The Ritters were the real deal for a boy. Their garage housed possums, shot guns, dead squirrels, a “telephone” for electrifying scale-less river critters, and boundless fire crackers (near dynamite).
And they were adventuresome. Both Harold and Paul joined the Marines and served in Korea. Pete and Otis were Navy.
Amazing all survived although Paul, later died of Agent Orange.
Wednesday night was a big night later at the Ritters. Gillette’s Cavalcade of Sports (Boxing on TV). Remember the big parrot carrying the round numbers?
Walt, the old man was a big burly, funny guy. And sober he was a treat. Sober didn’t happen with a lot of mill workers, but on Wednesday night we watched the fights. Walt pulled for whoever the white guy was. For me, Kid Gavilan, Jersey Joe Walcott, Joe Louis, and Rocky Marciano, were the gods.
Once the boys built a tree house nailing wooden refrigerator boxes stacked on one another, nailed only to the pine tree with a 10-penny nail or two.
To test the safety of the ascent, Otis, at 70 lbs. and 10 years, was comman- deered to climb the boxes. Things went well til the sixth and highest box, where the angle of Otis’ weight, such as it was, caved in the architecture.
The gash in Otis’ head caused concern only because Ruth was due in soon, and Mother Ruth was tough. Harold, who had always been able to fix anything, was nearly through sewing up the wound with Ruth’s needle and thread when she walked in on everyone’s observation of Harold’s needlework.
Hell to pay. Otis didn’t really care.
There was safety in being a Ritter boy. Plus I got first access to all the stories about Walt and his brother, Uncle Harvey.
Walt and Harvey bought some Moore County farmland and called their spread “The “Ponderosa”.
The Ponderosa provided a weekend respite from the grind of mill work. White liquor was the catalyst for brotherly love.
Once Harold and Paul were dispatched to retrieve Walt and Uncle Harvey. It was Tuesday and they’d “laid out” of work for two days. Enough Ruth decided. Go get ‘em.
It was a hot Sandhills day in northern Moore County. No Yankees at the end of the county. As the sons rounded the dirt road to the Ponderosa gate Uncle
Harvey was seen driving the John Deere tractor calmly dragging Walt, who was unconscious and tied to the tractor by a ten foot chain.
“Uncle Harvey, what are you doing to Dad?”
“Well boys, he’s been so drunk I couldn’t move him out of the sun, and damn, it’s hot. I was afraid he might have a heat stroke, so I’m moving him over into the shade.”
There were periods of sobriety. But there were times when one simply needed a drink. Once, Walt, the needy, arranged a deal with Uncle Harvey who was “on the wagon”.
Harvey needed a difficult bull loaded on to “Old Dodgey” his pick up truck. The deal was Walt would use an electric prod on the bull’s rear end as Harvey backed “Old Dodgey” to the bull. For his part Walt would be driven to the booze store and given a pint of WRL (Walk, Run and Lay Down) liquor. Otherwise, known as cheap stuff. Walt, already considerably tight, miscalculated and prodded the bull’s testicles. The bull leaped over the bed of the truck on to the top of the cab, crushing it down. Old Dodgey on Harvey.
The bull fell back into the bed, winning the argument for Walt over Harvey, contending the bull was in the truck, and that was the deal.
The boys recall seeing the bull tied in the back of Old Dodgey, both 300 pound Harvey and Walt squatted low in the crushed cab, on the way to deliver the bull with a brief stop at the ABC store.

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