Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A TALL TALE

Once in a while I'm delighted by a story that is as irresistibly American as apple pie. Carm Goode's has a touch of Norman Rockwell, a whiff of Mark Twain. I think it's one of the hallmarks of boyhood to tell tall tales. Or fibs. Whatever you want to call them. We do it to excuse ourselves, to feign innocence, to indulge in a little self-aggrandizement... for any number of reasons, then. Some of ue end up feeling guilty about it. Carm Goode is an independent design professional based in the Los Angeles area. He took over as Department Chair in the Art Department at Loyola Marymount University shortly after I abandoned my former life as Dean of Fine and Communication Arts there; his distinguished teaching career also included stints at Art Center College of Design, Otis College of Art and Design, and California State University, Fullerton. In this story he ends up feeling... well, pretty darn proud.

It’s My Story and I’m Stickin’ To It.
By Carm Goode

I don't care if you believe this or not but it’s my story and I’m sticking to it. It happened way back when, in Arling, a whistle stop in the middle of a little farming community in the mountains of Idaho. I lived there, along with my mother, my father, and my brother Billy...


Myself, Duke and Billy. Photo: courtesy Carm Goode
... in the back room of the F. B. Goode General Merchandise Store.

The Arling Post Office occupied a cubicle along one wall inside the Store. There was a gas pump out front and a hitching post to one side. In back, there was an icehouse, a few other sheds, and a barn. The schoolhouse, District 7, was a few yards away to the North. Over by the railroad tracks, there were a couple other houses, some corrals, and The Mountain Valley Seed Company warehouse. There was no question though, the Store and the Post Office were the heart and soul of the community. Since the beginning of time, Arling had been the crossroads of the world. Now it’s all at the bottom of a hatched- up lake.

In its glory days, The F. B. Goode emporium was a single large room rimmed with shelves filled with Wheaties and candy bars and chewing tobacco and boxes of shells and fishhooks. A stalk of bright yellow bananas always hung by the scales. There was a sack of coffee beans here, a quite smelly barrel of vinegar there, and three or four kegs of nails over in the corner. A horse collar or two hung from the rafters.

The mandatory cast iron, pot bellied wood stove occupied the center of the store. All winter long and on into the muddy Long Valley spring, on just about any given day, four or five hearty fellows in well-worn overalls and mud-splattered boots would be sitting around the stove. The spittoon rang like a chime every couple of minutes. Each of those fellows, my Dad included, knew just a little bit more than the fellow beside him about the politics of the day.

The social life of the ladies, revolved for the most part, around the activities of The Arling Club. To take their minds off the problems of those grim depression years, the ladies staged events like fashion shows or minstrel shows (black face and all.) No one is likely to forget the mock wedding the ladies staged one spring, just for the heck of it... 


Mock Wedding. Photo: courtesy Carm Goode
The gents in this compelling photograph are really Arling ladies dressed up as gents. My mother with her outsized bow, to the far left, was the flower girl. I came along for the cake.

I was a few years older one day, when Dad was supposed to be watching me while Mom went off to her club meeting. In all fairness, he had a lot on his mind. My Dad was Franklyn Delano Roosevelt’s right hand man and just then, they were both working as hard as they could, against all odds, to save our poor country.

And so, right there in the middle of one of those heated discussions about the fate of our country, I came running into the store, blubbering away, my head a bloody mess. I managed somehow to tell them what had just happened to me: a horse had kicked me in the head! Everybody jumped up and ran outside. They looked all over the place. They searched for quite a while, but oddly enough, even to this day, no one has ever been able to find that damn horse. How they could they have missed a great big black horse is a mystery to me.

Finally, everybody came back inside. Those goddam, dirty, tabacca chewin’ bastards, Republicans and Democrats alike, every damned one of ‘em, were laughing. I’d gotten all bandaged up but I was still bleeding. And they thought it was funny! I got so mad I forgot how to cry. Sonsabitches! After a while, some dumb grownup had the nerve to say that maybe there never had been a horse in the first place! Then somebody else, I think it was Max Rietze, our Republican, said something that really made me mad. Maybe, he said, I’d been climbing around somewhere where I wasn't supposed to be climbing, and I’d fallen on my noggin. How could they talk like that? I told ‘em and I told ‘em and I told ‘em! It was just that simple; a big, big black horse kicked me in the head! But every time I told ‘em, damn em,’ they laughed a little harder.

When Mom got home, she believed me! And oh boy! Did she give Dad the dickens! Well it turns out I wasn’t really hurt all that much. Like Mom said, I was a pretty tough cookie. And I was... except for my feelings. Too bad you can’t put a splint on feelings. I might have healed up by now. You know though, I think that right from the start, I realized that it was kind of a grand thing for me to have a whole room full of grownups listen to me tell my story. Even today, whenever I get the chance, I tell that same story. I don’t really know though, if I’ve ever convinced a single person that one day, a long, long time ago, way back there in long lost Arling, a big, big, big black horse kicked me right in the head.
Frankly I don’t care. It’s my story and I’m sticking to it. As far as I’m concerned, the world would be a better place if everybody got a good kick in the head once in a while. 

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