During high school (way back in the sixties), a couple of friends and I would spend our Georgia summers at my grandpa’s old cabin on Tybee Island near Savannah. Joker, Goat and I (Knot Head) were typical teenagers, spending our time dreaming of fast cars and faster women, but all we had was a $100 pick-up truck and our dreams. Those halcyon days of sand dunes and sea oats were fast coming to an end for us, but those summers seemed to last forever. Our amusements tended to consist of whatever we could come up with on a very limited budget. Joker concocted funny stunts to pull, Goat collected articles and pictures of GTOs, and I practiced tying knots (still do–I’m easily amused). One of our favorite things to do was to take Gramp’s dinky jon-boat down to the shore. Using an old net we would try to catch some fish. This is probably illegal now–maybe it was then–but it was a different time and we were still innocents, although we didn’t think so at the time.
Joker had an acne problem (sound familiar?) and, in the middle of his chest he had a quite large and nasty looking pimple. This was the inspiration for one of his better stunts. Whenever we pulled up the net, a crowd of tourists (landlubbers mostly) would come running down the beach to see what we had dragged in. Sometimes we would get a small manta ray among our catches. So, Joker (he prefers that I use his nickname to protect his anonymity) decided to hold the manta to his chest while pretending that he was trying to rip it off (mantas don’t sting) and while it was writhing around he would run screaming onto the beach between the tourists and yell, “Get it off! Get it off! It’s poisoning me!” Then, after flinging the manta back into the water, he would flop down on the sand and go into mock convulsions. After a few of these rehearsals, Goat and I came up with a stunt, but we neglected to inform Joker of our plan. When he went into his mock convulsions, we grabbed his arms and legs and pinned him down while yelling, “He’s going into shock! Quick! For God’s sake, somebody please urinate on him, it will counteract the poison!” He managed to get out a, “No, no, I….” before we clamped his eyes and mouth shut while a group of beer drinking GIs from Fort Stewart enthusiastically applied the ‘Golden Shower Treatment’.
The lubbers must have thought it was a miracle cure because of how he quickly recovered. Goat and I also got a little splashed on us, but it was worth it to see how mad Joker was as he chased us down the beach. Thankfully, the ocean was close and we were able to rinse off easily. Goat and I never told anyone back home about that day.
It was our last summer together on Tybee. We graduated the following year and joined the Army so that we could have some adventure (I told you we were innocents). Joker was put behind a typewriter in Washington, I was put in the motor pool in Germany and Goat went on a senior trip to Southeast Asia and never came back. After some time Joker returned and went to college on the GI bill and I went to work in Dad’s garage. Joker must have learned something in D.C. because he started an accounting firm after college and became ultra-successful by having several major defense contractors as clients.
Two years ago, shortly before she died, Goat’s mom heard I had bought an old, nearly ruined, GTO to restore, and she came by the garage to give me the foot locker full of car articles and pictures her son had collected. She said she figured they would just be thrown in the trash when she died and no one would remember her only boy. I told her that he would be remembered every day as long as I was alive. This widow lady, who had taught elementary school, went in and sat in that nasty old car and talked for hours about her memories of us and how much she still missed Goat (she used his real name). You would have had to have known what she was like when we were young (her ketchup bottle had a silver holder and the holder sat on a doily, never directly on the table) to appreciate what a sight that was.
Joker is now a solid, sober, ‘Pillar of the Community’ type, but I can still get a look, a raised eyebrow and a wry smile out of him whenever he returns to our small hometown to visit and I refer to him as our “Golden Boy.”
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