The other week, I was down around Hogback Street visiting my buddy, John. Ol’ John is a storyteller in his own right. Yes-sir-ree bob, why, he can hang in there with the best of them.
Well, won’t long after a little small talk, Ol’ John commenced to telling me some stories about the different jobs he had held as a youth. Seems he used to cut grass for his neighbors with a push lawnmower. Said he got paid – $2 Not an hour, but for the whole yard. Yes, young folks, that won’t much money but back in the sixties it was a lot of money to a teenage boy. Then John said he moved up to a more lucrative employment as a carhop for a local restaurant. Why, for eight hours of work he was paid a whole three bucks plus any tips he managed to pick up.
Now folks, I’m not making this here story up ‘cause John said it was the truth and gave me his permission to print it. So here we go, just as John told it:
My most enlightening job of my youth was working one summer with a furniture company as route sales assistant. That job taught me so much about how the real world really works. I discovered that fateful summer that it’s not all black and white — it has gray areas, especially when trying to decipher right from wrong.
My first assignment made this fact all too clear. I was assigned to assist a very eccentric character by the name of “Tiny.” It was told that the way he acquired that misleading name was that he was born premature and was for that reason very, very small. It was also told that he was so small at birth, that his Mama made him a night gown out of a Bull Durham tobacco pouch. They say she even left the draw string in it so she could snuggle him up so his feet would stay warm. Well, I don’t know what they fed Tiny growing up, but grow he did. If’en you can imagine “Hoss” Cartwright wearing coke-bottle-thick, horned-rimmed glasses, then you have seen a reasonable resemblance to Tiny. I mean, he was a big fellow.
Take my word for it, I found Tiny to be the lyingist, crookedest, merciless, liquor-drinkinist and, last but not least, the Bible-quotingest jerk that I ever crossed paths with — much less worked for. Why, after my first week, I began dreading to see the sunrise because it frazzled my nerves almost every day watching his confrontations and often altercations with past-due accounts. Not only did it not upset him but he seemed to thrive on it. That is the reason I’m sure he was given everybody else’s problem accounts. I often asked myself why I should be so lucky working with a man like this.
Tiny’s official job was route salesman, but in reality he was the original “Repo Man.” Why, when he came by to pick up the merchandise, you had better be ready — because when he came, all negotiations were over, end of subject. Those silly wimps on the reality TV shows are repo men, but they didn’t hold a candle to Tiny. I mean, he was the real deal. Most people were intimidated by his size and demeanor, but some were not. With those customers, he would just back the truck up to the door before knocking. And so as to give them a clue about what his intentions were, he would knock on the door with the handle of his pistol, which he always had in his pocket.
He was ruthless when he repossessed merchandise. Why if’en it was a rug that was in less than good shape, he wouldn’t bother moving the furniture — no time for that nonsense. He would just rip it up around the furniture and roll it up, leaving patches under all the items resting on it. Once, I saw him repossess a coal heater in the dead of winter. When he went to the house, the whole family was gathered around it. It was a sad sight to behold for a normal human being, but not Tiny. Why, he just went out on the back porch where their water pump was — they didn’t have plumbing in the house. Anyways, he took their coal bucket, filled it with water, walked back in the house, opened the hatch door and dowsed out their fire. Billowing smoke went all through the house and was coming out every window. Then Tiny sent me out to the truck to get some burlap to wrap around the legs of the heater. He even made the folks set the heater on the truck.
But that wasn’t the worst incident — no, not by a long shot. That was the time he whipped a whole family.
In that case he was repossessing — are you ready for this — a tricycle. Oh yeah, can you believe it? It was sometime in May, so the kid at least got to play with it since Christmas. Anyways, this angry-looking guy came out on the porch and told Tiny, “I ain’t got no money fer ye! And ye ain’t a gittin the trike!” The next thing I saw was Tiny — in one swift move — come up with a piece of pipe and tapped the guy on top of the head! Sounded more like he hit a tin can. The guy just made a sound like a horse makes when you first remove the saddle. The man spun around and fell into the porch swing, ripping out two lag bolts and half the ceiling. The next thing I heard was, “You done kilt ma husband!” as this woman come running and screaming out the front door with a piece of stove wood. Tiny just blocked her weapon with one hand and, with the other, turned the woman around and shoved her back through the same door she came out. Now everything got quiet and I was relieved that this fiasco was finally over. Tiny had the tricycle and walking back to the truck, when all of a sudden, this kid appeared out of nowhere and latched onto the back wheels of the tricycle. So now it was on again! A tug of war with the kid pulling on the wheels and Tiny pulling on the handle bars. Tiny started spinning around making the kid look like he was on a carnival ride till the kid finally went flying across the front yard, whipping up a small cloud of dust. Then Tiny just shrugged it off and threw the tricycle in the truck.
Well I found out something that day. I had always wondered where they got the idea for “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Now I knew.
Now, Tiny had other vices besides his cold-hearted attitude. He had other traits that would have to be viewed as very questionable. Why, sometimes he would repossess items that had trouble making their way back to the warehouse where they were supposed to go. They would sometimes find their way into the homes of his other associates. Once, I saw him repo a refrigerator, only to take it across town and sell it to someone for 50 bucks, which of course went in the ole pocket. When I asked him about writing it up he quickly set me straight on that. “Oh no! he said “No need for that!” When I questioned the credibility of such action, he had an answer for that with one of his many Bible quotes. “The Bible says, ‘The Lowad heps dem whut heps demselves!’” It was all I could do to refrain myself from informing him that the verse, or scripture if you will, was found nowhere in the Bible, but could be found in “Poor Richard’s Almanac.”
Then, there was the time an elderly, almost blind lady, wanted to buy a 10 x 12 rug. I was telling the lady that we were out, but Tiny cut me off in mid-sentence with a squinted face: “Oh no, we got one left on da truck. Get out and bring it in boy.”Well, I knew and he knew all we had on the truck was 10 x 10 rugs. Well, when I started in with it, he stopped me on the porch. “Boy let me show you something!” Having said that, he took out a marker pen and changed the 10 to a 12. “Now there”, he said, with not so much as a hint of dishonesty. “That’s how ye make a 10 x 12 out of a 10 x 10.” Then he put the rug down and took the old lady’s money.
Later, as we were going down the road, Tiny reached under the seat and pulled out one of several dozen one-ounce bottles of Wild Turkey, popped the cap off, poured it down in one swift gulp (and) sighed with pleasure as he tossed the empty bottle out the window. Then looking at me with a very satisfied and arrogant expression gave me another of his much-experience quotes: “Remember boy, you don’t sell’em whut da want, ye sell ‘em whut ye got!”
J.A. Bolton is a member of the N.C. Storytelling Guild, Anson Co. Writer’s Club, Anson and Richmond Co. Historical Society