Big Earl

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Tales from Dirt Mountain, Part 5

Submitted: February 15, 2015

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Submitted: February 15, 2015

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Now would be a good time to tell the story of how young Earl Saunders got the nickname, Big Earl.  It was about his size, but Earl isn’t big.  As an adult, Earl eventually topped out at 5’ 9”, not bad, but he was a late bloomer.  At the time of the nicknaming, Earl was 13, barely 5 feet tall, and skinny as a broom. 

The differences between me and my friend Earl were numerous.  He talked a lot, I was quiet.  I brooded over bad shots, Earl laughed them off.  I was a good student, Earl talked a lot.  The one thing we shared that made us lifelong friends, was a passion for the game of golf.

One other thing was different between us.  I had long decided by the time I was 14, and Earl was 13, that golf was my only sport.  I played basketball for fun, but I would never spend hours practicing free throws or dribbling.  The kind of time I took for granted on the driving range, grooving my swing, at Dirt Mountain.  Earl, as undersized as he was, with all the talent he had at golf, had a second obsession:  Football.

The only Peewee football league in Maynard County that a 13 year old could play on was the 120 pound league.  They had a minimum weight of 110 pounds.  That August afternoon, when Earl told me he was going out for the team, we pulled the scale out of the bathroom.  Earl pushed the needle all the way up to 99 pounds.

If Earl hadn’t gotten a nickname related to his size, he might have become Bad Idea Earl, or Don’t Think Before You Act Earl. 

His first plan to make the football team, was to immediately start eating as much as he could.  He did make some progress toward his goal, after two days he was up to 102 pounds.  But the human digestive system has a finite capacity, and like I-285 in Atlanta at rush hour, is capable of grinding to a halt. 

We will omit the details of what happened next, suffice it to say the solution involved a bag of warm soapy water hanging from a pole.  After a full day where Earl was too wiped out to get out of bed, we replayed the weigh-in.  After executing Plan A, Earl came in at 97 pounds.

Plan B involved Yancey Simmons, Dirt Mountain’s resident idiot savant mechanic.  Earl had been watching Yancey build sophisticated remote control devices for his 1968 Ford Mustang for the past few years.  Earl reasoned it would be a piece of cake for Yancey to build a device that, when activated, would rig a scale to weigh him a little heavier, but would work normally when turned off.

Yancey was a mechanical genius, but he had little capacity to understand human motivations, or protect himself from the many man-made or natural dangers of the world.  He spent his time on Dirt Mountain, under the care of George and Dorothy Saunders.  If someone was taking advantage of Yancey Simmons, it almost certainly was Earl.

Earl knew all he had to do was tell Yancey what he wanted.  Yancey would never question what Earl asked him to do.  If it was mechanical in nature, he could do it.  This is the plan Earl came up with.

Step one was to convince George that Yancey needed to learn how to swim.  The family already had a membership at the Maynard County Recreational Center, where there was a pool, along with the training room that contained the scale that would soon be used for the football team weigh-in. 

Step two was to get Yancey in the training room, when it wasn’t occupied, so he would have time to plan and make measurements.  Once the scale was rigged, I would stand in the back of the room during the weigh-in.  Just before Earl’s turn, I would activate the device with the remote control device in my pocket.  Push the button once to turn it on, push it again to turn it off.  What could go wrong?

As I have noted more than once, Earl was good at talking, so we found ourselves at the Maynard County Recreational Center, one morning when it opened at 7am.  We wanted the pool to ourselves so Yancey wouldn’t get unnerved by the presence other people.  We wanted the training room to ourselves for other reasons. 

Five minutes in the pool was long enough for the staff to see us, and to get our swimming trunks and towels wet.  Then we headed to the training room for some exercising.  And some measuring.  We had the room to ourselves.

Ten days later, Yancey carried his duffel bag into the training room.  Under the damp swimming trunks and a towel was a remote control, tools, and assorted pieces of machined metal.  I was standing guard outside the training room, under the pretense of reading the exercise guides taped to the wall.  After an hour, Earl opened the door and motioned for me to come in.  We were ready to test. 

Everything had gone together exactly as Yancey had planned.  The only problem was the bottom plate of the scale.  Part of the mechanism protruded down far enough that the plate couldn’t be reattached.  That was okay, you couldn’t see the bottom when the scale was upright and in use.  We stuffed the bottom plate in the duffel bag, we would replace that after the weigh-in when Yancey undid his work.

Earl weighed himself legally, and came in at 99 pounds.  Then I pushed the button on the remote.  Standing next to the scale, in the now quiet room, I could hear the almost imperceptible hum of a small battery powered motor.  When the room was full of people, no one was going to hear that.  Earl mounted the scale again, 112 pounds.  One more push of the button, he was back to 99 pounds.

We had a foolproof plan, or so we thought.  On the day of the weigh-in, Yancey’s device worked as designed.  I pushed the button just before Earl stepped on the scale at the weigh-in.  He registered at 112 pounds.  He posed like a prize fighter and gave the room his famous smile.  He dismounted, I pushed the remote again.  Earl was on the team, and we were home free.

Except for the cynical nature of human beings.  No one would accuse Coach Jenkins of being a genius.  But he knew football, and he knew teenage boys, and he knew Earl Saunders didn’t weigh 112 pounds.  It was Coach Jenkins that would utter the phrase that would lead to Earl’s nickname.  He said, “There ain’t a snowball’s chance in Hell you are that big, Earl Saunders.”

First he got on the scale himself.  He frowned, 220 pounds looked right.  But he didn’t stop there.  He turned the scale over.  He saw the missing bottom plate.  He saw Yancey’s delicate machine work.  The jig was up.

George and Earl had to meet with the board of directors at the rec center.  George made Earl write an apology, which he read at the meeting.  Then the chairman, Judge Lester Phelps, told Earl he was permanently banned from the football league.  If he still wanted to teach Yancey how to swim that would be okay.

Next, George told Earl that Judge Phelps wasn’t done with him.  George and Lester Phelps were buddies from way back, and they drank beer on the patio behind the pro shop at Dirt Mountain almost every Friday afternoon.  George said Lester wanted to speak to Earl this next Friday.

Earl spent that whole day dreading whatever the Judge was going to say.  Bad things happened often happened to people when they earned the attention of Lester Phelps. 

When Lester walked into the pro shop, he tossed his car keys to Earl and told him to bring in the set of clubs that was in the trunk.  Earl came back with a professional quality bag, filled with shiny new Titleist golf balls, and a full set of Ping woods and irons.

Lester told Earl, “I’ve seen you play football, and I’ve seen you play golf.  I recommend you stick to golf.  My son Burt, on the other hand, is the starting running back at Pritchard Academy, he belongs on a football field.  But I bought him these clubs two years ago, and he’s only played them once.” 

“So I’m giving them to you.  Yancey won’t have any trouble cutting the shafts down to size.  These are fine clubs, and deserve to be played.  The only thing I’ll ask from you is to put as much energy and thought into playing golf as you did when you rigged that scale.  That is the funniest story I’ve ever heard.  Even better than when you and Yancey played chicken and he drove the tractor into the pro shop.”

Earl did as the Judge asked.  He used those clubs for almost twenty years.  No telling how many new sets of grips Yancey put on them.  He had to reshaft them twice after Earl hit his growth spurt.  When Earl finally retired them, he had worn off the finish and the lower grooves on the face of each club.  The clubs still sit in the pro shop at Dirt Mountain.

If someone shows up today at Dirt Mountain wanting to play, and they don’t have clubs or much money, Earl points to the well-used set of clubs in the corner and says, “You can play the Heavy Lesters for free.”  Big Earl Saunders is a sucker for paying it forward.

One more thing happened as a consequence of the scale rigging.  It was the first day of school a few weeks later.  As soon as Earl walked in the front door, he began hearing a chorus of, “You ain’t that big, Earl Saunders.”  Within a few days, it was shortened to Big Earl.

AUTHOR’S NOTE

This is 100% fiction.  The idea came from this:  Once I spent hours running in circles around the back yard at my friend Sam’s house in a fruitless attempt to lose enough weight to make the 65 pound football league.  I ended up playing in the 80 pound league, at 68 pounds.  Thus, the career in golf. 

Later, I would make the golf team in high school.  I qualified sixth on a team of ten.  The guy that finished 11th, who I bumped from the team with my performance, was the running back on my 80 pound football team.  The guy I could never tackle, not even once, in our practices.  Golf, like automobiles and firearms, can make all men and women equal.


© Copyright 2017 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

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