Do Not Buy a Car from This Man

In our family, we date things according to which hobby Galahad was obsessed with, and  say such things as “That was back when Dad was into radio-controlled cars, right?” and, “No, that happened the year he was building dulcimers.”

It was during the Dirt Track Year, on an evening that had passed the wee hours of the next morning, the children fast asleep, when I found myself waiting to hear Galahad pull in to the driveway.  That welcome sound was finally heard around 2am, but was swiftly followed by the arrival of another car, and… houseguests.  Houseguests at 2 o’clock in the morning?

Galahad had recently spent every spare dime rebuilding the engine on his International Scout.  During the Mud Running Year, he’d pursued that hobby until the engine was toast, and then happily spent the rest of that year repairing, improving, and enhancing the engine to where we now found ourselves, unsurprisingly, in the Dirt Track Year.  Dozens of suburban yahoos would gather out in Elbridge at a banked oval dirt track and race each other, two at a time.  Galahad has always been an outstanding driver, and his competitive spirit knows no bounds.  He was grinning when he strolled in with his companions, so a good guess would have been he’d been out celebrating, but his companions looked terrified.

“Hey, Sweetie!  It’s been a helluva night!”

“Do tell.  Should I assume you were celebrating your victory to the point where these two had to drive you home?”

“Something like that.”

“O-kay…  There’s a story here?”

“Well, it was down to me and a Blazer.  We got there early and between the two of us we blew the competition away.  You should have heard the crowd!  By the time it was down to me and the Blazer, nobody was leaving – everybody wanted to see the last race.”

One of the Terrified Companions chimed in with an “Oh, yeah!” but his partner hushed him quickly and returned to devouring her fingernails.

“So… you won?”

“Well, no.  You might want to come outside.”

If you’ve ever seen a Scout, you know the general boxy shape of them.  Galahad, in the course of the evening, had modified his hardtop into a prototype we could call “Glassless Flattop.”

“What the hell — ?!”

He talked faster now:  “It was down to the two of us, and we were coming into turn 3.  I’d found the right groove, and knew the track by now, but he started to pull ahead of me – took it low coming into the turn – and he kicked up a stone that cracked the windshield.  At that speed, that’s all it took – one moment of inattention, and the Scout went right over the bank – “

“You [censored] rolled it?!”

“All the way over.  The roof was flat to the doorsill.  Lucky for me, the direction of the roll put me flat across the seat –  “

“You should have heard the crowd!  They were roaring – and then it was silence.”  This from one of the Terrified Companions. One look from me and his lips melted shut while his larynx caught fire.  At that moment, I realized what terrified them, and suggested that they had best be on their way home.  No need for witnesses.

“How did you get out?”

“Forklift.  You aren’t mad, are you?'”

Lunacy

Not long after I met my husband Galahad, I met his best friend — Gaheris. Back then, Galahad had lots of shaggy dark hair and a reddish-black beard and mustache. Since this also described Gaheris exactly, they perfectly fit the term “twin sons of different mothers.”

Galahad and Gaheris graduated together — same high school, same year — but didn’t really become close friends until they enrolled at the local community college. Gaheris soon became a father and husband, and since he was only 18 at the time he has often said he and his child grew up together. By the time I met Gaheris, they were about age 5.

Since laws pay more attention to date of birth than to maturity, Galahad and Gaheris invested in fishing licenses every year and went smelting. Smelt are small freshwater fish that prefer deep water until Spring, when they rush upriver by the thousands to spawn. This is the time to harvest these tasty guys, by way of dip-net fishing.

Gaheris knew to watch for the full moon in the month of May, which helped to illuminate the silver flash of the fish — the runs took place at night. Galahad insisted that we wives would have a wonderful time coming along on this outing, and I hadn’t known these guys long enough to realize the full value of their opinions. Midnight in May can be fun, until you are soaking wet, reeking of fish, and freezing.

What did I learn? Ask for details before agreeing to any outing. I wound up sitting on the shore with a bottle of blackberry brandy helping me towards numbness. Not only was I freezing, I was terrified: we were near a power station on one of the Finger Lakes, where the security floodlights were so bright that places where they did not shine were plunged into profound darkness, all night vision destroyed. We had to negotiate our way along the top of a gravel bank that dropped nearly straight down to the lake below. I can’t swim, but it didn’t matter, since the fall would have killed me.

Galahad and Gaheris were having a jolly time already, leaving the driving to the wives so that they could freely fortify themselves with alcohol. Since alcohol does not freeze, making sure there was plenty of it in their systems was one way to prevent themselves from freezing. Several beers later, the time had arrived. Gaheris donned chest waders, but Galahad did him one better: a wetsuit, which would allow him to venture further out into the waters. The wives waited on shore with the buckets: each fishing license allowed us to take home a 5-gallon bucketful of fish — and not one fish more. We were careful to watch our limits because the fine for exceeding them was $15 per fish.

Out in the water, the ritual began. Gaheris announced the sighting, yelling “Git ’em! They’re running!” at the top of his lungs. This signaled the start of the hunt. The next step was the challenge: as each man caught his first smelt, he would grab it from the net, bite off its head, and spit it back at the rest of the smelt in defiance. The theory was, this would infuriate the smelt and they would rush to avenge their fallen comrades — straight into the waiting dip-nets. After a while, I felt pretty certain I knew why they called it a dip net, and it had nothing to do with submerging the device in water.

The night ended, no human life was lost, and we spent the bulk of the next day recovering from hangovers whilst cleaning hundreds of little fish.

A few weeks later, when we’d returned home an hour north, Galahad got a phone call from Gaheris, who said he’d been to a local bar, listening to the old guys swapping tales. One piped up with the story of some damn fool yahoos yelling “Git ’em! They’re running!” and biting the heads off their fish. Gaheris agreed with the speaker that some idiots just shouldn’t be allowed out unsupervised.