Chapter 30 – The Girl Who Hijacked A Column
MUSINGS FROM MARK
by Mark Tammerly
Wednesday, July 9, 1969
Fair warning, dear readers, the column you are about to read – my first as a scribe for this paper - is not the column I originally set out to write.
That column, as directed by my editor, was to involve finding and describing the five top tourist attractions in Rebel Creek, a task I happily accepted.
There was only one problem.
Rebel Creek doesn't have five tourist attractions, which I discovered during my first-ever walk around town.
Or very many tourists, as one long-time regular here at Evvie's Place – an elderly gent everyone calls Speedy – was quick to point out when I first arrived and started asking questions.
"You oughtta just write about this here cafe," he told me, and despite my initial skepticism, I soon realized he was right.
So what changed my mind, you ask?
I fell in love.
Oh, not with a sweetheart, as one might expect, but with a place, this place, and that was before I'd even met Lacy or Peg, Evvie's daughters, or their grandpa, a delightful ex-Army man, Sherman T. Potter, who graciously allowed himself to be interviewed as part of my research.
"Don't call Grandpa delightful," Lacy says now, reading as I type, "or he'll have Hawkeye cut out your spleen."
I don't doubt it.
She sets a fresh cup of coffee on the table, slides into the booth next to me, and tucks her bare feet up under her.
"Cool typewriter," she says, admiring my new Smith-Corona Sterling. "Makes mine look ancient."
"Glad you like it," I tell her. "Now I know what to get you for Christmas."
She stares at me with her captivating green eyes. "Seriously? Or are you just teasin' me?"
"Seriodsly. I figure it's the least I can do after the way you stuck by me today, introducing me to everyone and fetching my coffee."
She kisses my cheek, still with that deer-in-the-headlights look on her face, then jumps up and flees back to the kitchen.
Well, damn. I think I've flustered her, which as anyone who knows Lacy Wilson can attest, is not an easy thing to do.
So let's see, where was I?
Ah, yes. The people who make this place special are as follows:
Evelyn Wilson, 43
Proprietress of Evvie's Place who describes herself as, and I quote, "a middle-aged divorcee with three children, and if it'd been me who caught my naked husband with his doxie he'd be dead and I'd be a widow."
Birthplace: Hannibal, Missouri
Earliest memory: Being loved.
Secret to her success: My family. It may be my name on the sign, but without my girls this place wouldn't function, and without my dad it wouldn't exist at all. It was his emotional and financial support during my divorce that kept me afloat.
Biggest regret: Normally I'd say marrying Bob, but then I wouldn't have my kids. I guess what I regret almost more than his cheating is letting him stifle what Lacy calls my hippie spirit. I can only hope no one ever stifles hers. (To which Lacy replied, "Never gonna happen.")
Asked to describe her children, she said, "Stuart is the quiet, introverted one, Peg is the conformist, and Lacy is the free-spirit who never backs down. If there was one person I could have at my side in a fight, it'd be her." (To which Lacy's best friend Josie added, "And you'd have me on your other side.")
Hobbies: Bridge on Saturday nights, learning new recipes for the cafe, board games with my kids.
MT: Do you listen to music?
Evelyn: Oh, sure. I love old Hollywood musicals, and anything by Frank Sinatra. And Lawrence Welk, much to the chagrin of my daughters.
Lacy: Lawrence Welk ain't music.
Evelyn: Neither is half the noise you listen to, so hush.
"Hush, nothing," Lacy said, the rest of her rejoinder cut short by the bell above the door as a new influx of diners entered the cafe and brought my interview with Evelyn to an early demise.
Col. Sherman T. Potter, 68
A retired U.S. Army officer who saw action in WWI, WWII, and Korea. When asked for his views on Vietnam, he said, "I think it's a cockamamie war, but I'd go if they asked me."
Birthplace: Hannibal, Missouri
Married Mildred, the love of his life, on Feb. 2, 1925, remained married for 40 years until her death in early 1965. (In addition to Evelyn, their union produced a son, Ryan, who still resides in Hannibal with his wife and children.)
MT: Tell me a little about your medical practice.
Col. Potter: Hung out my first shingle back in '32, took down the last one when my eyes started playin' tricks on me some eight years back. Had a damn good run while she lasted, though.
MT: How long were you the commanding officer at the 4077th?
Col. Potter: From September of '52 'til the war ended.
Earliest memory: Son, I'm too damn old to remember what I had for breakfast this morning. Ask me something else.
MT: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Col. Potter: Smartass reporter. Bacon, eggs, and hash brown potatoes. Some OJ. And a shot of brandy in my coffee.
MT: The same stuff we toasted your friends with earlier?
Col. Potter: Son, that's all I drink. Whyn't you tell folks that story, instead of asking me fool questions about breakfast?
MT: I would be honored, sir.
As I was honored this afternoon when I first heard the tale, and took part in a very solemn moment.
There were five of us in the booth: the colonel and his Korean War buddy Hawkeye Pierce on one side, and Lacy, myself, and Josie facing them across the table.
At first we talked fishing, which nearly caused the girls to doze off with their tousled heads on my shoulders, but then Hawkeye brought up the time in WWI when Col. Potter and four of his cavalry buddies took refuge in a French chateau during heavy artillery fire.
One of them found a case of brandy, and the five of them spent the night in that abandoned chateau singing songs and drinking, and when they were down to the last bottle a pledge was made – a tontine, Hawkeye called it – wherein that bottle would be stored in a safe place, and when only one of them was left that man would open it and toast his fallen friends.
Fast-forward to Korea, when Sherman Potter learned that he was the one who outlived the others, and invited Hawkeye and several other members of his MASH unit to help him fulfill a promise made when he was – according to Lacy - only fifteen.
Fast-forward once more, to a small cafe in West Texas, where a flask was produced and the five of us – Lacy and Josie included – drank to the memory of four men who died too soon.
Ryan. Gianelli. Stein. And Grusky, the one Col. Potter considered his best friend.
Rest in peace, gentlemen.
Peggy Wilson, 21
Lacy's older sister, who almost declined to be interviewed for this column, calling herself the boring one with short hair and bad taste in men. (To which Lacy replied, "You are so not boring.")
Birthplace: Hannibal, Missouri
Earliest memory: Getting stung by a wasp when she was three.
Biggest regrets: Dropping out of Texas State after only one semester, cutting her hair short, and letting jealousy and anger poison her relationship with her sister.
MT: What caused you to reconcile?
Peggy: A punch in the nose and a fifth of Spearmint Schnapps.
(No further questions, Your Honor.)
Josephine Ramey, 16
Lacy's best friend, and the girl who serves me coffee and danish every morning at the Rexall lunch counter. She is never far from Lacy's side, and after witnessing the love and affection they share I can safely say that these two girls would kill for each other.
Or, as Speedy succinctly put it, "You don't want them two mad at you."
Birthplace: Rutledge, Tennessee
Earliest memory: Not sure this is the earliest one, but I totally remember my folks bringing Lisa home from foster care. She was a feisty little thing even back then, and her and me hit it off right quick.
MT: Do you have any other siblings?
MT: How many?
Josie: Just Brandon, but he ain't worth mentioning. Besides, Ma says I ain't supposed to talk about what a shit he is, so don't ask.
MT: No fair, tossing a dog a bone like that and then taking it away.
Josie: It's my bone, Tammerly. Maybe one day I'll share it with you, but not for folks to read in the paper.
MT: Okay, I'm gonna hold you to that. In the meantime, name something about you, or something you've done, that most people don't know.
Josie: Can't think of anything, unless you count the time Lace an' me hitched to Slaton and back when we were twelve. But even that ain't no real secret, since our moms know.(grins) How's that for a bone?
MT: Arf, arf.
Lacy Ann Wilson, 15
Evelyn's youngest daughter, soon to begin her junior year at Rebel Creek High, co-founder (along with Josie) of her own marching band, and – after spending most of the day with her glued to my side – someone I consider a friend.
Birthplace: Hannibal, Missouri, but a Texas girl to the bone.
(A different bone, since Josie refuses to part with hers.)
Earliest memory: Marking a wall with crayons when I was like two or something. I remember my dad slapping my butt and yelling. He tried to make me eat one of the crayons, but Ma stopped him.
MT: Describe your relationship with your father.
Lacy: I don't have one. He's an asshole who screwed around on my mom more than once, and now he acts like it's my fault he ain't here no more.
MT: Is it?
Lacy: Shit, no! I mighta ran him off, but he brought it on his ownself.
MT: Can you tell our readers what happened that day?
Lacy: I'll tell you. If you wanna put it in your column, that's up to you.
(See why I like this girl?)
MT: Fair enough. So what did happen?
Lacy: It was the day after Robert Kennedy was shot. I came home early from school 'cause our field trip got cancelled, and found my dad all bare-assed with some floozy I never seen before.
MT: Rumor has it you pointed a gun at him.
Lacy: sometimes rumors are true. Let's talk about somethin' else.
MT: We can do that. What's your favorite genre of music?
Lacy: Genre? Seriously? Did they teach you that word in journalism school, or did your mom read you bedtime stories out of a thesaurus?
MT: Ouch. Okay, let me rephrase that. What is your favorite kind of music?
Lacy: I don't have one. If I hear a song I like, it don't matter who sings it.
MT: How about a favorite singer or group?
Lacy: There's too many to pick just one. I like Jagger, CCR, Buffalo Springfield, and Barry McGuire...Joplin and Hendrix...And that don't even include the country artists I listen to.
MT: You've listed a veritable cornucopia of musicianship there, Miss Wilson. I am impressed.
Lacy: I'm gonna hit you.
MT: Will it hurt?
Lacy: Ask Dewey Bowers.
MT: No, thank you. One Bowers sighting was enough for one day, and besides, I still have some more music-related questions for you.
MT: What type of stuff don't you like?
Lacy: Punk, classical, and that shit they play on elevators.
MT: What is your current favorite song?
Lacy: Quit tryin' to pin me down, okay? I'm not a one-song girl.
MT: Humor me.
Lacy: Okay, fine. If I gotta pick one song that's on the radio right now, then it would be 'In the Ghetto' by Elvis, which to be honest is pretty much the only song of his I ever liked.
MT: Same here. Okay, one last question. If you could say just one thing to the people reading this, what would it be?
MT: Play nice.
Lacy: Okay, fine. Scoot over.
Howdy, y'all! I hope you don't mind me hijacking Mark's musings for a bit, but hey, it was his idea, so don't blame me.
I reckon y'all are gonna like this Tammerly guy, even if he don't wear socks and talks like a Yankee.
Hell, I don't wear socks, neither, so whatever.
Anyway, thanks for reading his column, and not just 'cause it's about me and the folks I love best in the whole world. (And Stuart, if you ever see this, you know that means you, too.)
PS – Thank you, Mark, for the great write-up, and thank you, Lou Tammerly, for giving your nephew this chance. If you're smart you won't cut a single word, not even the cuss ones.
Okay, that's it for me. Mark wants his pretty typewriter back, and besides, you folks probably got better things to do than read what I got to say.