Gabby Hayes and the Mouseketeers? I Don’t Think So

One of my childhood playmates was a pathological liar.  The things he told me went well beyond fibs and bragging that is so common among boys of about eleven years of age.  I mean I once told my girlfriend that if she closed her eyes, I would take her to the far side of the moon.

She didn’t go for it.

When I was in sixth grade, I told the nun that my dog, King, ate my homework.  She looked bored and told me that if King didn’t cough it up by the next morning, I was gong to get an “F”.

I talked to King about the situation I was in and he just looked at me with those big dog eyes.  They were brown, but so are most eyes on a dog, except a husky, of course.  Their eyes are different colors.  I tried to tell my girlfriend that huskies have one blue eye and one brown eye.

She slapped me for acting like she was stupid and I got the “F” from the nun.

I learned early on that it didn’t necessarily work out well when you lie.

But, my playmate never picked up on this fact.  And, (all joking aside) his compulsive prevarications would get him in trouble with me…and years later, with the law.  So, here’s how it all played out:

One summer afternoon in 1958, my friend, Clyde (not his real name, but that doesn’t make me a liar) and I were climbing the apple tree in my back yard.  He lived several houses away, on Front Street, in Owego, NY.  It was while we sat on the third branch that faced the garage my dad built in about 1954 that he told me the first blatant lie that I can recall.  We were all, the whole neighbor, the entire town, all of America was caught in the grip of The Mickey Mouse Club.  I think it was aired on Sunday evenings, but I may be wrong…I’m not lying about it!  My brother joined the Club and got a real cap with real mouse ears.  This was the real thing, not some knock-off, the actual cap with ears.  My brother used the money he made mowing lawns to pay the $1.00 dues.  I mowed lawns too, but I figured that Harvey’s Grocery needed my money more than Disney Studios.  After all, back then five cents would get you a Mars bar or a Snickers.  That’s not to say that I didn’t want a mouse-ears cap too.  It’s just my mother wouldn’t give me the money.

But I digress.

All of us in the neighbor had our favorite mouseketeers.  There was cute little Karen and Cubby (he still plays the drums).  There was Jimmy Dodd, the father figure.  Roy was the big mooseketeer.  There was Cheryl, Tommy, Larry, Sherry, Eileen, Lonnie, Doreen, Jay-Jay and Bobby (who went on to be a professional dancer on the Lawrence Welk Show).  There were others.  But, (oh, be still my beating heart), there was also the one and only Annette.  ALL, repeat ALL the boys were hopelessly in love with Annette.  I would guess it was because she was the most developed…talent on the show.

Clyde and I sat talking about the show.  It was on that warm afternoon that he told me he had lived in California for several years.  He also told me that he walked Doreen home from the studios every day.

MouseketeersI looked at him, wanting to believe him, but even my eleven year old brain told me that it was highly unlikely that one of the famous mouseketeers would be walking home from Disney Studios with a “regular’ guy like Clyde.  I did want to believe him.

But, about a half-hour later, he told me that Gabby Hayes gave him a pair of cowboy boots.  It was then that I dropped my willing suspension of disbelief.

“I don’t think so.” I said.  “Can you show them to me?”

“Umm, we left them in California when we moved here,” he said, after some quick thinking.

After that more amazing tales came forth.  Clyde told me his father had won the RCAF Medal of Honor.  Clyde, you see, was originally from Canada.

The tales continued and I continued to shelve them in a box called “Outright Fabrications.”

Then Clyde moved back to California and I didn’t hear from him again, until…

Flash forward to high school.  It’s the early 1960’s.  From out of nowhere, Clyde shows up for a visit in Owego.  I think he stayed with a friend of mine.  By this time he was a blonde surfer dude.  And because he was a blonde surfer dude, he had the girls of OFA all wondering about him and wanting to get to know him.

I was jealous.  My main female interests were now taken with this blond guy from the west coast.  Things got out of hand when a jealous boyfriend of one the girls wanted to take Clyde outside during a sock hop at the gym.  It nearly came down to a fist fight until I broke it up and my friend and I removed Clyde from the scene.  He left for California two days later.

Good riddance, I thought, when I heard he had gone home.  Now the girls could get back on track to adoring us home boys.

Flash forward to the mid-1970’s.  I’m a full-time teacher living and working in the Scranton area.  I miss my hometown so I find lame excuses to spend a weekend in Owego at my parents’ house.  My mother asks if I remember Clyde.  I tell her that I certainly do.  Well, she says, he called a few times in the last few days and wants to stop by for a quick visit.  I told her that if he called again, I would like to have a talk with him.

A week later, I make the turn into our driveway at Broken Arm Curve and there’s a car I don’t recognize parked on our lawn.  I see it has California plates.  There’s a blonde guy standing beside the car.  It’s Clyde.  We chat about old times.  I don’t bring up the lies he told me for years…what’s the point?  I do notice that he looks nervous and keeps checking the cars on the street.  About thirty minutes later, my older brother pulls in the driveway.  He teaches in Virginia and is stopping for a brief visit with us before he heads to the Adirondacks where he loves to canoe and camp.  But, before he can get out of his car, Clyde says a quick good-bye to me and in a moment, he’s gone.

Strange, I thought, but then I remember how strange Clyde can be.

Flash forward to the late 1970’s.  I’m sitting in our dining room eating a speedie from John’s Grocery on North Avenue.  I’m drinking a Coors Gold.  The phone rings.  I answer it and a woman’s voice asks if it’s Pat Egan.  I said yes.

“You might not remember me, but my name is Judy Smith Jones (not her real name).  I used to play in your backyard when I was a child.  I’m Clyde’s young sister. I’m calling from California.”

“Yes, I remember you,” I said, very surprised to hear her after so many years.

“Have you seen Clyde?” she asked without any more comment.

“Not in a few years, Judy.  I saw him maybe three or four years ago.  He stopped by for a brief visit.”

“Pat, are you sure?  Has he tried to call you?

“Not that I know of.”

“Well, it may come as no secret to you, but Clyde has difficulty telling the truth about a lot of things.”

“Yeah, I guessed as much when he told me about Gabby Hayes.”

“Well, he’s told some people some very serious lies…and now he’s missing.  The police in at least two states out here are looking for him.  We think he may have headed back to see you and be in Owego again.”

“What the hell did he say, Judy?”

“I can’t tell you…now.  But if you hear from him in any way, please call me.  We’re very worried.  He’s in over his head.”

“Of course, I will, Judy.”  She gave me her phone number and hung up.

That’s the last I heard about Clyde.  I often wonder what happened to him.  What could he have done or said to get into so much trouble?  Why was he possibly heading in my direction…coming to Owego?

I’ve reflected on this many times since that afternoon.  I began to feel pity for this poor soul, who, even as a boy, had to build up a false life, with false friends, to make him look better.  Or to feel better about himself.  Or to create a world where he was somebody important.

As his childhood friend and playmate, he didn’t need to tell tall tales to do this.  I really liked him anyway.  He didn’t need to walk a mouseketeer home or take cowboy boots from Gabby Hayes.

I’m sure that, as a young man, his life would have been interesting enough without building a wall of lies around himself.  A wall that would end up being his own personal prison.

Gabby_hayes

This is Gabby Hayes.  It is not my playmate who told lies.

 

 

A Visit To A Foreign Land

Life was getting a little repetitious at Rainbow Lake, here in the heart of the Northern Adirondacks.  My office Indoor/Outdoor weather station seemed to be having a battery problem.  The outside temperature indicator sometimes showed no digits at all.  Not wanting to check the red-liquid filled thermometer nailed to the post under the deck, I was forced to go upstairs to ascertain the ambient air temperature.  I couldn’t go into the screened-in porch because that was just the same as going outside.  So, I was forced to check the Indoor/Outdoor unit that sits on my window sill above the sink.  I didn’t fully trust that one either because I haven’t changed the battery in 14 years…but it somehow kept giving me the correct outside temperature.

The Radio Shack AA’s really blow my mind, but at least it prevented me from having to find my fly-fishing thermometer and stand on the porch.  I’m telling you this because I didn’t want to go out again when I knew it was -9 F., again for the seventeenth day in a row.  I could see from my kitchen window that there was at least 8 feet of snow on the front deck and I would have to shovel a tunnel (not a path, a tunnel) from the front door to the car.  I didn’t want to attempt this because I haven’t seen the car in about 10 days, so I wasn’t sure it was still there.  Maybe it was stolen.  Maybe my wife took it to Saranac Lake to replace the battery again and forgot to tell me about it.  I didn’t really know, all I could see was a mound of snow about 17 feet high in the approximate location of where the driveway used to be.

My life?  I would go down to my office and start a blog.  After running out of anything to say, I’d come up to the dining room table and make a few Scrabble moves on my laptop.  When I realized I was going to lose again to my lovely daughter in Orting, WA., or my friend in Australia (where it was about 117 F), I’d go find a book to read.  After getting halfway through The Fanged Princess, written by an eighteen year old author, Elizabeth Wheatley, who already had written several other teen vampire fantasies, I would stand in front of the picture window and think of the last episode of “Breaking Bad” or try to spot a wolf or bear crossing Rainbow Lake.  Boredom was setting in.

I needed a vacation.

It didn’t take many seconds to decide where we would go for a weekend get-a-way from the cold and snow of the Adirondacks.

We’d go to north, to Montreal.  Yes, there I could hone my skills in French.  After all, I knew the words for butter, milk, street and stop.  Anything else I needed to know, I could pick up as I went along.

We packed light and after filling the car with 6 or 7 bags, we headed North on the Northway.  It really felt good to put the pedal to the metal and put some miles behind us, after all, the speed limit changed at the border to 100.  Let me tell you, that felt good.  You can’t even do that in any of the states, except maybe Texas or Ohio.  I proudly handed over our passports, careful to keep my thumb over my entrance visa to Somalia.  Sixty-two miles later, we were checking into a quaint Montreal hotel.  We were given a room on the 32nd floor of the Marriott.

One of our first stops was the Museum of Fine Arts and saw some really good art.  Curiously, many of the paintings were done by Canadians.  I couldn’t find anything done by Da Vinci anywhere.

Canadians are a rather peaceful nation.  Unlike the U.S.A., they tend not to start wars.  So, it was comforting to see a horrid weapon of killing turned into an interesting object of art, like this:

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Or this, I think it was called “Contemplation with Flower”

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After we finished at the Museum of Fine Arts, (which was free, I wish to add…the way all art should be) we decided it was time to begin looking for a place for dinner.  We got a recommendation for a place called Dominion.  It was a superb meal.  I went back to the hotel and wrote a 5-star review for the establishment.

While at the bistro, I did run across a few curious things.  Now, I’m not normally a “concrete person”, but I see no need to display an untruth.  After getting my coat, I needed to use the loo (notice my use of a Euro term?).  There by a staircase that led downstairs (always a bad thing to do in a bar/restaurant) was this sign:

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So, I went downstairs in search of water in the closet.  After searching behind some doors, some woman screamed something at me in French after I opened one.  How was I to know Femmes had something to do with women?  My, the Canadians can be so suspicious.  I finally found the source of the water.  Now, I’ve been in not just a few Gents rooms in NYC and many other cities, but nearly all had some kind of copper or porcelain sink.  Not here, at this 5-star establishment.  This is what I found:

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I washed without wasting time (or water) and we headed back to the hotel.  The pool and jacuzzi were still opened and since I was still suffering from soreness in my lower back (I had surgery in December, did I ever mention that in a blog?) I decided I would take advantage of the hot tub.

I dressed for the water, and went down stairs.  I grabbed a US magazine and put my foot in the hot water.  Luckily, no one but the attendant across the large room with the pool could hear my subtle screams and curses.  I know the Canadians operate on the metric system, but I didn’t need a conversion table to tell that the water was about 209 F.  I was sweating even before I got the bottom of my swim suit wet, which took about twenty-five minutes.  I lowered my body, figuring that the Montreal hospitals could do wonders with second degrees burns of my lower torso.  I looked at the bubbling water to see if patches of skin were floating like the chicken fat that used to roll around in the pot of chicken soup my grandmother used to make.  I read somewhere that the human body sheds its epidermis once every seven years.  I was doing all of mine in thirty-five minutes.

But, what finally drove me out of the hot tub was the US magazines articles about Kim Kardashian and her weight loss.  I tossed the magazine onto the pile of French editions of Elle and went back to the room to see how long it would take me to look less like a red crustacean and more like a primate.

Back home, I could now sit at the dentist’s office or hair-cutters and ignore the copies of US magazine.

After all, I already knew that Kim could fit into a size 2 jean.