on the jungle gym kind of hard.  But one other thing I recall is how mad Sissie got mad at Paul, boy did he catch Hell for that!  I do not know how much trouble the Highfills (or my cousin Mike) got into but I could ask George one day (he’s a Facebook friend you see as is Cousin Paul). Finally as an adult I broke my right arm but that is another tale for another book.

Busting my knee open.  Another weird one – aren’t they all?  In third grade my friends and I were playing Army and had my sister and her friend Jackie Johnson tied up to our mailbox on Hampton Road as mock prisoner s of war – Germans of course in our imaginary war.   When a car drove by we played like it was a Wehrmacht Panzer and jumped in the ditch and pretended to fire bazookas at it.

We did this several times until I became a real casualty of this little war.  A car came by and I jumped into our make believe trench that was the bar ditch and my knee landed on a broken bottle.  I jumped up shrieking grabbing my knee which was squiring blood out like crazy.

My sister screamed to be untied and followed me in.  Mom or dad put me up on the washer or dryer and my knee was split wide open and the inside of it looked like mashed up tator tots and lots of ketchup! We rushed to the hospital and they stitched me up (dozens of stitches I might add) and put on a big bandage I had to wear for two or three weeks.  My dad feared I might have permanent damage and according to my mom the sight of my bloody knee actually made him sick, something I would have never expected.  I could not bend my leg and had to sit with it propped up in class.  As a result I could not go out at recess and one student stayed in the room with me and we played with some of my toys I brought from home- I still recall Kevin Richardson and I rolling my Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars on the classroom floor.    That’ll teach you to not jump into a ditch without looking first, right? Indeed it will.

My right pinky.  This little incident was another fluke too.  One day when were at Les Mills’ Studios taking our organ lessons I was playing on the wrought iron support of the front door’s awning by the sidewalk and street.  I climbed up and down the thing until I slipped and my pinky caught a piece of iron sticking out and it sliced it right open and once more my blood was squirting all over the place.  So like on the other painful stories above we rushed to get me medical care and of course more deadening, stitches, and pain.

Now as I write this I am 54 years old I can still see the scars on my knee and my pinky.  Brief visual reminders of how kids used to play before helicopter parents and the attempt to protect everyone from everything at all costs arose and also deprived us of some fun, albeit at the cost of  stitches, bandages,  and casts – that remind us to be careful after all.  One learns by doing. Sometimes with a cost that is more than the teaching moment’s experience itself. But one still learns.

Working in the Oil Field and the Sample Library

March 7, 2015

This is in the now being edited fourth book “Notes About Growing Up”.  This is about working in the Texas oil field, you will see reality is not what you see on TV.

As you know Couch Oil was a family affair and my cousin Paul worked as one of the “pumpers”.  A pumper was someone who went out to the wells to service and check them daily, doing things like seeing how much oil was in the tanks (“gauging”) and performing other tasks like greasing the pump jacks.  In high school I was hired as a “pumper’s helper” and did other tasks as well.  Perhaps this was my favorite job ever and hopefully this Note will give you an idea as to why.

On the weekends I went out with Paul to the oil leases and made the twice daily rounds to check everything.  I was showed how to safely gauge a tank with the metal gauge line so I wouldn’t create a spark on the tank hatch and exploding the tank, sending us hurling and flash fried into the pasture and how to grease the pump jacks with the powered grease gun which was in the back of the heavy duty pickup serving as the “pump truck”.  Once I blasted Paul with several bursts of grease which did not please him and Mom always hated it when I came home from doing that since I would be covered with oil and grease – she made me strip in the laundry room and I hurled by overalls into the washer.  She also was scared I would get hurt in some accident but that never happened to me or Paul.

A couple of highlights of the days in the field were eating lunch at Sonic in Gainesville and finding discarded porn by the side of a country road.  At lunch time we always ate big but a foot long cheese Coney and tater tots at Sonic was a huge highlight to the usually routine work of pumping especially on a cold winter day.  We ate chicken fried steak at places too but that never had the significance of Sonic for some reason.

Finding the porn by the road was desert if you will.  We would be cruising down some dirt road and spy a magazine in the bar-ditch and would simultaneously cry out “PORN” with excitement.  Paul would stop the truck and I would hurl out my side of it, run back to pick up the prize, and return to the truck to view it.  This happened more than once and we wondered who the materials belonged to.  Was it some dirty old man that bought it secretly, read it, and then threw it out to keep his nagging, religious wife from finding it and castigating him?  We’ll never know the answer to that but it was still fun to speculate.

The men who promote oil deals are a colorful bunch and brag to each other, if not outright lie, about how much a well might be making.  They do this even though they go into each other’s deals and personally know each other.  One time Uncle Kenneth sent Paul and I on a spy mission to verify the production of a well one of his oil buddies had just completed up near Lake Texoma.  It was said it made 100 barrels a day but hell, they all said that including Kenneth.  Regardless we went up there after dark to gauge the temporary frack tank being used to hold the oil until the tank battery was set up and to take pressure readings off of the flow line gauge so Kenneth could calculate what it really was making.

We did that more than one day but one night we stopped.  We were there by the well and it was as usual pitch dark being out in the Cross Timbers and nowhere near a house much less a town with lights.  We took the reading and gauged the tank and then we heard something very strange in the trees, some animal noise neither us recognized.  Even though we grew up in the country and knew what lurked in the brush this was not familiar at all?  Was it Bigfoot?  The legendary Goatman?  Aliens coming to capture us and perform hideous scientific breeding experiments with an anal probe for their dark, inhuman purposes?  We did not stick around to find out and quickly fled back to Gainesville never to return on another informal production survey of that place again.

And not all of the fun was in the field either.  Another Great Source of stories was the Sample Library.  Kenneth bought the Wichita Falls Sample And Library Service and moved it to Gainesville.  This business was a repository for drilling cuttings – the rock flakes that come up in the drilling mud circulation that are trapped by the so-called “shale shaker” on the mud pumps – which are washed and put into envelopes by the depth they came up from so geologists can study their characteristics.  I started to work there after school and I learned more than just things about the rocks.

Kenneth hired two full-time employees to do the work during the day, two single ladies in their 20s he apparently found at some local bar.  They weren’t too bright but nice looking and they were deemed the Simple Sample Sisters.  They were fine to work with and what was funny was the fact that an older man who worked at the supply company next door, one Elmer Watkins to be exact, would bring over a case of Coors beer each day around 3PM. Obviously he was trying to obtain more than geological knowledge with that daily gift of booze but the end effect of that generosity was that I got paid to drink beer each afternoon. My parents wondered why I was so tired each day when I got home and all of my friends wanted to get hired on too – we did get one friend on board, David Vinson, and he enjoyed the work and cold beer as much as I did.

I could write a whole book probably about what I saw in the oil field but the business is really nothing like what you see on “Dallas” or in a movie at all.  In fact we saw “Dallas” more as a comedy show since it was utterly inaccurate and was more of an insane media created satire than something based on fact even in some minute way.  But the reality of the oil business is just as outlandish so maybe “Dallas” had the right idea but simply had the wrong story lines, eh?  Reality is stranger than fiction as they say. And so it was once upon a time in the oil field for me.