Humor Non-Fiction posted February 17, 2012


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Reflections of a summer long ago

Nothing But The News

by bhogg

My brother once asked me why I enjoyed spending the summer with my grandparents in LaGrange, Georgia. According to him, "Nothing ever happens there." Too bad he wasn't there with me the summer of 1960. My grandfather made the local newspaper three times in one week.

As a bit of background, LaGrange is a small town in Midwest Georgia. The population is about 25,000. Like many Southern towns, it was built around textiles and agriculture. My grandparents lived in the middle of Grandma's old home place. It was once a large cotton farm, but over time had been whittled down to about 200 acres. In the summer of 1960, they still did a little farming, but my grandfather's job was the largest source of income. To a ten year old boy, he had the greatest job on earth. He was a railroad engineer.

As a younger man, my grandpa was a boxer. According to his carefully maintained cigar box full of clippings, he did pretty well as a welterweight. He boxed in local textile leagues and state tournaments. On June 20th, he asked me if I would like to stay up late with him and listen on the radio to the heavyweight championship fight between Floyd Patterson and Ingemar Johansson. Perhaps because of him, I followed professional boxing through the sports pages of the newspapers. I was thrilled to stay up and listen.

We settled in and munched on Grandma's popcorn. I was drinking my iced tea and remember asking my grandfather how come his tea was in such a small glass and didn't have any ice in it. The boxing match started and it was very exciting. Both fighters were down on the canvas a couple of times and then Patterson seemed to be getting the best of Johansson. To me, it was pretty much a "black and white" issue. I wanted Patterson to win because he was an American, Johansson from Sweden. Well, it was a "black and white" issue for my granddad too. He wanted Johansson to win because he was white and Patterson black.

In the sixth round, Patterson knocked Johansson down and out. My grandpa leaped out of his chair and ripped the radio from the table. Taking two steps, he hurled the radio through the window. The only sound after the shattered glass was my grandpa muttering, "Oh Shit!" Reaching through the window to retrieve the radio, he sliced his arm open on a shard of glass hanging from the sill. I woke Grandma up and we rushed Grandpa to the emergency room.

The first of the three articles was in the LaGrange Daily News the next day. The headline while not complete, told much of the story. "Heavyweight fight in Sweden sends local man to emergency room."

Two days after the mishap, Grandpa was on his way to the railroad station for work. There was a thick ground fog that morning. Many of you may have never seen a real mule. They are somewhat uncommon these days. In 1960 rural Georgia they were still in wide use for agriculture. In any event, Grandpa didn't see this particular mule either. At thirty miles per hour, he squarely centered the back-side of the mule to the bumper of his 1949 Ford Pick-up. Mules have a fairly unique physiology, with long, slender legs leading up to a large butt. The force of the collision caused the mule to flip butt side up onto the hood of the truck and came to rest against the busted windshield. He was dead on impact, but everyone said he looked like he was just sitting there taking a nap.

The second of the three articles was in the paper the next day, along with an accompanying photograph. The headline somewhat lacked in concern for the mule, "Watch out Detroit. Local man has unique idea for a hood ornament."

The next day, Grandpa had to talk Grandma out of her pride and joy, her 1955 Buick Roadmaster. It was a beauty, two toned red and white, and wrapped with chrome. He said the guys at the station would give him hell if she just drove and dropped him off, so he needed to borrow her car to get to work.

He had to leave fairly early, so it was still half dark and foggy. As he told the story, a shadow appeared to drop right out of a tree in front of him and crashed into the windshield. Whatever it was didn't break the windshield, just loudly thumped and rolled over the top of the car.

Stopping the car, he got out and slowly walked back to the large object lying in the road. When he got close, he saw that it was a huge, Great Horned Owl. Even living in the country all his life, he had never seen an owl this large. According to him, it would have stood about three feet tall and must have weighed forty pounds. If it was unusual to him, his thinking was that the guys at the station would get a kick out of seeing it. Picking the bird up, he opened the back door and placed the bird on the floorboard.

When he got to the station, he had to do a little paperwork. He then told all his buddies about the owl and invited them to take a look. As they approached the car, there was an obvious commotion going on inside. The panicked and revived owl defecated all through the car and ripped much of the upholstery to shreds.

One of the guys volunteered to go to his truck and fetch his pistol. They could shoot the owl and safely remove it. The plan was doomed from the start. When they opened the door, the owl flew toward it, upsetting the man's aim. His shot missed the owl, but cleanly passed through the door on the other side and struck my grandfather in the thigh. The owl escaped.

The newspaper the next day wrote the third and final posting for Grandpa that week. It was a remarkably succinct headline. "Man captures owl and is shot during its heroic escape."

I've always said my brother is an idiot. Who in his right mind would ever say that nothing happens in LaGrange, Georgia? This was a week to remember.





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