Rusty Mitchum

Rusty Mitchum

I was asked this past week by my buddy, Larry Gilley, if I would rerun his favorite story. It first appeared in the paper 15 years ago this month, but has been rerun several times as it’s one of my most requested. Anywho, here it is. Spoiler alert: It’s a two-part series.

A while back a fellow was tellin’ me about an ordeal he had to go through while he was in the hospital several years ago. He said that the worst part was takin’ an MRI. He said that bein’ in that tube almost made him panic. Then he asked me if I was claustrophobic. I told him, “Heck no. I spent half of my youth in enclosed places.” My mind instantly went back in time to when I was about 11 or 12 years old.

Back then, we lived in cardboard boxes. No, I don’t mean my family. I mean me and my buddies. You see, my Uncle Ray owned an air conditioning business, and those air conditioning units came in big cardboard boxes. Now-a-days, a central air conditioner unit comes in a box not much bigger than a big TV set, but back then the units were huge.

Uncle Ray always had empty boxes lyin’ around, and we’d confiscate them to use in all sorts of ways. We’d cut doors and windows in ‘em to make houses, or we’d turn ‘em upside down, climb in ‘em, and slide down stairs, and all sorts of stuff like that. Many a night, we’d camp out in one with as many as four kids and a dog. But that wasn’t the only thing we used the boxes for.

One night, while I was takin’ the trash out to the burn barrel, (people in the country used to burn their trash) I heard something runnin’ up behind me. Now it was dark, so that could only mean that it was either a ghost or the devil, so I dropped the trash and started to run.

“Wait!” a voice called out. Well, it wasn’t a ghost, ‘cause they don’t talk. They just yell boo. And I didn’t think it was the devil, unless he had a voice that sounded like Wee Whoa. But I wasn’t takin’ any chances. I continued to run, but I did glance over my shoulder. Sure enough, it was Wee Whoa and his dog Bones.

I know I’ve told you this before, but just in case there’s anybody out there that is new to readin’ this junk I write, I’ll tell you who Wee Whoa is.

Wee Whoa’s real name was Randy Joe. But when he was a little bitty kid, he tried to say his name and it came out Wee Whoa, and the name stuck. He was the younger brother to Little Rusty. We called Little Rusty that to distinguish him from me. He was younger, you see.

Anywho, I slowed down and turned to look at Wee Whoa. He was bent over and was breathin’ heavy.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“Come … see … big … big ….” he gasped.

“Big what?”

He stood up straight and took a big breath. “Red wasp,” he finally spit out.

Ahhhhh. Red wasp, our sworn enemy. Red wasp to us was like Lex Luthor to Superman.

Finally, Wee Whoa caught his breath enough to tell me that Little Rusty had found a large red wasp nest in a bush close to their house. He said it was the biggest nest they had ever seen. Well, I’d seen some pretty big nests in my time, and I had the scars to prove it, but I went with him.

As we approached Wee Whoa and Little Rusty’s house, I heard a shushin’ noise. It was Little Rusty behind a big tree. “Over here,” he whispered loudly, as he held his finger to his lips indicatin’ for us to be quiet. Wee Whoa and I snuck up to Little Rusty. He handed me his flashlight.

“Over there,” he pointed.

I turned on the flashlight and the beam of light hit what I thought was a hubcap. There in the bush, was the mother of all wasp nests.

“Wow!” I said quietly. “It’s huge!”

“Yeah,” said Little Rusty. “How are we gonna get it?”

I turned around with my back to the tree and slid down into a sittin’ position. “Man, I don’t know. This is gonna take some thought. “go get Coy.”

Coy was my cousin. He wasn’t any smarter than the rest of us, but between the three of us, we’d come up with something. Now, I say the three of us, because Wee Whoa was just a kid that we let hang around with us. We’d never listen to a kid.

We all ran over to Coy’s house and got him to come outside. We took him up to see the wasp nest.

“Wow!” he said.

“I said the same thing,” I informed him.

“How are we gonna get it?” he asked.

“Don’t know,” I said. “That’s why we got you. Between the three of us, I figure we’ll come up with somethin’.”

We all dropped to the ground with our backs to the tree to think.

“We could spray it with the water hose,” Little Rusty said.

“Naw,” I said. “Remember the last time we did that? We all looked like we’d been beat with a baseball bat.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot.”

“Why don’t we use an air conditionin’ box?” said Wee Whoa.

“Shut up Wee Whoa,” said Little Rusty. “We’re tryin’ to think here.”

“We could use our BB guns,” I suggested. “We could pick ‘em off one at a time.”

“That might work,” said Coy. “But if you hit that nest, they’re gonna go crazy. Plus they’d see us, and you know what’ll happen then.”

“We could do it from inside an air conditionin’ box,” said Wee Whoa.

“Didn’t I tell you to shut up,” said Little Rusty.

“Yeah, be quiet,” I said. “Thinkin’s hard enough without a little kid buttin’ in.”

“Hey, I’ve got it,” said Coy. “Why don’t we use one of my dad’s air conditionin’ boxes, and shoot at ‘em from inside it.”

“Not a bad, idea,” I said. “I’m glad I thought of it.”

“Yeah, right,” said Coy.

“But that’s what I said,” said Wee Whoa.

“Wee Whoa,” said Little Rusty. “I ain’t gonna warn you again. Be quiet.” Wee Whoa sighed heavily.

“Man, this is gonna be neat,” I said. “It’ll be just like an army tank.”

“Oooo yeah,” said Coy. “Let’s do it first thing in the mornin’ while the wasp are still sleepy.”

“Good idea,” I said.

“Let’s go ahead and get the box ready though,” Coy said, and we headed back over to his house.

We found a box and dragged it into Uncle Ray’s shop, and turned on the lights. After makin’ our plans, we each pulled out our pocket knives.

Yes, we carried pocket knives. No, we didn’t kill anybody with them. Heck, if we’d pulled a knife on somebody, our parents would have killed us. Back then it was legal for parents to do that. Anywho, after a few minutes we had our army tank completed.

To the unsuspectin’, it was an ordinary box with small gun ports cut in the side. But to us, it was heavy artillery. For the next hour, we practiced what we were gonna do.

We’d had fought this enemy before, and had not always come out on the winnin’ side. In fact, I don’t think we ever came out on the winnin’ side. But that was gonna change. We would be victorious.

Next week: The Battle of the Buzz.

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.