The Prairie Spy

Alan “Lindy” Linda

The list of personalities that come to mind as time goes by is pretty entertaining.

Take Jim, back when we were both seniors in high school and he did what none of us had the guts to do: sold his FFA livestock project and bought a new Pontiac, a 1962 Catalina.

“What’ll Big Dilly say,” we wondered to one another. Big Dilly was the FFA instructor. 

“He’ll go ape,” we pretty much agreed. He got the name “Big Dilly” because his last name was Dillon, and because he was very fat. Very big. We were afraid of him. Besides, most of us at that age didn’t have a real good concept of capitalism, and never really got past the first stages of livestock raising. Sure, we weighed what they ate and did the math, but that was all kind of paper theory. Actually going to market with something, well, that was for dads to do. And they didn’t exactly run open account books, like we’d have even been interested. Except for Jim. Most of us had very little knowledge of anything other than that these livestock projects were a pain in the butt. Jim should have gotten an “A” in Ag; he saw why we were doing this. He saw Pontiacs. We didn’t.

You have to wonder where Jim is now. Probably some market expert somewhere, living large.

Anyway, Jim came up with this brand new car. No one had brand new cars, not even fathers had them. Beef into cars. Like magic. 

Almost biblical.

We were all impressed. 

We were much more impressed the next Monday in study hall when Jim came in, late, his face all scratched and cut up, arms severely abraded, knees out of his jeans. But he had a big smile on his face.

Jim was unique, I understand that now. His difference wasn’t readily definable, at a time when it wasn’t cool to be different. The rest of us? We were herd animals. Jim? He sold herds.

“Yeah,” Jim said when classes changed on the hour, “there I was, easing my way around Helfter’s curve.” 

Oh yeah. We knew Helfter’s curve. It was one of the new 100-mile-per-hour curves installed so that when Kruschev launched the nukes, we could escape faster. Number one, with a town population of a thousand, the big question was: Why would we escape? Question two: Where exactly were we going to escape to? And question three: With the exception of Jim’s new Pontiac, very few other vehicles in the area could even go a hundred. Half the farm families around at that point in time where I grew up had tractors that went almost as fast as their cars. 

Frankly, most of us just regarded Helfter’s curve as another example of government having its knickers up around their brains.

The thing about Helfter’s curve was the angle of the bank of it. It was as steep as a barn roof, almost, and it ruined Helfter’s hay field on the high side. You didn’t want to drive around it when it was icy; you’d slide down it right into Johance’s bean field on the low side.

“Yeah,” Jim was saying, “there I was easing my way around Helfter’s curve, breakin’ in my new dual glasspack mufflers that me and dad had just put on last night.”

Right there was one more reason Jim could be different. His dad was different, too. Helping his son take off a perfectly good single muffler system that was brand new from the factory, hadn’t even had two hundred miles put through it, and putting on duals. Nope. Wasn’t a one of the rest of us wasn’t respectful of the uniqueness of that. Nobody threw away a perfectly good muffler.

“Anyway,” Jim was telling, 

“Those babies took that 389 V-8 and were just makin’ it purr.”

Aw man. A 389. With duals. Bought with his FFA project. Who knew all this was possible? Was this a dream? Wasn’t a one of us wasn’t green through and through.

“So  I decided to roll down the window so’s I could hear it better.” Oh yeah. Better. We could almost hear it ourselves, just Jim telling about it. “Then,” Jim said, “I decided to open the door and hold it open, bend down, see how it sounded.” Oh yeah. That’d work, all right.

“Then,” Jim said, “Helfter’s curve came up, and I fell out. Rolled right down to the cee-ment curb.”

The car? It just kind of angled down into Johance’s bean field fence, stopped up against a post.

If you looked real hard, you could maybe see a scratch on the bumper. 

Jim looked way worse.

Our hero.