Friday, May 6, 2011

John Mattox and the Big Date

 Crockett is a typical small Texas town where football is king. When the season is over there isn't much to do on Friday night except drive around the square, talk about girls and stop at the Dairy Queen once an hour to get another Coke and talk to other people who have nothing to do either.
John Mattox and I were both trainers for the football team throughout our years in high school. The term "trainer" was used mostly to try to give us a little bit of self-esteem. It was pretty much a thankless job and we put in long hours. We washed the uniforms, took care of the equipment and cleaned and mopped the locker room and offices. We were always the first ones there and the last ones to leave. "Training" never entered into the job description. On Saturday mornings when the football players were at the local barbershop talking about the game of the previous night with all the old ex-players from years past, John and I were at the field house washing dirty uniforms from the night before and preparing things for practice on Monday. When the season was over I couldn't wait to get back on the streets on Friday night and drive around. John just couldn't get enough, so he was the trainer for the basketball team too.
It was early December and basketball season was underway. The Bulldogs had a couple of home games in a row. Eugene May, Charlie Jackson and I decided to go to the game on Tuesday night for lack of anything else to do. The crowd was small since it was a school night, and we were sitting near some girls trying to strike up a conversation. One of the girls was Debbie Williams from Pennington, Texas, which is about fifteen miles from Crockett. She was sitting with two other girls from the Pennington area. We heard her say she would like to attend the game to be played Friday night, but she didn't have a ride home. The other girls weren't going to be able to attend. Debbie was a sweet and pretty girl and everyone liked her. All the Pennington girls left shortly afterward and we never talked to them.
When the game was over we stayed around for a few minutes and visited with John. He had seen us sitting in the stands, so he asked us what we said to the girls. We told him we really didn't talk to them at all. He mentioned what a nice girl Debbie Williams was and how he wished he had the guts to ask her out. We told him she wanted to go to the upcoming game but didn't have a ride home. We suggested he offer her a ride after the game and maybe things might develop from there. He said he was afraid she might say no, but we kept encouraging him, and he finally said he would do it.
Never ones to pass up a chance to make someone's life a living hell, we started thinking about what we could do to John if he went through with his plan. We couldn't let him have a nice time without interfering. A scheme quickly developed.
We cornered John at school the next day, planning to pressure him into offering Debbie a ride home before he chickened out. Surprisingly, he had already asked her and she gratefully accepted. He was in hog heaven. We moved on to phase two.
Several times over the next couple of days, we got together with John and told him that he was a complete chickenshit if he didn't take her parking on the way to her house. He balked at the suggestion, so we resorted to offering him money. We each came up with five dollars - fifteen dollars was a lot of money to run around on at the time. John began to get suspicious and asked why we wanted him to take her parking so bad. We said it was because we wanted him to have a good time. He actually believed it. We also promised we wouldn't interfere in any manner, and he believed that also. We should have sold him a bridge while we had him going.
Ten miles out on the road to Pennington was the little community of Shady Grove. There was an old country church just off the highway, but there were no houses close by. Across the highway from the church, a small dirt road went through the trees for a couple of miles before it came to a dead end in a heavily wooded area. Eugene and I had been down it several times because some friends of ours had a deer lease at the end of the road. There was only one way in and out, which fit into our plan perfectly.
We knew John's first excuse would be that he didn't know where to take her. We suggested the dirt road and told him it was right on the way to Debbie's house. He then asked how we would know if he really did it. We told him to get out of his car and write his name in the dirt by the gate going into the deer lease. Eugene said he was going to drive out there just before dark on Friday to be sure John didn't sneak out there and write his name prior to the date.
Friday night the three of us went to the basketball game. John was a little nervous, because for some reason he thought we might follow him. We made sure he saw us leave immediately after the game. Since he was the trainer, he had to stay around for half an hour to be sure everyone was gone and lock up the gym. That gave us a few minutes to get ready.
It was cold and windy when we left the school in Eugene's pickup. There was a small grocery store nearby. We planned to buy four dozen eggs for our night of fun, but the store closed at 9 p.m., and we missed it by about five minutes. We had to dash across town to a little convenience store and pay twice the normal price for them, but at least we were finally armed and ready. We were a couple of miles down the Pennington highway when Eugene realized he had forgotten to buy any gasoline. His truck was a gas hog and it was running on fumes, so we had to return to town.
With all the unplanned delays we were running nearly an hour behind schedule. We drove top speed to Pennington, hoping to catch John before he got to Debbie's house. We never saw another vehicle for fifteen miles, but the porch light was on at Debbie's house. We hoped she and John might have gotten a late start and could still be in town. We headed for Crockett to see if we could find them. We had to do something with the four cartons of eggs in the seat.
As we passed through Shady Grove, it seemed like a good idea to drive down the dirt road just to cover all the possibilities. It was likely John had already taken Debbie home and nobody turned off the light. We had pretty much given up on the idea of finding them. As we rounded the final turn before the road ended at the gate into the lease, our headlights caught sight of John's car. John was squatting down and writing in the dirt with a stick. He looked frightened when our lights hit him, but then he recognized the truck. He started waving and laughing, and was about to walk over to us when an egg missed his ear by about an inch. He yelled "Oh shit!" and jumped back into his car. We thought he was blocked in, but he hit the gas and flew right by us. By the time we turned around and began pursuit he was long gone and we were choking on his dust. When we got back to the highway we could see his lights and he was heading for Pennington in a flash.
We drove across the highway and parked near the old church. There was no moon that night so it was very dark. We still had forty-seven eggs to do something with. It was getting late and John would surely be coming back soon. Not wanting to accidentally egg a strange car and run the risk of getting shot, it was decided that Eugene would walk down the road in the direction of Pennington and try to spot John on his return trip. He went about fifty yards away and stood a short distance from the pavement. Charlie and I had the eggs in front of us and were ready to attack.
Fifteen minutes went by and all was quiet. Not a single car had passed. To break the monotony, Charlie decided to give Eugene a little scare. Bear in mind that it was black dark and we couldn't see a thing. Charlie turned in the general direction Eugene had walked and threw an egg into the night. Two seconds later we heard "You bastards!" It had been a direct hit. At least we would have one story to tell if we missed John.
Eugene was making threats when a pair of headlights came into view. Charlie and I got ready. As the car passed Eugene he yelled, "It's him!" We drew back to throw when we heard "No! Wait!" John drove by us while we stood there undecided. We were tempted to toss the rest of the eggs in the Eugene's direction.
We piled into the pickup and took off in hopes of catching up with John. We drove up behind him about five miles down the road. There was a big spotlight in the truck with a large red blinking light on one end. I turned it on and placed it on the dash. Charlie blinked the headlights a couple of times and John began slowing down, thinking he was being pulled over by a state trooper. While we were slowing down, Eugene climbed through the window and into the bed of the truck. I passed the four cartons of eggs back to him.
John began to pull off of the road, still not realizing it was us so close on his bumper. Charlie drove around him and came to a rolling stop. John recognized us and started to get out of his car. He was grinning like a jackass eating briars. It was obvious he had enjoyed his date. Eugene started firing eggs onto the windshield just as John opened his door. John shut the door and hit the gas in hopes of getting around us quickly. Charlie was way ahead of him and bolted forward at the same time. The sudden lurch threw Eugene off his feet and into the tailgate of the pickup. The eggs he was holding broke when he hit the bed and he was a mess. He got up quickly and continued tossing eggs onto the car. After about thirty seconds the windshield of the car was a mass of mushy egg goo. John turned on the wipers and it only made it worse. He rolled down his window and hung his head out to keep from running off the road. Each time the wipers went to the drivers side he would get a bunch of egg in the face. He was forced to stop the car to keep from having a wreck.
Eugene was out of eggs, so we pulled off the road in front of John. He jumped out of his car and started running in our direction. We looked carefully for a gun or a club just in case he planned to retaliate. Surprisingly he was laughing! He was thanking us for making the bet with him! We couldn't believe our ears.
It seems John told Debbie all about the bet as soon as she got in his car. She was all for helping him get his money. The basketball coach had let John leave immediately after the game. He and Debbie had gone by the Dairy Queen for a Coke, then headed for Pennington. They were already out of town before we bought the eggs. John found the road with no trouble and drove to the end. He and Debbie sat and talked for a few minutes, then kissed for a few minutes. After that he felt indebted to us no matter what else came to pass. Getting his car egged was a small price to pay as far as he was concerned. He kept saying, "Damn! I've discovered women!"
After being thanked for a few minutes, we reminded John what egg would do to the paint job of his car if it didn't get washed off pretty soon. The car belonged to his dad, who wouldn't be nearly as appreciative of our efforts as John was. We helped John wash the goo off his windshield and told him to meet us at the carwash. We pulled away and John was following.
Charlie was still driving the pickup, me in the middle, and Eugene by the door. John no doubt was starting to worry about the possible damage to the car, so he decided to pass us and get to the car wash asap. At that moment Eugene found one last egg in the seat we all somehow had missed. As John drew even with the pickup Eugene decided to throw the egg across the cab and out the window. Clearly he hadn't given it a lot of thought, and Charlie had no advance notice. The egg splattered against the window and all over Charlie, who was pissed off to say the least.
“May, dammit! What in the hell are you doing?” he yelled.
Eugene started laughing and said, “I guess I forgot the window was up.”
Charlie was fuming and Eugene and I were laughing.
We caught up with John at the car wash. He'd just finished one cycle and the car was still a mess. We paid for two more washes and it finally did the trick.
John was in a great mood. He thanked us again before we all went home. It was a night of fun, adventure, and a good story to tell for the five dollar investment.

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