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.



It is almost 2020.  I am almost 80.  It is almost Christmas.  It is Festivus.  Dec. 23.

Junior Johnson just died.  That confirms mortality.  I met Junior  once.  And I met Ted Williams, my hero.  “First there was baseball”, but “car racin'”wasn’t far behind.  We didn’t have pro teams in the South then.  We did have baseball and racin’.  Basketball was fermenting, but the baseball game of the week and Darlington were staples.  Ford or Chevy? Up there with Democrat or Republican?

All politics are local and so was racin’.  Our small town changed it’s name twice and wound up being called after the mill owner, “Robbins’.  Pure mill village, labor  and management the dividing line. The  minor league baseball team was named the “Robbins Robins”.

My teenage years coincided with the deification of the automobile.  We proved you do need a seatbelt. And it ain’t smart to drive drunk.  But once they let you have the car keys you could go any where you could make it home for check-in.  Drink figured into the equation and we had some peculiar laws there.  Our dry end of Moore County meant nightly reconnoitres to Pinehurst, the rich and “wet” end of the county.  Bring me a six pack of PBR!  No mixed drinks, only “brown bagging”

Moonshine and North Carolina are synonymous.  The best recent book on the combination of cars, moonshine,NC and Nascar is DRIVING WITH THE DEVIL by Neal Thompson.   Driver, promoter, and mechanic.  Began in our hills but soon got to the flat lands (Percy Flowers ruled the Piedmont).

“Moonshiners put more time, energy, thought, and love into their cars than any racer ever will. Lose on the track and you go home. Lose with a load of whiskey and you go to jail.” —Junior Johnson, NASCAR legend and one-time whiskey runner.

We have just added a traffic circle at now home , Emerald Isle, NC.  And it trigged some nostalgia  (more later).  The first circle in our  Robbins neighborhood in the 50’s was,  you guessed it, in Pinehurst.  We accepted it as an in route challenge to our cars and driving skills.  Beer in hand, how fast could you drive around the circle?  In 3 trips?  First to  pass someone in the circle?  Record for number passed per lap? First ticket?  First ticket with no license?

Sadly, but inevitably, the causality and severity of a mistake stunned us.  Tex Graham was  first, a football player who sang 16 tons (“…you load sixteen tons and what do you get?  Another day older and deeper in debt”. )  RIP, Tex.

Less severe but notable early scenarios include Ben Brady’s solo trip to “the Pines” in his 53 pickup, stopping in front of the police station, Blowing the horn till the puzzled officers came out of the station.  “You can’t catch me ” was Ben’s challenge, whereupon he patched out at top speed.  Sadly  Ben  flipped her and wound up under the truck, specifically the red hot muffler.  Burn city.

Lenonard “Urd” Benson drove his Studebaker into a ditch that was roof high and Studebaker wide to the “war eagle”.  It happened on Prom night.  We abandoned the dance to laugh at Urd, and walk across the car.

Next up Glenn McCaskill,  didn’t make the sharp curb at Aberdeen lake.  Don’t remember if he made the lake, but do remember that a week before he had driven the same route with me and nine others in a sedan to a little league baseball game.

“And my friend Brian Temple
He thought he could make it
So from the third story he jumped
And he missed the swimming pool only by inches
And everyone said he was drunk.” FAMILY RESERVE (Lyle Lovett).

NC 705 from Robbins to Seagrove is 13 miles.  I know it well because I tried to thumb back home one midnight. Walked the whole 13,  never saw a car.

“Heading down south to the land of the pines
I’m thumbing my way into North Caroline
Staring up the road and pray to God I see headlights “.(WAGON WHEEL by Dylan),

NC 705 intersected with NC 220 which led to Level Cross, NC,  home of the Pettys, Lee, Richard, Kyle and such.  Not only that, 705 had about a 3 mile stretch or “the straight” that had not a bend and not many laws.   Drag racing with the family vehicles blossomed.  Lore galore.  Races followed by, or including wrecks, fights, bragging rights.  Soon word drifted down that the Pettys had a great quarter mile drag track just up the road.  Locals just snuck on at all hours, uninvited.   I had a classmate who was a “management’s child” and thus wealthy.  Upon his 16th birthday he was given a new 56 Bel Air Chevy, with all gadgets, plus two four barrel carburetors.  Ripe.

The kid missed school one day and showed up the next with a God All Mighty  depressed look on him.  He said there was no need to try to hide what happened.  He felt obligated to try the 56 on the Petty fast track.  By cover of darkness he idled her on –then pedal to metal.

He acknowledged the saw he 3/4 inch cable strung between two sawed off telephone poles at track’s end: ‘But hell, she was wide open and nothing left but to hit the cable head on, head light high.  “Car is in the shop already.”

I guess a lot of small NC towns had driving tests.  We had several.  One road was called “the rough and crooked”.  What was your “top end” on the “rat path” or the tree lined back  road from West End  (now Seven Lakes) to the crossroads?   In the other direction , toward  Highfalls,NC,  there was a prolonged curve. Severe, dangerous and the perfect for locals to declare their “personal best”– screening around on two wheels.  Somehow the most difficult one got pushed backed in my thinking, yet crept into mind one recent day in mid-Emerald Isle circle.  Like many county seats in NC, Moore County’s courthouse was located in the roundabout in Carthage, NC. While it  was a longer way home it offered  a challenge.  Between the drug store and the sidewalk’s end there was a 2×2 foot brick column.  From column to store the width was almost 4 inches to spare for vehicles of that time.  Tight squeeze that only the best could navigate.  That didn’t stop the amateurs, whose cars wore scars on their sides to the indignation of miscalculation.

***RECENT STATISTIC:  “When a second teenager joins a teenage driver, the chances of an accident increases 4 times.

Emerald Isles’ circle  was controversial, yet has worked out well.  A bar with an open air view of the circle that has probably been a disappointment.  No accidents have been reported.  There is a hint of scandal no one talks about.  Some odd variables have yet to unfold. The circle’s  appearance coincided with Hurricane Florence, whose fury left the island with damage beyond the work forces ability.  Tough on people, particularly town management and workers.  The town manager, already beloved, emerged as a local hero of no small proportion.

So it shocked the town when this valued servant announced he was moving to another town.  Why the puzzled populace wondered?  Word on the street concluded that the work load of  more frequent future hurricanes was frightening.

That became somewhat the main story, Yet I wondered about the Heron?  Was the town manager responsible for the new circle sculpture.  It was a puzzle to me, but  local insiders said the manager was too busy with the storm and assigned the sculpture project to a local women’s garden club.   Said manager actually had a snicker over the birds, upon his departure.

It wasn’t the quality of the two heron’s portrayal.  However the positioning of the two, so like the fowl deed done ” a tirgo”, could hardly go unnoticed.

If that project had occurred in our neighborhood in our time, Jack Hussey would still be circling, looking for a an opening around anything that wasn’t clocking a good time. Plus the heron would not have gone unnoticed.

I’ll get crap about this but it’s too funny to ignore.  Plus during this Christmas season someone ordered the circle’s Christmas tree to cover the birds.  Garden Club?

Any way the heron have some privacy.   And THE EMPEROR WEARS NO CLOTHES.