I have begun to believe my mind is full of tiny little topics that act like pimples.

No one can predict the order they start to fester in, or when they’ll get ripe and burst.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

A Christmas to Remember

A Christmas to Remember

In the fall of 1982, my wife Patti and I left Cincinnati and headed for Florida. Over the summer I had rebuilt a 1950 Howard English Caravan Travel Trailer we bought for $350 and pulled out of a hillside. One day we climbed into our monster gas guzzling 1972 Cadillac Sedan de Ville, hooked up to the Blue Goose as we had named her and headed out into the wild blue yonder.

 We stopped overnight in Newport, Kentucky because of a blown tire on the Goose and then in the morning we stocked up. Hey! It’s Kentucky: Cheapest cigarettes and booze in the nation. We stuck 35 cartons of cigs and 30 six packs of beer under the bed and took off again and finally landed in St. Petersburg, Fla.  where we took up residence in the Holiday Trailer Park. We got lucky and landed a spot right next to the Community Hall with access to wash rooms and settled in for the winter.

Things got rough: no work!  The job I had been offered disappeared with a drop in the phosphate market. Florida is a right to work state (no unions) and competition is terrible for what is available given the number of snowbirds that hit every September. This creates a situation where before you can even be considered for a good permanent job by any employer you are required to have one year of residency, a Florida Drivers License and a phone number. Things were really desperate by the end of November but Patti got lucky and found us both a job at Orange Blossom Groves. It was hard manual work packing citrus fruit. Christmas presents to the North by the tourists but it saved our bacon. 21 days straight of 12-14 hour days, minimum wage but overtime no problem and the owners and management treated us well.

Shortly after we arrived, we had renewed an acquaintance with Tara, the daughter of John, our drunken neighbour from next door in Cincinnati. She was living in Clearwater with her Kentucky hillbilly boyfriend, Jim Bob, and they undertook the task of showing us the local amusements that could be afforded by poor white trash. There wasn't much, but there was salt-water fishing and no license was required. One night in late October we arranged to go fishing off the pier at Clearwater. This juts out a couple of hundred feet into the Inland Waterway off Clearwater beach and the water at most might be 15-20' deep. Patti and I both had fishing rods, and guided by Tara and Jim Bob's supposed expertise on what we should use for bait, we bought a bucket of shrimp and went down to the end of the pier with them one night just after dark at high tide. Tara, Patti and I baited up our hooks and waited for Jim Bob to appear with his gear.

He was a long time coming but eventually he showed up with a short fishing rod about 5' long and 1/2" in diameter with a huge reel on it loaded with what seemed to be about 80 or 100 pound test line. He proceeded to string on about a 6 foot stainless steel leader, a huge hook, and baited it with a half a chicken, and fired it out about 50' and sat down to wait for a nibble. Given the fishing expertise he professed to have this aroused my curiosity and I asked him " What the hell are you going to catch with that rig, Jim Bob?" and he calmly replied, "Well I'm fed up tryin' to ketch those little buggers so I'm goin' to catch me a shark!". Things went downhill from there.

We stayed at Holiday Campground until the end of December. We had planned on staying the whole winter but a combination of hillbilly temper and old family rivalry upset these plans and we got our asses tossed out of the park. The day before Christmas, we invited Tara and Jim Bob over to our place for a Christmas dinner. They arrived accompanied by Jim Bob's younger brother, Don, his girl friend, and an adequate supply of beer and smokin' dope. The day was a beautiful 85 degrees and we spent the whole afternoon getting progressively more and more stoned and in general having a real good time while the bird cooked.

After supper we sat outside in the gathering dust, full bellied and content, and watched the faithful old fogeys in the park slowly file into the Community Hall across the way for vespers on Christmas evening. Somehow Jim Bob and I got into a wrestling match on the front lawn to determine who was the better at the game. It took me a while to pin him and we made a fair bit of noise that aroused the further attention of the Peaceable Kingdom crew at their church service.

After I managed to subdue Jim Bob, we relaxed with a few more beer, until suddenly Jim Bob's brother insisted that he have a match to see who was the better man in the family. This turned out to be a fairly even match and it went on for some time. As it progressed it got more and more violent and noisy and near it's conclusion Don was shouting "Mom always did like you better than me!!" and the fight was on in earnest. Punches, kicks, and a whole lot of very loud profanity followed and once again drew the attention of the churchgoers across the street, and they sent Art, the geriatric campground watchdog over to investigate and restore quiet so they could continue their service.

Just as Jim Bob finally won the bout and stood over his brother in the encroaching darkness, Art, the ancient caretaker for the park, arrived on the scene. He noticed Jim Bob had dropped his wallet during the fight, picked it up, and approached Jim Bob from behind. As Jim Bob turned towards him, Art tapped him on the shoulder and thrust his wallet out in front of him directly into Jim Bob's face. On instinct Jim Bob parried the blow he thought was coming and retaliated by throwing a super right cross that caught Art right in the eye and sent him over backwards onto his ass. The shit hit the fan.

Art was helped away by a couple of his fellow churchgoers, and our company, deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, piled into their pickup truck and roared out of the park. Unfortunately Jim Bob let Tara drive, and before they got off the property, she managed to knock down a telephone pole that carried power for half of the park. By midnight, the action was all over. We had been visited by the park manager, hollered and chewed out, our tenancy voided, and we had been asked to leave. It surely was an evening to remember.
One of the most fun ever: shit disturbing the neighbours!
What a night!