By Joe Hester All Rights Reserved ©

Humor / Adventure


Remember 1970 and how angry the American Public became over the war? A counterculture was born earlier but its steam in this period was creating pressure for those who supplied and sponsored the undeclared war in Viet Nam. Men returned to angry protestors spitting on them as if they volunteered to risk their lives twenty-four hours per day in a jungle. Buddy Hemp was one of those who returned from Viet Nam, a different person. His thoughts on getting high from marijuana and drinking beer every day were: it was paid for by him being drafted and sent to hell for two years. Convinced that life-based on Live and let live is tolerated. Joe Fuller was a skinny neighborhood boy who had recently lost his father to cancer. At eighteen years old, he attended McKally High School and wore old and ragged clothes and never had a dime for recess. When his part-time job ended, he identified with Buddy Hemp and Buddy’s attitude. Together, they worked to rise from poverty to Multi-Millionaires, keeping their less complicated ideas as the life chosen for happiness. Enjoy the characters associated with their lives through forty plus years of excitement and pleasure seeking with their wives

Chapter 1: Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire.

It was October 1970. I felt a cool breeze from the north as the sun lowered behind the tall Pines. Paw was sawing down Scrub Oaks for firewood. We had a lumber company land permit to cut the small oak trees for firewood. Frustrated and tired he set the saw down saying, “dang if I don’t think it’s cheaper to buy gas heaters and rent a propane tank. Throw that wood on the trailer and take it to the house! I’m going to take the shortcut through the woods. He turned and said, “Don’t forget the saw and ax.” Soon he was out of sight.

I was seventeen. My excitement, up to then, was sneaking around smoking cigarettes. As soon as I could no longer hear Paw walking through the woods, I knelt by the tractor and trailer and pulled a crushed up pack of Marlboros from my pocket. They were twisted and broken; I found one that was unbroken and lit it up.

Suddenly a dirt bike rushed around the sharp bend, sliding and throwing sand up until it stopped where the farm tractor and trailer parked on the road. It was Buddy Hemp, one of our neighbors.

Buddy propped the bike and shook my hand. “I’m Buddy Hemp he said; don’t you live right over there?” He points toward our house. “Yeah,” I said. He slapped a deer fly that landed on his face and said, “I’ve seen you out in your yard cutting grass, do you cut people’s yards? I need to find a boy to cut my grass.” “No,” I said, “Paw don’t let me cut people’s grass with his lawnmower.” He replied. “Oh, I’ve got a lawnmower” How much would you charge to cut my yard?” I could not think of another excuse, so I said, “Paw won’t let me cut anyone’s yard!” I was starting to shake. Buddy was a big boy, about Twenty-Five years old or so.

He said, “Let me get a cigarette from you,” pointing at my crumpled pack. My face felt hot, and I know it must have been red. Damn it, I thought to myself; I had left my Pack on the trailer, and he saw them. I said, “Sure,” handing them to him. He asks with a grin, “Does your daddy know you smoke?” I replied, “Uh, oh no he doesn’t,” while watching him trying to get one out of the pack. He said,

“Damn Boy, what did you do? Run over them? “ I replied, “Nope, I keep them in my pants pocket so that Paw won’t see them.” Buddy replied, “I know how that goes, I used to do the same thing back when I was sneaking around smoking. Don’t worry; I’m not going to tell your paw. I sure thank you! I ran off and left mine at the house.”

I said. “That’s alright, Well, I’ve got to get this firewood on the trailer and get home before Paw comes looking for me.” Buddy said, “If there’s any way I can ever help Y’all, let me know,” after taking a drag off a crooked cigarette.

I began to feel less scared and started babbling; I said while slapping two deer flies that landed on the side of my neck, “My name is Joseph, I said, my Paw doesn’t like people calling me Joe. Everyone at school calls me Joe, but he wants everyone to call me Joseph. Saturday I start working down at the River Bridge Store. I’m almost eighteen,” “I’m starting out at Four Dollars a day, and if they like my work, they’re going to raise me up to five. Then I am going to get me a car. I’ve been looking at a Fifty Six Chevrolet, but the guy wants Ninety Five dollars for it.”

Paws familiar “Hooty-Hoo” sound came echoing through the trees from the back porch of our house. I jumped up on the tractor and started it up. I knew Paw would hear it and would think that I was leaving out. I told Buddy, “I’ve got to get this wood loaded up and get home.” Buddy said, “All right man, I’ll talk with you later!” He said, loudly, over the noise of the tractor, “I’ll stop by and talk to your Paw about you cutting my grass one day.”

The logging road dead-ended about a mile and a half down from where I was, and I figured he would soon be headed back toward me. Sure enough, I was almost to the main road when he came around me leaving a long skid mark on the path until he came to a stop… Oh crap, I thought, what now?

Walking up to me, holding a branch off a bush, he said, “Do you smoke? I mean, do you do grass? You know, Smoke?” I hesitated for a second and said, “Well I smoke, I don’t know about grass! I usually just rake it up into a pile and burn it.” As he Handing the limb to me, he replied, “No man, weed, I mean pot, here, take this, let it dry, and smoke it one day when you’re by yourself, like fishing or something, Don’t tell anyone, just let it dry and smoke it. Smoke it with a friend. Just don’t tell anyone where you got it from.” Suddenly I realized what it was and shook my hands signifying no; it took a while for it to sink in. “Well here,” he said. He plucked a big bud off and stuffed it into my shirt pocket. I said, “No that’s alright, I don’t use it.” He said, “You’ll like it,” as he walked to his bike, cranked it, and pulled a wheelie when he took off on the main road.

I took the bud out of my pocket and smelled of it. The aroma was like potpourri and a skunk. Dang, I had never seen marijuana, much less, had possession of any. Being curious and impressionable, I rather liked the excitement of the whole idea.

Soon I was home and unloaded the firewood, saw, and gasoline. Paw was watching football and said, “Damn boy, I was scared you got snake bit or something. Mama said “Wash up and get ready for supper,” Shutting the door and pulling off my shirt, I took the bud out and smelled it again. Where to hide this so Mama won’t find it, I thought. Finally, after careful consideration, I threw it underneath my chest-of-drawers, and after a day or two, I forgot all about it.

During those years, Moonshine was the culprit. The word was, that Buddy’s Dad, Old man Ollie Z. Hemp, which everyone called O.Z., had a still operating somewhere on Piney woods creek or maybe cane creek, but defiantly somewhere down in that neck of the woods.

I overheard some of Paw’s music friends say, Buddy, wasn’t the same as he was before he went to Viet-Nam. One of the Men said that Buddy was a dope head and stayed drunk all of the time. Paw told me not to be hanging around Buddy, and if I ever did, he would whip my butt good. I knew the sound of Buddy’s car, so every time I heard it coming up or down the road, I quickly found something to do in the backyard. I was scared of him. I should say, scared of the trouble I would get into because of him.

Soon, I was working and saving a little money. I saved Forty Dollars. Paw took me to the car lot and with forty dollars down, and a promise of Thirty bucks a month for two months, I drove off in a yellow Fifty-Six Chevrolet station wagon. It didn’t smoke too much at first, but quickly, it began to smoke like a tar bucket. I made many friends from across the river while working at the store. They all went to another school than I did because they all lived across the river in another school zone.

Stony, a guy that came to the store, played Bass guitar and was in a Hard Rock group. He had long hair, which in those days, was Taboo. Almost every day, throughout the summer, He would drive his Grandpa’s little garden tractor to the store to get chocolate milk and a pack of cheese crackers. He was my age and a quiet person. When he spoke, it was about Rock songs. One day he said, “Sometimes you should come and hear us play or at least come by and listen to us practice. “You’re cool aren’t you?” he asks. I replied, “Sure, I have some at home but don’t tell anyone I do!” He replied, “No man, I’m Cool!

He gave me directions to his band house, an old house next door to his home in Treeville. My mama said she’d known your mama since they were kids.” We practice every Tuesday and Thursday night. Come by some night!” Right away I felt like Stony, and I was cousins.

“I’ll do that,” I said. I was used to pure old Bluegrass that Paw and his friends played. I never listened to hard rock. However, I said I did. I liked rock and roll okay, but to me, the heavy-metal sounded like a kid playing an electric guitar. Working at the River Bridge store was a revelation for me. There was the world beyond the farm, and I made many Friends.

School started back, and I turned eighteen about a month or so later. I was a junior that year and the very thought of getting a class ring at the end of the year made me excited to return. It seemed like every teacher was obsessed with giving homework. I did some of the homework and the rest I did not. I told a teacher one day that I thought the school should be from eight o clock to three and that should be enough for one day. The whole class agreed except for the teacher’s pets, of course.

The war in Viet Nam was sending dead Kids back home by the dozens as the evening news reported how many U.S. Troops died daily and in what part of Viet-Nam. I felt sure that my first job after graduation would be an all-expense paid vacation in tropical Viet-Nam. All that I wanted to do was, just pass to the Twelfth, and then fail that year, to have one more year at home before I would be drafted and die in that Godforsaken Jungle. The next year, they passed me anyway.

One day some classmates and I made up an excuse to go to the old warehouse where the agriculture teacher had a stockpile of lumber stacked for the wood shop students to buy for their projects. We went there to smoke a cigarette. Suddenly the door flung open a there was the principle. We thumped our cigarettes here and there, and they were like smoke signals coming up everywhere. He said, “Put those cigarettes out boys,” and stormed away. We were each nervous about getting caught smoking and expecting the worst.

However, we were better off because the principal designated a particular spot where all the smokers could go to smoke. It was in the old boiler room underneath the school. We sat on the concrete steps and smoked!

The girls that smoked were all similar in that they were all the “rebellious” type. One, in particular, Mary Jane, I liked because she was a senior and she talked to me. If you are a Six feet tall “goomer” weighing 120 lbs with arms like broomsticks, you appreciate getting the attention of a girl. What was even better was the fact that she would talk to me in the hallway, in front of the other students. The smoking alley was a neutral spot, and if Mary Jane were there, I would sit beside of her.

She smelled sort of like incense and cigarette and wore Green Army fatigue shirts with rose-colored lenses in big round glasses. She had become a protester of U.S. involvement in the Viet-Nam conflict. None of us blamed the soldiers for obeying orders they received. I went to the second hand store in Mckally and bought some Green fatigue shirts so I could be “one of the protesters.” You have heard the saying, birds of a feather flock together; well I was finally a Bird with a green army fatigue shirt. It gave me a feeling of togetherness with Mary Jane. Although she often talked about her boyfriend, I would change the subject by talking about anything else.

Mary Jane played the guitar and sang like an angel. She had written a couple of Protest songs and one day she brought her guitar, played, and sung them. ” I said, “My Paw can play about anything he wishes. I can write lyrics.” Mary Jane said, “Bring some of your songs and let me read them, I might be able to put a tune to them.” I replied, “I sure will,” I could hardly wait until I could start writing one. My Mama was a Poet and songwriter, but she could not play an instrument. As soon as I got home, I ask her how to go about writing lyrics. She taught me some rules of syllable and sound coordination. Therefore, I went to writing, amateur for sure, but never the less, it was words on a sheet of paper. War is bad. War is bad. They’re killing us and war is sad.

The next day I was sure I had a Million Dollar song in my notebook. Mary Jane acted as if I were a natural born songwriter. My head swelled up like a hot air balloon. I was walking on clouds, Yeah I was in the click and yet so blind, why didn’t I ask her out on a date? She kept talking about her boyfriend so I just assumed she was unavailable or else she was not interested in going with an ugly guy like me who always had a zit to come up Thursday, just in time to bloom on Saturdays.

Winter arrived, and Paw bought a couple of used gas heaters and rented a Propane tank from the gas company. We were all glad to get rid of the old wood burning heater. Paw was a forest ranger, working for the State of Alabama. Mama worked at the lookout tower. Sometimes Paw might have to go put out a fire at three O’clock in the morning, so we had to have a phone.

One-day paw started coughing and spitting up blood. Therefore, went to the doctor. They ran a scope into his lungs and discovered that he had lung cancer. It was the fast-growing kind. One lung was taken out, and he underwent chemo treatments. Then soon after the further test proved bone cancer in conjunction with Lung Cancer, and he had to have a leg taken off. He had to retire suddenly, and he went down fast, almost helpless, he died in November. He was only 42 years old.

Mama, now widowed, with a household supported by one single income, was exhausted. Times were tough; we received welfare help and groceries. I had no idea of the stress my Mama was under, until years later. I never saw any of Paws old music friends again unless perhaps, at the store when I was at work.

Winter passed! With Springtime came pollen and mosquitoes, and all stinging insects. Snakes and various reptiles crawled and slithered. That’s regular for South Alabama. In the woods next-door, hunters were all very busy. It sounded like a war going on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

One day, my old friend Stony from Treeville, stopped by the store. He asked, “What’s up, man?” I answered, “Same old shit.” Stony grinned and said, “Big Wheel {His Rock Group} is going to be playing at the Mckally school gym for a dance Saturday night, Come on up!” I replied, “I can’t,” “I’m so broke and can’t even pay attention. Wouldn’t happen to have a cigarette that you could spare?” Stony hung his head and said, “Sorry to hear about your Dad passing away.” I said, “Yeah, we sure hated it, but, when it’s your time to go, there’s nothing anyone can do.” Stony shuffled his feet around and produced about a half pack of menthol cigarettes from his sock. Handing them to me, he said, “let me have one, and you keep the rest ’cause I’ve got some more at home, and I can’t smoke one in front of Mama on the way back.” I said, “Thank you man, I sure do appreciate it.” Then he said, “I’ll tell you what, be out front of your house Saturday evening about Six O’clock and we will stop by and pick you up. If you help us set up equipment, I can get you in free. Don’t tell anyone, and just stick close to us when we get there and go in and out with us during breaks. If anyone asks, you’re with us.” I said, “I dang sure do thank you, man!”

I knew they needed the money from ticket sales because they had to divide it five ways. I felt sort of like another welfare case, but, I had never heard them play, and I had never been to one of those dances. I said in a low voice. “Alright man, I’ll be waiting!”

His Mother came out of the store and waved at me while Stony made his way to their car. I ask Mama when we got home from if I could go to the dance, and told her what Stony had agreed to do. She said, “Well, that’s the only way that you can go because we don’t have the money to spare.”

It seemed like forever before Saturday night. I had told all my friends and Mary Jane that I knew the Band and they were great. The truth is I knew none of them but Stony. I had never heard them play.

My 56 Chevy died, and the only way that I could go anywhere was with Mama. I still bragged about my 56 Chevy. I said that I rode the school bus because the big racing engine used too much gas, and, it was not street legal. Oh, what a little liar I was; just trying to be someone. Just to feel up to par with the kids of wealthy families. Some of them had Corvettes or big Four-wheel drives. They always had money for cokes and peanuts at break time. I claimed to be saving my money. I wore ragged clothes with rotten tennis shoes. However, I could stick my boney chest out with the best of them.

That much anticipated Saturday evening, I was standing out by the highway in front of the house, waiting. Six ’O’clock, Six-fifteen, Six thirty, then up the road came a beat up VW van and stopped on the side of the road. Stony was driving, and a guy with really long hair and beads around his neck was in the passenger seat. He looked to be nineteen or twenty. “Want a cold beer,” he asked. I replied, “Sure, I would appreciate it.” Although I had never drunk a beer, I certainly wanted to fit in.

Stony said, “Joe this is Rocky, and Rocky, this is Joe. Stony said to Rocky. Joe is the friend that I mentioned earlier. Then looking back at me he said, we are running late because we were hunting some pot. Do you know anyone with some pot?” I remembered that homegrown bud Buddy Hemp had given me last October and said, “I’ve got some.” I dashed back into the house and reached underneath the Chest-of-Drawers and there it was, a huge bud with spider webs on it. I picked the webs off as best as I could. I took a windbreaker and told Mama, “I am taking a windbreaker because it might get cold.” I was not lying. However, that covered my reason for coming back into the house.

Getting back into the van, I gave Stony the bud, and he said “WOW.” Rocky said, “Cool man. Hand me that road atlas back there, and I’ll Bust this thing up.” I handed him the road atlas, he got a rolling paper out, and using the map as a makeshift table, He proceeded to roll up a joint.

The first swallow of beer I tasted as Pond water scum smelled. The next swallow tasted better. Rocky lit the joint and held it with two fingers near the end which he was drawing. In a couple of seconds, he went to coughing and blowing out smoke. “Damn, that’s Primo!” he said while handing it to Stony. Stony did it the same way. I took it and took a draw the same way that they had done.

“Turn right up here, and it comes out near the water tank at Mckally.” He turned off the main road and very slowly we went, about Ten miles an hour. ”Damn, this shit’s wicked,” said Rocky as it passed around again. Then we stopped and took a leak and got another cold beer. I threw my half-full can of warm beer into the tall weeds. “Could you get me some of this shit”? Rocky ask me. I replied, “I don’t know.” My voice sounded different in my head. “The guy that gave it to me said not to tell anyone where I got it.”

Big Wheel Band, was great. The music was so loud that the red necks and teachers and the night watchmen all went outside. Oh yeah, also leaving were the oily-haired goomers with the white shoes and white belts. I was sitting in a straight chair watching everyone dance. I was in no condition to talk to anyone, but no one could hear me anyway. Rocky was the lead Guitar player. He stepped on an On/Off pedal and turned on a strobe light.

The lights were mesmerizing. I never saw Mary Jane on the dance floor. There were plenty of girls dancing, wearing short dresses, spinning around, and showing their underwear. Being an Eighteen-year-old virgin, of course, a glimpse of panties ever so often kept my heart beating fast for a reason other than merely staying alive. I was amazed at the whole thing. Never had I witnessed such an event. I was dang sure impressed. During the first break, we smoked and drink, In the second, we smoked and drink, finally, in the third, we smoke and drink, and that’s when I got sick and blew chow, Big time!

I was on my hands and knees talking to Ralph and Earl about a Buick; suddenly, a cold, wet paper towel touched my face. It was Mary Jane. She said, “Feeling bad are you, Joe?” I said, “Rotten just rotten.” She replied, “I know sweetie, I know.” Soon I was able to stand again, though still shaky. With her help, I managed to make it to a park bench. She left and came back with a sprite drink. I’m not sure, but I think she saved my life. Mary Jane and I talked about all sort of things; most I did not remember until later as little bits and pieces of the night would come back to me.

Monday morning at recess, I met Mary Jane at the Smoking alley, and she kept glancing at me, looking over her glass rims and said, “Got pretty tore up at the dance didn’t you?” I replied, “Man, that’s the first time drinking’s ever done that to me.” Mary Jane said, “You told me the other night that it was the first time that you had ever drunk any beer! And the first time that you had ever smoked grass.” She said in a low voice. I thought, “Busted.” I looked down at my stained up shoes and back to her. “Yeah, what else did I tell you?” She laughed and said, “That’s for me to know and you to remember, if you can, Romeo, or maybe I should call you Ralph.”

From then on, I didn’t know if she was just having fun or what. However, she had mercy on me and said, “That shit happens to all of us now and then, Hell, don’t worry about it unless it comes back to bite you in the ass.” That made me feel better about it but curious about the word “All” in “that happens to us ALL?” The bell rang, and we all rushed back to our classes.

Mary Jane was not an ugly girl. She was not beautiful either. Just plain, her figure, as most women around Mckally, began small at the top, getting wider at mid-section and then tapering off down to her little feet. {Or visa-versa} She had all of her teeth, though. They were very white. The type of woman that I could imagine cooking wild rabbit and gravy, biscuits, new taters, and fresh string beans with homemade apple pie, rocking in the rocking chair and the whole “Life is good at home dream.” However, she had a boyfriend, so I never ask her out. I never thought that she might have just been saying that and it was only half-true. Sometimes, it takes years for me to fit things together. However, I’ve always respected her straight up approach. She is gutsy; she will tell it as she saw it. In the last part of May that year, she graduated, and I was working at the River Bridge Store that summer, so very seldom did I see her until a year or so later.

I managed to buy a Fifty One Chevrolet for Two hundred forty dollars, on credit, of course. It was nice having a car of my own again. I was now nineteen and getting reckless. With the thought of finding a girlfriend dominant in my mind, day after day, I kept reassuring myself it would just happen. Each day, Pretty girls were at the store, but I was too chicken to ask them for a date. (1971)

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Jasmine Hunt: I loved this book. I hope you add more to it. ☺

Omidiji Adesola Adetayo Idayat: Beautiful story, great plot. I was eager to know how the story ended. I would like to read more books by the author.

Mayra Olazo: I believe some grammar could be fixed throughout the story, BUT the plot and characters are amazing and so well written.

Alina Amjad: The ending us quite sad .

Astrolita Aj Abrahams: I like everything about this book. Can't wait to read further.. It excites me

shibani panda: Intresting one with good storyline till now...good plot and easy to understand. Though there are few grammatical improvement required.

Brittany Stevens: I absolutely loved this story and I can't wait to read more of your stories

joyeetaganguly360: So far its going good...love to see how it turns out...

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Disney_Nadda_Nova<3: Okay, It did make me laugh, But.. Well, I’ve been waiting on an update for almost a full year now. I don’t understand, Did you lose your profile or? Sorry, went off topic there; I loved this book, (Loved: Understatement.) If Only I could’ve thought of they nickname, ‘Lemonass’ sooner.. My brother...

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