Things always seem to happen when you least expect them...
| In late December, 1970, Linda and I found ourselves among the group of people that were looking for a Christmas tree at the last minute. Literally. So, naturally, it had to turn into something unexpected. In more ways than one.
It was Christmas Eve, and we still had no tree. (This was the first year we decided we could afford one). So we climbed in the car and headed up Beechmont Avenue. Within minutes, we spotted the first place to check that still looked like they had a decent selection. But I was just a little skeptical...
"Hey, Jim, that looks like a pretty good selection to choose from over there!"
"Yeah, it does. But you gotta be careful of those ‘fly-by-night’ outfits. If you look closely, you'll notice that their field of operations is the old go-cart track."
"Right. But it's our own fault for waiting till the last minute, too. Right?"
"Right," I admitted, pulling into the lot. I parked parallel to the street, about ten feet from the curb.
No sooner had we gotten out of the car, then these two "salesmen" approached, a few feet away.
“There's something about these guys that's familiar," I told Linda as they got closer. Once they'd gotten close enough, I knew what it was and so did they.
Hey, Mark! Well I'll be damn! And Scotty! What the hell are you two doing here?"
"Selling Christmas trees. What's it look like?" Mark responded, grinning.
"Lin, this is Mark Timmons, and Charles Scott. My wife Linda. These two clowns were in my class at Anderson."
Even after they really found out who she was (remember “Roach”?), they didn’t change their attitude. I thought, ‘I guess even Mark was able to grow up. I wasn’t sure that was possible, back then. Not for the “Class Clown”. Gotta give him credit.”
Scotty, on the other hand, I kind of expected to handle it. He’d always been pretty level-headed. Class vice-president and all that. Well liked and respected. And he didn’t let me down.
Ed. Note: I apologize for the grainy appearance on the two photos above. The scanner picked up the grain in the paper
The next two hours were happily spent in a totally unusual matchup of reminiscing and tree searching. (The tree was chosen in less than half an hour – the rest was reminiscing, as you might have guessed.)
When they decided, at 10:00 P.M., to “close up shop”, we all walked back to our cars. After the good-byes, and usual promises to keep in touch, and to make our 5-year reunion next year, they headed for Mark’s car. Since we’d loaded the tree in the trunk when we picked it out, all we had to do was get in and drive away. So, I started the engine, put it in gear, and let out the clutch. Nothing. No, I wasn’t in neutral. But I was without a clutch.
I hailed Mark and Scotty before they could leave. True friends. We pushed the thing into the old go-kart maintenance shed and Mark got underneath. A few minutes later, he had me try shifting and taking the clutch in and out. No luck. He came out from beneath the car. I thought aloud, to Linda, as I climbed from the driver’s seat, “Somebody up There likes me. This could have happened on Columbia Parkway. At midnight. Let alone at 45 miles an hour.”
“I can’t argue that,” she smiled.
“You need a lift home, right?”
“You read my mind.” We all laughed.
“No sweat. You can have the car picked up Saturday.”
Minutes later, the tree was in the back of Mark’s station wagon, and we headed out. They dropped us off at our doorstep at 12:30 a.m. Christmas Day.
Saturday, December 26, the car was towed to the shop and a new clutch installed. "This was the first stick shift we owned, and it's going to be the last," I muttered as I drove home that afternoon. My mind flew back over the problems we'd had with that car. "Doesn't like wet weather. Diesels. Now the clutch. Not to mention the subtle problems. Like not being able to "be affectionate" with Linda when I need two hands to drive. And I'm just not sure the skimpy savings on gas mileage is worth all that! And $63.00 to boot! We are gonna start shopping around. Starting this early, maybe we can find a good deal before something else goes wrong." With that, I pulled into the driveway.
Five days later, 1970 was history. And that car was about to be.
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Mark and Scotty at our 40th high school reunion, Sept. 29th, 2006