Saturday, June 25, 2011

Run Over by a Car / First Grade


In the summer preceding my sixth birthday, I was run over by a car.  My mother sent me to Bagget's Store for a bottle of milk and a loaf of bread.  Our cow must have been dry and I can't imagine why she wanted store-bought "light bread", but she gave me a quarter and dispatched me with admonitions of "being careful crossing Holiday Street".  To get to the store, I walked the block on
26th Street
to Holiday Street, clutching the quarter in my hand, turned left for a couple hundred yards to the entrance to Dittoe's Dairy and crossed the street to Bagget's Store.  It was a failed former service station converted to a small Mom and Pop General (mostly groceries) Store.

            The Baggets had a daughter, Lynne Ruth, who was gorgeous as a child and developed into an ethereal beauty as a teenager. Although I knew her from the time we moved to
26th Street
, I can't remember anything about her voice or personality.  Even as a child, she seemed serene and concerned mostly with looking beautiful.  She was 'School Beauty" at Wichita Falls Senior High her senior year and won a beauty contest that guaranteed her a screen test in Hollywood.  She signed a contract with a major Hollywood Studio and was occasionally in the news as one of the "upcoming starlets".  Lynne Ruth had bit parts in several forgettable movies, married Sam Spiegle, was involved in a combined "Hit and Run" and "D. W. I." case in which a child was killed, then died shortly thereafter of a drug (sleeping pills) overdose.  I suspect she just couldn't cope with life in the fast lane. 

I bought the milk and bread and, with change from the quarter clutched tightly in one hand and the purchase in a brown paper bag in the other, started to cross the street.  I stepped from behind a parked bus directly into the path of a speeding automobile.  What followed was indelibly imprinted in my mind, in slow motion, for many years.  The car, a Hudson containing eight people, ran over my abdomen with both front and back left wheels. I then became entangled on the back bumper and was dragged a block or so until, fortunately, a passing motorcycle policeman stopped the hit and run driver and retrieved me from beneath the car.

            Someone called an ambulance and, while lying on the pavement waiting for it, I heard someone in the crowd of onlookers say, "It's the little Sparks boy, somebody better tell his mother".  The ride to the hospital was memorable, but I was annoyed that I kept fading in and out of consciousness, missing much of the excitement.  Upon arrival at the hospital Emergency Center, I was immediately whisked to an Operating Room, where I spent most of the night having my wounds cleaned out and sewed up.  The milk bottle, on impact, had been driven into my right thigh; lacerations to both knees and various other surfaces from being dragged on the concrete resulted in hundreds of stitches.  I heard the Physicians speculate on what damage had been done internally by "both wheels" of that big car running over his abdomen.  (I didn't know where my abdomen was, but I sensed that it was “serious” :”We've got to stop the bleeding first; we'll worry about the other stuff later."  A couple of days later, my mother discovered dried blood in my hair while combing it and X-Rays revealed a fractured skull.   

            My mother, and probably other supportive relatives, spent the night at the hospital, wondering whether I was going to make it or not.  My father, who was on a run when the accident occurred, was summoned in case I didn't; I later learned that he, with typical 1920's male chauvinism, blamed my mother and held her accountable for my possible demise.  Meanwhile my brother had visited the scene of the accident, found the blood-soaked loaf of bread, took it home and put it on the middle of the kitchen table.  I love him for it, what a macabre sense of humor, but the rest of the family didn't think it was funny. 

            The accident foiled my mother's scheme to talk the Principal of Carrigan Grade School into letting me start to school in September, shortly after my sixth birthday-a year early.  She was convinced that I was brilliant -- a conviction apparently not shared by everyone -- and was eager for me to get started on my career of famous surgeon or concert violinist or both.  I was not particularly anxious to start to school, so that was one good result of being hit by the car.  Another was that I had my first, and probably only, birthday party.  I had to sit in rocking chair through it all, but probably loved being the center of attention as the poor little injured boy.

First Grade

 The following September I had to start to school.  Carrigan Elementary School was a mirror image of all the schools built in the South post WORLD WAR I: brick, no frills, and surrounded by a packed, sunbaked playground.  I realized immediately that I would really rather be hunting doves or fishing for crappie with my Dad, but I was stuck with a bunch of "dumb" seven year old kids.  Early on, the 1st Grade Teacher left the classroom after designating some simpering "Teacher's Pet" as monitor.  I was reported to have been whistling while the teacher was out of the room, either a blatant lie or a serious lack of auditory acuity. I couldn't whistle then and never learned to, probably as a result of the emotional trauma of being falsely accused.

When I refused to either confess or say I was sorry for something I had not done, the teacher punished me by bending my fingers back and beating the palm of my hand with a ruler.  I shamefully concealed my blistered right hand from the family that night, but, when a couple of days later that "Sweetheart" first-grade grade teacher caught me illegally writing left-handed and provided the same remedial treatment to my left palm, I could no longer conceal my problems.  My mother was FURIOUS; the next day I was in another first grade class, after my mother had talked to the Principal. 

            The best thing that happened in First and Second Grade was seeing my father, in his blue overalls, standing at the classroom door and beckoning to the teacher.  I knew he was there to take me hunting or fishing.  The other boys in the class probably hated me, but I didn't care.  I loved sitting in a boat, away from the teacher and all the stupid kids, with my dad and one of his friends.  It didn't really matter whether we caught any fish, but we usually did.  We took them home and my mother quickly scaled and cleaned them, rolled them in corn meal and deep fried them.  Crappie, bass, catfish, freshwater drum; they all met the same fate: into the frying pan and down the hatch. 

          September 1st was opening day of dove season ; there was a 20-bird limit and you weren't a "real hunter" if you didn't limit. Squirrel Season came a little later (and for all the Yankees and Westerners who feed those rodents, they can be both a challenge to hunt and a palatable experience).  Quail season was no big deal, the rich folks had pointing dogs and lots of territory (if we got the chance to shoot a quail, we didn't pass it up).  Duck season started in October and that was” •a big deal.  Deer season began in November, but didn't mean a thing to us (nobody had seen a deer in Wichita County since the Comanche raids).  However, if we had happened upon some survivor, I guarantee, we would have shot and eaten that sucker.

No comments:

Post a Comment