Ricky Harpole 6/4/13

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Wreck of the Gen’l Forrest has not yet become Harpole ballad

Back in the day when I was climbing into the juke joint industry, I was employed as a cooler in a Coahoma County establishment of questionable moral fortitude and an established reputation of mayhem.

It was a typical redneck delta honky-tonk.

As  a general rule, the customers would leave at closing time with multiple black eyes, bent noses, numerous cuts and abrasions and be happy as hogs at a trough about the whole situation.

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Them folks would go home wearing their scars like trophies or battle ribbons and brag about their Polly’s Place exploits to their friends to the extent that you would have thought they’d been on a Caribbean cruise.

People would come from as far away as Memphis or Greenville to engage and show evidence (stitches, bruises, assault and disturbing the peace charges) that they had survived a night at Polly’s Place.

Well, the situation got out of hand an account of nightly ambulance calls and an overworked Sheriff’s Department.  Something had to be done.
Between “California Mary” and myself, we put together a bouncer  crew and calmed the atmosphere to the point that the regular clientele  was under control. Well, mostly.
The riffraff stayed away and the preferred customers were in a marginal safety zone.
By golly, that was part of the good ole days. But I had a problem.
The State of Mississippi lawfully declared that no employee, owner, cooler, bouncer, etc. could be under the influence of alcohol. That meant I couldn’t drink a beer in the  bar that I  was in charge of. (It was a good thing too).

At some point, it sorta came to me that in order to enjoy a “cold one” or indulge in a shot of bourbon, I would have to find another bar (or three) to do it in so as to maintain my reputation and the integrity of Polly’s Place.

I would hit other joints where I could indulge myself freely.

This lie of the week involves the last ride of Nathan B. Forrest. It can be verified by several deputies, at least two state troopers, half the bar patrons and a partridge in a pear tree.
At the time of this particular misadventure, I possessed a really violent vehicle, manufactured by Chrysler, that went by the moniker of “The Hemi-Cuda.”

It was similar to the “General Lee,” a Dodge Charger , but the “Cuda” was crankin’ out the same herd of horses on a lighter frame.

If you ever watched the “Dukes of Hazzard” you would recognize the General Lee. Red and blue horsepower with stars and bars. Air-born most of the time with blue lights behind.

On a pool tournament night at Peggy’s Bar, where I could legitimately go to juke, I had previously watched an episode of “Dukes of Hazzard’ that inspired me to put my driving skills and the “General Forrest” to the test.

It was the only auto mishap I was ever involved in when I was behind the wheel.
When I left Peggy’s place I was naturally semi-if-not- fully intoxicated. The Moon Lake-Rich Road was a direct shot to Moccasin Bend, but for some reason Polly’s Place was  a’callin’ me.
The ‘cut-across’ road from Moon Lake-Rich Road was about 150 feet past the bridge spanning Moon Lake Pass.

The cut-across road intersected the bridge road at an angle sharper than 90 degrees.  Bear in mind that the “Cuda” wouldn’t hit the red line at 90 mph in second gear and 3rd gears.
With the antics of the Dukes and 400 horsepower approaching the bridge, I put “Old Forrest” into a deliberate left turn skid, shifted from 3rd to 2nd gear and caught the slot and the cut-across road. Perfect!  Just like Bo or Luke or Daisy.

I was so impressed with my skills that I took the next turn and used the same technique. Building speed and up shifting, I was successful again with the turn involving less angle but higher speeds.

I was elated with myself.

Then I ignored the third curve which was hardly a curve at all  and lost it.

I had recently been to a camp-out and in those days ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, etc. came in glass bottles which I kept wrapped in a spare sleeping bag inside a pup tent in the trunk.  I also had a 50 pound bag of concrete in the trunk. I had a commercial pilot’s license in my wallet and was insured while flying a plane, but unfortunately not a car.

I removed myself from the wreckage and walked the eighth mile to Polly’s Place with only a few leaks and bruises and acquired another beer or two and caught a ride home.

It was not until I got a look at the car the next day that I realized how much trouble a TV show and a really high powered car could cause (after a 6-pack and a couple of shots of  Jim Beam).
The car was totaled, of course. Not a surprise but upon inspection of the aforementioned contents, the only thing unbroken or busted, from the concrete to bottles of mustard, ketchup and BBQ sauce that were wrapped in the sleeping bag in the trunk, was me.

Alcohol and gasoline don’t mix. So why do they put alcohol in gasoline?

Ricky Harpole