Dec 27 2008

Wheeler Texas

Category: The Transcendental CowboyRandall Kelley @ 22:54

Wheeler Texas Circa Nineteen Sixty Nine

Setting on the train listening to the iPod play… and Pearl Jam comes on singing about, “Policeman stopped my brother again.”

And I am taken back to Wheeler, Texas, circa 1969.

It was a short-lived home for us, near the end of my freshman year of high school. I am sitting in the pale blue VW Beetle my step dad purchased the year before in Norway. But we are far from Norway, on the side of the road in Wheeler, Texas.

Wheeler is a small town in the panhandle of Texas. The part of Texas that Texans don’t claim. Where the boys ALL wore cowboy boots and hats, along with a big chip on their shoulder. That chip was the only thing “Texas big” in Wheeler. And kicking their Mustang car for not starting was as close to Cowboy as they got.

They HATED us. We were new. We were “hippies”. And most of all, we didn’t get how they really were Cowboys, even if they never saw a cow outside a bun.

I am in the passenger seat, waiting for the policeman to make his way up to talk to my brother. As I wait, I start to get anxious about which Terry Bruce will show his face.

Will it be the “Get your fucking hands off me!” Terry Bruce… Or “Yes Sir, Officer, what can I do for you?” Terry Bruce? I’ve seen both, and lately the former was present way too often.

Our few months living in Wheeler was really the only time I spent with my brother after he reached an age where his behavior started to be less precocious, and began to attract REAL attention from the police. Now he was graduating from “juvenile delinquent” status, to PUNK. It was the only time I spent around him after he began a streak of serious encounters with the law that began prior to Wheeler, and ended much later.

He had had quite a run since our childhood, but the events seemed to be escalating over the years, so I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of being there for the one that went bad.

I had already witnessed a couple of those encounters from a distance in Wheeler, and he already had begun building his reputation with the various deputies around town. It was not a good one. I hoped for better today, as I did not want to be tagged with his growing infamy.

The officer approaches my brother and knocks on the window. Terry slowly rolls it down.

Officer: “License and registration, please.”

Terry slowly pulled it out and handed it over.

The officer takes a long look at my brother, then just barely 16, and then a long slow look at me, just 14. Then he looked carefully at his watch. Then again back at us.

Officer: “And why aren’t you two boys in school?”

Terry responded as calmly as I had ever seen him stay with any type of authority figure. “Kicked out, sir.”

Officer: “Kicked out?”

Terry: “Yes Sir.”

Officer: “Kicked out for what?”

Terry: “Skipping school, sir.”

Officer: “Kicked out for skipping school?”

Terry: “Yes sir.”

“And you?” Now the officer’s asking me, “Were YOU kicked out for skipping school?”

“No Sir.” I answered, trying to stay calm.

Officer: “What were you kicked out for?”

Me: “For being his brother sir.”

Officer: “For being his BROTHER?”

I mustered up all my guts and nervously rattled out my answer.
“Swear to god sir, they called us both to the office, and kicked us both out, because he skipped school. And when I protested that I HADN’T skipped school they said, AND I QUOTE, ‘Well, your his brother, so you’re both suspended for two days.’ Swear to God, sir.”

The officer stood up, looked around, shook his head and rolled his eyes. Then he stooped down again and asked, “You boys wouldn’t know anything about a blue Volkswagen doing kitties in front of the school a few minutes ago, would you?”

Terry answered, “Yes sir. That was us… I was just a little bit mad. It won’t happen again, sir”

After a pause, and another long look around in disbelief, the officer handed Terry’s license back. “Well, you go on home and I’ll pretend I never stopped you. Who’s going to believe this shit anyway?”

And then Pearl Jam stops singing and I’m back on a train to Portland, circa 2006. Funny how time jumps in your head in response to the simplest little triggers.

Arkay Kaye

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