Thursday, February 11, 2016

I Remember the '60s (Part 3)

In our last thrilling installment, I told about getting a George Wallace bumper sticker for a friend.  Now here's the rest of the story, or my part in the story, anyway.

Glenn was so grateful for the bumper sticker that he wanted me and Judy to come visit him and his wife, Anna, before he left for parts unknown (which turned out not to be the Carolinas).  Judy had never met him, but she knew about the bumper-sticker episode.  She was skeptical about a visit, but she didn't want to hurt his feelings, and we couldn't think of a good excuse not to go.  So we did.

Glenn and Anna lived in a old rented farmhouse south of Austin just off Manchaca Road, an area that at the time was 'way out on the country.  Now there's a lot of development out that way, but at that time Glenn's place was pretty hard to find.  There was nothing else anywhere around, unless you count vacant, overgrown fields.  

Somehow we managed to find the place one Sunday afternoon, and I pulled into the graveled drive.  I knew we were at the right house when I saw the rusty old tin shed in front of me with the back end of a decrepit hearse sticking out.  On the bumper was the brand-new Wallace sticker I'd obtained for Glenn, who came out of the house and took us inside.


We entered through the kitchen, and in the middle of it was a table on which lay some items wrapped in butcher paper.  Also some cats.  I forget how many.  More than two.

Glenn introduced us to his wife, who looked a little bit like Janis Joplin.  She must  have fancied the resemblance, because she immediately produced an autoharp (it had been her grandmother's) and started to sing.  She was no Janis.  She was no Robert Lopresti, either.  Glenn had heard enough after about thirty seconds, and he said, "Let's go shoot my pistol."

All this time I'd thought of Glenn as a peace-loving hippie, and maybe he was, but in his bedroom he had a gun belt hanging from the bedstead.  There was a .45 caliber revolver in a holster attached to the gun belt.  "Living out here in the country," Glenn said, "we need protection."

I didn't ask what or whom he needed protection from, but I was starting to wonder what those fields were overgrown with.  

I was about to find out.  We went outside, past the shed where the hearse sat, and into a field.  Nothing illegal was there, not that I saw.  It was mostly sunflowers.  Glenn had a bale of hay set up to shoot at, and he fired off a few rounds. Didn't miss with a one of them, either.

"I'll have this with me in the hearse in case the bumper sticker doesn't work," he told me, hefting the revolver.  I may have responded, but if I did, I don't remember what I said.

We went back in the house, where Anna had put the autoharp away.  We talked a while, and now and then Judy would poke me in the ribs when she was sure nobody could see.  I took the hint after a while and said we had to get back home.  Anna wanted us to stay for supper, and as we walked back through the kitchen, she started to shoo the cats off the table.  Cat hair flew everywhere.

"Stay for supper," Anna said, pointing to the table.  "We're thawing some pork shops."

I tried to think of a good reason why we couldn't stay.  Judy saw me hesitate.  She grabbed my hand and pulled me through the haze of cat hair and out the door.  It was an afternoon she never let me forget.

I saw Glenn only once more.  That was in the English building on his last day there.  We'd just turned in our final grades for the classes we were teaching, and Glenn told me that he hadn't even looked at the final exams.  He'd just given everybody in his classes an A.  It was his revenge on the system that he felt had somehow cheated him.  

I read the papers carefully every day for a couple of weeks after that, looking for anything resembling a violent incident between Texas and the Carolinas.  I never saw a thing. 

Unlike the story of Arnie, this one has a happy ending.  Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I tracked Glenn down not long ago.  I would never have guessed where life took him.  He got his PhD, after all, at Duke University.  A few years later, he went to seminary and became a United Methodist pastor.  He's done a lot of good work, including serving on a missionary team in Haiti and building casitas in Mexico.  He retired, but it didn't take.  He went back to preaching, and he's now the pastor at a little church in the Midwest.  He and Anna are still married, but I don't know if she plays autoharp at the church services.

13 comments:

Deb said...

I'm a "cradle Episcopalian" but I've been attending a Methodist church for years. IMHO, Methodist pastors have the most interesting back stories about how they ended up behind the pulpit.

Bill Crider said...

I'd love to know the backstory on this instance.

George said...

Love this story! I've worked with some odd colleagues. A guy I used to teach computer classes with (remember the "Team Teaching" days?) took early retirement and moved to New Zealand! He was an "extra" in the LORD OF THE KINGS films.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Great story! I loved the auto harp / Janis Joplin story.

Jackie would have been with Judy 100% on the cat hair story.

Deb said...

I once had to stop at a co-worker's house to drop off some paperwork. She invited me in, at which point I was surrounded by a herd of at least eight cats. They were everywhere--including draped over the kitchen counters. She was an excellent cook, but I could never again eat any dish she brought to an office potluck.

Bud said...

Excellent vignettes. please keep them coming!

Richard R. said...

George has apparently seen a film the rest of us just imagined...

Fred Blosser said...

I knew couples a lot like that, back in the day. Long-haired hippies with guns were not so rare as one would think from the stereotype. My wife and I were looking at Christmas lights in those endless housing developments on Manchaca Road when we were visiting the kids over the holiday.

Bill Crider said...

My son lives a few blocks off Manchaca in an area that would've been pasture in those days.

Don Coffin said...

Just curious...there are a ton of small churches (often non-denominational--my brother's best friend in HS was a letter carrier/minister in rural Indiana, until he retired from the postal service to spend full-time on his ministry...his congregation is in the low 20s, and I do not mean their ages) in the Midwest, and especially in Indiana...where in the Midwest?

Bill Crider said...

I doubt there's any chance he'll ever see this so: Nebraska.

Deb said...

Once when we were driving through the Mississippi Delta area (which really hasn't changed much since the sharecropping days), I saw a tiny building--more like a shack really--with a handwritten sign, ST. PETER OF THE ROCK CHURCH #2, which made me wonder where #1 was and couldn't they have made room for the congregation of #2 there.

Lawrence Person said...

I imagine PEACE LOVING HIPPIES FOR GEORGE WALLACE bumper stickers might be a big hit among the ironic hipster set...