After graduation from Deshler High School, I went to college for two years at Florence State University, now known as the University of North Alabama. I worked as our church secretary and also helped at home on the dairy. After transferring to Auburn in 1973 with the intention of becoming a veterinarian, I found out there was a whole different world out there. One thing that was shocking was hearing some of the northern girls cussing up a blue streak that would make a sailor blush. We just didn’t do that at home, we would be permanently eating a bar of soap.
Another thing was food. No one cooked like Mom. My first quarter there I discovered antacids and became good friends with them. I lived in a private dorm off campus but had purchased a meal ticket with part of the student loan I had. Work study income went to a used 1966 Dodge Dart and for gas, insurance and other expenses. The next quarter I started cooking and I parted ways with the antacids.
Two good friends in the dorm were Jean and Virginia. Jean was from Russellville, 15 minutes down the road from my home in Tuscumbia, and Virginia was from Trussville. They would catch rides with me whenever I would make a trip home. Jean’s parents raised and showed racking horses. I got to ride one of them one weekend when we were at home, a very sweet ride compared to the quarter horses I was used to. Jean and I are still friends to this day.
Two other friends, Marilyn and Paula, were architecture students and spent most of their time there, but we would see them every once in a while. Everyone called them Nip and Tuck, and you never knew what they were going to do. One quiet night while I was studying for a test, the door flew open and there they were dressed as gangsters holding tommie guns. I got a good soaking from their super water rifles before I was able to lock them out of my room. Another time just before graduation, they took Virginia up to the top of Haley Center and left her at the top observation floor and were driving Nip’s VW Beetle around on the concourse waving up at her. That prank cost them, as they had to replace every broken paver on the concourse before they could graduate.
Little did I know what the next year would bring. Rheta Grimsley, now a famous columnist, was a student writer for the college newspaper, the Auburn Plainsman. She wrote about a fad that started in Los Angeles in late 1973 called streaking. Her fictional account discussed a streaker clad in nothing but tennis shoes and a ski mask running across the concourse at Haley Center and down the street to Parker Hall. The next day at 10:03 a.m. on Friday, February 15, 1974, Auburn became the first SEC college to have streaking when a lone runner clad only in tennis shoes and a ski mask ran from Haley Center toward Parker Hall.
After supper that night, Nip and Tuck burst into my room and asked if I wanted to go with them and see the a panty raid going on at the Hill, which was a collection of women’s dorms. They mentioned something called streaking, but I hadn’t seen the news yet, so I didn’t know what they were talking about at the time. We all piled into Nip’s Beetle and headed to the hill. Man, it was like a Tiger walk, only a few women were hanging out the dorm windows topless and guys were crawling up to get the girl’s unmentionables. Soon the crowd parted and a large number of runners, guys and gals clad only in tennis shoes, some with ski masks, came running through.
Now this was before cell phones and the Internet, and I’m not sure to this day how everyone knew what was happening next, but Nip said, let’s head over to the President’s home. When we got there, another large crowd was gathered, and soon they parted and here come the streakers through the President’s yard, through the fountain and off toward Toomer’s Corner and Sanford Hall. We piled into Nip’s Beetle and went to the home of the Dean of Women and watched the streakers come through, and then on to Sanford Hall.
The city police were waiting at the last stop near our dorms. When they tackled a streaker, the crowd would pull them off and the streaker would escape to run another day. A classmate of mine paid the price for police frustration. He decided to relieve himself behind one of the bushes at one of the dorms and landed up getting arrested for indecent exposure. I think he said he had to pay a $200 fine. I’m not aware of any streakers being arrested that night. Our annual that year had a page dedicated to the night.
In March of 1974, Ray Stevens wrote and released "The Streak." It was his one of his most successful recordings, spending three weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in May 1974.
On the home front, I still haven’t been able to get my garden plowed up. First it was too wet, then too dry, now too wet again. Farmers managed to get the rest of their corn and soybeans planted before this last wet spell. Wheat is ready to be combined, but the fields are too wet to get into. Many fields have wind-made crop circles. More rain is forecast, so I think I’ll do no till with my tomatoes. I mowed my garden area well this weekend. I’ll dig a hole and put landscape fabric down and will mulch well and hope for the best. I’ll plant squash in my flower beds. My cabbage and Brussels sprouts are doing well among the flowers. Iris and peonies are finished blooming, and daylilies and liliums are in bloom. I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to find my flower beds through all the grass, weeds, hackberry, honeysuckle and privet. As I pulled up a patch of Johnson grass growing among my daylilies, I thought back to when we were children. We would take a blade and put it between the length of both thumbs to make a kazoo. As I started blowing, Levi and Blackie thought I was after a critter and came running breaking off several flowers. Sometimes it’s not good to think back to the old days.
When not working and finding my yard, I’ve done a little photography. A friend invited my on an eagle fledging watch in the area. Recall Lagrange, which is a festival to raise funds for the preservation of the college site and the cemetery, took place in May. The town and college were burned during the War Between the States. The town never recovered and has been taken back over by nature. A table belonging to Charles Tait, a Georgia Senator who wrote the bill for Alabama to become a state, was used in the signing of allegiance to the Union by the re-enactors. The second annual Harvey Robbins Rodeo Parade took place down Main Street in Tuscumbia. Sheffield had a street party featuring Shenandoah, Earl Thomas Conley, and The KGB. Travis Wammack, The Snakeman, did a tribute to local legend and native son Percy Sledge. The Memorial Day ceremony was chased into the Legion by rain.
Coming up this month is the 200th anniversary of Gen. Andrew Jackson’s victory at the battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. Victory balls have already taken place in New Orleans and Natchez. Gen. Jackson and Gen. Coffee will come alive at the one in Tuscumbia. The Helen Keller Festival takes place at the end of the month. Helen Keller is a native of Tuscumbia.
The Hooligans have been busy protecting my property. They were having a hissy fit and trying to climb a nearby tree one morning while I was waiting near a hummingbird feeder with my camera. Turns out they had a dove treed. The next day Mom called me at work and said there was a commotion going on at my house. She said that they had a squirrel treed up the Japanese maple by the garage and were trying to climb the tree. I’m thinking the back garage with a small variegated tree, somewhat expensive. I had visions of coming home and seeing a tree with all the limbs broken off. As I pulled in the driveway, I realized she was talking about the one at the end of the driveway. It had a circular path around it looking more like a race track than a bed of what used to be daylilies. I grew the tree from seed from one I had at my old house in Muscle Shoals.
This week, the remains of a snake and a baby bird were left at the end of the driveway for me. They always leave their presents for me there. I’m thinking the half eaten bird probably is what made Patches sick the day before. She kept whining at me while I was drinking my coffee and reading the paper waiting for a hummer to visit. Shortly she lost whatever it was causing the problem.
Blackie was barking for an hour for me to come move a pile of stuff so she could get some critter. When she started ripping stuff, I decided I needed to get on my jeans and shoes and help her before she did too much damage. She was real quiet when I put up a clean hummingbird feeder on the deck. I walked around to the shed to check on her. There she was standing on top of a big pile of plywood and lattice looking at me with her tongue hanging out. I was too tired to move all of that stuff. As I walked off, she started barking at me again to help her. She finally gave up after another hour.
There’s never a dull moment at my place.