Many years ago this summer, I was standing in the Shield's Cemetery at the graveside services for Mickey Bloyd. It wasn't necessary for me to think back to my high school years in Boonville -- they were all around me.
Mickey was the youngest and largest of the Bloyd brothers. Mickey had died of natural causes in San Quentin. He had been on death row for a domestic murder and happened to be in the first group of prisoners to transfer off the row when the Supreme Court ruled against the death penalty in the 1970s.
The Bloyds were known as fighters. Some local wag once said that since there was so little to do in Navarro, where they lived, the Bloyds would just go out into a field and fight. You didn't want to fight with Mickey. His older brother Skippy was notorious for cleaning out a barroom full of loggers up at Happy Camp one time, and Skippy was just a shrimp compared to Mickey.
While all the guys used the high school barbells, our teacher and coach, Dan Gaffney, had to build a special set for Mickey. The regular ones just weren't big enough. Taking two huge buckets and filling them with cement, Mr. Gaffney created a home-made barbell that was Mickey-size. It may still be out behind the high school gym somewhere. There's probably nobody around anymore that can lift it.
Mickey and all the Bloyds were pretty much Deependers. They came to Boonville to go to school, frequent the Midway Cafe and that was about it. The Valley was very isolating for a teenager without a car then, as it is today I suppose. He was also a year or two younger than I was and that made a big difference in who you hung out with.
I had visited the Bloyd ranch quite often as a sort of unwelcome guest of my cousin who was a family friend to Mickey's next oldest brother, David, who everyone called Deede. The Bloyds were an old Valley family like the Rawles, but without the money. They were working class, but respectable because they owned land. Unlike the Rawles, the Bloyds had exploits. This was still a time when Valley mischief was seen as more colorful than criminal.
There were only two places in the Valley where we could buy beer: The Oaks in Yorkville and a tavern in Comptche. Neither of these places were able to tell if the tallest of us was of age or not and they both had long ago decided to err on the side of the sale.
Mickey, on the other hand, was adept at liberating cases of beer from the then Floodgate Store and no doubt other establishments in or near Navarro with less than adequate security systems. Those of us with hot-rod cars welcomed the opening of this additional supply line. We certainly weren't about to question its heritage, since it would have been hypocritical to decline stolen beer when its intended purpose was to fuel our drunken drag races up and down the Valley.
Like all Valley delinquents, we looked up to the myths of the delinquents who had come before us. We were still marveling at the legend of a young man by the name of Kenny McKinney who held the nighttime record from Boonville to Cloverdale on the wrong side of the road with his lights off. He had made it in 28 minutes in something called "The Blue Goose". Now that was something to look up to.
The best we had ever been able to accomplish was for David Bloyd, myself and my cousin Mike, to turn Gary Robertson's '55 Chevy completely upside down in the middle of Highway 128, right at Farrers' turn. All the beer we had stored on the floorboards came crashing down on us as the car rolled over.
Trapped in an upside-down car on a blind turn where logging trucks were known to barrel along, we somehow managed to extricate ourselves from the car and immediately began to ditch the remaining contraband beer. Fortunately, we didn't have to worry about the empties, as we had spent the evening tossing them out the windows as we sped up and down the Valley in our usual search for amusement.
Carefully, but regretfully, we tossed the remaining unopened cans as far as we could into the dark. Unfortunately, we were throwing in the wrong direction and the cans were only traveling about three feet in the air before hitting the bank-side of the road, and immediately and incriminating falling to our feet. Once we had successfully corrected our launch coordinates, and ditched the beer, our worst fears were realized with the arrival of the Valley's only professional law enforcement officer, Russel Troxler, CHP. The Valley Sheriff, Carl Passmore, we knew to be safely home in bed... or so we imagined.
Officer Troxler actually had our undying respect, based on the fact that his Highway Patrol car could actually lay rubber (squeal tires) when it shifted from second to third gear with...get this, a slush box (automatic transmission). It was a continuous wonder to us that this was even possible. However, we had witnessed this phenomena several times as he would apparently receive a radio call and blast out of downtown Boonville leaving verifiable screech marks on the pavement.
But this night, as luck would have it, Officer Troxler was on an emergency call now, something about, "Hell's Angels in Cloverdale", he shouted as he merely tossed us flares and roared off. Truly, fortune shined on us. It was not yet midnight and no one was dead or even arrested. Gary was terribly worried though. "My father's gonna kill me", he kept saying. This issue was of considerable concern to us all because parents, unlike police, still held some small vestiges of authority over us.
Years later I always remembered Gary's father with the nickname, "Fuckin Ukiah". This was because of the fact that he couldn't use a sentence in the English language without saying "fuckin". This made for some rather amusing sentence construction, when nearly every noun was proceeded by the word "fuckin". And it wasn't Ukiah, he said, but "YOU-ki-ah". "Fuckin YOU-ki-ah".
Now this is not to criticize. Gary's father was from Arkansas, like just about half of the working families in the Valley in those days. Their use of language fascinated me, and years later I came to miss their mangled syntax with all of its colorful, "I ain't got no ..." and "Where's he at?" double negative speak. It's almost as interesting as Ebonics and both have the same Southern regional characteristics. After all, its what adds character and keeps our language fresh, even if part of me also reacts with the fingernails on the blackboard response, when I hear it.
As for the profanity, my aunt always used to say that my Uncle Avon, whose every other word was the somewhat more acceptable, "Goddamn", wasn't really aware of what his language meant to others. It was as natural to him as his bib overalls, which I never saw him out of except when he went to San Francisco to buy a new car -- Buicks and Oldsmobiles for him and Pink Lincolns for my aunt. Or when they went to Europe and he scratched his name on the wall of the Roman Coliseum with his car keys, "Avon Ray, Philo."
No, I can't fault any of them. In fact, I still hear one old timer at the drive-in whose use of "goddamn" rivals my uncle's. Except he uses a lot more emphasis. As in, "I closed the GODDAMN gate and walked up to the GODDAMN house" etc. He's a master, just as natural as breathing to him. (Hell, Mark Twain had a swearing room built into his Tiffany decorated mansion in Hartford, Connecticut. I'm not about to argue with the guy who wrote "Huck Finn").
Anyway, Gary was worried, so we somehow managed to roll the car over and get in. To our surprise it started right up and everything seemed pretty normal except for our having to sit all scrunched down in the seats, due to the fact that the top was crushed down to about where our shoulders would normally be. About this time, someone had the idea to use our feet to try and push the top back up. This actually seemed to work wonderfully, except for the fact that the next morning we could see the real result, which was a crushed roof with a bunch of lumps in it where we had pushed up our feet.
I can't remember what happened to that car, although I know Gary's father didn't kill him. And my Aunt said what she always said, which was, "If I ever catch the guy who's selling you kids that beer I'm gonna kill him."
Well, she never did find out and the fact is we pretty much got it ourselves, with a little help from Mickey.