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80 Years Ago

Archives 2001 09-19-2001

North County Lines by Bob



Preface by Robert Forsman – I hope these reflections on dying by an unknown writer helps during this time of national mourning: I Am Not There

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn‚s rain.
When you awaken in the morning‚s hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there.
I did not die.
What Is Dying?
A ship sails and I stand watching until she disappears beyond the horizon.
Someone at my side says, "She is gone."
Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all. She is as large as when I saw her. The diminished size and the loss of sight is in me, not her.
At the moment when someone at my side says, "She is gone," those on the other shore see her coming and take up a glad shout, "Here she comes!" . . . and that is dying. North County Lines

The last time my two brothers and I were together, we counted ex-wives while sitting around a fire in Mom's backyard.

Mom's neighbors seldom call the cops anymore to report our fire-building activities, unless the flames roar up past 20 feet.

When we were little, however, they couldn't wait to pick up the phone when they saw one of us burning something, no matter how small.

As the oldest, I got in trouble first for playing with fire.

After I started what the newspaper described as a Roaring Blaze on the playground, dry leaves burn fast, the principal sent me to the guidance counselor.

He wasn't overly bright, even for a guidance counselor. But he was okay. He didn't stink too much. He had most of what appeared to be his teeth. His toupee was on fairly straight. He had trouble getting to the point, though.

After asking if I was mad, if I liked school, if I dreamed about Marilyn Monroe or Brigitte Bardot, and a lot of other silly stuff, he asked why I started fires.

"How should I know?" I replied. "I'm only eight years old. Is that a picture of you and your wife or do you have a pet monkey?"

"Get out," he said. "Don't come back, ever."

But that was long ago. I'm older now. I know why I start fires. To watch the flames, like my brothers and I were doing in Mom's backyard when Eric suggested counting ex-wives. "Be interesting," he said, "to know the total number."

Ricky said, "If we can remember them all."

I said, "Wouldn't you rather hear me play my bongos?"

"No!" Eric and Ricky replied at the same time.

I never go anywhere without my bongos. In my younger days, I was known as Bongo Bob. Probably still am in some places.

"You sure you don't want me to play my bongos?" I asked.

"Yes!" Ricky and Eric replied at the same time.

Knowing they wanted me to play but were too stubborn to admit it, I started beating my bongos. Bam, bam on the smaller drum. Boom, boom on the larger drum.

Bam, boom, bam. Bam, boom boom, bam. Boom bam, boom bam boom. Better than Desi Arnez and I never married Lucille Ball.

I was getting down with Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, the girl with kaleidoscope eyes, when Ricky and Eric yelled, "Stop it!"

I was giving myself a headache, so I stopped and said, "Eric, you're the youngest, let's count your ex-wives first."

Eric said, "Let's see, there's Donna, Rebecca, Julie, Beverly, Constance, Susan."

"No," Ricky said, "I was married to Susan."

"Wrong," Eric replied, "you were married to Suzanne."

"Are you sure?" Ricky asked.

"Yep," Eric said.

"Was she short?" I asked.

"Had curly black hair. Walked sort of like a chicken."

"That was Noreen," Eric said.

"Which one of you was stupid enough to marry her?" I asked.

"You were," Ricky replied.

"I don't remember marrying a Noreen," I said.

"I'm not surprised," Ricky said.

"You met her at a Pink Floyd concert."

"That explains a lot. Did we get married in church?"

Ricky poked the fire with a stick. "Close," he said, "but no cigar. The wedding was in a biker bar."

"The Boot Hill Saloon in Daytona Beach," I said. "Had to be. That was my favorite bar back then."

"Yep," Ricky said, "the Boot Hill Saloon. Had a big reception following the wedding. Biker chicks dancing on tables. Halter tops flying in all directions. The Allman Brothers dropped by, ripped the place apart with some get-down Southern rock. Everyone was drinking Mad Dog and tequila straight from pitchers. You walked up to Gregg Allman, said, 'Totally trippin' far out, man. I've got one last silver dollar. It's yours if I can jam with you guys.' What a night. No one wanted to hear you play bongos then either."

"Sounds like I had a good time,” I said. "I wish I could remember it."

"If wishes were fishes,” Eric said, "our stringers would all be full."

Ricky nodded and opened his cooler. "What'll it be," he said, "Pepsi, Pepsi, or Pepsi?"

Eric said, "Surprise me."

I said, "Give me an R.C."

"No R.C.," Ricky said. "Pepsi, Pepsi, or Pepsi."

"I'm going inside," I said. "Be back in a few."

I was grabbing an R.C. from the refrigerator, when Mom came out of her bedroom. "You boys behaving yourselves?” she asked.

"Like angels," I said. "Want me to stay inside and play my bongos for you?"

"No!” Mom replied. "Go play with your brothers."

Stepping outside, I heard Eric say, "Don't throw gas on the fire."

"Don't worry," Ricky said. "I know what I'm doing."

Fortunately the explosion blew Ricky and Eric away from the fire. Except for scorched-off eyebrows, my brothers were uninjured.

We didn't finish counting ex-wives. But I did get to pound out Yellow Submarine for my mother's attorney while he was driving us back to Mom's after getting the arson charges dismissed.

When he stopped to let us off, I said, "Want to come inside, listen to some more of my bongo playing?"

"No!" he replied. "But if you'll promise to never play those things around me again, I won't charge your mother for defending you and your brothers this time."

And he hasn't. At least not yet.



Overton County News
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Livingston, Tennessee 38570
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