Buzz kind-a discovered money late in life and I don’t mean as some type of granddaddy who found a box of cash in the back yard.
I mean that as a kid he’d never really had the need for money, ‘cause - as he was always tellin’ people - Buzz lived off his God-given personality and his killer good looks.
As far as I can remember, Buzz’s first real job was running errands for Mrs Trudy Spencer who ran a little haven from life’s troubles. It was called The House of Fun and it sat comfortably at the bottom of Ferdinand Street.
Everyone called it The House, but the whole town knew what went on there. If you needed it, Mrs Trudy Spencer would sell it to you.
Buzz was probably about fourteen summers at the time but he looked way older. No one would ask him how old he was, as it was always assumed he was twenty-somethin'. Under the cover of darkness Buzz would carry packages to and from The House.
I remember the first time Buzz took me along on one of his trips. He got to the kitchen door at the back of The House, then knocked in a series of complicated codes. No one knocked back but as I found out later, that was 'cause Buzz had made the knocking codes up himself and of course inside they knew it was him and didn’t bother answering the door.
I asked Buzz what was in the packages and you know what he told me? He said it was ‘hooch’.
“Good old hooch from up on the hills, stolen by the Roadsmen,” Buzz told me.
No one ever really knew or met the Roadsmen. They were the people who did all the bad things that other people got blamed for. Even the real bad weather was blamed on them.
“That rain was caused by the Roadsmen and their fires,” my uncle once told me when it ruined his daughter’s wedding.
To be honest I thought the package was a bit on the small side for hooch, so when Buzz went in to talk to Mrs Spencer, I had a peek into it and all I could see was just plain sarsaparilla for the high rollin’ customers who called The House of Fun , a home.
I wasn’t gonna tell my pal, I just let him think he was someone that the Feds would be interested in talking to.
Buzz would get paid in goods for his troubles. Tonight he had received chocolates and two pairs of nylon stockings.
“Give them to yer Maw,” Mrs Trudy Spencer had told Buzz “I hear she could do with a good man in her life.”
I imagine that Buzz would have looked real hurt at that point - as he was the man in his Maw’s life, the man of the house. I don’t think that was what Mrs Trudy Spencer was really talking about 'though.
That night we lay on the hill overlooking town and ate the chocolates. We both wore the stockings over our faces and decided that maybe we would keep them for the day when we needed to rob a bank.
“Why would we rob a bank?” I asked Buzz.
“In case we needed the money,” he told me.
“We ain’t got no money and we’re happy.”
“I know, but maybe.....” then he stopped and I could hear his brain working....”yeh but maybe...one day we’ll get money and then we’ll lose it and then we’ll want to get some more.”
Buzz lay back real pleased with himself with that explanation and then pulled his nylon stocking disguise back over his chocolate covered face. He did have a point, one day we would have money and I’m sure we’d miss it if it went away.
The rest of the summer Buzz delivered the ‘illicit goods’ to The House (by that I mean, the sarsaparilla I’ve already mentioned, empty bottles, old newspapers, table cloths – you get what I’m saying?) The cops didn’t want to talk to Buzz, no matter what he thought.
To save on time and expense, at the start of each week Buzz would pick up some of the packages and store them in a hidey-hole in his back yard. Then each night he’d take some of the stuff over to Mrs Spencer’s.
One night he comes screaming around to my place.
“They’re gone,” he shouted. “Gone!”
“The hooch,” said Buzz. “Someone’s stolen Mrs Trudy Spencer’s property.”
I rubbed my chin, as you do in these circumstances, then we both looked at each other and at the same time we said:
The Roadsmen were known to steal everything and anything, even kids. I remember my Maw saying to me that if I didn’t behave (or Beeee-have was how she said it) I would be given away to the Roadsmen.
No one really knew what the Roadsmen did with you when they got you – some kid in class said they made you dress up as a midget and work in circuses. Me and Buzz didn’t think that would be such a bad way to spend a life.
“I’m going up to the top of Driftward Plains and getting my hooch back,“ shouted Buzz. Boy, was he in a real bad mood.
I said I’d go with him, I couldn’t let my best pal face the Roadsmen on his own. And anyway I was kinda curious about what they looked like.
Right after Buzz made his Tuesday night delivery, we headed up to Driftward Plains on a bicycle that he had borrowed from the rear of The House. I’m sure I had seen the bike before and that it belonged to the Sheriff - but I couldn’t be certain.
We pushed, or it might be more correct to say, I pushed the bicycle most of the way up Deadman’s Gully. Buzz kept reminding me that he owed it to folks to look his best and that pushing a bike really didn’t help.
“Shh,” he whispered at the lip of the hill. We both crawled to the edge and looked over.
“See the lights?” asked Buzz. “That’s them.”
They were all sitting around a big roaring fire when we jumped out on them or rather Buzz did.
“Woooo!” he shouted but it just sounded real lame.
The six of the Roadsmen that were sitting around the fire just looked up and then back at the fire. I don’t think they were too impressed.
“I want my hooch back,” Buzz shouted and then he did a funny dance. Not funny as in comic - funny as in he should get locked up.
“Sit and join us,” said one of the guys who must have been over a hundred years old, maybe two hundred.
They seemed a nice bunch of guys and apparently long, long ago when they were our age they had come up to meet the Roadsmen but had failed.
“We just kept missing them,” said the two hundred year old man.”Then we just kept coming up here. Now some of us are alone, some of us are in homes and some of us ain’t got long. We just drive up here is Ken’s old jalopy and watch the sun going down and up again.”
“So you didn’t take my hooch?” said Buzz.
We sat there with those guys until dawn just flappin’ our gums and talking about life. Me and Buzz decided that when we got older, we’d meet up on the top of Driftward Plains.
When Buzz got back home he found his Maw had taken his packages in to the house ‘cause next door’s dog kept trying to pee on them.
As for Buzz discovering about money, well I’m kind-a sleepy right this minute. I guess it would be all right if I tell you that story another time.
Keep a watch out for the Roadsmen, 'though, unless you like getting shot outta cannon in a circus.
bobby stevenson 2013