It was the kid’s first job as a pipefitter with the H.B. Zachery Company, he had just picked up his card in Amarillo, Texas and was now driving down to Lubbock where the big turnaround was to take place. A turnaround is where a plant is shut down for two or three weeks and a bunch of craftsmen come in to go completely through the plant fixing and overhauling the equipment. A turnaround was what the contract called for in the Exxon plant where they would be working. It’s usually hard work, 12 hour days, seven days a week, but the pay was high and so the money was good.
There was one older man on this job that the kid had hit it off with when he worked as a helper back in Borger, Texas and he was anxious to see the man once more. The man was in his 40’s; a great bear of a man, with a ruddy complexion and a huge red beard. He had a perpetual smile on his face and seemed about ready to break out in laughter at any minute. The man was well read; sort of an unemployable poet.
The kid used to follow him around trying to absorb all the knowledge the man had stored up over the years. He used to tell the kid, “don’t push so hard, just take things as they come and they will.” He and the kid were a good team.
The man had a small spread outside of Lubbock, a good-looking wife and a daughter that had just graduated from West Texas State up in Canyon who was home for a short visit before going off to Dallas or Houston to look for a job. The man wanted the kid to meet his daughter. He said they would cook some steaks out on the grill and quaff a few brews before the girl left to make her mark on the real world.
He and the kid took off one Sunday at noon because the man had a good working relationship with the boss and they drove to his ranch about ten miles outside of town. They arrived there at his door at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon because they stopped for a few games of eight-ball at the Moose Lodge.
The daughter was drop dead beautiful. She was about 5 feet 10 inches tall, and was built accordingly. She was a green-eyed, black-haired home wrecker that should have been wanted in three states for manslaughter, and she could also put the beer away like a grownup.
Somewhere during the long evening, a lot more Cervazas was bought and drank, so the kid and the beauty decided they would drive into Lubbock where Joe Ely was appearing at the Palamino Club.
The kid was afoot, and so the man insisted they take his new Chevrolet Caprice into town. He had just bought the ’66 Chevy and the only thing he was more proud of was his daughter.
It was unusually warm that evening, the moon hung there like a huge pumpkin in the bloodshot evening sky and the wind which usually growled over the plains was quiet as the kid headed down the highway, drunk on the beauty that clung to his arm (not to mention the cervezas).
The kid and the girl listened to all of Ely’s songs and the kid wasn’t ready for the night to end, when the beauty suggested they drive several miles up the highway to Lake MacKenzie and park there for a while.
The kid picked up a handy twelve pack and a square bottle of Jose Gold, and they began to partake of the liquid refreshment as soon as they cleared the city limits of Lubbock.
They parked there at the edge of the lake and did all the things that young lovers are supposed to do. Finally, they decided to take a walk, and the kid carried the square bottle with them.
When they returned to the car after trading tequila flavored kisses, the car was sitting down on its frame in a pool of quicksand on the small spit of land. The kid knew if he didn’t get help in retrieving the car soon, it would be history–he needed help and he needed it “post-haste”.
The tequila was having its effect on the dark-haired beauty by now, and she would have been worshipping at the porcelain altar if they would have had one, as it was, she just used the floorboard of her Daddy’s new Chevy. The kid had no choice but to walk to a farmer’s house they had passed a few miles back and ask for assistance.
It was by now about 4 o’clock in the morning, and had started to rain, one of the six times that year it occurred.
The farmer was really angry with this rain-soaked, bedraggled individual who stood on his doorstep that morning—but the code of the west wouldn’t let him say no. So he put on his rain gear and got on his tractor to try to pull the kid out.
The kid gingerly lifted the comatose beauty out of the way while the farmer was hooking the chain to the rear bumper. The farmer was in a real rage and was pulling the car out as fast as he could, the kid had one hand on the wheel and the other on the open door and was trying to see through the rainstorm when the door caught on a tree stump and jerked the bumper off at one end and slewing the car around until it came to rest in a ditch. The farmer then hooked the chain to the other bumper and gave it a mighty heave, tearing the bumper loose from its moorings on one end–but by golly, they had the car out and it still ran.
So here’s a new car with both bumpers dragging, the driver’s door torn halfway off, as the black-haired beauty hurled in the floor board and about a ton and a half of mud was tracked into the car by then.
The kid drove back to his room in the dismal swamp, the rooming house, and sent the sleepy beauty home with her father’s car.
The next morning the kid was sitting there reading the baseball box scores, when he heard what sounded like a D-9 caterpillar coming down the street. It had a horrible rending sound as the bumpers were scraping the pavement and throwing great gobs of blacktop up while shooting sparks. The screeching could be heard for miles.
The man could have wired the bumpers up, and he could have shut the door a little better. But he was bringing the wreck in to show what a jerk the kid was and to demand payment on the spot.
As the man pulled up to the front of the building, the kid could see him and the man was all but steaming.
The whole crew went out to see what had transpired the night before. So as they made their way in the front door, the kid was making his way out the back. The kid didn’t pick up his check, lunch box or tools. He had a ’59 Oldsmobile and the burning of rubber was the last thing anyone heard from him. The kid didn’t breathe easy until he reached Happy, Texas which was 200 miles to the north.
Happiness was Lubbock, Texas in his rearview mirror.