There were signs, but the writing wasn’t necessarily on the wall that I’d grow up to be a fruitcake. I did all the normal things a boy growing up in the south during the 1970’s did; rode his bike, fished, built tree houses, shot windows out of abandoned houses with my BB gun, played with Hot Wheels, swam in the creek, swung across deep ravines on thin muscadine vines and sold blackberries door-to-door.
Every summer I'd spend hours plucking blackberries from the many briar bushes that grew wild in our pastures. True, my hands would be torn up, I’d have several bee-stings (yellow jackets love blackberries), mosquito bites and a few chigger bites too by the time it was finally over but I didn't mind, it made me feel like a big boy. Being a naive little kid, I sold those damn berries for nothing compared to all the trouble I went through to get them, but it sure as hell beat asking my dad for money or I’d get the you must think I’m made out of money speech. And I knew better than to ask my mom for money because she’d say something like, “Well, I could give you some money but that would mean that you won’t get as many presents on your birthday or this Christmas…”
I wasn’t a sissy and my best friend at that time (and yes, later my first butt-buddy) was the toughest kid on the block. So… How did I turned out to be such a big ol’ queer? Hold on, I’m getting to that. My buddy & I were hell on wheels in our matching Evel Knievel banana-seat Huffy bikes. The old men that sat in front of the Exxon chewing their tobacco and drinking from brown paper bags would shake their head and say things like, "There go them damn boys again. Wonder what shit they're getting into now...". Odd thing was, me and my buddy both had the same last name but we weren’t related in the slightest. Rather than constantly correct people, we just let them believe we were brothers, though if they had eyes they could tell we were pulling their leg. My buddy was native American, brown-eyed and muscular (for a boy,that is) and I was thin, freckled, blue-eyed and white as Casper the ghost.
I started first feeling the homo vibes when I was about 7. I remember sitting at the breakfast table and looking at the back of the box of Honeycombs at the cutout paper record of Bobby Sherman. I asked my mom for the scissors, cut the record out and sat there playing it over and over on my little orange Fisher-Price record player. For some reason, I really liked the fact that Bobby had his shirt almost completely unbuttoned. His chest was smooth (unlike my dad’s hairy gorilla chest) and he wore a simple gold chain. I begin to wonder what it would be like to touch that smooth pretty chest (warning: early homo vibes) and I wanted a gold chain so bad I could taste it. I got into my mom’s knitting bag when she wasn’t looking to cut off a piece of gold yarn to make my own gold “chain” and wore that for several weeks until my brother noticed and yanked it off me because he said I looked like a G*d damn fruit.
If you’re really young you might not understand what I’ve been taking about so let me explain a little. In the late 60’s and early 70’s, Honeycombs, Fruity Pebbles and assorted other cereals used to have these little records printed on the back of the box (instead of a prize inside the box) that you could cut out. The artist was usually a teen idol of that time (Bobby Sherman) or a cartoon character like the Flintstones or the Archies. Let me go on record and say these records sounded like shit. Well, you can imagine what a paper record might sound like, but when you’re a kid it really doesn’t matter so much, it was free after all.
What the hell were these guys thinking ? Ever try to get children to eat poop-inducing Raisin Bran ? Not gonna happen !
When school let out for summer that year, it was decided that my parents would drop me and my brother off at my grandparents every morning when they left for work since they didn’t think we were old enough to stay alone (that would change soon enough when my dad decided that he didn’t want to be beholding to his in-laws since they regularly threw in jabs about his lack of earning potential as a Baptist preacher). My mamaw and papaw Hester lived in a small community called Long Shoals in an old run down shack that was surrounded by junk as far as the eye could see. I loved it and I was never bored, it was like having Fred Sanford for your grandfather, except he was white. Don’t ask me how or why my grandfather became the local junk man, he just always was, period. Papaw was a hefty, quiet man that showed his love with food. No healthy food was allowed in that house, that's for sure. That summer we had hot dogs, hamburgers or BBQ with a side of Ruffles & french onion dip every day for lunch. At house we would have gotten a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of grape Kool-Aid, so we thought we'd died and gone to heaven. In papaw's later life, the law practically shut him down because he was getting many, many complains about the ever increasing junk and yes, he was being called the town eyesore behind his back. He didn’t live long after that. One morning he got out of bed, put his overalls on and yawned very deeply (so my grandmother said) and fell back on the bed, dead as a doornail. Could have had something to do with the dozen eggs and ½ pound of bacon he ate every morning for breakfast, perhaps? The paramedics found $11,000.00 in cash in his front pocket. You heard about those old people that went through the great depression and didn’t trust the banks afterwards, how they’d keep their mattress stuffed with cash rather than trust the banks with their money again? That was my papaw to a T. We found almost $10,000.00 more hidden in his numerous outbuildings.
As soon as our parents dropped us off, we’d check in with mamaw, grab a handful of Little Debbie snack cakes and head back out the door to their neighbor’s house. Sitting only about 200 yards from my grandmother’s house was an old abandoned diner from the fifties that had been converted in a rather funny-looking house that still had the large plate glass window in the front (must have been a bitch to find drapes for that). In that funny-looking house lived the two Beard sisters with their single mother, Ethel. There was a sister my brother’s age (Pat) and one only a year older than me (Lori). My brother and Pat would usually head off to parts unknown (usually the basement) to kiss, play 45's and feel each other up. The girls always seemed to be alone and unsupervised, it seems their mother was always working at one of the local cotton mills, sleeping off a drunk or on one of her "dates" (here's where most adults would roll their eyes when they said the word, "date"). Ethel was indeed, a hard-drinking, heavy-smoking, late-night kinda gal with her hair usually up in huge barrel curlers and reeking of gin.
Lori introduced me to the joys of Barbie & Ken dolls, the Barbie dream house and yes, the beloved Barbie RV
Lori began to sense just how much I loved playing with her dolls and knew that since I was a boy there was no chance in hell of me ever owning one myself, so she struck a deal with me early one morning. If I’d show her my pee-pee, she’d give me her new Tiffany Taylor doll. All I had to do was pull my pants down and let her look at it; she’d never seen a dick before she said. So, I slowly agreed. It was a Tiffany Taylor doll, after all! Tiffany Taylor was larger than a Barbie doll’s 11 ½ inches, Tiffany was a good 18 inches tall and dressed in a gold lame Bob Mackie-ish outfit that looked like something Cher would have worn on the Sonny & Cher Show. Tiffany Taylor had a rotating scalp, on one side was golden blonde hair, twist her scalp around and instant chocolate brown hair, viola! I had to have her, so down went the pants. Lori just stood there for a minute looking, and then she began to laugh, hard. Crushed, I jerked my pants back up and hid from her the rest of the day. Right before my parents came to pick us up, she found me and handed me a paper bag, sure enough Tiffany Taylor was inside in all her glory. I buried her in the bottom of my toy box and only took her out when I was absolutely sure there was no one in my house but me. If my brother had found out, I would have never heard the end of it.
Though as it turned out, it wasn’t my brother that ended up having such a problem with it. One day after school, I went through my toy box several times and couldn't find her, I panicked. I looked everywhere I could think of. Tiffany had just vanished into thin air! Sometime later, my mom came in my room and told me that she found my “friend” and that she’s given Tiffany to a little girl since boys didn’t play with dolls. She then inquired if I thought she should send me to Sweden for a sex-change operation since I obviously wanted to be a little girl so much. I shook my head vehemently that I most definitely didn't want to be turned into a little girl in the far away land of Sweden and that was the end of that.
My mother sensed that I was gay very early on and tried her best to stop it. I knew she thought it was her fault somehow, she was a bad mother, she coddled me too much (she probably did), she didn't spank me enough or that my father was vacant too often, etc… Later when I was rebellious teenager I played on that fear of hers when I was angry at her. I’d scream that I was but a lump of clay and she'd been the willing sculptor. Teenagers can be such asses.
The moral of this story? I don’t think there is one. I guess it would be this; I’m a big ol’ HO! I showed my schlong to get something I wanted. Does that make me a bad person? Who the fuck knows?