I mention Slick Tosh and people roll their eyes LIKE I’m making that name up for sure. Then I get down to the part where Rollin Trull rammed his big Harley right through the front door of the Skyway Grill, owned by the aforementioned Mr. Tosh…..and folks start nodding LIKE “there ain’t no way!”

I mention Slick Tosh to James Hastings and he quickly responds, “You know his son owns the fifth largest hog farm in America. He also has hundreds of acres of row crops out by his dad’s old place. He is the largest employer in Henry County. I believe at last count he had 318 people working for him.”

James then moved on to telling me how Skunk Hollow got its name. I had always believed it was because it was inhabited by smelly animals. “Not so,” according to James, “they had one beer joint in the hollow and folks declared that only ‘skunks’ hung out in there.’”

High School Classmates are forever.

I’m not sure who called this meeting. And it was not an official reunion. But word had gone out that the Class of ’65 was having lunch “for all who could make it” at a local restaurant on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It was only a 576 mile drive for me……

I hugged Pam and LaRenda like we’d grown up together. And marveled at how well they looked. It’s interesting with folks that you’ve known and loved since birth. It’s as if time rolls backwards when we gather.

Larry Ridinger brought up a football game played at “Gwaltney Field.” He said it like most folks would refer to Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park. And he didn’t waste time explaining it was just down from the Methodist Church in Billy Gwaltney’s side yard. He didn’t have to. We all could see it as clear as if it was 1959. The goal post was “past the tree” at the north end zone and a stump out near West Church Street marked the south goal line.

Larry grew up just around the corner from Pat Houston’s Grocery and I wish I had a nickel (which incidentally was what they cost) for every pack of baseball cards me and him opened on that little bench out front. And I wished all over again that I’d a’kept just one of the Mickey Mantle or Ted Williams cards!

Graylene Lemonds was as quiet and polite as always. But let me tell you, she can tell that story about me and her and Dennis Coleman riding over to the Carroll County Fair in the back of Aunt Opel’s pickup better than I can!

Our class president, David Webb, wanted to know when I was going to put my stories into a book. I told him the truth, “Books are normally reserved for real writers.”

Hollis Mayo quickly reminded me how friendly and helpful my older brother had been to him, “Leon would pick me up in his Ford convertible and take me anywhere I wanted to go.” I get that from a lot of folks back home……

And Hollis brought the latest edition of the McKenzie Banner; the one with Kenny Butler’s obituary. We all went silent. It was that respectful, deep silence reserved only for family members. And we were reminded why there can’t be too many of these reunions.

Donna Leatherwood hugged my neck. And I laughed. She wouldn’t do that in 1964 when I wanted her to! I’d walk by her house and wave. I offered to carry her books to class. I sat next to her table in the lunchroom……I reckon she didn’t see me.

Reggie Lawrence was the steady one, then and now. Just rock solid. I felt I was home just being in his presence. And Don Melton and I played ball in every field, backyard and empty lot in town. He knew something about the hog business himself. And his dad, Mr. O. C., was one of the most straight up men I have ever known.

Emily Young asked what the people in Port St. Joe thought about my stories “about us.” It was a great question. One that St. Joe has answered in a most profound way. “Emily, they all say to me, ‘You must have had the happiest childhood.’”

They understand why the 576 miles weren’t such a big deal.

James stopped me as we were leaving, “You mentioned Slick Tosh. Do you remember the night Rollin drove his motorcycle right through the front door of the Skyway Grill? The fight with the Huntingdon boys had broken out……and he didn’t want to be late!”

 

Respectfully,

 

Kes