Saturday, February 9, 2008

Growing Up - Ages 17-18 – Part Two

We had a school play, Ted Drops In, when I was in the tenth grade. It was a three-act play and lasted about one and a half hours. Johnny James played Ted and I played his buddy Lonnie, he had the leading part and I was his sidekick playing the comedy role. After the play was over, it seemed that everyone came up to me to say that I had stolen the lead from Johnny. I don't think I did but it was nice to know that folks thought I did a good job with the part I played. Johnny and I knew that one part was nothing without the other; we held on to that and our friendship kept strong. Throughout high school we were a team. If he had a headache I would take the aspirin, which shows how close we were. Nobody saw one of us without seeing the other. Listen as I tell this story.

When we went to play basketball, the girls played the first game and then the boys would play. I liked some of the girls that played basketball so we would get to ride together to and from the games. That is about all of the dating that I did in high school. On the nights that we had games, I would come home from school and do all of the chores around the farm, eat supper, and run four miles across the woods to US-64 to catch a ride to the school that we played. The night after the game I would be let out at the same place I was picked up and I would walk or run through the woods to get home. I would slip into the kitchen and eat some more corn bread and milk before going to bed. Most of the time it was around midnight and I had to get up at five a.m. to build a fire in the stove, do the chores, and get ready to go to school. Mother would get up and cook us a good breakfast, hot biscuits every day! If you have a good homemade biscuit you have a good meal. We usually had meat, eggs, corn meal mush, and jellies. Sometimes when I would get home from school, Mother would tell me if I wanted something for the next morning breakfast I would have to go down the woods to the hickory nut trees and kill a squirrel. I would go into the woods and sit and do my homework while waiting for a squirrel to come out and get in the right spot. I would shoot it on the first try; on the way back to the house would skin it and wash it off in the horse trough. I would take it on into the house to clean it and put it on the stove in the fire room. I would let it boil until it was done and just sit it in the hall. When Mother got up she would roll it in flour and fry it in some hog lard. She would make some brown gravy and a pan of biscuits. That was some good eating! Today I see squirrels running everywhere and I could not eat one even if I was hungry. Listen as I tell this story.

We would grow sweet and Irish potatoes. In the fall after we gathered them, we would go our into the back yard and dig a hole four foot square and about one foot deep. We would put some hay in the bottom, add the potatoes and cover them with corn stalks and straw. Finally we would cover them with dirt but kept a hole in the top so on the hot days of winter we could let some air in to keep them from starting to rot. They would not freeze and we had potatoes to eat all winter and into spring. When we killed hogs we would salt down the hams, shoulders, side, and fat back meat. We would cook the sausage and can it in jars. We would put some sausage in long cloth tubes that mother made. These would hang on the back porch. We would eat from this supply until the meat started tasting real bad and then we would throw away what was left.

I never did have a steady girl while I was in high school since I would not have any way to go see her or take her on dates. It was only at ballgames and other activities in school that I had an opportunity to talk to the girls. I think I just loved all of them but always thought that no one loved me. That might have caused me to join the Navy as soon as I did but I am sure that having four brothers already in the Navy may have had a little to do with it. I did not want to be the only one that had not been in the war.

The fall before I enlisted in the Navy, Mother wanted me to drive her to Charlotte in the 1936 Ford that Albert had left with us so that we could visit Fred and his family. Everything was going great as we traveled down US-21 toward Charlotte until we were close to Huntersville, NC. I was going about sixty miles per hour when suddenly I looked up and saw a huge Greyhound bus stopped in the middle of the road. I was right on top of it before I realized it was not moving! My heart seemed to leap out of my skin and I know my heart rate was close to 200 beats per minute! I slammed on the breaks but it was like I had done nothing; of all times for it happen, my breaks did not work. I saw oncoming traffic on the other side of the bus so the only thing I could do was go between the bus and the service station which was only about thirty feet back off the road. I passed the bus doing about fifty miles per hour on the wrong side and in a gravel parking lot; the car caused a large cloud of dust and gravel as I was passing. The bus driver had just opened the bus door for the passengers to get off. If he had done that a few seconds earlier or if I would have been a few seconds later, there would have been folks in my pathway and I imagine I would have killed them. Once again God was watching out for me. When this happened it caused me to have a growth spurt in my growing into a man and made me take a reality check! We ended up having a good visit Fred and his family. On the trip home I don't think I drove over thirty miles per hour. It was an experience I will never forget!


Mike said...

This is such a great story..thanks for telling it...

Phillip said...

Mr. Gurley,

You tell your story so well, with such enthusiasm.

Phillip Brown
Candor, NC

Shannon said...

Grandpa, now I know why you always steal the show! It started way back in the day with Johnny and has been going on ever since. But I wouldn't want it any other way. I love your outgoing personality and how you know no stranger.

I liked this story and can't wait until next week!

Love ya!

Betsy Mauney said...

Wonderful stories, Pawpaw! I just love them and am enjoying your blog so much! Thanks for sharing your memories with us.

Anonymous said...

Hey Paw-Paw! I see that so many others have already beat me to it but I just wanted to say that I love reading your blog! All of your true life stories are such a treasure (and just plain fun to read too)!
Love you!