I have no recollection of ever sleeping in a flower bed, but I did wake up in the middle of a dirt road one morning. I honestly can’t remember exactly how I got in that position, but I have reconstructed some of the events that led up to it.
We were an aimless and mischievous generation, given to amusements like shutting off the main power switch at night clubs and restaurants. Or leaving custom bumper stickers on complete stranger’s cars – all you need is a roll of two inch masking tape and a magic marker. “Caution: Gerbil in rear!” So, how often do you look at your bumper?
My pard, Bill, had a ’66 Chevy with a V-8 and a four barrel carburetor fitted out with mud grips on the rear wheels. It was well suited for not getting stuck cutting through well manicured lawns in the rich neighborhoods. It had a spacious trunk that was perfect for picking up for sale signs and then re-distributing them to every house on a street. It went up and down mountain roads and city streets. And it was home to two teenage boys a large part of the time.
The night began innocently enough, buying a six pack of beer at Lawhon’s market where the clerks never could get the hang of adding and subtracting when it came to birth dates on drivers licenses. But a couple of steers can only go so far on that and money seemed to be the one thing we lacked.
Brookside was a cut-through between the main roads that we took quite regularly. It seemed odd that night to find both sides of the street tiled with parked cars, but there was no mistaking the implications. PARTY!
We found a place to shoehorn the Chevy into and ambled in through the front door grinning and shaking hands like we knew everybody. “Hey, I’ll catch up with you in a minute, I’m gonna grab a beer in the kitchen.”
What I found in that kitchen brought tears to my eyes. The refrigerator had four or five bottles of wine and at least a case of beer. There was a fifth of Wild Turkey and a pint of Canadian Mist on the counter next to the sink.
Fellas, I know this will be hard for you to believe, but I wasn’t always a nice as I am now. Let’s just say that when it came to people I didn’t know, I was ethically challenged. It wasn’t a great leap at this point for Bill and me to figure out nobody would notice us go out the back door with whatever we wanted to drink that night.
Trouble was, I didn’t know what I wanted to drink that night. We found it therefore necessary to just take all of it, load it into the back seat of the red bomber and go gentle into that good night. Well, maybe after cutting a deep swath across the lawn with the mud grips, screaming “yeeeeehawwww, git nekkid!” out the car windows and throwing out all of our empty beer cans. We wanted them to remember us as something more than just alcohol thieves.
The Little Maumelle River runs cool and clean through the Ferndale community and Ferndale Cut-Off was dotted with gravel bottomed swimming holes and rope swings. This was a favorite place to go, day or night, to be unnoticed by law enforcement officers and enjoy altering one’s state of mind. I can only imagine that was the rationale that got us there that night.
I don’t have any idea what time we arrived there, but it was already hot and the sweat was beading on my forehead when I awoke stretched out across a smooth, red clay track dirt road. The smell of honeysuckle and privet accompanied by the whirr of cicadas greeted me as I blinked and squinted into a cloudless blue sky.
The hair of the dog that bit me was a lot easier to stomach in those days and a warm beer was a great hangover remedy. “Must have been a helluva night, eh buddy?”