Hiccups are awkward. As a boy growing up in Pampa “Mayberry,” Texas, I was always having those troubling, most humiliating hiccups. Some said it was because I ate too fast, while others told me it was due to chewing bubblegum and swallowing too much air. Whatever the cause, I sure had some embarrassing moments…like when our ninth-grade choir was at the West Texas State College Junior High Competition. We had been chosen as a finalist and were preparing for our big event when I suddenly came down with a bad case of the “you know what.” Miss Boyle, our beautiful choir teacher (I thought I was in love with her), made me do all those things that are supposed to stop you from hiccupping, but none worked. I finally drank a lot of ice water, and they ceased, well, almost. Then, fifteen minutes before we were to march out onto the stage, we were practicing our grand finale, and right in a pause, I let out this weird-sounding hiccup, and I thought everyone was going to kill me! So, I drank some more ice water, and we made it through our program without incident. Our choir took first place in all our competitions, I might add…This is pertinent information to the rest of my story!
It was during our junior year at Pampa High School a new student came to town, and I sat across from him that first morning in Miss Lively’s homeroom class. He seemed like a friendly guy and had this cackle-type laugh. It was the kind that was infectious. But what even set him apart more from the other classmates was….his NOSE! When he turned to the side, I’m telling you, his profile was Mr. Jimmy Durante, Jr., a comedian “back in the day” who had a sizable Semitic nose!
What a “schnozzle”! This guy was unique, both in personality and anatomy. I immediately took a liking to him. He was funny and entertaining, and oh my gosh, he even had a great All-American name… “Buddy”; and last name… “Ray .” How unique! Two first names!
We immediately hit it off, and by mid-December, we were doing some double dating on the weekends. One huge problem we faced was Buddy’s girlfriend lived five miles south of town in Bowers City, an oilfield camp and gasoline refinery, while my girlfriend lived five miles west of town on the Borger Highway. So it took us a good thirty minutes to “round up” our dates.
Another concern of ours was the cost of extra gasoline. Hey, we’re talking big bucks to date these two. A date would run $2.00 for gasoline, fifty cents per movie ticket, and ten cents for a coke at Caldwell’s Drive Inn. That comes to a walloping total of $3.20. If you made the drag a few times, throw in another dollar, and you can forget the popcorn, candy bars, or burger. We were “hoboing” here.
One particular night in December, it was my turn to drive. So I pick up Buddy in my ‘38 Ford coupe, and we head south. Unfortunately, the weather was cold and very cloudy. When we picked up the girls and arrived at the LaNora Theatre, it was snowing, and we were rather cold. I forgot to mention that my car’s heater wasn’t working and the vent window in the door, although small, was broken and allowed a lot of cold air to come into the car. But nobody seemed to notice. We were telling funny stories and laughing all the way into town. What was in store for the four of us later that evening never occurred to us to think about.
As we walked out of the movie, we went into total shock…. six inches of snow had fallen on the pavement and still coming down hard. We made a mad dash for the car and headed for my date’s home. The wind was blowing hard, but we were able to drive on the highway because the snow was in drifts. After depositing my date, we headed for Bowers City. It continued to snow, and we could only drive 20 mph. Finally making it to Bowers City, all we had to do was head home. After “slipping and ‘a sliding” and sometimes rolling the windows down with our heads out to find the highway, it seemed like an eternity, but we finally made it. As we entered town on the Lefors highway, we passed the “Rocket Club” and went under the railroad bridge when IT happened…yep, you got it; the hiccups suddenly attacked, the worst case of hiccups I had ever encountered! Naturally, this got Buddy laughing. So we’re creeping along shivering, I’m hiccupping, and we’re both laughing when we roll up to the red light at Brown Street, better known as the Wheeler Highway. It’s around 10 p.m... There’s no car in sight. All sane people were home where it was nice and warm. Well, we sat there for what seemed a lifetime, probably all of 35 seconds. Finally, with us both freezing, our teeth chattering, and me hiccupping, Buddy says, “R..r..run th..th..this da..da..dumb la..la..light!”
Well, I looked both ways… not one auto did I see, so I crept across the highway, and suddenly my car’s interior lit up red. A policeman had been sitting right behind me; now his red light was “a-twirling.” He had been so close to me that his headlights couldn’t shine into my back window, and 1938 Fords didn’t have side-view mirrors. Neither of us could believe it…what the heck was a policeman doing out on a night like this?
Well, I stopped right in the middle of the street because the snow was too deep at the curb. I opened my door to step out, and oops, “hiccup” my feet went right out from under me, and I landed on my backside, “BLAP”! The first thing out of my mouth was another “hiccup.” When I looked up, the officer was standing directly over me with this curious look. You could definitely read his thoughts… “I’ve got me a drunk!” He assisted me up, shining his flashlight into Buddy’s eyes, then the floorboard looking for beer cans. Then he suggested, “Why don’t you boys come sit in my patrol car for some conversation!” Buddy and I jumped at the offer since it was bound to have a heater. The officer asked us if we had been drinking. Of course, we said “No”…Buddy offered the info that “my dad is a Baptist preacher,” and the officer started laughing. I thought he was going to “bust a gut.” It was like he knew some “inside poop” about preachers’ kids.
…A h h h…those were the days!
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