Monday, April 09, 2012

Monday Morning Stories with Mookie - Episode 11

The Time Mookie Had His First Run-In With "Dollar Don"

As a preface to this story (and the future episodes containing the title character), I must tell you about my boring ass hometown and give you a little insight to the individuals that will be discussed in this story.  My hometown is considered a "small town" with a population right around 5,500. It is the largest town in the county, and is probably "above-standard" as small Midwest towns go.

"Back in the day," it had the usual small town quota of churches, bars, gas stations, and convenience/grocery stores. It also has a few local family restaurants, as well as a Hardee's, Pizza Hut, and a Subway. Other than that, there is very little do in town. The nearest real activities were in bigger towns about 30 miles away, and poor high school kids often didn't feel like driving there.  So, to pass the time we basically hung out in parking lots and cruised "the loop" with friends. The "loop" was basically 3 main streets that the kids would travel. It went from the SW corner of town by the high school, into the edge of downtown, and then out past the Hardee's to the NW corner of town at the Pizza Hut. The entire loop was about 5 miles round trip. It was on these very streets where my story takes place.

My story begins when I was a young lad in eighth grade. I would often listen to stories my "Uncle Larry" (*) would tell about how he and his friends would go out on weekends. These stories involved chasing women, partying on random gravel roads, and any other mischief small-town high school students could get into. My favorite stories were those involving a man named "Don." Don was a man who lived in town with his wife "Claudette" and their 2 kids. They lived in a little dive of a house right next to the railroad tracks. You could say they lived on "the wrong side of the tracks." Don, his family, and his "posse" of friends unfortunatley became a magnet of harassment, and the "ground zero" of entertainment with the perpetually bored local high school kids. I would sit on the floor and laugh until I had tears coming out of my eyes due to the stories Larry would tell. They would range from exciting to the asinine. I could not wait till I was old enough to experience what went on during these random bursts of entertainment. In looking back, poor Don got the shit harassed out of him, and I'm pretty sure he loathed every school-kid that knew his name. Even though he still rues the day it all started, there is no doubt in my mind this guy is "local legend" because of it.

Don was your average lower-income guy in town. He scraped out a living for his family, and probably worked sorta hard.  After work, he spent his evenings and weekends driving around town with his family, and would often join up with friends at a local Coastal Mart gas station. Nobody is sure what they did there, but they hung out there a lot. They usually had their two young children in the van with them, and oddly kept them out very late. It was at that very gas station the legend began. The legend began like this: Don had a hole in his gas tank and he either couldn't find it or couldn't afford to fix it. When at Coastal Mart he was rumored to fill up with $1.00 worth of gas at a time. He did this so it wouldn't be full enough to leak out of the hole, but yet have enough to cruise around town for a while. (The actual basis of the story is unfounded, and it is unknown if there is even any truth to it at all).

Somehow the story started, and the word got out about this funny activity. When something like this gets out to bored-off-their-ass high school kids, you know they can't (and won't) leave it alone.  Plus when you take into consideration that a lot of the upperclassmen in my high school were not nice people, you know things are going to get started.

Thanks to the kids in town, poor Don became affectionately known as:  "Dollar Don."

Uncle Larry would tell detailed stories about how they would torment Dollar Don. The high school kids would drive by the gas station and yell "Hey Dollar!" and things of that nature. The C-Mart gas station also happened to be across the highway from the Hardee's restaurant parking lot. From that location, the taunting would also ensue and always got Don fired up. Verbal vulgarities, obscene gestures, and an occasional thrown projectile or two were not uncommon between the C-Mart and Hardee's parking lots.

The best part of all this is that Dollar Don was not alone in all of this. He had a group of friends that were dubbed LThe Dollar Don Posse." This posse included the biggest group of zeros ever accumulated on the planet. Their leader was of course "Dollar Don."  He drove a burgundy "rape" van with his lovely wife "Claudette." She came to be known as "Claude-Head" due to her not-so-good looks. Often riding around in the van with the Dollar Family were two other fellows referred to as "Slim-Jim" and "Cracker Jack." Slim-Jim was some guy named Jim who happened to be blind. Cracker Jack was a full-fledged Albino. He had the whitest hair you've ever seen, pinkish white skin, and dark glasses to shield his sensitive eyes. Cracker Jack and Slim-Jim often helped each other around due to their disabilities. The two other main characters in the Dollar Don Posse were a guy named "Beefy," and a guy named "Grape Ape." Beefy was this huge fat guy that drove around in an old red Monte Carlo. Grape-Ape was a big ugly guy. He apparently was named after the cartoon character of the same name, due to their matching looks and intelligence. He drove a supped-up junker car and often provided the "muscle" in the posse. Dollar also had a brother or two that occasionally joined in the struggle of good versus evil, but usually made little impact.

All of the vehicles in the Dollar Don Posse carried CB radios. It was via these radios they could communicate to each other if they were getting harassed, or needed to meet up at the Coastal Mart. Once it was found out by the high school kids the Dollar Posse had CB radios, those that could afford CB radios got them. Those that could not afford the CB radios rode with those that had them. It didn't take long to figure out what channel the Dollar Posse communicated on and all hell broke loose. The high school kids would taunt, curse, and degrade the Dollar Don Posse over the CB relentlessly. Exchanges would ensue; usually carrying veiled threats about kicking their ass, and things like that. The end result was usually Dollar and his buddies tracking down those people making the CB threats, and then chasing them all over town. Once he chased you, he knew who you were. He had everyone's license plate number written down in the van. If you crossed Dollar your plates were documented. Somehow, Dollar had a sensor in his van so he could tell if a vehicle was transmitting via CB. He used this to chase down those who violated the airwaves against him. From time to time, the posse would surround a car or a group of people and a fight would ensue. The cops would show up and cart off one of the Dollar Posse, usually Grape Ape, because the kids were minors and it looked like adults beating up on kids.

This was my early introduction to the man known as Dollar Don. As I grew older and ventured into high school, the stories continued. The upperclassmen handed down the stories and the information necessary to continue the "entertainment" of chasing Dollar Don.

Little did I know my first personal experience with the local legend was not far off.

One particular winter day, hours before the freshman basketball team was to board a bus for an away game, the scenario presented itself. While sitting in the gymnasium, my teammate "Kurt" (*) was talking with our mutual friend and classmate "Jerry." (*)  They were laughing and joking about something, so I checked in to see what was up. They said they were going to go "f*ck around with Dollar Don," you know - for something to do. I jumped at the chance and asked if I could go. They of course said sure, so we headed out.

While walking out to Jerry's car, he went into detail about how he and Kurt had screwed with Dollar before, and that Dollar had quite a distaste for Jerry.  Kurt let me know there was no love lost for Dollar on their end either and wished him dead. I knew right then I was not only going to experience Dollar Don harassment, I was going to see it full-on head-to-head and over-the-top. Immediately I felt the adrenaline kick in and mentally prepared myself for the unexpected.

We hopped in Jerry's car, an early 80's Olds Cutlass, and took off for Dollar's house. I sat in the backseat while Jerry drove and Kurt rode shotgun. Dollar lived on kind of a weird street. There was a frontage road that ran along side the railroad tracks to Dollar's house. At his house you could then turn right, and go down another street back out to a main street. About a 1/2 block away from Dollar's house, there was an alley that ran from the frontage road, out to the main street. It was determined that we would use this alley for most of the "confrontation" as it was close, but not close enough that Dollar could cause any immediate harm to us. Much to my excitement, Jerry decided to start the "attack" from right out in front of Dollar's house.

Jerry drove his car right up in front of Dollar's house, rolled down the windows, and layed on the horn. "F*ck you Dollar!!!" Jerry and Kurt yelled out of the window. After about 20 seconds of our honking and swearing, a portly looking fellow flew out the front door, and stood in a threatening manner on the steps. There he was: Dollar Don. The man I'd heard about for all these years was standing less than 50 feet from our car. Man, he was not a pretty sight. Messed and semi-greasy brown hair, dark rimmed glasses, a black t-shirt that covered his portly stomach, and old blue jeans. This guy had "loser" written all over him.

He yelled back at us but Jerry's incessant honking and swearing back at him drowns Dollar out. We tore off down the street and around the corner. The initial confrontation had provided results as we got Dollar's undivided attention. It was time to start our harassment from the alley. We drove up the alley to the frontage road, and see that Dollar is still standing on the front steps, arms crossed in a defiant pose. Again, the horn honking starts and "Screw you Dollar!" exclamations come from Jerry and Kurt. I am in the back seat totally laughing my ass off, as I have never seen anything like this. Dollar continues to stand on the steps with his arms crossed, and trying to look intimidating. Again, we go around the block and turn back up the alley. When we hit the top of the alley Jerry begins laying on the horn again. Dollar is still standing there in his defiant pose yelling back at us, but is still drowned out by the horn. It is something about us being punks, and a fair amount of swearing in his own right. Kurt is yelling out the window and giving Dollar the finger. Again, Jerry pulls out of the alley and proceeds around the block. We again turn up the alley, but know that Dollar's patience has to be wearing thin. Gingerly we pull to the end of the alley and see Dollar still standing there, not looking real happy about our eventual re-appearance. Jerry yells "F*ck you Dollar!" again, and apparently this time it is all that Dollar can take.

Dollar makes a mad dash for the rape van, and peels out to come after us. "Oh boy, here we go." says Jerry, who has already peeled out of the alley. Dollar is on our tail immediately. We start turning down side streets left and right trying to lose him but he is right on our ass. We turn onto a main residential street and Jerry floors it. In less than a block we are doing about 60 MPH and the van is still right on our ass. We begin nearing an intersection where we have to stop.

Jerry hits the brakes at the stop sign briefly to see if there is cross traffic, and turns left. Anticipating our left turn, Dollar pulls into the left lane of traffic and enters the intersection locking his brakes. He slides to a stop hoping to block our path, but Jerry evasively swerves out and around Dollar just missing him by a foot. Jerry then rockets down the street leaving an angry Dollar sitting in the middle of the intersection.

Not feeling satisfied with the harassment that has been done, Jerry turns the car around, and heads back over to Dollar's house for a little more action. As we near the railroad tracks, a junker car comes racing over the tracks.  Jerry let's out a surprised "Oh shit!" The junker car locks it's brakes, and cranks the wheel sliding like the cop cars do on TV during chase scenes. We cross over the hill the tracks are on, and I turn around to look out the back window. I see the car that just pulled the speed U-turn, literally jumping over the tracks in hot pursuit of us. Kurt is laughing wickedly, and stating, "That is Grape Ape!" Apparently Dollar got on the CB, and called up the posse to join in the chase. Jerry again takes various side streets, and we lose Grape Ape in the residential neighborhoods.

We looked at our watches and decided it was about time to get back to the school as the bus would be soon leaving. It was obvious Jerry wanted to continue the "activities," but knew we had to go. He dropped Kurt and I off at the school and we caught the bus for our away game. On the way to the game our teammates listened to our story, and loved every minute of it.

I also knew that further "Dollar Activities" were probably not far off in the future for my friends and me either.  I was right.

Further "nuggets" of the The Dollar Don Saga will be unveiled in future episodes down the road.

(*)  - Names changed to protect the guilty/innocent.

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