…and look stylish doing it
We end “On New Year’s Eve…” week with a long one. Coming up for the next three weeks: The Alphabet.
The Doclopedia #141
On New Year’s Eve…: All Hell Broke Loose In Goldvale
…1971, at around 6:00 in the evening, young Andy Hamblin and his girlfriend, Josie Perkins, both 17 years old and both natives of Goldvale, California, were parked on “Makeout Hill”, which is located just east of town. Both teens were in the back seat of Andy’s ’66 Chevy Impala and the action was getting hot and heavy when Josie complained that there was a lump on the seat. Checking it out, Andy found a Hi Bouncy Ball that belonged to his younger brother, Teddy. He threw it out a window and went back to helping Josie lose her cherished virtue.
THE BALL bounced off a tree and then went bouncing down the steep and rocky side of Makeout Hill, which is in fact officially known as Six Mile Hill. As with all such balls made of the space age Hi Bouncy material, this ball bounced a long way on each bounce. Eventually, it made it all the way down to State Route 44, the main road into Goldvale. It was there that it clocked Dewey Littlefield upside the head.
NOW, Dewey had been standing at the side of the road minding his own business and taking a leak. He was just zipping up when the Hi Bouncy Ball hit him in the back of the head, knocking him down. It’s a testament to Dewey’s thick skull and small brain that he was able to jump up just a few seconds later, swearing and looking around for the guy who had sucker punched him. Seeing nobody there, or anywhere for a hundred yards, Dewey’s little used imagination took over.
MAYBE it was ghosts, he thought. Wasn’t there an old Chinese cemetery just back up the road a ways, where they had buried the ones who died working on the railroad? Maybe they didn’t much like white guys. Especially white guys who peed right there in their backyard. With every hair on his head standing up, Dewey jumped into his old pickup truck and got the hell out of there. Within a minute, he was doing 80 miles an hour and heading for town, 5 miles away.
REMEMBER that Hi Bouncy Ball? Well, it was now in the back of Dewey’s truck and when he hit one particularly large pothole, it bounced up, came down on a small shovel and caused that to knock a bag of quart beer bottles over. Now, the wind racing over those beer bottles caused a low moaning sound. Hearing that sound convinced Dewey that he was being followed by a horde of vengeful Chinese ghosts and with a high pitched scream of “Oh, Lord Jesus save me!”, he put the pedal to the metal. Screaming along at 90 miles an hour (that old truck wouldn’t do a hundred if you dropped it off the side of the Grand Canyon), Dewey looked back to see just how close the ghosts were.
WHICH is why he missed that steep turn out by Cutter’s farm and shot through the fence like it wasn’t there. The truck bounced and roared across the field straight towards Mr & Mrs Cutter and their seven children, aged 6 through 19. They had just come back from the grocery store with supplies for a night of baking cookies for tomorrow’s New Year’s Day Bake Sale over at the Southern Baptist church. It should also be noted here that Mr & Mrs Cutter had, during the drive home from the store, both had a few medicinal nips off of a bottle of peach brandy, what with it being New Year’s Eve and all. That could explain why, when they saw a speeding truck coming straight at them across their cow pasture, both of them panicked quite a bit more than was called for, even though seeing a speeding truck coming at you does allow for a fair amount of panic. Whatever the reason, everybody began running around and Mr. Cutter threw a ten pound bag of extra fine baking flour straight up in the air. When it hit the ground, it kind of exploded and coated all of the Cutters in a healthy covering of flour.
MOMENTS LATER, as his truck came to a stop by the simple process of ramming into a stack of hay bales, Dewey shook off his daze long enough for his eyes to focus and see a whole shitload of ghosts standing not 30 feet away, most likely discussing the best way to drag him to Hell. Not willing to go down without a fight, he grabbed his ancient shotgun off the rack and fired away. He missed the Cutters by a good 60 feet, but they didn’t stick around to let him try again. With an admirable fleetness of foot, they all set to running back into town. Dewey, emboldened by this, began chasing them, screaming for them to go back to whatever Chinese underworld they came from.
MEANWHILE, the Hi Bouncy Ball…you remember it, right?…had been thrown from Dewey’s truck by the impact of hitting the hay bales. It soared through the air and hit the side of the barn, then began bouncing down the road in long bounces. Later, we’ll come back to it, since it still has a place in this story.
NOW, the Cutters and Dewey were heading into town from the east on State Route 44 and that would take them right past the 49er Theater, which was just letting out from an all day triple horror feature that had “Night of the Living Dead” as the headliner. About 300 kids had packed the place and gotten good and scared and grossed out by the movies. A light rain had begun to fall as the theater cleared out. This same light rain fell on the Cutter family, turning them from merely flour covered into gooey dough covered. Add to that a fair amount of road dust and they were soon looking pretty creepy. Behind them, Dewey was still screaming about Chinese ghosts and brandishing his shotgun.
AS THE Cutters and Dewey crested the small hill by the theater, all 300 of those kids, plus several early partiers over at the Gold Nugget Saloon, saw what sure as hell looked like a horde of the living dead and a shotgun wielding maniac coming at them. Amid deafening screams, both kids and drunks began hauling ass down the road away from the no doubt hungry for living flesh monsters. Within seconds, the crowd had picked up several folks out for a stroll, a group of older ladies who had just finished a meeting of the Daughters of the Golden West, three guys who were on their way to go night fishing and a fair number of dogs.
ON THE OTHER SIDE of town (which at that particular point is maybe half a mile away), at the First Church of Christ, Reverend Young was setting up a movie projector so as to screen a movie about the End Times for his parishioners. Across the street, Father McCallister was just stepping out to greet those folks coming to early Mass. Both men heard the screaming and Reverend Young stuck his head out to ask if Father McCallister knew what was going on. The good Father was equally clueless. Both groups of churchgoers looked at their respective leaders, hoping to get a signal on what to do.
THAT’S WHEN the Hi Bouncy Ball, careening down hill at about 60 miles an hour, bounced up and hit Father McCallister right between the eyes, knocking him out cold. The ball then continued on and got Reverend Young right in the nose. He stumbled back, bumping the projector as he fell down. This caused the projector to point out a window, where it projected onto the side of Dell’s Feed & Grain a huge image of Satan laughing and pointing, apparently at the various parishioners, all of whom believed they had just seen two men of the cloth struck down dead by Satan himself. Naturally, they ran away…back towards the oncoming mass of those who thought the dead had risen from the grave. The two groups pretty much crashed into each other right in front of the Sheriff’s Office.
FROM THERE ON, things get too complicated to write about, except to say that, short of the 1850 gold strike that gave the town it’s name, there had never been more excitement in Goldvale. In the end, Sheriff Ford got things sorted out and more or less calmed down, once he stopped laughing.
The Cutters got cleaned up and all went to bed early. The next day, they took a bunch of store bought cookies to the bake sale.
Dewey got his shotgun impounded and was told to pay Mr. Cutter for any damages. He never again peed anywhere near the Chinese cemetery, or for that matter, anywhere near anything that even looked vaguely Asian.
Most of the kids who left the theater, including most of the teenagers, went home and slept with the lights on. Several of the adults did the same thing.
A couple of the drunks called it an early night.
The women from the Daughters of the Golden West all went to Rooney’s Tavern and had a good stiff drink, then went home to tell their husbands about the Big Panic of ’71.
The three guys who were going fishing decided to go play poker instead.
A few of the dogs didn’t make it home until four days later
Father McCallister let Father Suarez do the Mass while he laid down with an ice pack on his head. He now believed that the Lord worked in damned mysterious ways.
Reverend Young had to be treated for a broken nose and a case of nerves. His flock took the night’s events as a sign from God and never again missed a prayer meeting.
Andy and Josie went 3 for 3 and then drove on over to Pinedale and went to the party they had been on their way to in the first place.
And four days after the Big Panic of ’71, Teddy Hamblin found his Hi Bouncy Ball by the side of the road near the fire station. He never did figure out how it got there.