All of a sudden he found out that the family would be moving at the end of the school year, just coming to the end of his first year in high school, you know how it was you were still the new kid on the block so to say and being a bit shy your friends were few and far between, hell moving to North Carolina was going to be a big shock and most people would never even know he was gone anyway, but Tempie and Rob would be the two that would.
Grade ten started in a strange new world, all the normal classes with French thrown in being taught by a young black lady named Miss Jackson who drove a Rivi aka Buick Riviera and had a strange interest in one of the young men in class who needless to say did very well, she was really hard on the rest of the class and what I learned from this lady was very little other than just enough to pass the class, Jean Cathcart was one of my classmates who was always nice and very helpful to me, one of the reasons I remember her so well was because this teacher was so hard on her all the time, and burned into my memory is the look of fear on Jeans face when she was called in front of the class one day and asked to write the French word for foot on the chalk board, I could see the panic on her face as she hesitated the chalk broke once while she scratched for a word, I wanted to scream out the correct word “pied” as Jean wrote the word “foots” instead, she was so humiliated by this teacher for getting the word wrong and sad to say this is what I remember most about this class.
At home in the rural area outside the town of Alexis was a trailer park cut into a wooded area, the step dad had bought a trailer and moved it into this makeshift park, the ground needless to say was not level and the front door was a long way up, rather than build a nice porch there were a bunch of power poles brought in and dirt was dumped into the middle and leveled bringing the ground up to the door, this made the front nice but the back door was another issue and it was rarely used due to having to risk your life if you attempted to walk the steep and loose trailer house steps that were slid up underneath the door.
Here in the backwoods I learned that squirrel was the other white meat and a lot of weeks it was the only meat, coon hunting was no more than a night out chasing the sound of the barking hounds and spending time with some new friends from school, Randy and Lewis were their names and being that they were both seniors and the fact they lived pretty close making me the last passenger on Lewis’s school bus drive home, heck Lewis even taught me to drive one of the buses until he lost his bus driving privileges then Randy was the bus driver for the rest of the year. Coon hunting and Red Man Chew were a big part of my time with these friends.
One of the best friends I made was an older man named Tom, he was the man who owned the trailer park, when I needed money Tom would give me odd jobs cutting grass, digging out stumps or breaking rocks with a sledge hammer, when Tom had no work to be done he would make up stuff and take me for a ride through the country to help out his friends with odd projects, getting rid of a turtle invasion for one of Toms friends taught me that squirrel was not the only other white meat but turtle was too, Tom taught me to drive the old blue pickup truck he owned and hand painted when the paint dulled, he taught me how to conserve gas by throwing that truck up into neutral and shutting off the engine while coasting down the mountains for miles and miles, when we finally got to the bottom it was as simple as putting it back into gear, releasing the clutch and we were back in business, Tom introduced me to a series of books written by Louis L’Amour called the Sacketts when I fell ill and was soon diagnosed with Type One Diabetes and he told me everything he knew about the condition and gave me a set of glass syringes and needles that belonged to someone in his family, Tom was a good man and a great teacher of many things including watch making, woodworking, hunting, fishing, reading, and general manners when it came to respecting your elders, women and yourself.
The year in North Carolina that seemed like many finally ended with the family moving back home to South Carolina, my high school years ended right back in the same high school I began my ninth grade year in, Tempie and Rob were still there and never forgot me, heck I still communicate with them and several others I am starting to get back in touch with now.
Life moves on no matter where you are and you grow up in spite of the challenges and hardships you are faced with, people grow old and pass on Tom left us nearly fifteen years ago and his wife about seven years prior to him, but the lessons I learned from this man who was only in my life for a year will last a lifetime, it’s funny how big a part you can be in someone’s life, so next time you feel the need to give a kid a job breaking rocks or pulling weeds because you think they may need a little cash, or next time you feel sorry for a sick kid and hand them a book to read thinking they just might like it and reading it may take their mind off of what they are going through, next time you can’t come up with anything for that wayward kid to do but take him for a ride anyway just to do it, remember that one day because of your random acts of kindness this kid just may look back and Thank you from the bottom of his heart, whether you can hear it or not.