THE BLOSSOMING OF BRUNO BROWN

Recently we hosted a good friend who had just lost his Father.  I asked if he had done anything to disappoint his dad?  He said “…my brother took care of that”, alluding to a sibling who hadn’t missed a chance to embarrass the whole family.  Often.  

Another guest suggested his Father took him to a Klan rally.  Works both ways. 

Later I turned the question inward and out popped a latent event.

At 17 years old little league and pony league baseball were past.  Small town summers were “boring” and we now had those car keys.

Between puberty, time, and Pabst Blue Ribbon, one oft time goes astray.

Being 80 years, 1958 was a long time ago…memory fades.  Some moments of the “outing” are vague, some totally blank, some quite vivid.

There was no tryout for our football at my high school.  Anybody willing gets a suit.  Mine was way too big as I weighed 104 lbs as a freshman QB aspirant.  No other underclass men,  pre-puberty and starry eyed, made the first practice. 

We barely had enough to scrimmage.  I had no way to get to practice.  Now the seniors were driving hand me down Studebakers, Hudson Hornets, Kaiser-Fraziers, pickups, etc.   They gave me rides to practice, then to their other more mature practices.

Being new in town, these older guys were my early teen friends and teammates.  One they called Bruno.

Robert Worth Brown had gone noticeably unnoticed till adolescence. Puberty hit him hard.  He was among the very smartest kids the town had ever turned loose, yet he began to unravel.  Substance abuse they call it now.  Then it was mostly beer and concoctions he dreamed up from the drug store where we both played Fonzie.   Oddly enough paregoric and ammonia were just a squirt away from the soda fountain.

During the summer of 1958 and already finding new ways to occupy ourselves, Bruno (“Bobby”) was older, fearless, and creative.  Often I chickened out when he proposed creative adventures, fueled by boredom.  All the older guys cut me some slack, because of my age, and I was a preacher’s kid.  I did all the cussing and smoking I could,  but still I often felt I let them down, mainly Bobby.

As stated my now memory varies from vivid to vague to blank.  I vaguely remember that the following was initially my way to gain favor with these older guys.  Why my parents were out of town  I am not sure.  I am relatively sure the idea of a summer lawn party at the Baptist parsonage was my idea.  Bruno was impressed and embellished my imagination with visions of party lights, champagne, a jazz band, etc.  Someone on the “planning committee” suggested tuxedos. Go to blank.

I don’t remember the party only we had one, less some amenities.  I do remember after the party,  riding with Bruno who had realized he needed more to drink.  He of course knew where to access moonshine.  We headed at midnight to a man’s home.  After awakening the guy, Bruno said “…he gave me a contact in Biscoe (13 miles west).   30 minutes later, plus some bootleg blended whiskey, we are back on Plank road when Bruno sees a man walking on the road.

The town mayor ran a railroad cross-tie business.  His nephew was with us and recognized the walker as a cross-tie loader for his Uncle, the aforementioned mayor. 

“That’s Tootie “ said nephew , Charlie. so, we picked Tootie Simmons up, 250 lbs of tie loader, all black and half drunk.  Tootie piled in.

Vaguely we wound up at the parsonage.  Charlie slept in my mom’s bed.  I must have slept in the front room by the door bell.  It rang long and loud till I answered it.

‘Is Charlie here?  He was supposed to meet his ride back to Appalachian (State) an hour ago”! I   

went and got Charlie, but not the employee of the Mayor, Tootie,  who snored on the floor next to Charlie in Mom’s bed.  The town soon enough  would dig out the details.

The next week was agony.  When the confrontation? Who knew what? How in the hell did I   think this would turn out okay?  These fears fit the vivid category.

Strange?  Nothing mentioned for several days, a week, two weeks.  

In the third week a member of the church choir called me over for a private conversation.  She told me she was in the “beauty shop” when a customer asked My mom about the lawn party.  And she relayed some of the rumors.

Later I realized during this time period my dad was quite ill.  

I like to think my mom would do anything to protect my Dad.  He would have been so “disappointed” in me.

I think, too, my mom got a chuckle.

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