Nice People

by Captain Perry Wrinkle

I have met a lot of people in my life, some nice and some not so nice. I seem to fall into the category of the latter.

When I was just a young boy I used to hunt squirrels with my cousin and a couple other neighborhood boys our age. I sold enough cloverine salve to heal up half the people in the county to earn my Daisy Red Ryder BB gun. That’s how we got things back then. The words “Daddy, can I have...?” were nonexistent.

On the rare occasion when I actually hit a squirrel with my old Daisy, it just hurried him up the tree. One day my cousin and I were firing away at the same squirrel when down he came, “dead as a rock”! We started to argue about who got the squirrel and that soon escalated into a fight. I was getting the best of it when he up and spit in my face and started running.

Now ol’ Everett could run like a gazelle. I put the BB’s to him but wasn’t hitting him so I grabbed Jerry’s single shot. The first made him let out a yell and grab his left shoulder. The second shot produced another squawk and he grabbed his butt. I felt better after that. I picked up my squirrel and headed home.

I came bouncing through the door to show off my prize and there sat Everett, his father and mine. Dad asked if I shot Everett with a BB I answered, “Well, I might have.” He said, “I thought so, hand me the BB gun!” I handed it over and he put the stock on the floor, held the barrel at an angle and drove his foot into the middle of my most prized possession. There went three months of salve selling and so ended my career as a “hit man.”

When I was in high school, I bought an old Nash Ambassador car. It had a bad piston and my buddy Ralph was helping me put in a new one. I put the connecting rod on the new piston, put a ring compression on it and set the rod in the cylinder hole. I passed Ralph a hammer and told him to tap the piston lightly on top with the hammer handle after I got under the car to guide it to the crankshaft.

His first tap was like he was driving a fence post. The piston came whizzing down the block and the connecting rod bounced off my forehead. I let out a yell and a string of blasphemies that my mother would not have been proud of. Ralph was laughing when I asked him to pass down the hammer. Like a fool, he did it. I took good aim on the toe of his sneaker, brought the hammer down and the “teehee” changed to a howling noise.

I let him dance around for a while and when the moaning stopped, I came out from under the car. I asked him if he thought he was driving a railroad spike when he hit the piston and he replied that it wasn’t his fault, the piston didn’t fit the block. I tried it and sure enough, the old car had been bored out and the piston just fell down the block. He had his sneaker off and a couple of his toes were turning black. I felt bad for him but I felt worse for me and the two black eyes I was getting. He asked, “Why did you hit me with the hammer?” I said, “cause you laughed.” I began to suspect right then that I wasn’t a “real nice person.”

The nicest, most easy going man I ever knew was Otto Backman. He was a “real nice person.” One cold day I was down at the town pier helping Otto rig his boat for dragging shrimp. Orton came down and started offering helpful advice and kept engaging Otto in conversation. Otto was driving a large bolt to hold his winch in place and he was using a three-pound hammer. Orton said something and Otto looked up with the hammer in mid-swing. It came down with his thumb on top of the bolt. He held his thumb to his belly and exclaimed, “Oh dear blessed lord, oh dear blessed lord.” Orton started laughing. He laughed and laughed.

Otto just sat there with his head bowed and I saw a tear run down his cheek. He finally looked up at Orton and said, “Orton, that hurt something awful, you shouldn’t be laughing.” Orton replied, “I know, Otto, and I’m sorry but I just couldn’t help it.” Otto just sat there shaking his head. I am glad that it was Otto and not me because I would have had to bash Orton with that three-pound hammer. I can say that I knew one person in my life that was a real “nice person.”

“Be nice” and good fishing,
Cap’t Perry Wrinkle


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