There are enough opinions and frightening stories out there to last us a while. I want to just tell you a story today, of a simpler time.
It was 1968. I was 16. I had a drivers license but did not have good sense. Nor did most of the guys I hung out with, but we sure did have fun.
Fun’s a good thing. I can’t wait until everyone’s having it again.
Most of my time, especially in between periods when Troy Puckett was allowing me to date his daughter, Kim, was spent with my teammates on the Newton High basketball team. We didn’t do bad stuff. We really didn’t. We were too afraid our high school coach, Ronald Bradley, would find out and life would not be worth living.
Now I am not going to use any names because some of the people are still with us and have children who read this column —but Number 54 and Number 52 were always in the midst of any mischief I might be into.
My daddy had a great car back then. It was second-hand Buick Electra 225, deuce and a quarter. It was as big as a room. It had four horns under the hood, and when you sat down on them, they sounded just like a train. My daddy was good about letting me drive that car, which shows that his love for his only son outweighed his good judgement.
We used to ride around and pull up behind unsuspecting drivers as they approached railroad crossings and then blow the horn. Loudly.
They would slam on brakes and look down the tracks both ways and then decide to proceed, and we would blow it again. Same sequence. Slam on brakes. Look both ways. Start to proceed. On the third blast of the horn they would usually get out of the car and peer down the tracks, which is when we would pull around them, wave, and go on our merry way. We thought we were so clever.
We had another trick which didn’t involve a mechanical noisemaker, but Number 52’s mouth. He could sound just like a siren. Not the ones like we have today. The old-fashioned kind.
We once liberated an amber blinking light from a construction site, when they were building Deerfield subdivision. We covered it in red cellophane and discovered that we could pull up behind cars and using that light and my friend’s mouth that we could pull over any car on the road. Again, we would drive past whoever was in the car, laughing our heads off. We thought we were very clever.
Now I told you all of that to tell you this.
One Saturday night, after a big basketball game (they were all big in Newton County in the 1960s) we headed to Atlanta. There were five of us in the car, but two shall remain numberless. We had on our trademark blue blazers with the Ram emblem on the left chest and our blue and gray striped ties. We thought we were big shots. On this particular night we went to the Fairfield Inn at the Marriott on Courtland Avenue for a piece of Black Forest cake. Then we went rode up to Peachtree and 14th Street to make fun of the hippies that always congregated there during the Great Speckled Bird days.
We were headed south on Peachtree Street, almost right in front of the Fox Theater, when Number 54, who was sitting in the front seat, pulled out our makeshift “emergency light.” Number 52 rolled the back window down, stuck his head out and did his siren. We pulled over a dark blue sedan and, as usual, laughed and waved as we passed by.
Then the sedan pulled away from the curb, moved in behind us, and turned his lights and siren on. His were real. We had pulled over a city of Atlanta police detective.
He called a paddy wagon and got us out of the car and made us all assume the position with our hands on the side of his bus. Five proud Newton Rams, scared to death, right there on Peachtree Street.
Then he let us off the hook. He told us something to the effect of “You boys get your country butts back to Newton County and don’t even think about coming back to the city until you know how to behave. And if I ever see one of those blue blazers on these streets again, I will call Ron Bradley personally and tell him what you’ve been up to.”
He never saw us there again. We went. But he never saw us.
Stay safe, y’all. Stay home if you can and wash your hands and we will get through this together.
And try to laugh. It feels better than crying.