Sunday, July 18, 2010


When I was born in 1947, the Power Plant Road was a dirt road and remained so until I was around 16 or 17 years of age. Now living a on a county dirt road has many advantages as well as disadvantages. Of course these are seen from different perspectives, depending upon the age of the observer.

From my earliest years, I remember long flowing stalks from the cane break near the house, stripping all but the top leaves to make the tail of the "horse", putting the cane between my legs, slapping my thigh until it was cherry pink, running up and down that road stirring a cloud of red dust, and shooting and fighting outlaws, cattle rustlers, and any other varmint that I had seen at the Royal Theater the Saturday before.It would take all week to restore justice on my road until I could go sit in Air Conditioned Heaven for another installment. 

As I grew older, I became interested in cars. THUNDER ROAD, starring Robert Mitchum, man what a thrill. Every boy worth his salt wanted to be him, running from the law, driving fast, his best girl waitin' at home--the stuff that dreams are made of. "thunder was his engine and white lightning was his load"

Mind you I was still just a kid (driving fast and evading the law didn't come until 1968, when I had arguably the fastest car in town), so our motley crew had to improvise. We would scour through every personal garbage dump in the area. In those days you took care of your own trash. In our area, most folks had a deep ditch or gully somewhere on their property that they just piled the trash in, sometimes burning it, sometimes not. We did not generate near the amount of trash as we do today, so this was usually a good method. On good hunts, we could find discarded baby buggies, lawn mowers, lots of other things with wheels. We would strip off the wheels and anything else that would prove useful as part of a race car.

Back home at our barn, we would locate the lumber needed, sometimes "borrowing" planks from the stalls. attach the back wheels to a fixed board/axle and the front wheels to a movable board with a rope for steering. Those racers usually looked like something from "THE LI'L RASCALS", mostly because we both had the same budget. We always tried to get matching size wheels for each axle if possible, but you have to take what comes along.  Some of those wheels were so mismatched that it would nearly shake you to death on smooth ground.

When we had made two of these beauties, we would pull them to the top of the hill, flip to see who got which rut; one was smoother than the other depending on the weather and such. Then, like in Olympic Bob Sledding, we would push our partner to a certain point and hope the thing held together to the bottom of the hill. We would then swap riders and repeat the process. This went on until, 1.we got too tired, 2. Mother called us for supper, or 3. either or both of the racers fell apart, which was usually the case. After a good night's rest, it was back to the barn and start over.

In my early years of going to the Hogansville Schools, I rode the school bus. Back then the drivers owned their own buses and leased them to the County, which in turn provided bus service for county children going to Hogansville. Mr Thomas Evans was our driver. A good man and friend of the family, if you got out of line, you could only hope that he would let the principal give you the paddling you had coming and not wait until he got you home and tell one of your parents. Then you got TWO! One for misbehaving and one for embarrassing your parents. My Grandfather, Papa Cook to me, and Uncle Bob to the rest of the community always call the road scrapers, Rain Crows, because almost without fail they would scrape and loosen the dirt the day before it rained.  If it came a hard rain, or rained for several days, you need not expect to see the school bus stop at your driveway. Power Plant Road would become to muddy and slippery and the bus could not make it up the hill where we raced. At my house you had to wrap yourself up to stay a dry as possible and march yourself through the cow pasture (hoping that damn bull was penned up) and catch the bus on Corinth Road, and don't dally because if you missed the bus, you walked to school. I drive a school bus now and parents pitch a fit if the bus stops at the driveway next to them and not at theirs, a distance of 20-30 feet usually. WHAT A BUNCH OF PANSIES!

This really has nothing to do with a dirt road, but it all happened while I lived there and I get to tell it my way. In my youth all tires had to have inner tubes to keep the tires inflated. They were made out of real rubber and much like rubber bands today, you could stretch a length of tubing from here to yonder. You cut about an inch wide strip, 2 feet long. With the leather tongue from an old pair of shoes, you take some "mill string" and attach the pouch to the rubber. NOTE: I got a very memorable whipping once for cutting the tongue out of my SUNDAY shoes, who knew my mother would notice? By weaving the end of the rubber between your fingers, pulling back as far as you could, and giving your holding hand a little "flip" a just the right time, you could knock a bird or squirrel out of a tree most times. Our gang (in the Spanky and Alfalfa sense of the word) did not hold with indiscriminate killing, so we looked for other targets. Usually while we were at the local trash dumps looking for "racing parts", any type of glass bottle found would be laid aside for just such times as target practice called for them. I make semi-true claims to be in the antique business today and I can tell you from my knowledge of antique glass, we must have busted a fortune in what was then trash and now is treasure.
One parting thought, when you cut up an old inner tube, make sure that it has lots of patches on it indicating it is in fact old. In my haste on day, I cut up a brand new one that Daddy was going to install that weekend. That was the last sling shot I ever made. My butt still hurts when I think about it.

When I was 9 or 10, Mr, John Cranston drove the milk delivery truck on our route, and did he ever drive fast. I grew up to be a teenage hellun and he had me beat! It was a short wheel base, squatty little truck, made just for the job. In the back were dozens of metal crates filled with quarts, pints, and half-pints of milk. There was also a young black boy who would fill the order as John barked the order to him.

Just past our driveway was a section of "corduroy" road. This is dirt road that has ruts washed into it from side to side resembling an old wash board. That section was also banked and in a curve, even I had respect for that bad section. One day here comes John like the Hounds of Hell are nipping at his heels. He hit that section of road, bouncing one way, then the other. Quicker than you could say, "Oh shoot!", that little truck was on its side. My brother Billy and I were playing in front yard along with the Caldwell boys, Paul and Johnathan. We ran down to see if John was dead or alive, just as he was crawling out. From the back of the truck we could hear faintly, "Mr. John, Mr. John, don't leave me!" How that boy kept his life that day is beyond me. There were metal crates tossed everywhere,milk bottles of all sizes in a pile, some broke some not. We helped the boy out, he seemed to be able to move every joint and miraculously only had a few little cuts. We helped him to sit down at the front of the truck. John said that he was going up to the house to use the phone. As we watched John limp up the driveway, the four of us boys looked at each other all at once. Without a word we went the back of the truck and started drinking half-pints of chocolate milk as fast as we could. We tossed several cases worth in the high weeds on the side of the road, later putting them in the cool stream that ran beside our house. When things calmed down, we rationed the rest of our booty and made it last nearly a week. We justified our larceny with the fact that by the time they got back to the dairy, all that milk would have spoiled and they would have thrown it out. Besides we returned the empties!

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