Daddy & the FFA

Even if kids don’t like being in school, there’s always extra-curricular activities. You girls have your school sports, and music, and clubs. I had the FFA.

What’s the FFA, Daddy?

The FFA is Future Farmers of America and Jack, and Ick, and I were all in it. Well, we grew up on farms, so it made sense. But I’m telling you, we didn’t join the FFA because we planned to be farmers! We joined for the annual trip.

See, every year, the school sent their FFA boys to the national convention. We all wanted to go to. A week with no school and no chores sounded like a great idea to us! But there were two downsides to that trip: it meant spending a week with Mr. Pryor and…well, a week with a guy I’ll call Roy.

Remember Mr. Pryor?

I already told you about Mr. Pryor, the superintendent, and principal of the high school. He didn’t like me too much. He went to keep an eye on us boys and he drove the bus all the way there and back. If you think driving from Oklahoma to the coast is long now, you should have made the trip with Mr. Pryor! No air-conditioning, no interstate, and the man never drove over 45 miles an hour. And he only stopped when the bus needed gas. So getting anywhere took a long, hot, boring time.

See, Mr. Pryor was a nervous driver. He’d grip the wheel and drive real slow, just looking at the road in front of him. Which meant, he didn’t keep an eye on the back, where we kept letting down all the windows. My buddy, Ick, was really skinny back then. He shinnied up onto the roof. Then, he belly-slid all the way to the front and stuck his hand down on top of the windshield. Mr. Pryor saw that hand flopping over the top of his windshield and he had to pull the bus over. Thing is, he took so long parking the bus, we were back in our seats before he stopped! He yelled but he didn’t know which one of us to hit until Roy tattled to him that night.

…and then, there was Roy.

Roy liked to tattle a lot. He talked all the damn time. He also liked to pinch, and steal your stuff. If your Mom put cookies in your lunch sack before you left for school, Roy would smouch them long before lunch. Or he’d ask you for a share and then gobble everything up. Whatever was yours, he wanted it.

Well, by the time we were headed back home, we’d had enough of old Roy. Mr. Pryor stopped the bus for gas by this roadside stand one day, where they were selling apple cider. Jack and Ick and I wanted to get a jug of cider together but we knew Roy would just try and steal it. That’s when Jack had a real good idea.

While Ick and I paid for the jug, and Mr. Pryor was pumping the gas, Jack snuck into the front of the bus. That’s where he found the box of Epsom Salts Mr. Pryor brought to soak his feet with every night. Jack grabbed a handful of salts and then joined us back at the jug. The three of us drank all we could of the cider. Then, Jack tipped his handful of salts into the bottle and shook the rest of it up together. Then we got back on the bus.

Sure enough, there was Roy, with his hands in a bag of salt-water taffy I’d bought to take home to my folks. Didn’t even apologize. I grabbed for the candy while he looked at Jack and said, “Whatcha got in the jug?

“Cider, Hard Cider” Jack said and tipped the bottle up to his lips. It looked like he was drinking but I could tell he was just blowing air bubbles into the jug. “Sure is good.”

“Yeah, it’s tasty,” says Ick, and he pulls at the jug. “Gimme a swaller, I want some more of that stuff.”

“Aw boys, why don’tcha give me a taste” Roy wants to know. “My throat’s all dry from that salt-water candy.”

“Whose fault is that?” I growled, “Ick, don’t give him a drop.” Then I grabbed for the jug myself.

Well, after about five minutes of playing keep-away with the Cider, we agreed Roy could have “just a sip”. Course you know what he did once he got his hands on the neck of that bottle. He drank every drop there was left inside it; barely slowed down long enough to swallow. Then he laughed at us for finishing it off.

Cider and the Bus Rules

Well, that ended the cider drinking that night, but it wasn’t the end of the cider. About half an hour after we got back on the road, Roy started asking Mr. Pryor to stop. Like I said, Mr. Pryor only stopped when the bus needed a break, and we all knew it. But that didn’t matter to Roy. “Please Mr. Pryor, pull the bus over. Mr. Pryor, I need the bathroom bad.”

“If you didn’t need to go 30 minutes ago, you shouldn’t need to go now.” Mr. Pryor said. That’s the way he always talked. That and how we had to make time. “We need to make Albuquerque by nightfall,” he said the next time Roy whined for a break. “You can hang in there till then.”

We weren’t too sure about that. Roy was moaning, curled up on the seat, with his knees pulled up to his chest. And Albuquerque was a good 45 miles away. So we scooted as far away from him as we could.

By the time we hit the campground we stayed at that night, old Roy wasn’t talking anymore. He only moaned when the bus hit a pothole. But he had begun to smell. He didn’t smell like flowers, either. And he could still move. The minute Mr. Pryor shut down the engine, and opened the doors, Roy was off like a shot. He ran, hunched over, out the bus, through the parking lot, and straight into the campground shower building. We didn’t see him all the rest of that night.

Now you might think we were hard on old Roy, and I guess maybe we were. But not as hard as Roy was on that campground staff. Cause when we hit that shower-house, late that night, you could tell that old Roy had been there. And left his pants behind on the floor.

Now that’s what I call an FFA, extra-curricular activity that’s hard to forget

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