As some of you know, I have on occasion written about what it was like for me to grow up in a place I still believe was "Normal"....I have been told by well meaning acquaintances and friends who think that Normal is and was a long way from where I called home..
Typical shrink oriented nabobs, that had never walked a mile in my Converse high tops..so who were they to try to understand.?.I believe every one of us has come from a dysfunctional family. The proof is in our inability to quite 'get it' ,with regards to making a commitment for the next ten minutes; let alone for(gulp) ever!
I have no scholarly aptitude as many here and there may have, but I still believe that in most cases, certainly back in the dark ages of the 50's and 60's, the only thing as a pre-teen pain in the butt for everyone but me; was a kid having pals to play with and an adult or two to annoy on my way to
whatever the future was or wasn't.; seemed to me normal and not just my fate, but the same theme was every where I dared look at ; all around me.
My life was really shaped and formed as a 7-10 year old bundle of joy (oh yeah); by some of the strange and interesting folks that would become part of my extended family...
My Dad had finally let booze and a desire to be single and fancy free , take him to his desire, when he was killed in a car wreck shortly before Christmas of '57.
I was more surprised and freightened by the adults
reaction to his death, than actually emotionally tore up over his being gone for good.
Some where by someone; we young boys were baptized into the unofficial "John Wayne" way to express ourselves.
The basic theme was ..Cowboys don't cry...Don't show anyone your tears, fears or anyting that can be used against you; because the adults who were our handlers, were very weird and violent people. Who were either drunk or on the way to drunk most of the time! Other time's, they told us to get lost, go out and play in the traffic! Generally to 'get gone from there life'!
My Mom who had told everyone and their neighbor that my Dad was a certified shit, irresponsible and refused to support her or the brats, (me and my Sis) properly! He was a womanizing,hell on wheels sort. I suppose we might now call a, "Free Spirit"
It confused me that she was calling him a no account ,worthless as Granny's ass! Yet when he was announced dead; She went into a wail and cryng jag that I swear did not square with her hating him a day earlier!
I felt really nothing for him one way or the other.
I called him "ghost" because,that was what he was in "my world".
I got along ok with my sister Marilyn, who is a couple of years older than me. Back then, she was bigger and tougher than Mom's pork chops! Old Sis had a right cross that Marciano would appreciate; because I was forever "terrorizing" her and her gal pals!! She had the green light to smack me whenever I was acting like an ass; [which I swear was a bum beef]. I'm sure I was a victim of two ornery,cantankerous females, intent on either praying (Mom) the devil out of me; or an occasional ass whooping from my sister, if I was not allowing Ma's prayers to work properly!
In hindsight...my Mom's greatest fear was that I would grow up idolizing the likes of my older brother Bob, who had not met a bad situation; nor a cop that he wasn't constantly getting "involved" with! Mom worried herself stupid over once again having men in her life that she couldn't control.
Bob was my hero and I loved his pals, who were what Mom called 'ex cons' and drunks! But they along with Bob would become the only male figures that I was remotely involved with,and they would be my mentors and guides as I was about to learn the real facts of life!!
Try as she might to keep me sheltered from being influenced by the events and people who were living life, 'as men'; I would always find a reason to get up close and personal with the Tough guys, who I just thought were way cool. Mom used to lament that, "If you keep hanging around Bob an those ne'r do wells; you'll end up just like them!" I was thinking,well duh...yeah..let it be!
I will never ever forget some of them ;Red Scheeler, Pat Huff, Ray Chase, Jimmy Whitehead, etc.
I learned from them how to tell a joke...
How to laugh at everything and everyone..
How to be a friend and how to act around adult males!!
What Mom refused to see, was that these guys were also mentoring me on how not to think that going to jail or getting in trouble all the time was a smart way to live!! Many times when my Brother had graduated to stretches in the State Prison, these guys; would always come by to make sure I was treating Mom well;or if Mom needed anything; and to be just good decent friends to my brother Bob.
All of the fun and merry making came to an end one day in I believe 1961. Bob was out of "the joint" and had made vows that he had finally learned his lesson! For the first time, we weren't being hounded for rent or dodging Cops; looking for Bob.
It was ..Normal...
There were two brothers that lived in town and these guys absolutely were bad news, for anyone who got salty with them! They were both former Golden Gloves Middle -Weights, who had a reputation for kicking anyone's hindquarters that looked at them wrong. Problem with that story was,they were sometimes pals of Bob's. I found them to be; 'great and interesting guys', to talk to! Nothing like the stories told about them! Sonny and Paul Hetland were in their mid 20's when I first got to know about them. From all the gossipy hypocrites who lived in Normal, the stories about these Desperado's; made "Hells Angels Bikers", seem like sissy's in comparison!
They became an occasional stop by; to see if everything was ok whenever Bob was hooked up or on the run from the law. My Mom actually just about did a faint, the first time Sonny knocked on her door. Introduced himself and Paul to Mom,she was terrified!! They didn't say anything, but you knew what these guys were like! Most of the 'Normals' broke and hungry. Yet every time they stopped by,they always brought a bag of groceries,plus, there was always a couple of bucks in the bag.
That was how awful and disgusting and terrible these boys were!!
Well when I figured that out, I never saw Ma, refuse the chow nor the 'quid'!
I would really give her hell for her hypocritical! It was during that time,when I was probably 11, that the Hetland Bros.; became my friends!
What I learned from them was that it's better to just not pay heed to gossip; or people who make up tales about people, for whatever reason! They never discussed what ever their problems were with the law dogs, but both had been in the State Prison.
I would later learn, once any men had the reputation as an "ex-con"..the chances of him ever getting a decent job with a good wage was, next to impossible! At least that was how it seemed in Lebanon; the little town I grew up in. We had moved from the House on Berry Street ;("oh gee Marge!..look Berry's on Berry street..that sure is clever.".yikes)..and we had rented a house a few blocks south. By this time ..Bob was back amongst the free. I heard from someone that Sonny, had been "violated" and was once again up the creek; looking at 3-5 years!!
I hardly ever heard from Paul, but the guys were saying the cops were trying to provoke him into a fight so they could put his ass up the creek also! The cops were typically small town Cops, some were ok, most thought they were perfect.
Anyway, I had become next door friends for life, with a good kid named Pete. His dad was a giant of a dude, who owned the "86 Tavern" in town. Red was a kind soul, who didn't drink himself and his tavern was a place you could take a date into. The scoop on Red was he was a 'good ol boy';long as you paid heed to his rules at his beer joint!! If you wanted to test him;you were going to get hurt!
This family kind of became a surrogate family to me, as Pete and I were like thick as thieves;.always finding just enough trouble to get into; to keep the folks from thinking we were saints!
I can't remember now, when exactly it happened. I came home one day with Pete and there was a bunch of cops at my place, one of them told Pete he was wanted at home! I walked into just a confusing and miserable mess, as my Mom was bawling like when dad was declared dead! I was really scared; the cops kept asking her about where Bob was,and why is she not telling the truth..etc.!!
That was when I had my introduction to the way the world works! I asked Mom what was wrong, this one Cop, told me to go to my room! I said I want to know why she is upset and crying! The only thing she would say, was that Bob was in serious trouble! I was really scared!!
This one Cop once again told me to go to my room ,I told him; "No..I ain't going anywhere";and was acting like a dumb shit I guess, because I wasn't taking orders from him! Then let him know that he was a prick! "It was insane!" Finally my sister- in- law arrived, told them all to get the hell out; to stop bothering Ma!!
What I finally found out was,that Bob and his friends, had been at the 86 Tavern! A fight had started; it might have involved Sonny Hetland; who just got released a day before,or maybe, Bob? But someone exchanged blows with Red the Owner, he had hit his head on the concrete floor.,and he was dead!!
I was in shock! I guess, because that incident covered everyone I held close to me! I just could not see how anything like this might have occurred!! I wanted to go see Pete, but my Sister in law said, best wait until we get all the facts! It was not until the next day that Sonny Hetland; had turned himself in. He took full responsibility for Red's death!
What happened, could so easily have been resolved; if it were anyone but Red and Sonny ! You see, Bob and 4 of his friends had a little celebration for Sonny getting released. They all had gone to the Tavern; where Red welcomed Sonny back! Beer was ordered for the entire bar!. Suddenly, Red must have seen something not right with the celebration! He asked Sonny, if he was still riding a tail (parole time). He said yes, for 3 years!! Red said that he could not serve Sonny a drink; because if his P. O. heard about it; they would close him down for violating conditions of his release!
Sonny said, well hell Red..ok..no problem! Let me have my beer and I will give you no grief. Red told him; in a loud voice to "Put that beer down, or I will take it from you Sonny"!! If Red had just said anything but that, I know Sonny would have just grinned and walked..but; it was the wrong time; the wrong message!!
Red apparently came around the bar and tried to take the beer from Sonny; Sonny clocked him,then Red fell hard to the floor.. .and he was dead!!
I wanted to talk to Pete and his Ma and tell them how sorry I was that this had happened;.but it wasn't until a few days later. Pete came by, we just were talking then he said .."I have to tell you ....I can't be your friend anymore"!
I asked him why,and he said because you are friends with that, Sonny who killed my Dad"..AND Me and Mom are moving anyway"!!
He left; that was the last time I ever saw Pete or his Mom!
So like everything that happens in Normal, or "hells half acre", occasionally things get so stupid that people get hurt! Sometimes they die and sometimes; even innocent folks get some of the fall out from the human tornado's!!
I don't remember ever having a conversation with anyone about what Pete had said. I guess I was maybe a bit embarrassed to say anything that I didn't understand myself!!
I never saw either of the Hetland Bros again; two or three years later I heard that Paul was involved in a robbery and had shot a store owner. He and Sonny were both serving 20 year sentences in Prison.
I did have a talk with Bob at one point,because it was becoming evident that his acting like a hell raiser 24/7 was always front page news in our town. I could see how Marilyn was feeling sad and embarrassed for his shit. I was feelng that some folks weren't real crazy about me hanging with their misfits and delinquents. I was maybe 14, I told Bob that it wasn't fair for us to have to carry his bullshit! What used to be funny and a legend maker was now same old shit,different day! I don't recall what he might have said or if we ever talked about it again.
...But It was the first time I told him how it felt to be us in his wake...
I was beginning to finally see how the treatment, My Mom endured for most all of her life. With a husband that insulted her, with his running around. How Bob's constant law issues had embarrassed and made her even more depressed! I finally could see what it was that she was cautioning me about.
My life was about to change entirely as my new 'adult handlers', made their rules and laws very easy to understand....'gulp!