My parents spent most of my childhood teaching me the character building attribute of poverty. That’s a ten dollar phrase for no allowance. So…there were times when I had to engage in a certain level of criminal activity. I write this now in the full knowledge that the statutes of limitations are expired on the vast majority of my sinister ways. I confess now only in the hope of warning some wayward child somewhere that one’s criminal past will catch up to all who engage in it and it almost always results in a beating (or whupping if you are a southerner) or time in the hoosegow. None of them is a desirable option. So…
The two main targets of the bunch of boys I ran around with in Amarillo, Texas was either Mr. Russell’s Food Mart or the Toot n’ Totum (we called it the Phart and Fetchum). The former being a neighbor owned store and the latter being an early convenience store. There was a third store that was owned by Mr. Carter but we did not steal from him. No, he was far too dangerous. Rumor had it that one of Rusty’s brothers swiped a Clark bar there once and Mr. Carter shot him and dumped him in the walk-in freezer he had in the back of the store. No, we did not mess with Mr. Carter. The Toot n’ Totum was the easiest. Lois ran that store and was pretty easy to fool most of the time.
There was the time that Gary and I (with the help of a diversion done by Carl and Randy), stuffed our pants with at least ten candy bars each. It worked like a charm until we got outside. It was a hot Texas afternoon and we were eager to get them out of our pants before they melted (that did happen once – yuck). Well, we got around to the side of the building and had gotten about half of our loot out of our pants when we suddenly found ourselves being watched by a very angry Lois. She just stood there staring at us with fire in her eyes. Store clerks at that time could freeze kids with just the expression on their faces and that’s what Lois did to us. We knew she was asking herself whether to just kill us outright or call the police. She did worse than that. She called our parents. I never knew my dad could hit so hard. He must’ve learned that in the Navy.
Then there was a time when I found myself desperately low on funds and so went after my candy fix alone. In a moment of undisputed stupidity, I went into Mr. Russell’s store on a quiet Saturday afternoon. Such was my need that I attempted this robbery without any help or diversionary tactics. Mr. Russell did not even lift a finger to stop me and actually made no visible action to make me think he’d seen me. I was emboldened to swipe even more than I had originally planned. I was the master thief I said to myself. As I walked out the door with no less than a dozen pieces of candy, I glanced back and noticed Mr. Russell. So unaware was he of my mastery of the thieves’ art, he was chatting amicably on the phone with somebody.
I thought I might drop by Robert’s house and share some of my loot with him and brag on my latest exploit. To get there, I had to pass by my own house on Hall Street so I decided that I would pop in and use the facilities before I went to Robert’s. Oddly enough, my Dad was home and waiting on me.
You know, I don’t remember ever getting a beating like that one, before or since. I never stole from Mr. Russell again either. Ever.