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Southern Raisin': Strongly, wisely designed

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My dear friend James bought an old Chevrolet station wagon a few decades ago so luckily we didn’t have to walk or thumb any longer.  The classic had wooden sides that “pert nigh” two dozen families of termites had hibernated in for several years and by the soft splinters decaying evidently they had never missed a meal.     

The driver’s door had been dismissed as being in the way and we tied the remaining exits with twisted baling wire to groom and hold in place.  I will admit this ride was similar to a hump backed, smooth gummed mule jumping cotton rows but it was better than hoofing.  No shocks and the springs had been sprung.

James wanted the beauty in excellent shape if the guv’mint or a grave digger decided to perform a vehicle inspection in downtown Rosemark.  There was no power steering back ’en except tugging and grunting.  James fought a little play in the steering since he’d commence spinning about a quarter mile early.  All agreed the studies of trigonometry and geometry with logarithms thow’ed in eliminated the guessing so hopefully we didn’t miss the turn at the field lane.  Mr. Rowe’s math class came in handy.

He had air brakes, ’cause he pumped them all the time, similar to a Peterbilt.  The mutilated muffler was shed so we ran a two-inch flex pipe out the back missing window pointing up about two feet over the top. Black smoke bellowed out of the curled and kinked exhaust resembling a roaring freight but noise didn’t matter out in the country     

On a distant trip to Memphis, we tucked the flex inside to smother the moaning smoking up the innards as Lynn claimed Mr. T. D. said there were noise rule laws in the city.  Flex pipe will easily bend and get red hot, and a few careless boys got branded.

We usually carried about six spare tires and had an average two to three flats a night.  Each rider had a specific job changing flats.  Tools required were gas in cans, oil in cans, a jack, Mississippi Superchargers (Siphoning Hoses), tubes, boots, patching, and a hand pump.  Boy Scouts are always prepared or walk.  

The headlights worked on low beam, but you had to prime the left one with a swift, get in the stall, kick.  High beam never agreed, but we didn’t need it as we knew where we were going.  The right tail light flickered, but the left one balked like a mule pulled down some slickery stairwells.  On a cruise to the Malco show on Main in Memphis, we sea grass tied a flashlight to substitute the stubborn light and never got flagged. 

The useless rusty horn didn’t beep but we made enough racket the road was always clear.  The white-faced heifers stayed safely behind the barbed wire, the coons clawed up in the tallest tree and the groundhogs were digging to China fearful of a head-on.  

The wipers were never pried loose from the glass so during a frog strangler James just peeped left, gauging and guessing the edge of the road.  No white lines back ’en but Tommy, Arvis and Emerson had the ditches eyeballed on the right.  Ain’t no problem.  Not knowing any better, this redneck pit crew felt as safe as floating in their sweet Momma’s arms…Glory.

Otis Griffin is the author of the book “Southern Raisin.” He was born in  Charleston, Tenn., and attended Rosemark Grammar School and Bolton High School.

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