Skippy never had a plan B because he always expected his plan A to work. He functioned on the periphery where most kids his age didn’t even think to look, me neither. But he couldn’t forever control unexpected outside interferences.
When he was seventeen, he erected a New Year’s firecracker business at the corner of 3rd Street and French in Temple, near the high school and next door to Smith’s Drug Store. His good friend, Leroy Calhoun, who had a few bucks saved up, became his partner.
School was out for the holidays, but all the kids still were hanging around the social soda fountain at Smith’s, and waving past the firecracker stand.
The second day a couple of giggling girls walked up to flirt with the two enterprising business men. One purchased a fuse bomb, lit it, and tossed it over the counter at Leroy, thinking it would be a fun joke. Except that the dangerous apparatus landed on some Areal Bombettes, which promptly detonated with a furious ricocheting blast that was heard clear down to the cemetery, two miles distant. The entire store inventory of holiday explosives joined in the mighty discharge. A local newspaper reporter noted that a box of dung fuse-lighters landed over by the school gymnasium.
Both Skippy and Leroy, with hairs afire, were blown onto the 3rd Street yellow center stripe. One observer lamented that tires were screeching as speeding cars careened through the burning debris and secondary explosions, trying to dodge human bodies and dangerous burning devices.
The first I knew about it was when my father yelled, “Quick, Bubba, get in the car, Skippy’s been blown up.” When he saw us walk into the hospital room his face lit up with a wide grin. It was easy to see how proud he was. But what a pitiful sight, with a blackened face, and bandages covering his body. Father just shook his head as if to say, “Well, at least he’s still alive.”
After a few minutes, Irene Vance, who was Skippy’s girlfriend, entered the room with her cousin, whom I had not met. Her name was Peggy Jean Proctor.
I don’t remember what happened to the two giggling girls, but I suspect they stopped giggling at the first flash. Skippy recovered and married Irene. Peggy and I started dating and were married eight years later. That was sixty-one years ago and almost nothing has changed, except Peggy has gotten prettier and I’ve gotten older, which must be one of Madam Nature’s major design deficiencies.
Forrest, Peggy, Irene, Skippy in back, Donnie and June
Poor Leroy Calhoun was classified 4F as a result of the firecracker episode, and it prevented him from being drafted during the Korean War.
I’ve jammed a lot of oral history in these 515 words, but I’ve also left out a few things. Skippy trampled the grass around some pretty interesting events during his fifty years, and I was a tag-along observer with him for my share. I don’t know who decided that we can’t go back and do it all over again, but I don’t subscribe to it. Can anyone help me?
Skippy on Silver