By Bob Huber
Childhood friends tell me I once had tangled curly hair and a perpetual runny nose, and I ran around all summer in frayed overalls and Tenner shoes, the latter being the invention of that friend of all boys, Mr. Tenner. But in spite of my appearance, those were exotic times, like the summer of the Great Tire Ride.
With my friend Smooth Heine, hazy days were spent discovering secret lakes and creeks to skinny dip, unique explosives to invent, riding almost anything with four legs including pigs, goats, and plow horses, eating green apples, pegging rocks, climbing mountains, tormenting sisters and camping out overnight where pterodactyls lurked in the dark shadows.
Those adventurous times were fraught with perils, but they weren’t half as precarious as cleaning chicken houses or feeding cows. If a guy weren’t careful in those days, he could pick up bad habits doing chores, even a horrible work ethic.
But suddenly autumn was upon us, and a deep melancholy set in. With school barely a week away, we hadn’t achieved a fraction of my summer goals.
So one late summer, Smooth and I sat in a stone fort we’d built in the morning shadows of a nearby mountain and lamented the approaching gloom of school. We felt like Army deserters on death row waiting for the firing squad to load up.
“We gotta do something quick,” Smooth said. “We can’t let this summer go by without a memorable consequence.” (Smooth liked to use big words after reading the Peter Rabbit series at our town’s library.)
“We could build another airplane,” I said. “If Dad hadn’t taken off in our last one, we could be over San Francisco Bay today, chasing Nazi submarines alongside Don Winslow of the Navy. Dad would be better off too.”
“Naw,” Smooth said. “Once you’ve done something, it’s no fun doing it again. Just stand clear. I’ll think of something.”
So I leaned back and covered my ears, because when Smooth began conjuring up ideas, the noise of gnashing brain gears could be deafening. I wear hearing aids today because of my youthful familiarity with Smooth’s gnashings.
But as always Smooth’s eyes finally popped open, and he stared at some distant object on the horizon. “I see it,” he cried. “It’s coming.”
“Where? What?” I said.
But I won’t go into detail, because whatever it was, it always placed us in mortal danger and exposed our tender bodies to pain. Take the time Smooth suggested we roll down Cemetery Hill tucked inside old tires as a last best hope for summer adventure.
While this may seem to you an illogical way to bid farewell to the lazy days of summer, we eagerly dragged two old truck tires up Cemetery Hill on the north side of town and stood there in the high breezes, catching our breath and looking down on the streets and houses below.
“I better go home,” I said. “I forgot to clean the chicken house.”
“Oh, no you don’t,” Smooth said. “We’re in this together — one for all and all for one.” (Besides Peter Rabbit words, Smooth had a memory for Hollywood lines from Saturday movies like “The Three Musketeers.”)
So we tucked ourselves into the tires, aimed for Washington Street bridge, and cast off. The last words I heard Smooth say were, “Nuts, I forgot my German helmet!”
I should explain that Cemetery Hill was a smooth mound that dominated the north side of town. With no large rocks or other impediments, we roared down the slope until we heard our sonic boom.
When we finally rolled to a stop and fell over, I cried, “I think I wet my pants!”
“Naw,” Smooth said. “You’re sitting in Clear Creek. But wow! That’ll make the summer memorable, all right.”
He was correct, of course, because if we hadn’t run through several clothes lines, bounced off a car fender or two, frightened a half dozen housewives and mangled a row of plum hedge, our parents wouldn’t have heard about it and made the summer of the Great Tire Ride quite so memorable.
Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. He can be contacted at 356-3674.