Coming on up Route 7, you could go right past Route 136, because the two intersect. I think it’s our best shot to get to Churchville, coming up that way, Al. Even after turning off Route 7, one finds a lot of pretty country out that way. I think the place was a sod farm, back when I was out that way, but I could be wrong. There’s a couple of interesting back roads off 136, but we won’t take the detour.
Route 136 becomes Priestford Road whenever you cross over at Churchville Road, but going up Priestford Road is where we’re headed. Priestford Road heads on over Deer Creek at the bottom of the hill. Deer Creek happens to be a fairly big affair, with a lot of water going by, on a regular basis. Back when there was any, Flower children used to go wading up and down Deer Creek, to beat the heat.
There used to be the tank testing grounds for the military, up Priestford Road, right across the fence from the waters of the Deer Creek. Once Al Douglasson and I got our driver’s licenses, we used to see tanks going through their traces. There was the Aberdeen Proving Ground, the Edgewood Arsenal, and the Bainbridge Naval Training Center, that were all operational when I was in high school.
I don’t know what’s there now.
Eight of us guys got together a hippie band in the mid-60’s. We’d go around and play music for the soldiers, sailors and Marines during the Vietnam War. I think some of those military types were shipped straight over to the Vietnamese mainland, after they were done training stateside. I know Bainbridge was doing that sort of gig with Marines. We used to see them, drunk from the stage.
There’s not much to tell about a bunch of flower children wading in Deer Creek.
At the corner of Priestford and Churchville, there’s a Presbyterian Church. Since we’re all Methodists, it’s like speaking a foreign language to go into a church like that. Hymns are similar and the service is similar, but it’s not the same feel as the churches I was accustomed to. It wasn’t even that I was so stuck on going to church. I was not going to the same church as Auntie, and that was that.
I’ve found a newly built Methodist Church in my travels, which had entirely different features than what I’m used to, in the Old Country Churches. The old Methodist Churches were adorned in mahogany pews. Newfangled versions are far less distinct. I’ve gone to so many because they were my Dad’s place of employment. Poor Dad couldn’t tell time. He was always running the service over.
When I went down to Boone, NC, to the university, what I eventually found what was another one of those Old Country Methodist Churches. I found it when I was flipping out on Mescaline, of all times, shortly before I ended up in a state hospital. It was right downtown on the main drag, like anyone would have expected it to be. I wasn’t in much of a pious mood, with my mind in such turmoil.
I went there alone, to talk to God, because I realized I was in big trouble with mescaline. The thing I remember is laying prostrate on the floor, right down by the communion rail, praying earnestly, desperately, for God to help me. I think I prayed for help, with what I don’t think I said. The sun kept coming out of the clouds to tell me God heard me. It was far out to be experiencing God like that.
I don’t really understand what the problem was with all those churches, who couldn’t stand to have Dad around after his first year there. Dad dragged us to a new parish every year the whole way through my childhood, till I heard he got fired by the Methodist Church in the early 60’s. I was like a jack rabbit over those early years, seriously put off by my father.
I forget how it was I first met Al Douglasson. I know he showed up at his father’s church where we showed up, by the mid-60’s. We were young teens then. I can’t really infer too much about Al’s feelings or wishes, I only know that he kept turning up, like a bad penny. We hooked up over the idea that we were both PK’s. It was sort of like a secret code, or secret society.
Preacher’s Kids is what we were.
The idea itself kept getting me drunk for a lot of years.
Al Douglasson came over to our house all the time, because we were both PK’s. I think he always expected great things from me or something. We started out at his Dad’s church, which was home turf. Where else were a couple of Preacher’s Kids going to hang out on Sunday? Since we both sang, one could pretty well figure we were going to the high school age Chancel Choir at church.
My brother, Woodie, the nerd, used to drive a bunch of us around in his old English car. That car was jet black, and a one of a kind. There wasn’t anything like that car in our whole town, I know that. Where Woodie ever found such an old jalopy I’ll never know. Woodie seemed to be happy running a taxi service for some of the neighborhood kids.
Woody drove that car around for a long time.
As soon as Al and I started driving cars, Al was always wanting to go to Mr Smith’s house, when we weren’t in school. Mr Smith was this big, rotund sort of man, who was always so kind to all the guys at school, there wasn’t a word for it. He was a family man, too. Al wanted alcohol from Mr Smith, the chorus director. Mr Smith would have a beer with us now and then.
I didn’t want to go see Mr Smith, outside of school. But I went, because I couldn’t say no.
I was scared of the old man. It wasn’t that Mr Smith ever did me any wrong. As a matter of fact, Mr Smith was more gentle and kind to me than any man I had ever known. He even gave me rides to school there for awhile, so I could be in the men’s chorus. The guy was always doing stuff like that. It was just that Mr Smith was a man, alone with me in his car, that freaked me out.
When Al Douglasson and I were still riding bicycles, maybe about age 14 or so, I suggested we go see Nancy, way out Priestford Road. Al agreed, and off we went. I never did know Nancy Foy very well at all. She went to that weird Presbyterian Church down in Churchville, where Auntie went. I heard tell of her from Auntie. I went to some kind of chicken supper, or something, with Auntie once.
I think Auntie made me some big song and dance, for some reason. I met the grand and glorious Nancy Foy, because I went to the chicken supper. I always had some very unreal concept about girls. Nancy was no exception to the rule. I had this big phantasmagorical idea about the girl I was about to meet, and there was never anything more than fantasies about her that I can think of.
I think that was the only time I ever met Nancy. We ate our chicken or whatnot, and I spent the entire supper hour filibustering at Nancy. My sole impression of her was that she was alright enough to check out later. I never did. I had to go on, as an impression. I did all the talking. Yet, I dragged poor Al Douglasson the whole way out to her folks house, just to prove I could find the place.
That was my big thing from childhood that I was so good at: finding houses. At least I was willing to make the trip. If we were 14 years old, which was the most we could have been, traveling at least six miles to find a house, was the extent of my capacity. I gave Al Douglasson some nonsense excuse why it was I was not going any closer to the Foy’s residence than the road where we stopped.
Anyway, I can’t say I remember Nancy well-enough to pick her out in a crowd. There we sat, Al Douglasson and I, arriving eventually under our own steam, catching our breath in front of Nancy’s parent’s residence, where I admittedly sat, flat footed, on my old, familiar bicycle seat, true to form, declining to actually approach the front door. Al Douglasson grew accustomed to this behavior.
Al ended up with a wife and family.
I ended up alone.