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Richie and Me, part 6



One night Richie and I were sitting in the big Olds 88 listening to the radio when a guy probably in his 30s walked up to the car and said, “Hotley, I hear you think you’ve got a hot car”.

Richie sitting prominently on his law book, turned and said, “I don’t know.  What do you think?”

Can you imagine some guy in his 30’s hanging around a Rec Center populated mostly by 13-15 year old teenagers?

The man who I got to know later while working at Brior Auto Parts owned a logging company in Wilcox County. He was driving the biggest Pontiac that was made in the 50s.

It was that year’s highly favorable grey and pink. There was probably some really masculine name for that pink but it was pink. It was the size of a battleship on the highway.

He wanted to drag race Richie. I was speechless. Here was some loud mouth 30+ year old man asking a 15-year old to drag race him. Drag racing among drivers at the time was big in racing and in the movies.

The movie ‘Thunder Road’ with Robert Mitchum had just been released showing moonshiners outrunning the police.  James Dean’s ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ was still in our minds.

Mr. Big Mouth suggested our going to Foster Flats which is east of Greenville on Highway 10 just past Mr. Foster’s store.  There was at least a quarter of a mile of a straight stretch there for a really good drag race.

I said, “Richie, you’re 15 years old, that guy’s 30 years old, you don’t have to do this.”  He said, “Aw I don’t know. Let’s go see what happens.”

Go see what happens! There are two things, one, we can live but never be able to tell about it or two, we can die.

We drove out past Mr. Foster’s store maybe a half mile. We were to turn around and pull up beside each other.

Big mouth had a passenger who would count to three and we would race. I told Richie that when we turned around to be sure to get into the right lane so if we met a car coming our way at least we would be in the safe lane.

We pulled up beside each other, Mr. Big Mouth yelled something derogatory at Richie about his dust, they both revved their motors with a foot on the brake, the count was down and we were off.

Both cars were roaring from the start, Richie held it straight in the road and we finished a half of a hood ahead of Mr. Big Mouth.

When we came to the curve west of Foster’s Store, he fell in behind us and we never saw him again.  Never, not ever!

Beaten by a 15-year old! Not even old enough to drive! And we never told anybody! Probably tells you something about the challenges Richie would take on.

For some reason I cannot explain, with all of the pretty girls in Greenville, Richie and I started dating girls in Georgiana.

Through relatives, he was the first to meet a pretty, outgoing young lady who was the head cheerleader.

A week or so later she introduced me to her best friend. We were still fifteen but Richie was driving anywhere he wanted and not always at the speed limit.

Georgiana was 18 miles away down U.S. 31 (no interstate then) and both girls lived on the opposite side of Georgiana. Our goal was to get there in 15 minutes.

It was the summertime so we were not limited to weekend dating. One afternoon after Babe Ruth baseball practice, we headed to Georgiana to pick up our girlfriends.

At a little past Betty Boggan’s house we came up behind Mr. Connie Justice in another Pontiac road hog.

Mr. Justice was the pharmacist and owned the drugstore in Georgiana. Joe, his son, was the catcher on the Cardinals in the Babe Ruth League.

Mr. Justice was a lot of fun and had a little bit of a reputation for driving fast between the two cities to get Joe and a couple of other friends, Harold Young and Lynn Harold Watson, to and from practice and the games.

Harold and Lynn Harold were on the Cardinals, too, for ease of transportation. Richie was smiling that little devilish smile he would get when he was about to do something he shouldn’t do.

I said, “Richie, don’t do it. Mr. Justice has a reputation for driving fast. If you pass him it will be all over Georgiana and Greenville in a week.”  I waved as we flew by.

It was truly the time of Mayberry. When I took my date home at night, her mother would be sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch.

She would say, “Y’all come on up and join me. Sit in the swing. Even at that I felt I might be sitting too close but there weren’t a lot of alternatives.

She began with, “Where did y’all go?  What did y’all do?  How was the movie? What was it about?”

I had a sneaking suspicion that we better know all of the answers.  After this small chat she would say, “Now Honey, you come in, in a minute, okay”.  And she did! (to be cont.)

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