A few years ago, I went to a high school reunion for the classes of 1965, ’66, ’67, ’68’ and ’69 in Griffin, Georgia. Our numbers are starting to dwindle since many of our classmates cannot be located or have passed away. So, we decided to combine the reunions. Since our town was so small and we had all grown up together, it made for a great reunion! It was wonderful seeing all of my friends again and reminiscing about our high school days together! One of stories told at the reunion took me back many, many years.
The year was 1966. It was a hot summer night in Griffin, which is located about 40 miles south of Atlanta. There was not a lot going on in town that night. Actually, there was never much going on in Griffin! The city was so small that you could drive all over town in about ten minutes. The only restaurant was a Hardy’s and that was where we all liked to hang out. Sometimes it could become a pretty boring experience.
Several of us were out for a drive in a convertible that may have been my mother’s car since she had a burgundy Cadillac convertible at the time. (Some of the details are still sketchy in our memory because it was a night, we actually did not want anybody to know about for a long, long time!) As we were driving around town, we spotted a farmer passing through downtown Griffin in a real large truck with a load of watermelons in the back of his truck. No doubt he was on his way to the Farmer’s Market in Forest Park, Georgia, which was about 25 miles north of Griffin.
Since we were bored and had nothing to do, Jeff Anderson decided it was time for some excitement. At a red light, he jumped out of the convertible and ran to the back of the truck, hopping onto the back of it as it started moving again. The old farmer driving the truck was unaware of what Jeff had done. As the truck pulled away, Jeff waved to us and we followed along. We pulled up beside the truck to see if the farmer had noticed anything going on. It did not seem that he had noticed anything since he was way up in his years. Suddenly, Jeff began tossing watermelons over the side of the truck into the convertible! Watermelons are pretty heavy, so it wasn’t like catching an orange or a tomato. It is a wonder someone didn’t get killed!
Because Griffin only had two or three stop lights and we had reached the edge of town, there were no more stops between Griffin and Forest Park. About that time, someone asked, “How is Jeff was going to get off of the truck?” We had not thought that far in advance. The watermelon truck was on its way to the Farmer’s Market 25 miles away with Jeff riding in the back of the truck and he had no way to get off! Everything had been fun until then. We needed to come up with an exit strategy pretty quickly or we would have to drive 25 miles out of our way to pick up Jeff the next time the truck stopped. We didn’t want to do that!
Suddenly, Jeff decided that he would jump out of the truck into the convertible. But, even as stupid as we all were at that time, we knew that was a bad idea! We yelled to Jeff not to jump. We did not know what we were going to do, but we knew that it would be very difficult to tell Jeff’s mom that he got killed that night jumping out of the back of a watermelon truck into a convertible!
Our next idea was to pull in front of the truck and slow down enough on the one lane road to give Jeff a chance to jump out. We reasoned that it was unlikely that we would be beaten or shot at by the old farmer – even if we had to slow down to two or three miles per hour or stop the truck. But every time we pulled in front of the farmer and slowed down, he tried to pass us. That happened several times. Then, evidently, he got scared or tired of the game, so he decided to pick up the speed a little bit. We had no idea what we were doing. All we knew was that we needed to get Jeff off the back of that truck! So, since there was no other traffic around, we finally got in the middle of the road and blocked it. The truck slowed down to about 15 miles per hour.
Little did we know that Jeff had climbed to the back of the truck and decided to get off while it was still moving. He knew the truck was slowing down, so he thought he could “hang off” while letting his feet run real fast along on the pavement until he could let go, slow down or come to a stop.
All of a sudden, we were horrified to see something sliding down off the back of the truck, through the grass and tumbling down the hill. It was screaming and making a loud noise. It was Jeff! We pulled over, because we thought surely, he was dead. The old farmer went on down the road without realizing what had just happened. When we got to Jeff, amazingly he was still alive, but you have never seen anyone so beaten up, bloody and bruised in your life!
Then he told us what had happened. He explained how he had decided that he would start running as fast as he could so that when he let go of the back of the truck, he would just run till he came to a stop. Unfortunately, when he let go, he slid about 100 yards on pavement, rock, grass, dirt, and gravel before rolling down the hill to a stop! It literally burned the shirt off of his body, as well as most of the top layer of the skin on his chest. We could hardly believe it! It was one of the nights in Griffin we will always remember! Fortunately, Jeff did not get killed and we did not have to take bad news to his mother.
The crazy thing is that we ended up with a couple of warm watermelons that were not very tasty. It would have been a lot safer and cheaper just to go to the grocery store and buy a couple of cold watermelons instead. But then we would have missed the memory!
I guess the reason that I am telling you this story is that we have all done stupid things in our lives. (You can probably remember some of the things you did while growing up that make you wonder how you could still be alive.) The truth of the matter is, stupid actions may be fun at the time, but they can have long-term consequences if you are not careful. I am not sure exactly what you can do with this Tip, but if all you do is remember not to ever climb on the back of a watermelon truck and throw watermelons off to your friends, you will be a lot wiser than we were in the summer of 1966, growing up in Griffin, Georgia!
Tip: Don’t throw watermelons out of the back of a truck!
God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm