Alright, so I haven't posted anything for a couple of days. Its not like I've been busy. I did have company this weekend and yesterday was kinda hectic so I'm reposting a couple of stories I wrote in 2006.
Here's the first one. Enjoy.
(If I miss any typos in the following story it’s because I’m batching it and I’m a little on the Crown. It makes me clairvoyant. Also, this story contains foul language. I know that I keep it real, but I do apologize).
Last week everyone received an email from Lambert about Harlem. Jim’s remarks were unfounded and capricious (I don’t even know what that means but it sounds good). It really got me thinking about Harlem. Now, I’m a storyteller, as most of you well know. I can tell a story or have a story about most anything, it’s a gift that I’m thankful and I’ve also bored most of you to tears with my stories and what follows is sure to be another.
I was blessed to grow up in Malta, the Capitol of the Hi-Line, the pinnacle of sports for northern Montana and most of class B sports. If you lived on the Hi-Line, Malta is always good at everything, especially football, girls and boys basketball, wrestling, track etc. etc.
But Jim’s response made me think. I’ve had a drink in almost every bar in every town on the Deuce (Highway 2) from Wolf Point to Cut Bank. But Harlem, hmm, I’ve never had a drink in a bar there. I mean, if you’re from the Malta, when you pass Harlem it just means you’re half way to Havre. Harlem is just a geographical reference point. I never partied there. But wait, I do have a story.
Side bar: My friend Tim Barnes once said to me “ do all of your stories begin with ‘this one time Ralph and I grabbed a twelve-pack ….’”. Then Phillip Henderson came to Bozeman and said “ Gibbs, do you remember the time we grabbed a twelve pack…” and Tim went “ yeah this is how the stories start”.
It was around 1983 or 1984. The guys were ready to head back to college. I was still in Malta working my ASS off. Malta was playing Harlem in football that night in Harlem. We decided to make a road trip. The players are as follows: Ralph, Delmer, Jimmy, Rick Robinson and myself. So we grabbed a twelve-pack, in this case a couple of twelve packs.
Now Rick is a fine man. This is in the days where a designated driver was still in the think tank, but Rick volunteered to drive the way because we would take his mom’s new Buick Riviera. Sweet! A sober drive, lots of beer, alpine mix and we headed west 45 miles.
With Toto rocking us on the cassette player, we left the Capitol with a Mustang victory and partying in play. I’ll make a note here that the drinking age was 19 at the time and we were all legal, willing and able.
Upon arriving in Harlem, we pulled into the football field. Now, this was back in the day where you could actually drive into the stadium. Hell, in Malta, the East End Zone had so much booze in it that you almost needed a liquor license just to get you car into it.
We parked in the field. We were making alpines in the car and decided that we should put the beer in the trunk. After all we were in Harlem and didn’t want the windows smashed so someone could take our beer.
About this time, a lady approached our car. I don’t know her name, she could have been Lambert’s mom for all we know. Let’s just call her Harlem Booster Jacket Lady, HBJL, for short.
“ You guys better not be partying in here!”
“ We won’t be, we’re putting our beer in the trunk for later” As we grab three thermoses of alpines.
“ Don’t let me catch you boys back here during the game.”
“ Oh no. You won’t. We’re here to watch football.”
It was a chilly evening in Harlem. Now, all of us were well known at the time to have a drink on occasion. When we hit the stands with those alpines, well, let’s just say that by the end of the first quarter, we were dry.
Now, I’m kind of a ‘boys will be boys” guy. When you’re 20 or so and you run out of hooch and you know where there is more then that’s where you go.
To the Riviera!
At this time in history, Delmer wasn’t quite at the height of his powers in getting chicks to follow the party, but he had honed his skills remarkably to have some high school girls to c’mon along and have some beers. They were so invited and happened to join us in the Riv.
It was a rainy evening in September. Not by any means hot. I guess this is where I should say that Rick had been recruited by the Phillips County News to take pictures of the game. They would pay him something like $2 a photo so he bolted to make some cash. Meanwhile the rest of us, and our escorts, made it back to the car.
Call me old-fashioned but I believe in pouring a couple of beers down a young girl’s throat before trying to take advantage of her. As did my com padres. With a little Kool and the Gang in the player and a case of Oly in the front seat, things were looking good.
The names of the girls have escaped me through time, but trust me when I say they were digging us. We had just talked the girls into shotgunning an Oly with us when a rap, no a hard knock, lingered at the driver’s side door. I couldn't tell who was knocking. The windows were fogged, because there were eight of us in the car (get you minds out of the gutter). It must be Rick.
It wasn’t. It was HBJL. I was in the driver’s seat (literally not figuratively, wink, wink). I hit the down window button and there she was in all her glory.
“I told you boys no partying!”
“It’s half-time” I responded. “C’mon, we aren’t bothering anyone.”
“Get this car out of here right now!”
“Well, we have a friend we have to go and get”
“He can find a ride home. GET OUT!”
The girls de-planed. We were looking to soil some doves but all we got were ruffled feather. We situated ourselves and were ready to leave per her instructions.
“By the way, I called the cops and they will be on the lookout for this car.”
Well, that’s just fucking great. Not only do we have to tell Robinson we got booted, we have to tell him that he is probably going to be pulled over on the way home. This is shaping up to be one hell of an evening.
The girls bail. Who can blame them? We put the beer in the trunk, beg for forgiveness but there is none forthcoming. By the way, we still have to get Rick. After all, it’s his mom’s car and he’s sober.
“Don’t try to come back in here. I’ll be watching the gate.”
This is where we pull the old Halloween trick on her. You know how at Halloween, you find a house with great candy and want to hit it again so you go around the corner and trade costumes and ring the bell and yell “Trick or Treat”. The lady at the door says “weren’t you all just here?” Nope. That must be some other trick or treaters. Snickers around! Unless you’re Charlie Brown and you just get a rock twice.
We drive down a couple of blocks from the field, Jimmy puts on Delmer’s sweatshirt and says he just pulled in from Malta and the HBJL says “Oh OK go right in.”
Jimmy finds Rick and tells him what happened .
I’ve known Rick Robinson for over thirty years. He’s a great man. Extremely successful. Never, I mean never, have I seen him mad. Except for this night. He was pissed off.
Jim brings him back to the car.
“You motherfuckers! I was getting paid by the PCN to take pictures and you guys get kicked out of the game. We told her we wouldn’t be back. Gibbs, you said you needed the keys to get your coat!”
This is where it’s gets funny (yeah I know you’ve been waiting for funny but like all of my stories it’s a long drawn out process. Deal with it.)
So, Rick is at the car, we’re all waiting for him because he’s the DD.
Did I mention it was raining? I think I did. Our shoes our covered with mud.
“Alright. Everyone take their shoes off and put’em in the trunk.
Now, here’s where it gets funny, at least to me.
We’ve all been the sober one at some point where everyone else is drunk. It’s a tough deal. Well when you’ve known each other as long as we have it’s even tougher.
“Hey Rick! Do you want us to take our socks off too?”
“Hey Rick, my pants have some mud on them.”
“Hey Rick, I don’t know how it happened, but I have some mud on my shorts. Do you want me to get naked?”
At this point, Rick has obviously lost his sense of humor.
We load up and head for the Deuce and Malta.
Once we’re on the highway, we tell Rick that the cops are on the lookout for his vehicle. If I thought he was mad before, he was even madder ( if that’s a word) then.
He pulls over and makes us put the beer in the trunk. Not only that, he wouldn’t let us have the open ones we were drinking in the car. We cannonball those and head east.
Did I mention how non-fun it is to be sober when everyone else is drunk? I think I did.
There’s no music. No Toto, no Kool, no Journey, not even KMMR (Kelb’s Malta Mustang Radio) nothing. He was punishing us. Or so he thought.
Being the only sober person when everyone else is drunk is a hard deal. As I’ve said, it’s even harder when you’ve know each other as long as we have.
The hum of car is almost deafening. Rick is way, I mean way pissed off. But we’re giggling like a bunch of seventh grade girls.
“Hey Rick. What’s the speed limit?”
“Rick. How fast are we going?”
Not quite out right laughter.
“Rick. C’mon, can we have a beer?”
“Listen to me assholes. You cost me a bunch of money, my mom is going to be pissed about her car being so dirty. I’m going to get pulled over and I haven’t done a god dam thing. You guys can just fuckoff and leave me alone, I’m driving.”
At this point we can’t contain ourselves any longer. We are just plain laughing our asses off.
“C’mon Rick, we still love you. Lighten up, nothing gonna happen. Pull over and let us get some beer.”
At some point, when you’re the DD you have to relent. I mean, it’s better to give the drunks a beer then to listen to them whine. Almost like trying to wean a baby. The first couple of nights you get tired of the crying so you give them a sippy cup full of milk just to shut them the hell up. Rick pulled over, we got beer and sang Rosanna all the way to Malta.
Once we arrived at the Capitol, we pulled into the car wash at Westside, hosed down the Riv, vacuumed her out, washed our shoes and parked it at Mother Robinson’s house. We jumped into Delmer’s car, the Rezwagon, threw beer around in it like we were at the Champagne room at the Crazy Horse ( never been there, just heard about it) and closed down the bars like every other Friday night.
Now, here’s the point of the whole story that you’ve all been waiting for. A tradition is something that’s done annually. Maybe not on the exact date, but every year. An anniversary, the LBOH, a homecoming game etc. etc. A routine is something you do as a habit, like shaving.
Malta had been a class A school through the mid 70’s. A conspiracy by the MHSA to deny us two class B football titles. In the fall of 1980, we were moved back to class B. Our conference was realigned to include Harlem, who we had never played regularly. The tradition began that we played Harlem, the routine is that we always beat them. 46-0 this year and that’s a close game. Hey Lambert, the next time you mock the greatest athletic school in Montana history, remember that. By the way, Malta won that night.