Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Big Bus Trip of '68, Part 11

The diary begins a few weeks before the Big Bus Trip. As I am skimming the first few pages, a certain eventful week in late June catches my eye. I read it all the way through. I find that reading the diary does not disturb me at all, as it did some 20 years ago when I last read it. Instead, I am fascinated and amused. It perfectly captures the way I talked and thought in those days, and reminds me of so many things I had completely forgotten--how I spent my days that summer, and especially a certain matter that was weighing heavily on my mind in the days leading up to July 4. The excerpt below comes complete with all the bad grammar, spelling errors, awkward sentences, and slang exactly as they appear in the handwritten original. Persons' last names, however, have been omitted:

June 27, Thursday - This morning I got up and threw papers with my father. It was 6:00 and I felt terrible. - Got that done & then had to help him in the yard. - My mother's birthday. Gave her her present. - At 1:00 me and my father went to the State Park and fished. Thought I saw Rita there, but July 4th will get here soon enough. - At 8:00 we went to the P- 's to eat. I went over with Roger and Wayne P- and Tolbert D- to look at a boat. Tolbert & me recalled a fight I had in the 7th grade with Billy B-. Later I went with Roger and Wayne to the Dairy Queen with some girls and their mother. When we got back we talked, then I had to go.

June 28, Friday - Went to the office to work. A man, a teacher of journalism at Ranger was there using the darkroom. - I cleaned up the place, washed venation blinds, set headlines, etc. - Went to bank to cash check of $9.51. On the way I heard a girl's voice say, "Hi, Mack," quite distinctly. Turned & saw Barry & two girls in a car. Waved at Barry, he waved. Never did figure out who the girls were. Barely saw them.

June 29, Saturday - Woke this morning and watched part of an Abbot & Costello movie. Wish I could have seen all of it, but I had to go to the office and work, setting headlines and type for an ad supplement to different papers including ours. - Had lunch at Chaf-In. - Kept the office until 4:40 while my father went to get a haircut. He's growing a mustache again. - Meant to get Richard's letter off today, but didn't. - Am finally beginning the first chapter of my novel. Still don't have a title. - Bob B- came by. Haven't seen him since he got his eye put out in a baseball game.

June 30, Sunday - Went with my father to George's Creek today. We were looking for rocks (flat ones) to make a rock path in the yard. First time I've been there since me and Rita broke up. I'll be out there again July 4th. Lot's of good scenary out there. Good thing I have lots of scenes take place out there in my book, which I'd like to make a movie of one of these days if I get the money. While there we stopped over at Pop M-'s place. They were just sitting down to eat & they invited us to join. We did, and that makes 2 Sunday dinners for today. A record. But right now it feels like I had 2 hundred Sunday dinners. - Anyhow we'll be out there at Pop's again for the picnic July 4th. I'm somewhat anxious about that. That was where I met Rita, as she's a neighbor of there's. She might be there. Must admit I felt rather nervous as we passed her house today.

July 1, Monday - Today began rather draggily. I slept late and lounged around the rest of the morning. Not being much for me to do at the office I got off early. - Hoping to rid myself of the "blues," I decided what I needed was a record album. On the way to the record shop I passed the newstand and decided what I needed was a good book, instead. I bought the biography of Laurel & Hardy which has been exceptionally good.

July 2, Tuesday - Today a man, native of Cleburne & under a huge sentence for larseny, escaped from the jail. Sheriff W- and the deputies were standing around talking with their backs turned to him while he was shaving to get ready to go to Huntsville. Then he came up from behind and took the sheriff's gun out of the holster, and made the Sheriff & all the deputies go upstairs and locked them in jail. They were up there for a long time yelling out the window for someone to let them out, but everybody thought they were just prisoners acting up. Finally a colored man figured out who they were and let them out. - The prisoner was loose for about 3 or 4 hours & caused quite a stir. There were road blocks everywhere. Me and my father went driving around the east side with the Sheriff. He was looking for the prisoner there because somebody said they saw him going that direction. The Sheriff was upset and his hands were shaking so bad he could barely hold on to the wheel. He got a call on the radio that they were stopping the trains over at the shops to search them, so we went over there. We got out and my father told me to stay a good ways back, then him and the Sheriff started to walk over to where they were opening up a freight car. But the sheriff remembered something he had to do and gave my father his rifle and drove off. My father couldn't hold the camera and the rifle at the same time, so one of the police took it. They never did find the prisoner, so we got a ride back to the office. Finally, at about 6:00 it was learned that the guy was hiding out in a law office on Caddo St. with 3 hostages. Me & my father heard it over the police radio. My father grabbed his camera and we ran down there. The street was full of police cars from all over everywhere. All the TV stations from Dallas and Fort Worth showed up and so did some of the major radio stations. There was also a big crowd of people who came out to watch. My father told me to stay back while he went up closer to get some pictures. The police started getting ready to go in to the office. It looked bad, because the hostages were still in there. I started feeling sick about it. But the prisoner surrendered meekly and greeted the crowd with "Hello, everybody!" A photographer with the Fort Worth Press had me hold his equipment during the excitement of newsmen clamoring for pictures of the guy. He gave me 4 tickets to a soccer game in Fort Worth for my help. Later on while we were all in the law office taking pictures of the hostages & getting interviews, he saw me holding my father's camera and figured out my father runs the county newspaper. "I see you're a professional camera-holder," he said. I may never use the soccer tickets, but there a good souvenir. - Russ Bloxom from Channel 5 came in to the office with a TV camera man and interviewed the hostages for TV. The way it was found out that the prisoner was in there was that one of the secretary's husband showed up to pick her up and thought it was funny that the door was locked so early. So he called the police. The secretary said he saved her life and kissed him on the cheek. All the camera flashes went off but they missed the kiss, so they had her do it again. - Me and my father went back to the office and worked until 5:00 A.M. The sudden events called for an alteration in the front page news. We got some durned good pictures & the whole page was devoted to the escape. The city judge saw the lights on in the office and came in to talk to us for awhile. We took the pages to the printing center in Fort Worth, then had breakfast at a 24-hour truck stop outside town. Then went home to sleep. Bed never felt so good.

July 3 - Awoke today at 12:00 and had a sausage sandwich with catsup. What a thing to wake up to. I gagged and ate it. Then hurried to the office to roll papers. Threw some and will throw other half tomorrow. - Speaking of tomorrow, it is the 4th! I can't believe tomorrow is the fourth, already. Anyway, by this time tomorrow, I shall know for sure what happens. It brings back such sweet memories of when I met her at the picnic. I don't know how I'll feel if she is or isn't there.

July 4 - Well, now I know. It's been a rotten day. - Early, at about 6:00 I threw papers. - Got home and learned how to operate camera. - Then, we went out to Pop's. Behind us on the dirt road I saw Rita driving her red pickup. I panicked. Luckily she turned into her driveway. - Once I got there at Pop's I began to have a good time taking pictures & all, but after a while my spirits began to drag. Some girl came up there for a while. She was over 21 though. - My spirits got lower and lower. Suddenly while I was sitting restlessly on the porch with Dale, Bill, and Russell, the phone rang. It was the familiar ring of Rita's number. (Everyone out there is on a "party-line.") I eased inside & after a small self-debate I picked up the phone & heard her talking to her new boyfriend. I listened for a very short time, then hung up. Now I felt terrible. I laid down on the couch and covered my eyes. Suddenly I felt sick. I went outside and walked around in circles. At last I struck out for the pasture alone and felt sorry for myself. Went back & popped firecrackers with everyone else. This kept me occupied and happy for a short time. Finally, after the fireworks were over & done with, we went home. It was after dark and as we wound around past her house I saw the lights on inside. My only wish for now is that I'll get over this soon ...

I did eventually get over it, but not soon. My lost romance with Rita would haunt me for at least another year.

And now I turn the pages to the week of my trip to Tennesssee ...

to be continued