8.22.2009

Why Dad Always Said, "OHHHhhh, You KIDS!!! You're Enough to Make a Preacher Swear." (>:-(

In an earlier post titled, "Them's the Brakes" I reminisced about the cars that my Dad and Grandma had. It brought back some memories for my brother as well. He wrote his memories about Dad's old dark green Packard, and here's what follows...but wait; before I do that, here's a old photo of my brother, who is Dan or "Sam" to the rest of the world, but to me he's Butch. Alongside him is Bev, our aunt. We are all about the same age. My poor Dad and Grandma tried riding herd on us and Butch's band of "hooligan" buddies. Grandma especially despised my brother's best buddy Smitty, whom she considered to be 'weasily' and called him "Smithy!", and always with disgust. I'll just give you one reason why.
As young teenagers, my brother and Smitty had gotten into some kind of mischief, so Grandma banned Smitty from coming to the house or having anything to do with my brother. Whenever he called the house, Grandma would slam the phone on him and say through gnashed teeth, "Oh, that was that Smithy!!" She thought she had the problem taken care of. One cold winter's night, with a houseful of Holiday guests and family, everyone was sitting around the family's antique round table in the dining room, which was covered with Grandma's fancy white crochet'd tablecloth, laden with a wonderful bounty, and everyone was making merry. The lights from the dining room shown out through the many windows onto the big white snow drifts which had blown in close to the house, like a big, soft, thick blanket. Grandma was in her glory with her children, grandchildren and loved ones all around her. She was having a wonderful time.
...but unbeknownst to her, out in the dark, on the far side of the house, 'weasily' Smitty, shinnied himself up onto the porch roof, then quietly eased his way along 'til he came to Bev and my bedroom window, tried it, but couldn't get in, then came to Grandma's window...and God was merciful to Smitty that night because he couldn't get into her window, either. So now he was up on the roof...how to actually get in?? My brother's window was on the other side of the house with the big tall, slanty roof in between. Maybe it was because Smitty was wiry, that Grandma had gotten the mistaken notion that he was (forever emblazoned into her brain), "weasily". Well, he easily hoisted himself up onto the roof and his footing was as sure as ever. So very stealthy he was. He decided that the best way to access my brother's room was to lie down on his stomach, lean over the edge of the house and tap on my brother's window to get his attention, for my brother to sneak downstairs and they'd be off...or some such quickly hatched plan. But first up there in the icy-cold darkness, he needed to get Butch's attention.
Downstairs in the warm dining room, along with the rest of the family, my brother sat eating a piece of Grandma's most luscious cherry pie, and laughing at the usual jokes with the rest of us. Giggling, Grandma reached over and delicately picked up one of her buttery flakey homemade biscuits from a platter that was overrunning with them, and took a big mouthful of the yummy thing, when suddenly we heard upstairs over our heads a tremendous thudding, and a shreiking, wailing sound then something lit up as it passed by the windows. In the brief second it took for the thing to whoosh past from the top of the window, we could all see 'somebody' upside down, facing us, spread-eagle, eyes bugged to 'un-human' proportions and mouth horribly agape. Whoever it was landed headfirst in the deep snow drift, so that all that could be seen of them was their artic boots sticking up out of the snow. Grandma pointed and shrieked, "That's Smitheeeee!!!" spraying the table and everyone with biscuit crumbs. By the time she'd gotten to her broom to chase him off, as everyone gawked out the window, he had slithered outta the snowbank and was nowhere to be found.
So there you have it; just one reason why Grandma hated "ol' Smithee".
And now to my brother's story, in which you will see the wiley "Smitheee" is still to be found helping to make mischief. This story apparently took place while Dad and Grandma were away visiting or leaving the house just long enough to go get groceries, but...just long enough.
My brother writes:
Dad had finally given me the keys to the old Packard. He told me there might be enough gas in it to get it to a gas station, which made absolutely no sense to me. I had no drivers license and the car didn't have any license plates or registration. How was I supposed to get gas??? Anyway, I figured it should have enough gas in her for a couple of laps up and down the road to see how much juice she had left in her, 'cause Dad never drove her over 45, or at the most 50.
Of course, Bev begged me to be the first to drive it, so I told her she could...but only once!
It seems as though we started picking up people with every lap we took up or down the road. At first it was only Smitty, Ted White who sat in the back and me up front in the passenger seat with Bev driving. At the top of the hill at East State Street by the bridge, we picked up Lory Shumway, who just happened to be walking along toward the public swimming pool, which was just on the other side of the bridge. He spotted us, put a smirk on his face and stuck out his thumb, saying he needed to hitch a ride to the swimming pool. Well, the poor fool didn't realize the ride he was in for! Just moments earlier, he had been just walking along in flipflops, with no shirt, and was wearing his swimsuit on his head. I scooched over next to Bev and let Lory in beside me in the front seat.
We all got to joking around, urging Bev to make the ol' girl go faster! Bev said that she was pretty darned good at shifting a column shifter because Grandpa Ludwig, her Dad, used to let her sit on his lap while he drove, and left her shift the gears...so she claimed. (Grandpa had passed when we were still little kids...Peg and Bev were 9 years old at the time.)
Well...we made our first lap (with everybody in the car) in good shape, with Bev managing to actually shift from first gear to third gear after winding it all the way to 45 mph in first. Did I mention that the muffler fell off just below the family sign shop about halfway between it and Clarkies "house" at the end of our short road?
On the second 'lap' up the road, Bev found second gear and laid a 'patch' in front of the old hide house, managed to hit third gear on the flat ground just before the steep rise up at (busy) East State Street, where she slammed on the brakes, throwing Smitty and Ted White up over the front seat, into Lory and me, then falling again into their respective places in the back seat. We were laughing so hard our ribs hurt, but Lory was begging to be released right there; however Bev had other plans. She jammed the ol' gal into reverse and did a reverse "U-ee" out onto the levee, then put 'er in second, stalling her, when you (me..."Pegody")came running out waving both your arms, yelling that you wanted a ride, too. (I do NOT remember doing this, but will go along for the ride, sez Pegody;-) Before Lory could escape, Bev stopped and you crammed in, in the back beside Smitty and Ted, then off we went!
This time Bev hit all three gears inside of 6 seconds and we got good air as we launched over the small hill in the road between our house and our sign shop, landing well beyond it, with sparks flying from underneath. Bev got the swerving thing back under control just in time to avoid hitting the huge trees and bushes that hid Clarkies "house" as we slid up his driveway and came to a screeching halt right at the foot of his house. After the dust settled, we sat looking face-to-face with three ladies of the evening and Clarkie, who were lounging on the front porch, taking in the air. They sat there emotionless, blinking and staring at us, until Bev somehow got the Packard into reverse again, accidentally honking the horn in the process, which brought everyone on the porch to their feet.
We left in a cloud of dust in reverse...all of us howling with laughter, then Bev swung the old girl in another quick "U-ee" at the turn around below the sign shop.
For lap number three, Lory Shumway was hanging halfway out of the passenger side window yelling and waving his arms, bawling and blathering for help, when we started to take the small hill in front of our house again, bottomed out, and showered sparks everywhere. About 50 yards up the road I think I accidentally bumped Bev's arm which caused her to temporarily lose control of the steering wheel. The Packard swerved suddenly to the right and slightly off the road, exposing Lory's face, neck, shoulders, arms and chest to a full array of angry blackberry shrubbery, for perhaps a good 30 feet. He immediately pulled himself back into the car, screaming from pain and indignancy, so Bev stopped long enough to let him out. He staggered around, pulling blackberry prickers out of his hair, snatched his swimsuit out of one of the thickets, then tried stomping up the black tarred road, in his flipflops, which about half the time his heels hit in the shoes and half the time they landed on the road.
Spinning the car back around, we left him to his misery as we tore back off down the road again.
Our last and final lap ended with us speeding back up the street at a good 50 miles an hour! Just as we were about to reach the sidewalk where we had picked up Lory, at the main street up there, a black teenager suddenly walked into our path, but she was turned away, looking back at the strange sight of Lory, whom she had just passed along the way who stomping his way home, instead of going swimming. We were going 50 mph!!! Too late!!! Bev hit the brakes hard and we skidded right to within 2 inches of the poor girl, who was frozen in her steps, her eyes as big as tennis balls, and so were ours!
We all caught our breath as Bev backed the Packard back down the levee, where the car finally died...out of gas. It was the old girl's last gasp. We pushed her back down into the driveway, just before a police squad car cruised down our East Avenue, only to find a bunch of teenagers sitting innocently on our front porch swinging on the porch swing. The End.

But it's not the end. Thank God that part of the story ended peacefully enough, tho'. Not long after that, we all grew up. And here's a picture of my brother to prove it. More will follow about this, at some point. A respected ex-Marine with purple hearts...who woulda thunk that? Dad and Mom and Grandma were all proud of him, and so am I.




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