August of 2008
Hi gang. I just came off of the road with Jim Dandy, and while we were drivin’ down the ol’ highway headed home… we started tellin’ old high school stories of when we were kids… when we were young… when Rock was young. I wanna tell ya’ll one of these stories.
The following little tale happened to us…and others… in about the 11th grade in the grand ol’ year of 1965. Long ago.
It seems like yesterday.
I reckon we should call this little ol’ tale…
In 1965, Jim and I were in the 11th grade… as I said before. Most people don’t know it, but Jim Dandy is a pretty fair artist. He was in the local high school’s art class… and painted a few oil paintings that are still on his Mom and Dad’s wall in their Black Oak home. Nice landscapes.
I was into art, also.
I wasn’t into art class.
I loved art…but wasn’t really into painting apples, grapes, or vases.
Somehow… even though I wasn’t part of the local art class crowd… I was appointed head of the school art committee. This meant that when the school needed an art project completed for decoration and display at some school event… I was your man.
I got out of classes to do these projects for my school!
I could get friends to help me on any projects I claimed needed more than one person to complete.
Very, very cool!!
I could get them out of classes, too.
Very, very, very, very cool!!
Man! Did I have a lot of people who wanted to be my friend!
So…. I had a project to do for the school.
Every year, our school had a homecoming event the night before the BIG GAME in their basketball season. The day before the game, the kids got out of school to parade a Scarecrow… which was a symbol of the team they plan to defeat tomorrow… down the main street of Monette, Arkansas. The town turned out for this little parade event and lined the street to applaud the home team for inspiration and team spirit.
(Ain’t that pretty?!)
The Scarecrow was then marched to the school field… set on a large pile of straw and wood… and that night, with the whole town standing around watching… it was set on fire with a symbolic “burning in effigy” ceremony… which was sorta like an early curse on the opposing team.
(Ain’t that weird?!)
Some totally misguided people choose ME to build the Scarecrow. (And my friends!)
So… My brother Dannie, Jim Dandy and myself get out of classes! TO BUILD A SCARECROW! HAHAHAHA!
We first head out two miles away to Black Oak… where Jim confiscates several items of his Dad’s clothing… including a pair of expensive insulated rubber boots… pants and shirt… all of which we later got in big trouble for. We then take off for the boot heel of the Missouri state line. This little area of Missouri was only a few miles from our high school… but there, you could buy booze or fireworks… neither of which you could get in Monette or Black Oak.
We spend a goodly amount of dollars on fireworks…Cherry Bombs and M-80’s. These were the OLD M-80’s…. which were like a ¼ stick of dynamite! Ya can’t get these anymore.
We head back to school and begin to build… THE SCARECROW!
We began to put together the straw-filled man, stuffing him tight not only with the fresh hay from a large bale which was sent to us for this purpose… but we also secretly filled his insides with the massive arsenal we had purchased from our friendly out-of-state explosives dealer! Our pleasant looking fellow had a bright colored shirt on his chunky body… along with blue jeans, rubber boots, and face made out of rags with human-like features drawn on and of course… a fine straw hat! This was all built around a cross-like wooden structure with everything tied in tightly so it wouldn’t come apart while our stuffed time bomb went parading down the main street of town held up by the basketball jocks and cheerleaders, and followed by just about everyone.
(Except us, of course. We watched from a distance!)
The parade went off beautifully as planned, and everyone remarked what a fine specimen of the scarecrow family this gentleman was. (Yeah, right!) He was then paraded back to the back grounds of the school… where he given a place of honor on his five foot tall throne-like pile of seasoned firewood, straw and kindling.
Everyone, including us, went home to have our supper and await darkness when the mighty event would come to a grand finale. (Yeah, right!) It started getting dark at that time of year at about 7:30 or so, and a giant crowd of on-lookers were already in place when Jim, Dannie and myself found our hiding places in a ditch across the street and down a ways out of the line of fire! Cars were parked all around, people eating and having snacks as they watched the basketball team pouring gasoline all over the dry wood and straw mixture. The principal, Mrs. Freeman, was shaking hands with folks and talkin’ to a photographer who was there to shoot some pictures of the event for that years’ yearbook and also for the small local paper. Speeches were given and inspirational yelling for team support abounded.
We quietly hid in our ditch… wearing all black to blend in… and snickered to each other while we calmly waited.
More gas was added… and then the torch was brought out. The crowd went into a hush as the flame was tossed to the bottom of the giant pile of wood… and with a great WOOSH… it burst into bright tendrils of red and yellow fire! As tall as the pile of wood was, it took several minutes of whispers and oohs and ahhs and clapping and yelling before the conflagration reached our homemade friend. Everyone was singing and laughing and smiling as the heat trails started coming out of the jeans of the straw man… and as the rubber boots started to melt into puddles of ooze and a cloud of black smoke.
We ducked down even lower.
The photographer closed in on the flaming man for a better shot… when suddenly… BOOM! Boom, Boom, Boom!! Straw legs were being blown literally apart! Giant hunks of firewood were propelled 30 feet away to land on the hoods of unfortunate automobiles! The singing and laughing turn into screaming and yelling as the sounds of World War III erupted from the bonfire! The basketball team was pissed off and cussing up a storm… most of the rest of the school realized what was going on and were rollin’ around on the lawn laughing their ass off while looking for the three of us to give hearty congratulations! The photographer just kept on shooting pictures while the bits of flying debris scattered the area.
The only person who didn’t move was… the principal! She did NOT look happy… and kept scanning the area for the three hooligans who had turned this solemn ceremony into a laugh riot! “I KNOW YOU’RE OUT THERE SOMEWHERE!” she yelled to the entire countryside! This made the students laugh even harder!
We picked this time to sneak silently away into the night.
The next day, we went back to classes to find out we’d turned in to cult heroes! The kids loved it! By now… a day later… even the basketball team thought it was pretty funny! We managed to go almost the whole day without running into Mrs. Freeman, and by that afternoon… the local paper had come out. It seemed that we had turned ” a normally hum-drum annual event into quite a shindig!” By the time I finally talked to the principal, I received a smile and a polite, “Tell me next time you plan a caper like this so we can park farther away!”
At the end of that year, the Monette High School yearbook had pictures of all of the big events of the year… including one page with two pictures of the pre-homecoming celebration.
One picture showed the captain of the basketball team gently lighting the bonfire with a flaming torch.
The other pictures was a grand ol’ shot of the crowd screaming in the background as the scarecrow’s head was violently being blown off into space at high velocity!
Man! That was a great year!
Well, there’s another tale about the scallywags who grew up to be Black Oak Arkansas! I hope ya’ll enjoyed it, and I hope ya’ll will tune in here next time for another yarn about the many strange events that can happen to a bunch of guys coming out of a supposedly normal environment called…Arkansas! (Yeah, right!)