The bus, Tom Slaughter, pilot.

Yes, it is a real place.


Wild Night In Smackover

If I seem to have been in a mode of reckless abandon while enjoying the waterslide in a previous epistle (at least prior to being impaled upon the steps by V.D. Howard), it was because I had had my inhibitions canceled by a recent episode inflicted upon Joe Steele and myself a few days earlier in Smackover.

You will recall the church youth choir trip to Smackover, Arkansas, which was truly highlighted by the barbarous practice of sending us kids off in pairs to our night's repose in the houses of complete strangers. These strangers allegedly being upstanding members of the churches in which we performed, it was imagined that we would be well fed and protected from the world in their care. This theory was about to come under scrutiny.

One Sunday evening after a glowing performance at the church (whether it was in our destination of Smackover or one of the two or three places we stopped at along the way is unclear - we'll just assume it was Smackover for simplicity and because Smackover is an epic name if I ever heard one), everyone was standing around outside with their hands in their pockets saying what nice, young lads we were. The family designated to pack Joe and me away for the night was lingering nearby when the matron of the household decided it was time to load up the wagon and head for the ranch. She spoke to Joe and me, "You two can come with us in the wagon or ride with Junior." Joe and I exchanged glances and opted to go with Junior who had a cooler ride.

So in short time Joe and I found ourselves packed into the back seat of Junior's jacked-up '69 Chevell (he had a friend in front) and enjoying a nice selection of AC/DC coming to us from directly behind our heads at something along the lines of 155dB.

NASA, in the years since space travel first commenced, has spent a good deal of time and money studying lots of things including the sound pressure level of a rocket on take off. The white smoke you see on the launch pad is not actually smoke but steam, which is used solely to control the noise level so that life within a 200-mile radius is not omitted. I believe it was stated in the report I read that a bird flying overhead would die instantly, because the SPL at this point is approximately 155 decibels, which is somewhat louder than even a Who concert.

So we were off to a smashing start, and I was anxious to reach the house, when it occurred to us that we were not exactly heading straight home. No, we ended up driving around town for forty-five minutes, encircling the local Sonic Drive-In a dozen times or so, and finally parking on an abandoned dirt road next to a lake some nine miles outside of the city limits. I forgot the stop at the convenience store for a couple of six-packs.

Now you must remember that Joe and I were upstanding, churchgoing lads of about twelve. My brother Lance was raised, in part, by teenaged wolves, but I had been sheltered.

Well, Joe and I, gathering our courage, got out of the car and proceeded to stand around in the waning twilight, occasionally making small talk, but mostly remaining quiet, having been severely deafened by the ride out. Meanwhile Junior, his buddy, and about six additional carloads of responsible teenagers much older than ourselves proceeded to get themselves fairly good and smashed.

I guess we stood around for two or three hours inhaling the fumes of cheap beer and observing its effects on our elders. I don't know about Joe, but I was just beginning to regain a shred of hearing when we were piled in the back seat of the Chevell again for the ride home. The drunk guys, having had their senses dulled a good bit by the invigorating drink, determined right away that the music would have to be louder. Thus Joe and I became intimately acquainted with the entire Back in Black album, with "You Shook Me All Night Long" being the prominent feature. To this day my ears start ringing when I hear that song.

After dislodging his buddy and stopping at the convenience store a second time for a hearty dose of breath mints intended to put the matron off his scent, Junior somehow managed to get himself, his car, and us to his house in safety. Joe and I drug ourselves to bed and slept the sleep of the persecuted immediately after whispering each other into a pact of silence.

The following morning I was on edge. The matron and patron were fairly severe types, and I was certain that something would come up causing us to have to rat on Junior. Obviously, Junior was capable of operating beyond his parents' watchful eyes, and I could see him extracting revenge upon us before the close of the tour.

Nothing dreadful occurred however, apart from being fed an enormous breakfast of about six pieces of toast, a piece of dry ham the size of a football, and three or four very runny fried eggs, sunny side up. I tend to avoid eggs that are still in the form of a liquid, but on that morning we forced it all down with humility, trying not to rock the boat.

It was a great relief to be away from that place and back on the road home. It has been stated elsewhere that the trip to Smackover was not without interest, and one further adventure featured our chartered bus getting stopped for going 70 in a 55 zone by a female highway patrol officer who, upon the realization that it was our driver Tom Slaughter's birthday, let us all off with a warning.

© 2015 Dane Tate