Daily Archives: February 3, 2010

Randy Ford Author- PIKES PEAK, Snap Shots of History First Segment

                                                                   PIKES PEAK

                                                                    by

                                                                  Randy Ford

      As for the old family Studebaker, Jack always missed it.   Taken seriously by people, who knew cars, Studebakers had advanced technology, which reduced fuel consumption and frequent lubrication.   As a mechanic, Jack’s father knew cars.   After personally inspecting its safety features, he bought the Champion Regal Deluxe to give his family freedom and reliability.

       One Sunday (the year was 1948), while the rest of the family was attending church service, Jack took his mother’s car keys out of her purse and went for a spin.   Ever so slowly, he drove the car out of the church parking lot.   He already had his driver’s license and could negotiate the highways and byways of Indiana.   An exemplary son might’ve asked for the keys; but Jack couldn’t chance being told no.

       He raced down Main and out of town.   Considering the other highway he had to choose from, U.S. 40 was probably not the best choice.   It was an example why the antithesis of a leap of faith could well have been stupidity.   Jack couldn’t have thought he could’ve gotten away with stealing the family car.   The little fart had been taken to the woodshed for lesser crimes.

      Careful, no speeding.   A superior engine could’ve been his worse enemy.   For luck, he kissed his fingers and patted the dashboard.   His poor parents never understood him.   By then they were surely mourning the loss of their new automobile.

       “Where’s Jack?”   The minister calmed their hysteria by asking the obvious.   What was the worse thing that could happen?   The Rev stopped Jack’s father, Jack’s mother, and Jack’s sister from assuming the worse.

       “My keys?” his mom asked, as she looked through her purse.

      His father was frantic; his mother, confused.   From the cradle, Jack had been taught right from wrong.   He knew Christ.   He confessed his sins, but that didn’t give him a pass at home.

      Before Sunday school, as members of the congregation gathered on the front steps to converse and smoke, Jack gave in to an impulse that he had for a long time.   Late and racing out of the house, his mother untypically forgot her purse; and since she and her husband wanted to greet their friends, they sent Jack back for it.

      In control of all of that power and all that speed, conspicuous and sitting behind the wheel of a flashy new car: could there have been a greater thrill for Jack?   West on U.S. 40, he took his chances and forgot the time.   Speeding down the open road.   Freedom!   Freedom!   Only a fool could’ve thought he could get away with a flashy, new Studebaker.

       Mama felt sure something terrible would happen to her baby boy.   Dad thought of the prodigal and rehearsed his son’s homecoming.   While his parents fretted and worried, Jack gripped the moist steering wheel.   He thought he could drive with his eyes shut.   He was truly a riddle.

       The Rev’s words stuck in the young man’s mind.   They were relevant in terms of his rebellion.   Due to his sins, he faced an uncertain future.   Not having money didn’t help.   Still, he insisted he had the right to make his own mistakes.   So, in the middle of the night, he returned the car, left it down the street from his house, and kept on running.

       If he returned home, Jack knew he would’ve been punished. In his home, wrongdoers were made to suffer.   No evil was ever ignored.   And the old man ranted and raved.   Now he kicked himself for teaching Jack how to drive.   He was sure that he’d given the boy more freedom than he could handle.

      By the way, Jack couldn’t do anything without his parents finding out about it.   Sometimes the Rev found out first, which was a sore point. Jack’s father had little patience for dishonor, dishonesty, or disrespect.   But having survived the wages of sin himself, he felt sure Jack certainly could.   As for punishment, he turned into a tiger and followed the scripture literally.   “Spare the rod and spoil the child.”   So he kept a belt handy and only used it when all else failed.

      His senior year Jack wanted the car all the time, but wasn’t trustworthy.   Somehow he got the Rev’s daughter to go out with him for a coke, a kiss, and a promise.   Sometimes they would go to the boondocks and experiment.   She was impetuous and inspiring, but not gentle.   Jack was the opposite.   Woe the liberties she took with him!   In the back seat of the Champion Regal Deluxe, the Rev’s daughter taught him how to French kiss.   Jack willingly accepted this gift and, in return, gave her his class ring.   After that they were dubbed an item.

       Linda had fire in her veins; and as they listened to their song on the radio, the wicked moon and hormones kicked in and did the rest.   This drama of wrong doing, so irresistible, had only one villain: the devil was everyone’s nemesis.   Now, when they got caught, the couple had hell to pay. Many years would pass before Jack could talk about his father’s heavy hand, and it was but one of the reasons why he had to escape.

       Given the opportunity, Jack opened the purse and took the keys.   He had only one thing in mind: the one thing he had to do with his life.   And the moment seemed right and the risk worth it.   With the purse in his hands, temptation took concrete form, and evil seemed right and righteousness, wrong.   He took the keys and gave the purse to his mother and played hooky from church.   He had two hours to decide on a direction, without realizing that within two hours he could’ve been clear across the state.

       Jack’s hero, Errol Flynn, didn’t belong to the class of people most of us would’ve wanted to emulate.   For his part, Jack knew the movie star, not only from the screen, but also through a Spanish teacher.   This teacher claimed he actually once met the actor on a freighter bound for Marseilles.   A citizen of the world, with a touch of larceny, a person engaged in careless living, and with an enormous drive for sex and money, Errol was Jack’s model.   A drunk and a bum, Flynn traveled the world.

       As Jack did, Errol Flynn rebelled against God and country.   Earning a living would always be a side venture for them.   But unlike Jack, Errol had some will-o-the- wisp desire to please his mother, tried to placate her, while they continued their lifelong feud.   Stress the word feud. Whenever they were together, it was like a tiger and a lion in one cage.   She tried to control him and treated him like dope.   In this respect, even as a grown man, she treated him as a child.   “Cheers Mamma and damn you too!”

       “To the priests, to the cowards, and all those who don’t know how to fight and only preach lies.”   Though he didn’t say what happened in his memoirs, you knew by the way Errol described his hatred of the church that something terrible happened to him.   During the Spanish Civil War, not all priests could’ve been bad, or been on the same side.   Now, for the sake of decent priests, all priests weren’t the same.

       Reading about Errol Flynn’s life had a great impact on Jack.   Both men felt impatient.   Twilight pursued both of them, and both of them believed that all they needed was a good head start.   They were always in motion.   No shilly-shallying.   Errol made bank, played with confidence, and his luck was better than most.   How much better was it to win money than earning it?   So, in Manila, he rigged cockfights.   The bets were high; the stakes, higher.   He was loaded with dough and could afford to lose.   You could say he was lucky.   Who wouldn’t mind winning that kind of dough?   He knew that it didn’t do any good to fight a bad streak.   In Hong Kong, with Shanghai dollars, he couldn’t make the little Chinese ponies behave and quickly went through his previous winnings.

       Fear made Jack forget good-byes.   As he hurried down a ravine and sought cover in a culvert, the sky seemed threatening.   There was no time to lose.   He hadn’t gone far and knew the police would be looking for him.   Filled with anxiety, he avoided the highways and roads like a fugitive.   He relied on his senses.   Avoiding the open fields, he set out through the woods.   He heard a rippling brook and said, “At least, I won’t die of thirst.”   It was then that he decided to condition himself by going without food for a week.

       Some of his other ideas were more conventional.   What else would you have expected from someone determined to shake off the dust from his feet?   Shouldn’t he have followed the advice of his teachers, graduated and enjoyed commencement?   If he wanted to impress someone, he would’ve gone in a different direction.   He didn’t want to appear ambitious.

       Two long days with nothing to eat, but wild berries!   Piles of white bread, great slabs of fresh butter, he couldn’t get food off his mind.   For his last meal he would choose: fried chicken, smoked ham, and scalloped potatoes, since mash was too simple…. attacking heaping platters of food, forks in both hands, wolfing down his mother’s chicken loaf….heaping spoons of sugar in ice tea.   This for supper, only supper, but there was one drawback.   There was but one person in the world who could fry chicken right and for whom chicken loaf was a specialty, and that was his mother.   He already missed her, if for nothing else, her cooking.   Mash potatoes!   And without mash potatoes, could he ever feel full?

      At home, his life had been filled with mixed blessings.   Sadly he would lose his slurred and comfortable speech.   Before he realized what he had, he gave it up, or more accurately ran from it.

       His mom would tell him how it used to be.   What it meant to live on seven dollars a week, or twenty eight dollars a month.   At least, with a cow and a vegetable patch, they never starved.   During the depression, Jack’s parents said they were better off than people who lived in the cities.   Back then, they didn’t have any money.   Now they were into buying things, everything from cars to freezers and refrigerators.   Those were the things that made honest labor desirable.   Those were the values that were instilled in Jack.

       All day long, Jack marched along.   He cautiously circled fields, fields planted in corn, fields yielding a precarious living, fields passed from generation to generation.   Corn, cows, and horses, staying out of the fields, away from farmhouses, in the woods, Jack, never one to complain, thought about eating a horse, a cow, a hog, and fired chicken: anything.   His stomach hurt.   It was harder than he could ever have imagined.   Such were the lessons he learned about prosperity and deprivation and the true meaning of a new pair of sneakers, a new home; and so on, the ethos of consumption and work.

      Randy Ford

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