James Weger's Oak Axe Handle

The cruelties dispensed to me from certain beefy specimens on the Tecumseh High School football team didn't end on the field. Even as a child, I was tortured remorselessly by Tim Scarbury - at church, no less - a poetic foreshadowing of things to come.

But this story is about James Weger. Though not as tall as me, James was the closest thing (and I use the term "thing" with accuracy) to a body builder we had in town at the time. Even his hair was muscular. And James executed all of his maneuvers with great confidence and purpose.

It was with this very confidence and purpose that James was carrying out his duties one slow day at American Auto Mart. As James' father owned the car lot, and his older brother was the manager or something, James had a ready job at hand any time he felt like applying his considerable strength to something industrious like...batting pecans.

The creek which ran down the east side of American Auto Mart had apparently left the lot to the north a useless swamp, because it was perpetually overgrown with jungle vegetation and conspicuously devoid of buildings or any other such evidence of human contact. As part of his duties at the car lot, James often occupied himself with important tasks to keep out of sight, and today's task was clearing the car washing area of dangerous fallen pecans. The method used, chosen for its efficiency and OSHA safety standards, was to bat them across the swamp with an oak axe handle.

By night, the front window of the car lot office was locked shut by an ingenious device, known in the window locking industry, as an oak axe handle. By day, the lot was patrolled by the oak axe handle-weilding security patrol officer James Weger. On this particular day, the offending trespassing pecans were experiencing the long arm of the law.

Now in addition to murdering underclassmen on the football field, James played baseball on the high school team. Here, the formidable strength of his upper body mass could be appropriately put to use hurling small objects into outer space with the aid of piece of wood. James' pursuits were lofty indeed.

Being the model worker, James often made his work into a game, so as to instill his fine work ethic into the neighborhood children. As the game got underway, and the pecans were beginning to scorch across the empty swamp, I, the only neighborhood kid stupid enough to get close, approached the playing field to watch this sports giant in action. As the game heated up, I moved in closer for a better view of the star player. At this point I was standing to James' back, about five feet away, well out of the way of the oak axe handle as it came around toward me at the end of each swing.

I'm not sure what really happened - whether I moved closer to James, James moved closer to me, James' arms spontaneously grew three feet, or what, but the next swing brought James spinning all the way around to the point that the oak axe handle had a meeting with my face. I think I was knocked into the next county, because the pavement didn't look very familiar, and it seemed a long time before James found me. Despite his savagery on the football field, James seemed concerned as he stood over me gently calling my name. Perhaps he was worried that he had cracked his beloved oak axe handle. But he did help me back to my senses and inspected the inside of my mouth on the side of the collision.

Apart from the inside of my cheek feeling like it had been run over by a train and my brain being switched onto spin cycle, I felt pretty good. As a matter of fact, I came out of shock within three or four weeks and was able to eat solid food again by the following winter. It was this one incident that made me realize the wisdom of my mother making me get braces. I'm convinced that without them, I would have lost three or four teeth. As it was, the braces held my teeth together as one unit, so that I suffered no damage in that department. It's just that the braces left this ghastly row of cuts on the inside of my cheek.

There is a bright side to every situation, and I believe that it was this incident which prompted OSHA to require all car lot employees across the country to wear foam rubber insulators over their braces.

© 2015 Dane Tate