Looking back on the early teenage years, it’s a wonder that our parents survived us! This story is a follow- up from our previous story, “Wait About Ten Years to Tell Them“. My friend Randy (one of the three) wrote the story, so I’ll try to keep close to his version with my own personal emphasis provided, of course.
The story begins with four young boys (Randy, Mark, Keith, and Dave) that decided one day they were going to have an adventure to the mountains. I know, the story’s called the three musketeers, not four, but one of us chickened out at the last minute! We collected money (donations mostly) AND in exchange from what we were growing in mom’s flower box! We told the other kids that we were going to Colorado to live in the mountains. Our real plan was destined for the mountains of Georgia. As the weeks gone by, we planned every detail and decided on a date, it was Memorial Weekend 1978.
The Packing List:
Sleeping bags, rope, matches (a year supply), extra clothing, fishing poles, and a coleman stove… basically everything you would need for a year long camping trip. It makes me think of the movie “The Goonies”, young kids off to find hidden treasure.
You’re probably wondering by now, “what the heck were these kids thinking”? Believe it or not, we were the typical 15 year old’s that, for the most part, stayed out of trouble ! I think that one day we just got bored and needed some big adventure to brag about to the other kids our age. We didn’t see it as running away from home or anything. We knew that we had life pretty good. How many kids get to have a party pad in the basement and in the attic?
Our mode of transportation?
This is where it gets criminal. We needed a van for this escapade, and Randy’s parents had a really nice custom van (recently purchased) that fit the bill! You got it, we STOLE a van! Randy says that we stole his kid-sister’s piggy bank too (sorry Nancy, you know we love you)!
I’m not sure where the rendezvous was for the other three, but they packed up the van, taped off the brake lights and backed up the alley to my house to get me (the first driver of the journey). We were painting mom and dad’s house that week, so this was the perfect opportunity to have a ladder waiting on the roof at my bedroom window for my escape!
We successfully made it out of town! Going down the freeway we get about ten miles out and a state highway patrol car pulls up beside us. The guys are telling me “be cool man, don’t look over at him”, and after what seemed to be an eternity, he finally goes on ahead of us. We took that as a sign it was going to be an open road to Georgia!
After a couple short stops and driver rotations, I’m back at the wheel and we see a sign that tells us we’re close to Jimmy Carter’s Peanut Plantation! LaFayette, Ga. is what we’re looking for, and we soon arrive at our planned destination. Randy’s family would come to LaFayette on vacations to see the civil war reenactments and enjoy the beautiful mountains of Georgia.
As we make it here, we’re eager to find this cabin on the side of Signal Mountain connected to Lookout Mountain. A sign on the cabin door reads “If you take care, you can stay”. Randy says he and his brothers had to walk a long trail to get to the cabin. The cabin was very large and there was a cave on the side of the mountain with a waterfall inside the cave. Sounds more and more like the “Goonie’s” doesn’t it?
To make a long story short, we couldn’t find the cabin.
We found an unbeaten path off the main roads and spent the night sleeping in the van. In the morning as we were waking up, we saw some people coming towards the van with shotguns in their hands! Just in time, we got out of that place and back on the road.
I was the first and the last to drive Randy’s dad’s van. As we came back into LaFayette after an unsuccessful hunt for the mysterious cabin, it’s raining cats and dogs. At fifteen years old, with no permit and of course, no previous experience of driving, I was having a little trouble navigating the wheel. A Georgia mountain thunderstorm is quite an experience, for sure!
If you can picture the scene, we’re coming down the road leading into town (raining cats and dogs, remember), the traffic-light up ahead is just turning green. I’m in the left lane, not slowing down, and as I’m coming through the light I hit a BIG puddle of water that splashes a wave of proportion over this vehicle in the right-hand lane sitting at the light. This was not our lucky day, that vehicle was the local police department! Seriously, he didn’t know what hit him!
At that moment, I told my buddies, “Guys, I think we’re going home”.
We were now going to jail. Sitting in the office at the local police station, the officer was trying to get my name right for the record as he’s hollering out “Huckenberry, Hackenberry?”. Ah, moments you’ll never forget!
We were now behind bars! The jailhouse trustee is named Dewey. Dewey was a young black guy doing his best to keep us out of any more trouble than we were already in, trying to keep my buddies quiet, actually. I was sitting on a top bunk while they were clanging their cups on the bars of the cell chanting “We want out, We want out”. Dewey comes back and says “Why can’t you fellas be like him (me) and be quiet, you’re going to get me in trouble making all of this noise”? Then he says ” Look, if I get you some girlie magazines, will you be quiet for me”? That worked, they were now behaving.
Our parents were notified of our capture, and we came to find out that there was an all-points-bulletin on us states-wide. Randy’s mom and dad were now on their way to come and get us. They saw this as an opportunity to take a mini vacation back to LaFayette.
All three of us were minors, so that kept us out of legal trouble. My parents had a long talk with me, the main question was “Why?” They arranged for me to meet with a parole officer and he took me on a tour through the Mansfield Reformatory. That was enough to convince me of what the consequences could have been.
Thank God we’re still alive!
*Note: To this day we still consider ourselves family and best of friends! My life has been filled with many good memories that make for some great family short stories!
One for all, and all for one!