Jan 12 2012

My Little Town 20120111: Harold

(8 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

This week I am writing about a person who may be living, so no last name will be used.  Since there were more than one person around my age named Harold in Hackett at the time, it would be difficult to identify him.  Harold was a friend of mine, and lived just down the street across the Midland Valley railroad tracks.  Harold was more typical of the people my age than I was there, not being really interested in doing well in school or making something out of himself.

Everyone has had a friend like Harold.  I liked him, but he has some issues.  One of his issues was telling the truth.  He just made up stuff constantly, and from an early age.  I often though that he should have been a fiction writer because some of his stories were certainly original, if incredible.

Harold had a “cousin” with whom he had these great adventures.  I am not positive that the cousin even existed, but he talked about their exploits a lot.  One of the earliest ones that I remember is the one about his cousin and him playing around a fifty foot bluff.  As I recall this would be around the third of forth grade.  In any event, his cousin fell off of the cliff.  Harold had to walk back to his cousin’s house and get the fifty foot ladder so that his cousin, uninjured, could climb back up the bluff.  My friend Rex and I did not laugh when he told us the story, but after Harold left we both howled about the cousin surviving a fifty foot fall and that there just happened to be a fifty foot ladder at his cousin’s house.  I guess that ladders that long exist, but I know that even as a grown man I could not carry one!

Another story that he told once was about a helicopter.  When we were kids, it was quite unusual to see a helicopter in our area and when I saw him after I had seen it, I told him about it.  His replay was, “I was at the controls!”  I am still unaware of any ten or 11 year old kids being helicopter-qualified, let alone Harold.  Rex and I got a kick out that one, too.  My dad still laughed about it decades later.

Harold never mastered body language and ticks when telling his tall tales.  He would have to pause for a moment, and usually would look down and sort of close his eyes and say, “Well, let’s see…” before he would start on the more elaborate ones.  It was almost like the Tommy Flanagan character the Jon Lovitz played on Saturday Night Live where he would say, “Yeah, that’s right!  That’s the ticket!”

Once my dad wanted to pave the driveway and do some drainage work in front of his garage and workshop.  The drainage work consisted of digging out a space all the way in front of the shop about two feet deep and doing some concrete form work to make a drain that would catch any runoff and divert it into and existing drainage ditch betwixt the house and the shop.  The basin was designed to that he could drop some quarter inch perforated steel gratings over it so it was possible to drive in and out, since the basin was about a foot wide.  Harold saw that and began thinking.

By the time that he was done with his story, he and his cousin had excavated an underground bunker and also did concrete form work, but his was large enough to serve as a hanger for a Boeing 747 aircraft, which he assured me was parked in there!  That was one thing about Harold, the bigger the story the better.

Now, please do not get me wrong.  I never knew of Harold to make things up about people in a hurtful manner.  He was harmless, and an endless source of amusement.  I do not ever recall a single instance when any of this tall tales were derogatory.

I never figured out why he was driven to make up stories like that, and these are only a very few of scores of them, most of which I do not even remember any more because I knew that they were nonsense when he was telling them.  Instead of growing out of it, as he got older he seemed to get worse.  There will be more on that in a bit.

Harold was not what one would call tops in the personal hygiene department.  Beginning in the forth grade or so, he stopped cleaning his teeth.  Before too long, the dreaded greenish patches began to form on his upper incisors, and over the course of a couple of years the greenish patches became blacked.  By the time that the former Mrs. Translator were dating, the teeth were gone.  But either he had in incredibly high pain tolerance or just did not care, because he could drink the hottest coffee or the coldest beer with no indication of discomfort!

One of his tall tales was about when he was an ambulance aid.  He had been out on a call and told the former Mrs. Translator about a call that he went on where a 400 pound woman lured him into her house, tied him up, and had her way with him.  The former Mrs. Translator had heard enough, and got up in a huff and said words to the effect of “Oh, bull****, Harold!”  He seemed a little startled that anyone would call him on his tales, and the next day he apologized for his story, telling me, “I’m sorry about what I told you yesterday, she couldn’t have been over 350.”

This next is a true story, because Rex saw it.  It was still when he was doing ambulance aid work, and they were working a call.  It happened to be next door to Rex’s house in Fort Smith (his parents bought a house there so the kids could go to the better Fort Smith schools).  Harold and the other attendant, whom I assume was a paramedic, loaded the patient onto the gurney and put him into the ambulance, and the other guy, the driver, went to the cab.  Harold forgot to close the doors, and when the driver started up they lost part of the patient out the back of the ambulance.  They stopped before the patient was completely on the ground, and Harold pushed the gurney back into the vehicle but not far enough.  When he slammed the doors, he hit the foot end of the gurney!  They finally got the unfortunate fellow secured and went to hospital.

When we lived in Little Rock for around a year after we married, Harold came to visit and to go to the Emerson, Lake, and Palmer concert.  One evening we had ribs and baked beans (the former Mrs. Translator could make some excellent baked beans) for dinner, and then turned to drinking a bit.  Well, a lot.  At the time I fancied rum and Coca-Cola with added lemon, and Harold was not particular about what he drank.  He was not very good at holding his liquor, and soon was becoming ill.  We lived in a townhouse and the only bathroom was upstairs.  He did not make it.  About halfway up the stairs he was machinegunning baked beans on the wall, and it was a terrible mess!  We found dessicated baked beans here and there in the apartment for weeks!

Once whilst the former Mrs. Translator and I lived in Fayetteville for college and before we had children, Harold came to visit us there.  We had a few at home, then went to Dickson Street to go to some of the local watering holes.  Harold, once again, overdid it and got pretty out of hand.  He passed out in the bar and experienced incontinence.  The barman was horrified, worried that either he would die or that the police would show up and shut him down.  He got under one arm and I the other one whilst the former Mrs. Translator went to unlock and open the car.  Getting 160 pounds of dead weight into the back seat of a 1967 Camaro (that I still have) was no mean feat, but we did and then drove him back to our place so he could sleep it off for a while.  In a few hours he was OK, but none of us had any desire to go back to the bar.

Harold left Hackett a few years later and we lost touch.  His dad told my parents that he was driving trucks (this is before the Commercial Drivers’ License was a requirement, only a state issued Chauffeurs’ License being necessary).  He had picked up a female hitchhiker in California and had a bad wreck.  She was killed, and because he was driving drunk was convicted of manslaughter and sent to prison in California.  He served a few years and was released.  He came by to visit one Thanksgiving or Christmas after his release, when the former Mrs. Translator (at the time Mrs. Translator) and I were visiting my parents.

He looked horrible.  His arms were covered in prison tattoos, he was very gaunt, and pretty much just looked like hell.  I believe that he had developed a bad drug or alcohol (or both) habit, because he did not look like the same person and it had not been that many years.  His eyes were hollow, but he did have new teeth.  Evidently the prison system had him fitted with dentures, which was a good thing.

Harold and I lost touch after that, and I have no idea what has happened to him.  Unless he got some serious help, I fear that he is no longer with us, but there is no way to tell.  His mum and dad are deceased, and I do not know what happened to his sister, either, so there is just not much way to find out about him.  Perhaps I should use the internet to find some leads, because I would like to know what happened to him.  He was really a good friend (he was in my wedding, no teeth and all) for a number of years, but I just lost touch with him.

I know that this is sort of a sadder recollection that I normally report here, but as I said, almost everyone has had a friend like Harold.  He really was a good and kind person, but just never really was in control of his fate.  After the accident, nothing was ever the same for him I strongly suspect.

Please contribute any stories that you would like about growing up, whether or not you lived in a little town or elsewhere.  I always enjoy reader contributions, and the feedback that I get indicates that others do as well

One last thing:  I have an update about the Nativity scene that I mentioned in my piece here about Christmas.  Here is a picture of it:


I had estimated that Wanda made it for my mum before I was born, and I was incorrect.  The felt had come off of one of the pieces, and when I was rewraping them for storage I saw the following notation on one of the lambs:  “Hanks 1962”.  So now we know that Wanda gave the set to my mum for Christmas of 1962, making the set 49 years assuming that Wanda actually fired it in 1962 and not earlier.

Warmest regards,

Doc, aka Dr. David W. Smith

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