True Tales Around the Campfire
Some tales are hilarious, some humiliating and some harrowing. All situations that I thankfully survived. It's sobering to look back and realize how lucky I was in some instances.
We all have situations in our lives that we are lucky to have survived. As we get older, we look back on our lives and get more willing to talk about things. I'm no different. These are the type tales I tell around a campfire sometimes.
Shoe Polish and a Slap
I remember being such a "good girl" in my youth. Never stepped out of line. Never sassed - unless you count me crying and hitting my pillow and mumbling into it. Oh, but there was that one time I did get lippy....to my Mother. Oh what a day that was!
I was either a junior or senior in high school. We rode a bus to school and then I rode a tech bus to Vo-Tech. Needless to say, we scrambled around in the mornings trying to make sure we were ready to fly out the door to get to the bus when it came flying down the road with horn honking. Thankfully we lived on a dead end road so we technically had two chances to catch the bus. But if you were going for a second chance, you better be standing in the road ready to jump in when it came rumbling back by.
On this particular morning, my brother Thomas accused me of hiding the black shoe polish from him and was refusing to give it over. That was outlandish because I had no need for shoe polish and I was busy getting ready for school. I didn't have time to torment him. But, with all the clamor, Mom bailed out of bed to come referee. Of note, she had already been up at 4:30 am, cooked a full breakfast for our father, packed his lunch and sent him on his way to work, so she was tucked back in trying to sleep at the same time we were getting up and preparing to bug out. So, if she had to get up and come after us, it wasn't going to be fun.
So, here came Mom, tearing into me for being a jerk and hiding the shoe polish WHICH I DIDN'T DO. But for whatever the reason, the entire household wanted me to be the ogre that was hiding the shoe polish. Have I said how much I hate shoe polish? This is probably the reason why. Turns out, the polish had tipped from its usual place and was just out of sight and I had serendipitously walked by right before Thomas looked for it. And in true typical male fashion, if it wasn't exactly where he thought it should be, well, it just wasn't there. He looked no further and blamed me because I had been close by minutes before so I MUST have taken it to make him miserable. Sigh... Ok, so maybe sometimes I did do silly things to torment him but not that morning and never with shoe polish.
Once Mom had solved the great shoe polish caper, and Thomas was happily polishing his shoes and I was working on lacing up my boots -- knee high boots with old fashion laces all the way to the knees, I hear my mother rustling in my brown bag lunch that I had already made to take. "Pamela Rene! If you don't take a sandwich, you don't get to take the treats! I'm taking these cupcakes out" she yelled from the kitchen.
THAT'S when I made the BIG mistake and smarted off, "Take them out, see if I care." And yep, I said plenty loud that she heard me. I guess my britches had gotten a little big at 17 and I was feeling fearless.
Well, Mom slapped the fearless right out of me. I heard a couple of steps on the linoleum right before she stepped on the big braided rug. She must have been clipping along like a fast moving train because I heard two steps, felt a shadow, looked up from where I was seated and there was Mom bending down over me and POP! She smacked a hand print on the side of my face that made itself known. I was shocked! Humiliated. Ashamed. I didn't want to cry where she could see me but the tears and sniffles ensued. Now, I realize modern generations are reading this and are gobsmacked that my Mom hit me. It's child abuse today but in yesteryears, it was just what happened if you pushed the boundaries too far. And if you had any sense, it was not a regular happening. In all my 17 years, I only ever remember 3 physical disciplines by my Mom and this was one of the three.
The bus came honking along and out the door we ran. I flopped into a seat and one of my friends on the bus said, "Wow! What happened to you? Your face looks red." I'm sure I turned even redder. I mumbled that I didn't feel real well and then I put my head down on the back of the seat to hide my face.
About an hour later, I had traveled the tech bus to Vo-Tech. Rather than feign a fever and keep my head down, this time I just leaned and kept my face propped in my hand so that I kept my face covered. Now, I have to wonder if me doing this kept the hand print on my face active or whether my Mom had truly marked me for life -- or at least for half a day of my life.
When I got to Vo-Tech I was confidant that the evidence of my morning slap down would be gone. But good ole Phyllis and her sharp eye and wit, apparently could still see a trace of the evidence and with my odd demeanor she figured it out. "Oh, girl. What is that on your face? Ohhh, it done look like your Momma went and slapped you." Then she did a big guffaw. And I lost it. I totally had the water works going full blast with generous snot faucet to boot. Phyliss was stunned. "Oh, my lord! I was just playing. Is that what happened? Ohhhh! Girl!" and then she laughed until I thought she'd never be human again. And it actually got me to laughing to.
Let's just say, I never sassed my Momma again because I had it completely figured out that 17 or not, she would slap the sass right out of me.
A Mickey Kind of Night
This was advice I shared with my teenaged daughter. If you're at a party, never lose track of your drink. If it leaves your hand trash it. In fact, if you didn't get it straight from the bartender, trash it. If somebody else opened it and brought it or sent it to you, trash it. I remember my daughter looking perturbed and asking, "Why?" as though I was the weirdest creature that ever lived. "Let me tell you why," said I. This was info hard learned.
At age 28, I had separated from my first husband and was feeling pretty low. It was my birthday and I was all alone. I lived in the boonies out in the middle of no where - about 15 miles from town. But I worked for a small business office and knew that some of the people went to the local Elks Lodge on weekends to have a few drinks and unwind. Liquor by the drink was only recently legal. So, I worked up the nerve to go to a place like that and walk in totally alone and hope desperately people I knew would be there. Thankfully, several were.
Not quite knowing what drink to get, I ordered a Jack and Coke at the bar and then went and sat down. Now, at this time, I only weighed about 102 lbs soaking wet, and I didn't normally drink, so that Jack and Coke was giving me a nice little buzz as they say. So, I went to the bar for a second drink. When I got back to the table to sit down, I got asked to dance. I was thrilled and it boosted my spirits. I ended up doing several songs back to back. My drink sat on the table until I returned. In my naivety and being amongst people I "knew," I thought nothing of grabbing up that drink and slugging it down when I got back to the table.
Not long after finishing that drink, I felt woozie. I attributed it to drinking too fast and being flushed from dancing. I decided to go freshen up in the rest room. But I only remember standing up -- after that, I remember nothing until I had rain hitting me in the face in the parking lot. A man, a prominent business man, was tugging me to his car at a fast pace. I was pretty much being hugged up against him and drug along because my rubbery legs were not holding me up at all. Thank goodness for the rain because it snapped me to. I asked what was happening and he said we're going for a ride. I felt a surge of panic. I knew this man was married and even on a good day, he gave me the creeps so I totally freaked that he was opening his car door to shove me in. I had a surge of energy and broke free. He was totally caught off guard. "Wait, what are you doing. You need to come with me."
I was, "Nope, nope. I gotta go back inside." Miracle of miracles I was able to get my legs to work and I darted through the rain back into the building. Once inside I felt an urge to puke and went for the bathroom. That was the last thing I knew for 8 hours.
When I woke up, I was in a strange house, curled up in a fetal position, fully clothed, thank god, across the end of a bed. I felt like I was glued down and it was difficult to move. Finally managing to sit up, I saw a woman sleeping normally in the bed and I recognized her from my work. Turns out she found me totally wiped out sprawled on the bathroom floor at the Elks Lodge. With help from her date, they had put me in their car and brought me to her house. He drove my car there so it wasn't left at the bar. I wasn't in the greatest shape, but I found my purse and keys and let myself out and drove home. It happened on a Friday night. I was sick for the next three days.
It took me a while to realize that someone had drugged my drink. I still wasn't certain what to make of the business man that had tried to put me in his car. Then a girl friend of mine that heard what happened told me "they" had done it to her also. Only they did get her into the car and she was gang raped by 4 men. I was totally shaken to think that if not for the rain, I would have met a similar fate. That was my first lesson in realizing that just because you know someone, doesn't mean you truly "know" them. And from that moment forward, if a drink left my hand for any reason, I threw it away. And if anyone sent an open drink to my table, I threw it away.
I was sincerely very, very lucky. There are women in this world that didn't survive such a night and live to tell a harrowing tale. And to this day, I will never do any kind of business with that business man. He may have forgotten me all these 30+ years later, but I haven't forgotten him.
It was getting dark and hubs looked out and saw a guy and gal walking up to our porch. "Pam! Holli! Paul Ray is here for you guys!" As I come walking from another part of the house, the outer door is open and just the screen between us and the world. As I walk up, hubby says quietly, "He has a girlfriend with him looks like." He wasn't sure how my daughter would handle her Dad showing up with a girlfriend. What I couldn't figure out was why he was showing up at all. As I stepped out onto the porch, I did a quick sweep and saw no vehicle other than our own. And yet, there is a man and woman stepping up to me.. and it isn't my ex-husband. I have no idea who these two people are or why they are approaching my house from the north as though they had come from the trees.
Let me explain. We had a twenty acre tract of land sandwiched between a Turnpike and Route 66 Highway. The offshoot road from Route 66 dead-ended after about a half mile because of the Turnpike. From my house, you could not see any of our neighbors who also had tracts of land. Each of us had a long drive to our homes from the dead end road with a strip of trees that blocked the dust from the dirt road. So, once I saw no vehicle and that it wasn't my ex-husband, I already knew something was totally wrong. Hubby did not, however, and still thinking it was my ex-husband, he had wandered off to another part of the house to give privacy for whatever business we might need to discuss. I have a very understanding husband. But this was one of those times I wish he had been the jealous hovering type.
Realizing we are isolated and not knowing what was up with these two people, I asked how I could help them. They told me their vehicle broke down and they needed to know how to find the highway and get to the nearest gas station. And there it was -- the obvious lie -- at least to me. They had no idea where they were so they didn't realize they had played a bad hand. But I stayed cool. "Well, you go back down my drive and turn right and go back to the highway, turn right and you're about a mile and half from the gas station." They thanked me for my trouble, turned and began walking away. But they were huddled together mumbling. I watched a few moments and then went back inside. Daughter was coming out, "Where's Dad...."
"Get back inside. Go get Pat. -- GO!" Holli was befuddled but she ran did as I asked.
Pat came looking askance. "What did your ex want?"
I whispered, "It wasn't my ex."
"Who was it?"
"I don't know," I mumbled. Then loudly "Hey, sweetie, will you bring me some food for the cats? They're hungry."
My husband looked at me oddly again. The couple heard our voices, looked over their shoulders and saw my six-foot one husband standing beside me on the porch. I was petting a cat standing on the rail. The two of them then straightened up and walked more lively down our drive and onto the side road headed towards the highway.
Once I saw they were headed off and out of earshot, I told my husband, "Go get your gun and be ready. Hurry! I'll tell you why when you get back." Off he went and came back ready for whatever it was I felt disturbed about.
I hurriedly explained that it wasn't my ex-husband and a girlfriend. That it was some couple and that things didn't sit right. For one thing, the angle they approached the house was from the North. That meant they came from the woods and likely from the Turnpike. From the direction they came, the light of our house would have been a beacon to them and we're they only house on that side of the road. So, we were isolated. The other issue was, we're on a dead end road. So, had they truly ran out of gas on our road as they had indicated, they would have already known how to get back to the highway because they would have turned off the highway to get here. It was very disturbing the way they huddled up together as they walked away speaking in hushed tones. They had not seen my husband originally and I couldn't help but feel they were sizing me up thinking I was home alone and discussing whether or not they could take me. Likely to rob for money and a vehicle.
We stayed vigilant but saw nothing through the night. The next day however, we learned the truth behind them. Across the Turnpike on another road that also dead ended to the Turnpike, a woman had a place where she takes in "unfortunates." In exchange for providing them a home, she has them work off their keep on her place. This couple had broke into her cashbox, and then stole a farm truck but it didn't have much gas in it so it stranded them. They bailed from the truck, found a viaduct under the Turnpike made for animal crossings and crossed over to the back side of my twenty acres. They were drawn by our lights and the fact we were an isolated house. It was a stroke of luck that my husband was home. I shudder to think what would have happened had he been out of town.
In this true story, it was during the courtship with my ex-husband. It was before we married and bought the twenty acres that was involved in the previous story. This time, it was a rent house sitting on a little hill right by the Turnpike. I could literally see the big rigs zooming by at all hours of the night or day.
On this particular night, I was talking to my then boyfriend on the phone sitting on the side of the bed in my room. During this time period, cellphones weren't a thing yet, so this was a corded phone. Suddenly, someone was banging on my front door. Like trying to beat the door down. I was shocked beyond words. In a low voice, I told my boyfriend what was happening. He asked if I could see who it was. I jumped up and turned off all the lights in the house and then ran back to the phone. The banging on the front door continued. Then suddenly there was beating on the window beside it.
I'm giving a play by play account to my boyfriend who is hundreds of miles away on a construction job. Suddenly, a silhouette is in front of my bedroom window and someone starts tearing at the screen and kicking at the window. I could barely breath. I got down on the floor so that the street light outside would not betray my presence. This person circled the house going to each door and window trying to force a way in. I was trapped. I had no protection, I had no outlet to get away without being seen. My boyfriend tells me to take cover and stay close to the phone. That he was going to hang up and call a friend that was ten minutes from me. They would be there with guns blazing. He told me to call him back in exactly ten minutes.
I crawled under the night stand in my bedroom with part of my body under the bed and part under the table. I had to have access to the phone. Meanwhile the attempts to get in were getting more persistent. Once again the person was back trying to force through the windows in my bedroom. I literally put my hand over my mouth to keep from screaming.
Not quite ten minutes had passed when I heard a truck approaching at a high rate of speed. Flood lights hit my house, the truck flew side ways in the drive and two good old boys jumped out and cocked shot guns and screamed "HOLD IT RIGHT THERE! DON'T MOVE OR WE'LL SHOOT!"
I called my boyfriend back and told him help had arrived and that they were apprehending someone in the yard but that I couldn't tell who it was. Then a gently knock came and the door and called my name. He identified himself and I knew it was the friend my boyfriend had sent to my rescue. I hung up and went to the door, promising to call my boyfriend when everything was over.
Opening the door to the plaid shirt, jeans and ball cap guy rocking a shot gun on his shoulder was a huge relief. The other, the father to this young man, had someone up against the truck at gunpoint.
It turned out a trucker had picked up a woman at a truck stop. She had taken some drugs and went crazy in his truck so he had pulled his rig over and dumped her out. And lucky me was the house on the hill with lights on that she went straight to like a moth to a flame. The trucker had put out on his CB the mile marker where she was and warned others she was crazy, violent, on something and it was best not to pick her up. He had called Highway Patrol but by the time they got there, she was gone. My rescuers corralled her up and delivered her to the Sheriff's office to deal with.
I was so relieved to have it over. It did put the idea in my mind that I at least needed a ball bat for protection if not a firearm. Returning a call to my boyfriend, I filled him in on all the details. It was after that, he decided he would no longer do out of state jobs. He quit the road and found other work where he could be home every night. I didn't argue with that. I also got a ball bat AND a dog.
If you live long enough, you have a collection of stories like these. I could tell a dozen more. Like about the three guys that tried to jump us at the same house as the Intruder story above after breaking down on the Turnpike. Situations like those were part of the reasons we bought the twenty acres and moved three miles away.
There is also the statewide manhunt for a psychopathic killer that would break into your home and alternate between hiding underneath it, having liberties with your house while you were out, and sleeping in your attic -- spying on you the whole time.. That is quite the story. He murdered two people, attempted to murder two others, kidnapped two people, stole vehicles, eluded a tiger lines of expert law officers including, local, county, state, and even FBI since felonies across state lines were involved. All of this took place within a 5 mile radius of my home. It was terrifying to say the least. He is currently incarcerated and has been on death row. He exhausted his last appeal and as of 2020, he was awaiting execution. If you were to read up on all the sick and twisted behaviors of Scott Eisember, you would know that everyone had reason to be fearful while he was on the loose.
On the off chance you appreciated this piece, a heart would be appreciated. It is inspiration to keep moving forward on this writing journey. There is also a tipping option for those who may want to part ways with their hard earned money and for some odd reason impart it to me.