Daddy, Lloyd, & Lisa*

You kids remember the Andy Griffith show? Set in Mayberry, North Carolina? The barber in that show was a funny guy named Floyd. Well Grandfield had a funny barber too, only his name was Lloyd. And he was sweet on a gal named Lisa.

Now, Lisa worked in an office, in Grandfield. And she was married to somebody else. Fact is, Lloyd was married too. But that didn’t change how he acted around Lisa!

Like this one time…

I was at the barbershop, getting my hair cut. Harvest was going on, and Grandfield was full of people; so full, Lloyd had this other barber working with him. Both of them, cutting hair, fast as they could, and a bunch of men still waiting in line.

Well, my turn came up, and instead of old Lloyd, I got the other barber, Harold. And this young guy working the harvest, up from Mexico I think, he was sitting in Lloyd’s chair. Now, the Mexican fella didn’t speak much English, but he pointed to a picture Lloyd had on the wall to show he wanted a crew cut. So, Lloyd got out his hair clippers.

My, that kid had a thick head of hair! Hot as it was, and working outside, I can see why he wanted it cut. Anyway, Lloyd slapped the No. 2 guard on his clippers, and they went bzzzz-bzzz-bzzz up the back that young guy’s head. The Mexican closes his eyes. And that thick hair starts falling on the floor.

Then, here came Lisa

Just as Lloyd swung around to the front of this guy’s head, here comes Lisa, walking up the sidewalk outside. Smiling, and wearing one of them dresses where the skirt flips up in the breeze. How Lisa’s dress found a breeze in that heat, is more than I can say, but it did. And old Lloyd starts watching her.

And that’s when the guard slipped off Lloyd’s clippers. Instead of bzz-bzzz-bzz, the clippers start growling, grrowll-rrowlll-rrowll, but Lloyd doesn’t notice a thing. From where I’m sitting, I can see the poor Mexican fella asleep in Lloyd’s chair, and a white strip starting behind those clippers and stretching up the center of his scalp. I started laughing so hard, my shoulders start to shake. And Harold has to stop cutting my hair too.

Scalped!

Lloyd’s still watching Lisa parade up the street, and his customer’s still asleep, unaware his crew cut’s become a reverse Mohawk. But everyone else in the Barbershop is watching when the clippers grind to a stop, stuck at the crown of that poor man’s head. And that finally gets Lloyd’s attention.

He looks down and sees the bone-white landing strip he’s shaved up the middle of his customer’s head. He sees his clippers, caught in the middle. Then he looks around and sees every man between Lawton and Wichita Falls staring at him. And Lloyd says the words they should have put on his tombstone.

“I can even that up.”

* to protect the guilty, I changed names and stuff here.

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

The Day Daddy Rolled the First Grade

You know Grandfield’s always been a small place. Shoot, there were only sixteen in my graduating class. And of that bunch, only four of us were boys. I liked that; it meant I had lots of girlfriends. But that also meant Jack, and Ick, and I got put in every school play and program

Like the year, they cast us in the senior play. We weren’t seniors but, because we were boys, they cast us anyway.

We only had little bitty parts when we had to be onstage. During the rest of the rehearsals, we were supposed to wait in the auditorium. Well, one afternoon, that teacher directing took forever getting to our scenes. That’s when we remembered the First Grade class was down the hall.

I told you that school system was small! They taught all twelve grades in one building. And I don’t know if it was Ick, or Jack, or me, but one of us thought we’d wake up the first grade.

First, we snuck out the side door of the Auditorium into a school hall. I remember, there were only three doors on that hall: our side door, the one to the janitor’s closet, and the one to the first grade classroom. And we were going to open all three.

The janitor’s closet was always full. It held his brooms and mops and buckets and all the cleaning stuff a school uses. And it had those big, industrial-sized rolls of toilet paper. We each hooked two of those rolls, and we snuck down the hall to the last door. Then Jack threw open the door to the first grade, and we bowled in those rolls of toilet paper, just like we were down at the bowling alley.

We slammed the door, and ran before they could see anything but unwinding toilet paper. But from our hiding spot in the janitor’s closet, we heard plenty. First, we heard that classroom door slam open, BANG, when it hit the wall. Then we heard the tack, tack, tack, of that teacher’s high heels, making for the principal’s office. And we heard all those little first-graders behind her, tee-heeing, fit-to-bust.

Well, the second those high heels faded out, we snuck back to the Auditorium, and sat down in our seats. And we got called to enter and say our lines a few minutes later. The director was telling us where to stand on stage when the back door of the Auditorium banged open too, BANG! And in came Mr. Pryor.

Mr. Pryor held all kinds of jobs at that school. He taught shop, and drove the school bus. And he was both principal and School Superintendent. He didn’t like me too much. Anyway, he stopped what we were doing and asked if anyone had left rehearsal.

The director, she told him no one had left, but for some reason, he didn’t believe her. And he had all us boys stand up in a line. Then he questioned us, one at a time.

“Jack, did you disturb Mrs. Hillenbrand’s classroom?”

“No, Mr. Pryor.” Jack says.

“Ick Nault, did you interrupt Mrs. Hillenbrand’s First Grade?”

“No, Sir.” Ick says, looking right back at him.

Of course, I was stuck at the end of the line. And I began to get tense. So, when Mr. Prior said, ”Bob Zumwalt, did you roll Mrs. Hillenbrand’s first-grade class?” I tried to boom back my answer. But my voice broke just as I opened my mouth so ”No, Mr” came out real high, like a girl, and then ”Pryor” bullfrogged out of my chest.

Well, I turned red, and everyone started laughing. And Pryor knew I was guilty as sin. But, whatever my punishment, it wasn’t near as good as hearing that first-grade teeheehee over toilet paper.

Daddy & the Homemade Fireworks

It was me, and Jack, and Ick Nault…

The “Good Boy”, Bob.

(Funny, how many of Dad’s stories started that way…)

Anyway, we were hangin’ out in your Mimmy’s back yard and I was telling them about John T’s leftover chemicals. You knew John T studied Chemistry, right? He’d go to classes up at Norman during the week, and come home on the weekends with chemicals from the college lab. So, I was tellin’ Jack and Ick about John T’s chemicals: how one of them burned whenever it was exposed to the air, and how another makes all kinda sparks. Anyway, we decided to take some of those leftover chemicals and turn them into fireworks.

Now, we didn’t have any rocket launchers or things like that. But we could lay our hands on some empty tomato paste cans. So, we poured some of the chemicals into an old can, added a fuse, and covered it with ash so it wouldn’t catch fire right away. Then we lit the fuse, and Jack or Ick hauled off and threw it as high and far as he could. Then we watched it go, arcin’ and sparkin’ through the air….until it landed …in the next-door neighbor’s garden. That’s when we hid in the weeds.

See, the neighbor’s kids were also outdoors, on the far side of their yard. They didn’t hang out with Jack and Ick and me, because they were only four or five, and we were in middle school by then. They were always outside, I mean, all day, every day, and real quiet for kids. That’s because their Dad worked nights and slept during the day. But they weren’t going to stay quiet when there were fireworks going off!

Sure enough, that can landed amongst the tomato plants and butter beans and those burning chemicals shot up like a fountain. The little kids next store took one look at the sparks and started yelling and screaming their heads off. Then their back door banged open, WHACK! The neighbor, he comes running out, mad, bare-foot, and pulling his pants up over his underwear. Then he sees our fireworks display..

On the one hand, you could tell, he’s never seen a fire like this one. On the other hand, it’s burning through his groceries. So the neighbor ran for a hose. But water just makes a magnesium fire worse, and now it’s headed for his rhubarb and squash. So, then the guy gets a hoe, and tries to sneak up on the sparks like he can smother them while the fire’s not looking. About that time, the fuse hits another pocket of magnesium and the fountain of sparks shoots straight up again. And he backs away.

All through this, me, and Jack and Ick are lying in the weeds near the fence, trying not to get caught. But watching that guy with his pants undone trying to sneak up on a can full of sparks made me laugh. And then when I heard his little kids chanting behind him:

“Kill it, Daddy, Kill it!”

“Kill it, Daddy, Kill it!”

Well, that’s when all of us lost it. And the neighbor heard us laughing.

He threw down the hoe and started running toward us but Jack and Ick and I got out of there quick. It’s not hard to outrun a man whose pants are down around his knees. And you’d think I’d have better sense but we snuck back and hid under the front porch until he got the fire out and tried to complain to your Mimmy.

Now Mimmy never liked renters in the first place, even when they were renting from her. And she sure didn’t like men in their undershirts on her front porch. So when he started in saying, “Your boy, Bob..” she snapped back in his face.

“Don’t you talk about my boy, Bob. My Bob’s a good boy. You just stay on your own side of the fence and keep your tacky, cotton-picking kids out of my roses. And put a shirt on before you leave the house!

The Best Storyteller I ever Knew

Storyteller with fan

There are always tributes to male parents close to Father’s Day. Check out Social Media and you’ll see all kinds of posts commemorating the sweetest, the bravest, the kindest fathers, etc. I’m sure all of those plaudits are true. But, when it comes to titles and “Greatest” plastic championship cups, I know which one belongs to my Dad. He was the first and best Storyteller I ever knew.

My Dad loved a laugh more than anything else and his jokes were many and varied. (At his funeral, Dad stories brought out as many smiles as tears.) And, as a kid, he and his buddies pulled practical jokes to make each other laugh. And by jokes, I mean the kind of stunts that could get a kid kicked out of school. I know this because he told us about them.

The Greatest Storyteller
With an early fan.

Now some parents try to keep their own children from learning what stinkers they were as kids. But not my Dad. He loved spinning tales of his miscreant past and we loved hearing him talk. After all, we knew some of the characters. but Dad had a way of talking that made you feel like you were there. At dinner, Dad would grin, start a story and pretty soon, my sister and I would be giggling, banging our fists on the table and forgetting to eat our food (it takes a lot for me to forget food!) Barb and I loved some of his stories so much, we asked him to retell them again and again. (I referred to these as “Daddy’s Greatest Hits”) Then we brought friends over to listen to him tell them again. We never got tired of Daddy’s stories. And we miss hearing them, now that he’s gone.

So, in honor of Dad, for the next few weeks, I’m going to share a few of his stories. I don’t know if I can recapture his inimitable timing or delivery but I’ll try. Anything to hear these tales again

Some people thought my Dad was a naughty, undisciplined boy because of the pranks he pulled. To me, he was just my Daddy. The best storyteller I ever knew.