Rusty Mitchum

Rusty Mitchum

As y’all know, I hate to shop. Well, I guess that’s not entirely true. I like goin’ into gun shops, and tool stores, and such. It’s the other stuff I don’t like to shop for, like clothes and stuff.

Fortunately, I have a wife who loves that sort of stuff and she keeps me fixed up. Although I don’t like to shop, I do like to order stuff. You know what I mean, out of magazines and such.

I know a lot of people order junk over the internet, and I do that too, but it’s not the same as those ads in the back of magazines. Back when I was a kid, I used to see all sorts of ads for stuff.

You know the ones I’m talkin’ about. Well, if you’re a man or a boy, you do, ‘cause the ones I’m talkin’ about were in magazines such as Boy’s Life, Field and Stream, Sports Afield, and some comic books.

Now, the only bad part about orderin’ from the back of magazines, back when I was a kid, was that it took so long for the stuff to get to you. It wasn’t like it is now where you can give them a credit card number and be done with it.

Back then, you had to send them a letter with a check or cash in the envelope, (I didn’t know what a money order was) and hope that they’d send you what they said they would. I always sent money, which wasn’t really smart, but I had no choice.

I was a little kid, and didn’t have a checkin’ account, and I couldn’t get my mom or dad to write a check for me, ‘cause they would know that I was orderin’ stuff and they wouldn’t let me do it. My philosophy has always been it’s easier to get forgiven, than it is to get permission. And so far, it has worked pretty well.

Anywho, like I said, you had to send your money in, then you had to wait for them to get your letter, and then you had to wait for what seemed like years, although it was only a few weeks, for your stuff to arrive.

If you were fortunate, the stuff was delivered durin’ summer vacation or on Saturday when you were out of school and you could retrieve it from the mailbox before your mother did. If she got it first, then you had a lot of explainin’ to do, which meant tellin’ some fibs, and stuff, which never worked ‘cause moms always know when you’re fibbin’.

I was a sucker for some of those ads, but they didn’t always turn out to be as advertised. The first thing I ever ordered was a Malayan Throwing Knife. It turned out to be a piece of junk and I bent it on the first throw.

It was a while before I ordered anything else; ‘cause the wound of bein’ suckered on the knife deal was still fresh. But then I saw an ad that I knew I had to have. X-Ray glasses. The ad was in one of my Sergeant Rock comic books.

Sergeant Rock was a tough ol’ sergeant in the army and he and his men were always gettin’ into scrapes with the enemy, and he always came out on top.

“Eat dirt chicks!” he would yell at his men when the enemy would fire at them. It was a great comic book.

Anywho, in the back of the book, was the ad about the X-ray glasses. The ad showed a guy with the glasses on lookin’ at his hand, which looked like an X-ray does with bones showin’ and all. It also showed him lookin’ at a girl and although you couldn’t see what he was seein’, he sure had a big grin on his face. Well, now I just had to have some of those glasses.

First off, I had to get a dollar, ‘cause that’s what they cost. It took me a couple of weeks of walkin’ the roads findin’ Coke bottles to redeem for the three cents they brought to gather up enough money.

“What are you going to do with all that money?” Mrs. Cope from Cope’s Country Store asked as she handed me my money. Mr. and Mrs. Cope’s Store was about a mile from my house, and they kept me supplied with BB’s and such.

“Don’t tell nobody,” I said, “but I’m gonna get me some X-ray glasses.”

“What on earth for?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “To see bones and junk, I guess.”

“Are those the ones that say you can see through people’s clothes?” asked Mr. Cope.

“Yes sir,” I said, and then thought I might not had better said anything.

“I swear,” said Mrs. Cope.

“Well, when you get ‘em, boy,” said Mr. Cope. “Bring ‘em by here and let me have a look through ‘em.”

“Yes sir,” I said. Mrs. Cope gave her husband a look that I would see a lot later in life; after I got married.

I waited until school was almost out for the summer before I sent my order in, ‘cause I wanted to be home when they came, ‘cause I knew if my mom got to the mailbox first, I’d be dead meat.

The day finally arrived. My heart started beatin’ faster when I opened the mailbox and there was a package in there addressed to Master Rusty Mitchum. That was me.

I tore open the package, and there was my new set of glasses. It was a set of plastic frames, with cardboard lenses. In the middle of the lenses were holes. In the holes were, what looked like, a bunch of pieces of thread. It didn’t look very technical to me, but what did I know, I was just a kid.

Slowly, I placed the glasses on my face and looked around. I put my hand up in front of my face like the fellow in the comic book, but I didn’t see any bones. My hand just looked kind of fuzzy. So far, no good.

I took the glasses off and thought, “I need a better test than that.” Right about then, a car stopped on the road. There was a lady drivin’ the car and she stuck her head out the window.

“Excuse me young man,” she said. “I’m in need of some directions.”

“Yes ma’am,” I said. “I’ll sure try.”

Then she opened the door and stepped out of her car. In her hand was a map. She handed me the map and said, “This is where I’m going. Am I headed in the right direction? I looked at the map, and then a thought hit me. I squinted my eyes and held the map close to my face.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m havin’ a hard time seein’. Let me put my glasses on.” I placed the X-ray glasses on my face and looked at the map. I swallowed hard and then looked at the lady. She just looked all fuzzy.

“Well!” she said indignantly.

“Ma’am?” I said.

“Your glasses,” she said.

“What about ‘em,” I said as I looked at her dress.

“They say ‘X-ray glasses’ on the lenses.”

I took them off and turned them around. I had never looked at the front of them, and sure enough, right there for all the world to see, they said “X-Ray Glasses.”

“Did you get an eyeful?” she asked.

“Uh, yes ma’am ... I mean no ma’am ... I mean ... they ain’t workin’ right ... I mean, uh,” then I sighed. “I don’t know what I mean.”

She grabbed the map, looked at me, and then smiled. She shook her head. “You are something, aren’t you?”

“Ma’am?” I asked.

Again she smiled, got in her car, and then drove away. I looked down at the glasses in my hand. Stupid glasses.

I sold them to Mr. Cope for a dollar fifty.

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.