Pie Melons and M-80’s
Now you will recall that the name of this column is “Shenanigans of Jake and Red “et.al.” Just for clarification, the “et.al”, that’s west Texas foreign for “others.” Sometimes its best that the “others” remain, well you know – incognito, like anonymous, fake names etc. It’s always for a good reason, kinda like secret government operatives, black ops, you get the idea.

Well this short series is on a truly historical group of upstanding citizens who, as young men, carried on their “black ops” as a team called the “Cleaves.” They were likely the first identified “gang” in their mid-sized community in the state of “name redacted.” How they came up with that name for their gang is a mystery to this day, but it worked for them. They even accessorized their attire and had their own secret identifying crest suspended from a neck chain in the form of an engraved medallion.

These onry dudes, 5 in total, in the original group, were all latch-key kids with the exception of 2. (Latch-key is a 60’s term applied to kids whose parents both worked, so when the kids came home from school, they had their own house key, cause nobody else was home. Even then it pretty well took two incomes to make ends meet, ‘course that was before the government saved some of us with their “income equalization” programs.) Anyway, each had their own code name, Fred was “Poo,” Harry was “Manual” (he was smarter than the rest cause he actually studied), John was “Fuddle,” Bill was “Jose,” Tommy was “Putian” (had something to do with his stature back then, cause he was shorter than the rest) and then there was “Dunkel.” He was likely the most level-headed one of the bunch, cause he would always correct the rest. However, I think the name may have been a strangulated form of “dunkin” which could have come from an affinity with donuts. All were south-of-the-tracks neighborhood kids except Putian. He was a northside guy who lived in a big house but had a kindred spirit with South-siders.

Trouble or fun was the name of the game on any Friday night with these guys. Fuddle and Poo were more mature than the others, by one year, so they were the first to have their own cars. They all quickly learned how to go to the drive-in, pay for two and have the company of five. Back seats came with modified hinges and trunks were big in those days and could actually accomodate four teenagers, if no one passed gas. Occasionally the trunk got a little crowded but we all made allowances for each other.

The drive-in was often boring, so they graduated to, “park busting,” (that’s catching a couple, which was comprised of a boy and girl back then, striped down to their birthday suits and making out) and “chase.” Now chase was often the highlight of the evening. It would start with a little persistent pestering of parkers, major trouble makers, older dudes, anyone they could goad into chasing them with the intent of bodily harm.

Chase was always the most fun, made no difference if it was local thugs, cops or a couple of lovers in the throbs of love-making, it was always about the laugh. Now, both individual and certainly collective, the Cleaves were above average intelligence, and just in case a chase became really serious, they actually had numbered, planned, and pre-reconnoitered escape routes. One in particular of which posed a significant threat to anyone chasing them.

Sometimes, the Cleaves would get bored an decide to end the chase rather dramatically. On these nights, the vehicle used was generally one of Jose’s parent’s cars. Since they both worked, their cars were never on the high school campus, as such were not readily recognizable in a chase scene. Disconnecting speedometers so you could play chase when you were supposed to be at the movies, was a simple thing to do on 60’s cars. Besides, Jose’s parent’s cars each had powerful engines, one a Chevy 327 and the other a Buick 455 Wildcat. Oh well, those are stories for another day.

Pie Melons and M-80’s. A pie melon is a sizeable melon resembling a small watermelon. The size is convenient because you can get more melons in your car. Why would you do that? Well of course, so you could drive down Broadway, open your car door and roll out a few into on-coming traffic and watch the outcome. Driving skills, such as how to dodge moving objects in your path, should be taught in every “driver’s education course.” It’s great fun – hint smear mud on your license plate before you start.

Now M-80’s. These little babies resemble a supercharged firecracker about 4 inches long, like a third of a stick of dynamite and about as big around. You guessed it, filled with gunpowder. The military used them for training in the 60’s to simulate heavy firepower, like grenades etc. They are not toys. But great for blowing up irrigation pipes, and trash cans.

Now in all fairness not all of the Cleaves were present at this particular event. It seems that Dempsey Dumpsters had just made it on the scene. They were the forerunner (and still around in various sizes) of the big metal trash bins that a truck with a fork lift on front could drive up to and throw the can over the cab to dump the trash into a much larger bin behind the cab. On this particular night, being in possession of a number of M-80’s and noticing the size of the Dempsey Dumpsters, mischievous brain power took hold. Yep, they dropped M-80s into the Dumpster and Boom, the lid blew off and rose about 20 feet in the air (or so the story goes) and came back down on the bin. Now that’s something to reminisce about.

What do you do, the evening is still young, and you have just blown up a Dempsey Dumpster? What in the world do you follow that with? Hummmmm…..now the action had just taken place on a side street downtown, within eyesight of the local 1st National Bank….hummm. You know those Night Deposit boxes, all shinny and secure looking? Yep, hard to resist. So, the Cleaves, being a bold and inquisitive bunch, truly liked to experiment with new toys. You know what’s coming.

Luckily, they avoided federal prosecution however, because just as they were about to test the strength of the night deposit box vs. M-80’s, a local police car pulled up. The uniformed officer just rolled down his window and said, “now boys, the dumpster was a lot of fun, but you really don’t want to do this.” The Cleaves, being absolutely law-biding members of society all, and easily acceptance of discipline and instruction, readily agreed, thanked the officer for his kind assistance and disappeared as quickly as possible, to live another day.

What happened to these “latch-key trouble makers? One became a Postmaster, one a CPA, one a millionaire and major business owner, one the owner of an international hazardous waste company, one an insurance professional and Deacon, and one a renowned law enforcement professional.

More about the Cleaves in another edition of TBN.