It cost me 50 bucks to drive to Marshall MO and back the other day. I only put 50 bucks in the tank to retaliate against the oil companies. If I were to run out, so be it. The oil companies would have to be responsible for me being mighty pissed off. 50 bucks would have to do it, not a penny more. If I were to run out of gas, I was to hike the rest of the way out of the concrete jungle. I'd rough it a little, after all, people had it rough back before cars and bars and booze. If my calculations were correct, I would only make it to Winghaven, before conking out on my way home. Turns out I made it but I was fully prepared to make an issue of it.
When I was a small child, living in Columbia MO, I remember my mom pulling in to Alice's Conico Station at the corner of Business 63 and Broadway. Alice was kind of "butch" and her husband, "Butch", worked in the stalls, changing oil, doing basic car maintenance. Gas was 38 cents a gallon and you not only got your windows cleaned by Alice, Butch would come out and check the oil and fill the tires with air. You wouldn't even get out of your car; a 1970 Impala Station Wagon like the one above. The median household income was almost 9 grand a year and a new home would cost you around 27 grand. Nixon and Agnew were in office.
It is funny how we took things for granted back then. The value added services found daily in the most common purchasing experiences. At the IGA right next door (to Butch and Alice's Conico), the bag boys would take your grocery's to the car. Sudden Service, the dry cleaner in town, delivered your laundry, heavy starched, twice weekly. You didn't even need to dial an area code or pre-fix when using a telephone. Our number was simply dialed 28239.
As a kid I remember riding my bike a lot more and usually out of sheer boredom. When the hottest new bicycle came out, the "Spider 500", it was simply a "must have" and only sold at the Western Auto store downtown, next door to the Ben Bolt Hotel. The catalog came out each season with pictures of the new stuff. I had a clipping of the bike for a year, before I could talk my folks in to buying it for me. I cherrished that bike like Nepolean likes tots. It was bad luck on my part when a year later, a not-so-nice guy from the other side of the tracks tossed my Spider 500 (and all of my other friends bikes) over the Hinkson Bridge in retaliation for accidentally hitting his car with a dirt clod. Ronald Parton was a bad guy, and we chose the wrong person to mess with that hot summer day. He would pop into our lives a couple of other times through the years, before landing himself in prison on a rape charge.
I can't believe I actually found this pic of a 1969 Spider 500
There was nothing much to do as kids back then, not during the summers. The most common activity was to explore the cow pasture, south of Shepherd Blvd., near the neighborhood where I grew up. The old lady at the end of the block owned most of the land around those parts and lived in a house that sat at the top of a hill with a lake just below a piccalilli treeline. Me and John Manning and the Dickhouse twins set the hill on fire once, playing with matches. She almost lost the whole house and never even knew it. She was old, real old, Mrs. Shepard. Her retirement was the occasional sale of land between Broadway on the North and Grindstone creek on the South. Most of it is developed now, neighborhoods, commercial development, office space. The pasture is still kind of there, traces of familiar territory still out there, nothing ever changes too much.
The cow pasture was where I learned most of what I know about everything. There were a whole lot of cows there and one bull named Charley. He was there to do the obvious, but they kept him apart from the girls for whatever animal husbandry reasons, seasonal birthing or whatever. That bull scared the snot out of me every time I got near it. You could smell him before you saw him. That dude had the life as far as I was concerned. We knew what he was doing.
Charolias bulls can be purchased here.
The cows and Charley the bull would do there thing, graze, from one side of the field to the next, then transverse into other fields, down to the water into Grindstone Creek up near the hogger, where they had hogs too. Along the bluff line to the Creek there were caves, one of which we called Wolf Cave, due to some feces that we assumed to be that of rabid wolves, who only came out at night. We would only explore during the day. We never saw a rabid wolf but knew that if we crawled back far enough in wolf cave, we would likely encounter one. We never did.
We would ride our bikes up to the bluff top through the cow paths worn a couple inches deep by the cattle; a connector system worn over the years; a path to good eating, their routine carved in to the ground for us to ride our bikes. Hell, come to think of it, we had our own dirt crit series back then and didn't even know it.
It was sad my Spider 500 barely saw the likes of that roaming cattle single track, because of Ronald Parton and his hot temper. However, the story of him trashing our bikes seems to transport me back to those days. Come to think of it, Mrs. Costigan wanted to take the whole 3rd grade class to Magistrate Court to learn why you shouldn't throw dirt clods, as a field trip.
I guess I never really thought what that cow pasture meant or would signify some 35 years later. Some things never change. I am still romping around fields and streams and bluffs on bikes. I might still occasionally throw the proverbial dirt clod or two at those unexpecting. One thing is for sure.
I'll never have another lady like the Spider 500.