Rusty Mitchum

Rusty Mitchum

Kids now-a-days have got it made. Man, they’ve got everything. They’ve got laptop computers, computer games, cell phones and all sorts of gadgets. Heck, they’ve got more stuff hangin’ off their belts than Batman.

Back when I was growin’ up, the closest thing we had to a laptop computer was an Etch-a-Sketch, and all the games were in boxes, and you had to throw dice, and move pieces around a board, and junk like that.

And for a phone, we had these big ol’ heavy receivers that were attached to a cord that was attached to an even heavier phone body that also was attached to a cord which was attached to the wall. On top of all of that, you actually had to dial the numbers. You had to stick your fingertip in a hole and move it around in a circle till you hit the stop. Then you had to pull your finger out of the hole and wait until it returned to its startin’ place, and then you had to do it all over again for each number.

There wasn’t any speed dialin’, let me tell you. And the only memory you had was the one in your head. Of course, you didn’t have to memorize a lot of numbers ‘cause you didn’t have to dial the area code, and where we lived, you didn’t even have to dial the first two digits of the regular numbers.

“What’s your phone number?” someone would ask.

“2-1-8-7-8,” I’d reply, and that was it. And then they’d write it on their hand, the original Palm Pilot.

Kids now even have TV’s in their cars. You put the kid in the backseat, strap ‘em in, push in a DVD and away you go. Come to think of it, the parents have it made. I mean, my parents would have killed to have somethin’ in the back seat to keep my sister Teri and me quiet.

“Daddy, Rusty’s touching me,” Teri would say.

“Ain’t neither.”

“Yes he is.”

“No I’m not.”

“Am I goin’ to have to pull this car over?” Dad would ask

“No sir,” I’d reply.

“Daddy, Rusty’s acting like he’s going to touch me,” she said.

“Ain’t neither.”

Then the car would screech to a halt. We’d be thrown up against the back of the front seat and then down into the floorboard, because we didn’t have seat belts. Then the back door would open, a great big hand would reach in and grab my arm and I would be jerked out, and have the tar beaten out of me right there in front of everyone on the highway. Then I’d be thrown back into the back seat, the door would slam, and off we’d go.

I’d look over at Teri and she’d stick her tongue out at me, and I’d curl my lip at her.

“Daddy, Rusty’s looking at me.”

By the time we got to where ever we were goin’, my dad’s face would be about as red as my rear end.

Of course, if we went anywhere in the pickup truck, my parents didn’t have to worry with us, because we were back in the bed of the truck. That’s right! We rode in the back of the pickup. It was hot in the summer and cold in the winter and wet when it rained, but I never heard any complaints from my parents.

I know what you’re thinkin’. “Wasn’t it dangerous for a kid to be ridin’ in the back of a pick-up?” Heck yeah it was dangerous! I don’t know how many times I’ve fallen, got thrown or got pushed out of the back of a pickup. Most of those times were when we were sittin’ on the tailgate.

Now, we weren’t allowed to sit on the tailgate if we were goin’ down the highway, but if it was in the pasture or on a dirt road, we were on the tailgate. A dirt road, for you young’uns out there, is a road with no toppin’ on it. I’m sure a lot of you haven’t ever seen one, but they did exist.

Dirt roads were the best roads to travel on in a pickup truck, especially if you had two or three more kids on the tailgate with you. It was like you were in a jet airplane with the dust boilin’ up behind the truck like a vapor trail. The more dust the better.

I remember one time when my buddies Greg Hunt, Little Rusty, Wee Whoa and I were ridin’ down a dirt road on the tailgate of my dad’s truck. Oh yeah, Wee Whoa’s dog Bones was on there with us. Anywho, we were havin’ a grand time. My dad wasn’t drivin’ too fast because there were stretches of this road that had washboards on it. A washboard road, it was called. It was called this because of a bunch of rows of bumps that stretched across the road in certain places. They were sort of like mini speed bumps, only there was one right after the other. Dirt roads are famous for havin’ these, you know.

We were all sayin’ “Uhhhhh.” When you ride down a washboard road, you’d say “Uhhhhhh” and stretch it out and the bumpin’ of the road would make the Uh sound like “Uhh-hh-hh-hh-hh-hh-.” It’s really hard to explain if you’ve never done it.

Anywho, like I said, we were all uhhhin’ and then we got the bright idea to see if we could stir up some more dust. Even though there were shovels, hoes and a pair of post hole diggers in the back of the truck to drag behind to make the dust, we decided that draggin’ Wee Whoa would probably stir up as much, if not more, cause he would have two legs draggin’.

Everyone thought this was a good idea. Well, everybody except Wee Whoa, but he was outvoted. Fortunately, it was still cold enough outside, so we all had on shoes, or it might have been rough on Wee Whoa’s feet.

Greg had a hold of one of Wee Whoa’s arms and I had the other. Little Rusty kept an eye out to make sure my dad didn’t look back and see what was goin’ on. Parents can really ruin an experiment like this.

You know, you’d be surprised how much dust a little kid can make. It was goin’ along pretty good, and even Wee Whoa was enjoyin’ himself. That is until we hit another stretch of washboard road. Then things got a little hairy.

At first it was Wee Whoa’s toes that started bouncin’, but it didn’t take long for it to crawl up his legs and then to his whole body. Greg and I were hangin’ on for dear life as Wee Whoa flopped up and down. Every time he went down, our rear ends would get a little closer to the edge of the tailgate.

“Hang on Wee Whoa!” I yelled.

“No!” he yelled back. “Y’all hang on!”

Well, there wasn’t any way we were lettin’ go of him, ‘cause if we did his mother would kill us all dead. That is, after my dad killed us.

“Grab ahold!” I yelled to Little Rusty. He turned from his look out, and saw what was goin’ on, and he grabbed Greg and me by the collars of our blue jean jackets and held on. About that time, my dad hit a washout in the road. Greg and I both bounced about two feet in the air, and when we came down, the truck had already pulled out from underneath us.

You know, when somethin’ like this happens, everything seems to move in slow motion. I remember lookin’ over at Greg, and he was lookin’ at me. We both had the look of sheer terror in our eyes. Wee Whoa was up in the air over us, but we still had death grips on his arms. Little Rusty was also in the air above us with our blue jean jacket collars still in his grip.

Wee Whoa and Little Rusty collided above us; just as we hit the dirt road on our rear ends. Then they crashed down on top of us, and time started speedin’ back up. We bounced and flipped and did the dipsy-doodle, and finally came to rest in somewhat of a heap of arms, legs and other body parts.

After a second, I rolled over and looked back to see my dad’s truck disappearin’ into the dust. Bones was sittin’ on the tailgate, smilin’. Stupid dog.

We slowly untangled ourselves from the heap we were in, and took inventory of any and all injuries. There was nothin’ a little Monkey Blood wouldn’t take care of. Man, that was a blast!

You know, come to think of it. Kids now-a-days don’t have it made. We did.

Rusty Mitchum lives in New Harmony, Texas, where he writes a regular column for The Lindale News and Times. He says the only reason he writes is to keep the voices away.