a christmas story

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic

a christmas story

 

 

A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story. Yeah, maybe. I guess so, though I didn’t think so at the time. Lady Bird Johnson. “Keep America Beautiful.” Remember that? Sure you do. That was President Johnson’s wife, Lady Bird’s pet theme. Lady Bird was from Marshall, Texas.
My brother Gary and I tried to work around the house the month before Christmas. Northern Arkansas, southern Arkansas, we lived near Hardy, north of Jonesboro. Winters, like the countryside are bleak in R Kansas. The governor, Bill Clinton had just doubled the price of automobile tags, a real bummer. We tried everything, everywhere. Sales were at an all time low for us.
Finally, we’d had enough. Let’s get some yonder. Our new plan was to load up what tools we had in a U-Haul trailer and head to a better climate. Christmas was around the corner. We didn’t hear the wolf knocking on the door just yet, but we could hear him coming up the steps.
Things started looking better around Tex-Arkana. The trees had leaves on them, you know what they say about greener pastures. We kept going in a southerly direction, crossed the state line and saw the “Keep America Beautiful” sign, welcome to the home of Lady Bird Johnson. We were in Marshall, Texas.
We figured that her sign was just the sign we were looking for. The area looked prosperous. Most of all, the landscape was full of green foliage. We went to a mini storage and rented us a ware room to store three of the four truckloads we brought with us. Our goal was to work all week, cash up and make it home to Christmas on Sunday.
The next morning was Tuesday. We woke up to a rainy drizzly day. We were miserable. Hell, we coulda stayed home and got wet. Since our belts were getting close to the last notch, we forced ourselves to head out to work. That sleet was cold, cold, cold. Wet too. On days like this, we normally just rode around sight seeing but not today. We were on a mission. Gary and I held hands in the front seat of the truck. We gave thanks to our Lord for our many blessings, asked him to forgive us our sins, to bless the ones we loved the most and to please, please help us find someone that could use these tools. Especially if they could get them real, real, real cheap.
Then we were off to see what was around the corner. We had to go forward, we couldn’t look back. To do so would be denying our faith in the Lord. Until he gave up on us, we weren’t giving up on him.
Driving in the cold, wet, sloppy drizzle was just part of God’s plan I guess. He led us past a sporting goods store that had a big yellow duck boat set up on display just inside the window. Gary hit the brakes. He wanted to take a look at that duck boat. They had two, one was bright yellow, in the window and the other was set up on saw horses in the showroom. It was painted camouflage. Sales must have been rough for the sporting goods business too because the owner was all over us, showing us all the attachments and do dads.
He had a hungry customer in Gary, ’cause he shore liked to fish. After a few minutes conversation, Gary explained that we were here from Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina, repossessing some equipment for our boss that had been on display with their dealer. Since he was short on his inventory, our boss told us to pick it up and go show it to some bosses. We were supposed to get a check for the iron cost and furbicating.
Gary was at his finest. He asked the store owner if he would be interested in our boss’s equipment if we could work out some kind of deal. He told the guy that he had some money in the credit union back home. If you want to make our boss an offer on a trade with cash and that boat, we’ll call him and see what we can do.
Gary put him through the book. I thought it was a waste of time. I was eager to get out and throw some pitches before the weather got any worse. I guess I was being a “Henry Kissinger.” That’s what we called anybody that was negative and wasn’t into the pitch.
Praise be to Jesus, Gary got our load off the truck for the duck boat and $2,200. We made about $200 apiece and had boat free and clear. The boat was about 16 feet long, with an electric motor, operated by foot pedals. We drove back to the ware room, off loaded our boat. After reloading another set of tools, we decided to call it a day. We headed back to the motel to stay dry and watch a bowl game on ESPN.
Wednesday morning, it was still coming down a drizzle. We held hands, turned things over to the Lord and went out in search of our mullet. Since Gary dropped the first load, I figured it was my turn to show him what I could do. The first pitch was mine.
I went into a jewelry store. The owner was a short bald headed man, with wire rim glasses. I had a hard time getting through my pitch. I don’t know if he had a nervous twitch but the whole time I was talking to him, he was shaking his head no. I wanted to say, “Why are you shaking your head no, you haven’t heard my story yet.”
Okay, maybe my pitch was a little flat. I’m sure the bad weather had something to do with it. We continued driving down the road, making all our pitches on the right. A Texas Safety Patrol (Highway Patrol) Officer got behind us and gave us the blue light special. I’m pretty sure I knew who called them.
At gunpoint, he told us to exit the truck. He made us lie down on the wet bank between the road and the ditch. 40 degree weather and it was drizzling rain. Here we are handcuffed, face down in wet red clay. We tried to get him to call the home office but he had his mind set. He didn’t have any intentions of doing things our way. Oh no, we were gonna do things his way.
After about 45 minutes, an unmarked sedan pulled up. Out got two guys dressed in really nice suits. The rain just beaded up and ran off them. They wouldn’t allow us to get up. They went through our truck, gathered our info and ran us through NCIC. We were clean, hell we knew that, but to get them to realize it took forever.
They left us on side the road for another hour while they tried to call Rita back at the home office. It seems like they were having a Christmas party. When the cops identified themselves as the Texas Rangers, nobody wanted to talk to them. I guess they were as scared as we were.
Finally after more than two hours, the lead detective came back to us. They released us from the cuffs and apologized. It seems that there had been a rash of burglaries in the area and we were suspects number one and two.
Texas Ranger number one apologized, he said we were free to go. As he turned his back to leave he suddenly whirled around with a card in his hand. He scribbled something on the back and said, “Here’s my card. Consider it a get out of jail free card.” If anyone in the state of Texas gives you any problem at all, just have them call me.
Great, we’ve spent most of the day lying in the wet clay, getting soaking wet and he gives us a card. Usually we threw people’s cards away but this time, I stuck it inside my hatband.
Well, since we had already said our prayer for the day, we couldn’t give up. We decided that it was the Devil trying to get between us and the Lord. We continued or search, finally getting it off the truck before dark for about $2,500. It was still raining. Our condition was miserable but we were fired up. We had faced a maximum amount of adversities, yet were still successful. Praise the Lord. See what happens if you don’t give up your faith.
The next day was Thursday, the skies were supposed to be clearing but the temperature was suppose to get worse. Just like 40 degrees ain’t bad enough. We were down to two loads of equipment and a boat. Not near as bad as it was, plus we both had a little cash in our pockets for Christmas money.
That day, we were both hitting on double zero. No luck. Maybe it was the time of year, could be the economy or even the weather. We had to blame it on something. About 5 o’clock that evening we were still pitching, no we couldn’t give up. We ran into a rancher that owned a construction company. He was a stocky guy, red faced. He wanted to help us out. We unloaded the tools in our truck, unto his truck. We were in town, his ranch was a ways outside the city limits.
The check he gave us was on a bank in Atlanta, Texas, about 50 miles north. It was too late that night to get a hammer. We put that off until the following day. That night at the motel, we decided that we would put our final load on the truck along with the duck boat tied on top. Our plan was to drive to Atlanta, hammer our check, then work our way back to Hardy.
We had earned some money, not a whole lot but more than we would have made in Arkansas. I was driving that day. When we got to the bank, our mullet walked in behind Gary and started chatting. When he looked out the window and saw another load on the truck, along with the duck boat, he went ballistic. He said, “You didn’t tell me that there was more of this stuff floating around.” He took the check out of Gary’s hands and tore it up.
Oh man, there goes our Christmas. His face got redder than ever. He had about 10 years on us but the way he looked that morning, I was sure that he could more than hold his own. I guess he got to thinking that a man in his position couldn’t be seen in public mixing it up. He told us to drive out of town, back the way we come for about a mile. He said that he had some business to tend to but for us to wait for him there, he would be along directly and we could follow him out to his ranch. He said that before he would give us our equipment back, that we would have to wade through his crew of men to get to it first.
Gary and I looked at each other. The prospect seemed grim. He and I have been through some scrapes before. Really tough scrapes too. We survived. This was just gonna be one more of those times.
Doing like we were told, we drove out to the spot the man told us to go to and waited for about 30 minutes. Sitting on side of the road we watched a Texas truck pull up beside us. A Ford dually, with a headache rack and a set of longhorns mounted on the hood. The guy in the truck wanted to know if it was for sale. I slid out of the truck grabbing my book on the way. I said, “Can you use it if you got it cheap enough?”
My brother said, “No Mike. He’s talking about the boat.”
I never thought much about the boat but we really must have been a sight. Just parked on side of the road, with a load of tools and an 16 foot long duck boat tied on top.
Gary came around from the passenger side and crawled into the man’s truck. It seems like he had his eye on that boat back at the sporting goods store. We just happened to get it before he did. He wanted it for hunting, so the yellow boat didn’t interest him. He wanted the one we had, painted camouflage. He said, “If that boats floats I’ll take it.” He and Gary put it in the ditch next to the road and believe it or not, it sprung a leak.
Just about that time, along comes the man that had our tools, pulling in behind us. Behind him was the County Sheriff. Oh, Oh. Here we go again.
Gary and the guy with the boat had struck a deal, even though it had a small leak, he wanted it anyway. Gary said, “Mike, he wants the boat and wants one of us to ride with him to the bank to get the money.”
The two of them loaded the boat on the man’s truck. Gary looked at me and said, “One of us needs to go with this guy to the bank and the other needs to go get our equipment back.”
Since the boat guy was Gary’s mullet and me being the big brother, I told Gary to go ahead, I’ll get the equipment. Gary told me, “You know what's in store. This guy is going to make you go through hell before he lets you load it up the tools.”
I told him that I had a good idea what was waiting for me. I told him that I’m the big brother, I can tote an ass whooping as good as anybody. You go ahead, we need the money, I’ll get the tools. Merry Christmas.
The boat guy overheard us, Gary had filled him in. He laughed, he told Gary he had one hell of a brother.
Our mullet comes up about that time with the Deputy Sheriff. He said, “I brought my brother in law for back up, just in case you guys try any funny business. When we get out there, I’m gonna sic my crew on you. If you win, you can have your tools back and I’ll load ’em with the fork lift.
We faced the cop, Gary told him that him and his man (The boat guy) had some business back in town to tend to. He said, “My brother will ride out to this man’s ranch and pick up the tools, if that’s alright with you.” Before they left, I told them I would meet them at the Dairy Queen later on. I told him that “I'll get the tools. I might have to tote an ass whooping but they’ll know I was there.”
The bewildered deputy okayed our plan. Gary and the boat man left, leaving me alone with our red faced mullet and the deputy sheriff. My prospect seemed kind of bleak but I was ready to get it over with.
Like a bolt out of the blue, I remember the card I had in my hatband. I removed it from my hat and looked at it again. Sergeant, Texas Rangers. I handed the card to the deputy and said, “Here maybe you ought to call this guy first, if you want to check us out.”
He left us alone for about 10 minutes, just me and the red faced tyrant. The minutes were filled by this guy telling me how I was fixing to get my ass kicked, over and over. The deputy returned and gave me back the card. He turned to the mullet and said, “Hey these guys are legit, you better give them back their tools and no funny business. You’ll be opening yourself up for a lawsuit if you try anything.”
They left me alone in my truck. I was ready to follow this guy out to his ranch, run the gauntlet get the equipment. The big cop came back to my truck and said, “This guy must be crazy. He doesn’t want you to pick up the tools. He wants you to go back to the bank, speak with the vice president. He’ll have a cashier’s check waiting for you.”
Mere words can’t express the thoughts running through my mind. I had already played out the scene in my head. My plan was to get at least one good punch on this sucker to make all the ones I had to take worthwhile. The prospect of loading my truck down with two loads of equipment didn’t seem to promising. Now, I not only don’t have to worry about picking up the man’s load, but the boat was gone as well. We can ride back to Arkansas in style. Pockets full of hundred dollar bills and a fresh load of tools to sell on the way.
My brother Gary and our boat mullet were sipping on shakes when I got to the Dairy Queen back in Atlanta, Texas. They had a belly laugh after hearing my story. After all, they were expecting something much worse.
It was before 12 o’clock when we left Marshall, heading home. We decided to try our luck in Hope, the home of the governor, Bill Clinton. Before we got there, Gary saw a man standing on the porch of a real estate office in Magnolia, Ark. He bought himself a Christmas present full of tools for $2,500. Ho, Ho Ho! We had a Merry Christmas. Praise the Lord, Keep the Faith.


Submitted: December 27, 2020

© Copyright 2021 mike frailey. All rights reserved.

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