Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Trailer Trash Adventures

In September of 1972 Paul Craycraft and I rented a two bedroom trailer in the Virginia Avenue Trailer Park in Nacogdoches. We had lived in the dorm at Stephen F. Austin the previous year, and now it was time to assert our independence. Living in the dorm and eating meals in the cafeteria was the closest either of us had ever been to living on our own.
After registering for classes on our first day of living in the tornado magnet (the trailer for those of you not from Texas), we realized we hadn't bought any food. That was understandable considering neither of us had cooked much of anything in our lives. We decided to put it off for at least a day and go have a gourmet foot long chili dog at the Sonic.
We sat in Paul's Trans Am eating supper and watching other students circling through. We were pretty sure a carload of beautiful girls would recognize us as being independent studs with our own place and beg to go home with us.
A car pulled up beside us and someone called out to Paul. It was Robert Gayle, Paul's next door neighbor in Crockett. Robert was several years older than us. He had graduated from Texas A&M a couple of years earlier and was working as a salesman. We visited with him for a few minutes, and just before he left he asked if we needed anything? Paul said some beer would be nice. The legal age to buy alcohol was 21 at the time, and we were nowhere near it. Robert drove across the street and bought us a case of beer; something cheap. He then wished us well and went on his way. We headed back to the trailer with our adult beverages.
Up to that point in my life I had consumed a total of one can of beer, and I didn't finish it. Paul wasn't exactly an expert either. Robert got us a cold case, so it was ready for consumption when we got home. We pulled up two chairs and placed the case of beer on the floor between us, turned on Monday Night Football and started drinking.
Whether it is tea, water or Coca-Cola, I have always drank it fast and have never slowly sipped anything. I consumed the beer that night in similar fashion. I woofed down six in a short period of time, then settled back to enjoy the game. Paul went to bed shortly afterward. I don't know how many he had because by that time the case was pretty much a blur. Paul wasn't real clear either.
Twenty minutes after the last beer I had to pee in the worst way. When I stood up I knew things weren't right. I somehow was able to get to the bathroom and pee in the correct facility. Then, being the football fan that I am, I headed back to finish watching the game. Just before reaching my chair I dropped to my knees and knew I was about to blow chunks. There was no way I could make a return trip to the bathroom, but the front door was only three feet away. I lunged for the door and got it open. I fell forward and ended up with my head hanging over the steps. I threw up continuously for a few minutes then fell asleep. The next thing I remembered was Eugene May and John Harold Allen driving up the next morning. The sight of our steps nearly made them puke. I swore if I didn't die that day I would never drink another beer, and I kept that promise for several weeks.
When Paul and I actually went grocery shopping we made the mistake of buying a lot of things that had to be cooked. Our experience to that point in our lives was making bologna and cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Sometime that fall we bought a dozen eggs. All either of us had ever done with an egg was throw it at someone. The carton did look good in the refrigerator, and people who didn't know us thought we knew how to prepare them.
Our Mothers had made sure we had pots, pans, dishes and silverware for our kitchen. Maybe that is why we made a few feeble attempts to cook in the first few weeks. We usually ended up going to the Sonic or some other fast food place, or just tossing a tv dinner in the oven. This was before the microwave, so even cooking a tv dinner was a pain in the ass.
We had a deep double sink in the kitchen that we filled with dirty dishes and pans within the first couple of weeks. Neither of us had considered that they would eventually need to be washed. Once that fact sunk in we started using paper plates and plastic knives and forks that could be thrown away after each use. After both sinks were filled with utensils we filled them to the top with water and let them soak. We would check them periodically to see if they were clean. After two months they were starting to look better. When a thick layer of scum would form on top of the water we would drain the old water out and fill it back up. One of us would squirt a shot of dish soap into each sink once or twice a day. This is a method I believe in to this day, but my wife refuses to let dishes sit for days until they clean themselves.
We never got around to buying a trash can for the kitchen. It was much easier to double up grocery sacks and toss in the trash. When a bag filled up we would put another bag next to it. After a few days there were so many bags side by side we didn't have to be very accurate. We could toss trash in the general direction of the corner and it would stick on top of a bag somewhere.
Needless to say, our friends who visited us on a regular basis began to call us pigs and seemed to actually be concerned for their health when they were there. As for the pile of trash, we started spraying it with Lysol twice a day to keep it sanitary. This was much easier than putting it out to be picked up, and we were used to the smell by then.
Before our trailer was put on the list of federal hazardous waste sites we got lucky. A friend of Paul's wanted to know if some friends of hers who were going to be visiting could stay in our trailer over the weekend? She knew we always went back to Crockett on Friday night so we could cruise the strip and try to impress everyone since we were in college. We told her it was fine with us, but the place might need a little cleaning. She said it wouldn't be a problem. Paul gave her his key on Friday morning. When we returned Sunday evening the place was spotless. The dishes and pans were washed and put away, the floors swept and mopped, and all the trash was gone. She called us later to first thank us for the use of the trailer, then to tell us what pigs we were and that we were going to catch something and die if we continued to live like that. We never let it get that bad again.
Our friend Bruce Bennett was a freshman at the University of Texas in the fall of 1972. He was pledging a fraternity and was involved in a lot of activities. Every now and then they would have a match party with a sorority. This would ensure everyone would have a date. The girls pledging the sorority would have to go with the person they were set up with, and were duty bound to act like they enjoyed it. Bruce invited Paul and I down to a couple of parties and we had a blast. It was our chance to be in the company of and be seen with a pretty freshman coed, even if they were being forced to be with us. We didn't care if they would rather have their eyeballs plucked out with a spoon, we had a good time. Our account of the party would be greatly enhanced when we got back to Nacogdoches.
In late March of 1973 the University of Texas was out for spring break, so Bruce drove up to visit us for a couple of days. We asked him what kinds of things he had to go through for his fraternity initiation in January? Initiation week had been marked by a rare snowstorm, which had covered most of the state of Texas for a couple of days.
Bruce said it hadn't been that bad. They had to go outside in the snow, clad in only their underwear and do exercises. They were made to eat butter and baby food and gargle raw eggs. He said the baby food was the worst part. I said gargling the eggs sounded far worse.
While Bruce was relating his experiences we were all drinking beer. I was sipping mine slowly having learned a valuable lesson. When we started rating the initiation events on their degree of revulsion, Paul and I both voted for the raw egg gargling. Bruce said it was by far the easiest. He said he would gargle one for us right then if we had any eggs. We still had the original carton that had never been opened.
Bruce took a drink of beer, then cracked open the egg and dumped the contents into his mouth. He gargled for a few seconds and foamy egg bubbles came out of his mouth. He then swallowed it, took another sip of beer and said "See, nothing to it."
Paul declined to try it, so I was next. I stood in front of the sink in case I decided to spit it out. I cracked the shell and emptied it into my mouth. I gargled a few seconds, then swallowed. It slipped down my throat faster than warm snot. It wasn't nearly as sickening as I had envisioned.
After another beer I decided it was time to gargle another egg. I retrieved one from the carton in the refrigerator and stood in front of the sink once again. I cracked the egg, held it over my mouth and split it apart so the contents could drop into my mouth. With my head back and my mouth open I could barely see the egg as it came open. For a split second before it dropped I saw a black blob falling from the shell. A horrific smell also hit my nose, but all this happened too fast for me to react. A couple of beers had no doubt slowed my reflexes a bit.
The black stinky mass of rotten egg landed squarely in my mouth. It was the most disgusting thing I'd ever seen or smelled in my life. I immediately spit it into the sink. I ran for the bathroom and began to rinse my mouth out with Lysterine.
For the next fifteen minutes I alternated between intense teeth brushing and rinsing with mouthwash. My gums were bleeding when I finally stopped and returned to the kitchen. Paul and Bruce were nearly sick, but they were sick from laughing.
There were many other things that happened while we were in the trailer. Once our pipes froze, so we crawled under the trailer and poured whiskey on them, then set them on fire. Fortunately we didn't burn the trailer down. We put some ground meat in a can and hooked up an extension cord to it so we could shock the dog that kept getting into our trash. The dog got away with the meat after letting out a single yelp, and we blew all the breakers in the trailer.
We moved out at the end of the spring semester. Our parents never thought it was a good idea for us to live together. They weren't that concerned about us individually, but they always thought together we were dangerous. They were probably right.


  1. You know, I read this story years ago, and apparently I forgot some of the details. Setting pipes on fire with whiskey? Really?

    I'm lucky I was ever born.

  2. And...you are fairly well adjusted, all things considered.