Sunday, January 16, 2011

Jim and I

Here I have recorded a few more stories concerning Jim Melvin and myself. If you haven't read any of my previous tales about him I would suggest you take a look at “Fireworks Battle” or “Knight on a charging Schwinn” for a little bit of background. Of course, you can feel free to press on without it. Jim was a simple character to understand and it's easy to laugh at him with absolutely no background information at all.

For those of you who may not know it, I was just a little obsessed with gold and treasure when I was a child. I was constantly on the look out for hidden rooms or a secret map that was going to pave my way to riches. When I was four or five I got a book about divers bringing up sunken treasure. I would flip through the pages imagining myself in a diving suite picking up golden coins by the handful. The book actually had maps in both the front and back covers and I used to wonder if the people that made the book had printed those maps as a clue.

My mind turned toward hidden treasure and lost gold at every opportunity. When I was around nine years old I got another book. It was about rocks and geological processes. One of the pictures in it showed a rock being melted and turning into what looked like gold. What that page was actually about was super heated rock and lava and other geothermic transformations. However, to my nine year old mind it was a clue to hidden gold.

Having connected the dots in my mind I grabbed the book and headed for Jim's house. As soon as we were alone in his room I pulled out the book and began to explain.

“I've found something out!” I said as I flipped through the book looking for the right page.

“What is it?”

“It's a kind of rock that when it melts it turns to gold!”

“No way!”

“Then explain that!” I said triumphantly pointing to the picture of the melting rock.

“It does seem to be gold doesn't it!” Jim replied, getting almost as excited as myself.

Here I have to point out that neither Jim nor myself bothered to read what the book had to say about these rocks. Both of us were excellent readers and could have read the entire book in a matter of minutes, but that would have been of no use. We were looking for secrets. People don't just write secrets in a book and then publish them for the world to see. No! You have to learn to read between the lines. In this case a picture was worth a thousand of those in between words and what those words all said was GOLD!

“I have seen rocks like that before.” Jim said after a few moments.

“You have? Where!”

“In the swamp.”

“Can we reach them?”

“We can, but it won't be easy.”

Within a few minutes we had gathered our supplies and headed for the swamp. In truth, it was a few hundred acres of woodland right beside Jim's house. It did contain a few acres of swampland out in the middle of it, but it wasn't truly a swamp. We spent hours wandering in the woods as Jim tried to remember where he had seen those rocks.

The entire time I was filled with a nervous excitement. I was finally close. We were finally going to be rich. As soon as we found those rocks we could load them up, carry them home and melt them down into gold. As the hours passed I wasn't the least bit discouraged. However, Jim began to get tired and started complaining that he wanted to go home.

“What? We are practically rich and you want to give up?” I said with disbelief.

“Well, we can't find them.”

“They are here! We will find them! We just have to keep looking.”

“They aren't here...”


“I have never seen rocks like those.”

“Then why did you say that you had?”

“I felt certain we would find some in the swamp and I wanted you to come with me.”

“You could have just told me that!”


With that we headed home. At the time I wasn't sure that Jim wasn't lying about lying just so I would let him go home without fighting about it. As a grown man I realize that the volcanic rocks displayed in that picture are fairly rare in South Carolina. In any event, my dreams had been dashed for the moment. Jim didn't know where to find the secret rocks. Still, our friendship was too strong to be setback by anything as small as that. We had fun wandering around the swamp whether or not we found any gold.

Often times I ended up having more fun than Jim did in the end. My next tale, which opens years later at Wonderful Williston Weekend, is another example of that. Most small towns in South Carolina have some weekend celebration where the carnival comes to town. There are always a number rides to enjoy. There are the classics like the Merry-Go-Round and the Ferris Wheel and there's usually one that you've never heard of before. The last carnival I went to had something called the Zipper. It's hard to describe, but it scared one of my daughters so bad that she broke down crying after she got off.

One of my personal favorites was something called the Tilt-A-Whirl. If you've never ridden in one you've missed out. It consists of a number of free spinning cars attached to a platform going around and around and up and down. The result is that the cars spin at a variable rate in a variable direction. There is also a stationary wheel in the center of each car that the riders can grab hold of in order to slow or speed up the spinning of the car. Joshua and I only used that wheel in order to speed things up. We love to increase the g-forces.

In fact, as grown men we invented our own ride at some park. We had taken all the children in the family to a birthday party and, as usual, I was looking for something to do with myself while the children played. In the end I ended up sitting on a Merry-Go-Round while my brother, several of our friends, my Dad and a couple of Uncles stood around it in a circle spinning it as fast as they could. We each took a turn and all ended up very sore the next day. It was worth it. We always loved that spinning sensation.

In any event, that night we had been on the Tilt-A-Whirl a few times, but there was always room for more. Josh and I ran into Jim and we decided to run around together. After a brief discussion we decided to hit the Tilt-A-Whirl up again as soon as Jim had finished his second hotdog of the night. I didn't mind waiting because he was already half finished. He gulped the remainder down and in a flash we were all sitting together in one of the cars.

The ride began to move slowly picking us up to the top of the first little hill. We all three grabbed the wheel and waited for the first spin to start. Between the three of us we could apply a fair amount of muscle and we all intended to give it everything we had. As soon as the car began to move down the first hill it spun just a little. That was all we needed to get things moving.

We knew what direction to pull in and helped build up the momentum of the car. We fought to keep the car from slowing as we went up each hill and pulled as hard as we could to speed it up each time we went down. The other children in the car with us screamed with delight. As the g-force increased I focused all my attention on the wheel in the center. There was no ride, there was no world, there was only the wheel and my only purpose in life was to pull it with every once of energy I could muster.

(Here I have to insert a bit of a warning. Jim had just had two hotdogs and then climbed on the Tilt-A-Whirl, so you can imagine where this is going. If you easily experience nausea or find it disgusting you may want to skip a few paragraphs. I'll let you know when it's all over.)

As our speed climaxed Jim yelled to me above the general noise of the ride and the screams of our fellow passengers. “I don't feel very well!” He bellowed as loudly as he could. “Maybe we should slow the car down!” I yelled in reply. Jim didn't answer me. I think he tried to, but when he opened his mouth no words came out. Sadly a column of projectile vomit did.

Due to the spinning of the car the vomit didn't fly strait through the air. Actually I guess it did from a scientific point of view. We were spinning, not the stream of vomit that was flying through the air. However, from my point of view it looked as if Jim had spouted an arched rainbow of puke that ran directly from his mouth to my brothers chest.

For what seemed like minutes Jim continued to blow chucks in an uninterrupted stream onto my brother as Josh yelled at the top of his lungs for us to stop the ride. At last it all came to an end. The ride clunked to a halt and we climbed off. Josh was literally dripping with vomit while Jim was as clean as a spring rain. Needless to say, Josh and I headed home to get him a shower and some fresh cloths. After that night we christened that ride the Tilt-A-Hurl and we've called it that every since.

(It's over now. You can safely pick the story back up from here.)

On another occasion, not too distant in time from that night, Jim and I stood at the end of my parents driveway waiting for cars to come by. I had shown Jim that you could put alcohol on your hand and light it on fire without burning yourself. In truth, it may have been that he had showed me. It's been too long to remember which one of us first ran up on the fact, but I know for certain I was the one who came up with a use for it.

In case you don't know about this scientific oddity I'll briefly explain. If you pour rubbing alcohol on your bare skin you can ignite it without getting burned. As the alcohol burns away the process of evaporation will actually draw heat out of you. The fire will, in fact, cool you. There is an art to it and I am not recommending that any of you try it, but it does work.

That night we had gotten a bottle of Sea Breeze, which is a teenage skin care product that has a very high alcohol content. Jim poured a little on his hand and lit it on fire. As it burned away I got a brilliant idea. It was that idea that led Jim and I down to the end of the driveway.

As soon as a car came into view Jim would pour Sea Breeze all over his thumb. As soon as his thumb was sufficiently covered I lit it on fire. Jim used his flaming digit to try to thumb rides from passing cars. We stood there laughing at the thought of the drivers as they looked out of the window and saw a young boy trying to catch a ride with a thumb covered in six inches of open flame.

As a grown man I am amazed that nobody stopped to ask us what we were doing. Still, if I were driving down the road late at night and saw a shadowy figure with a flaming thumb trying to hitch a ride I might just drive on as well.

As each car passed Jim would quickly shake his hand and put out the flames. It worked well time after time right up until the point where it didn't. As the last car we pulled this on drove away into the night Jim shook his thumb to put it out. This time, however, it didn't blow out. He began waving his hand wildly as he screamed out in pain. Still the thumb burned on. Finally he had the presence of mind to rub his thumb all over his jeans. That did, in fact, extinguish his pore hand.

That was enough for both of us. Knowing that sometimes you might not go out kept us from lighting ourselves on fire again. We had gotten a few laughs and learned a valuable lesson. The only thing it cost us was Jim getting a tad toasted. All in all it was a success. It turned out a lot better than a lot of the things Jim and I had done together.

It's an odd fact of life that as you grow up you often grow apart. Jim and I were best friends for years on end. Then as we grew older we drifted apart. I ended up going to a different high school and then got married and each of us spun off in a totally different social circle. We're still friends, but I haven't even spoken to him for years now. Still, that's how grown up life is. The busy years fly by and some things simply get left behind. However, as long as we remember them they will always be part of our lives. That is why I make it a point to try not to forget.

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