When I was 18, I had a boyfriend named Harry. He was a big man, and kind of scary looking, but he had a heart of gold and really was a gentle giant. He was very kind, and very soft-spoken. He also was a talented carpenter. He built a desk for me and a cabinet for my Mom. But — he had a knack for getting in trouble.
For example, he had been in the navy before I met him, and one day he fell off the ship. He was in the water for 24 hours before they rescued him! They not only rescued him, but gave him an award!
He also had some strange habits. He would take ketchup packets and pound them and make them squirt everywhere! Or he would shove about 5 sugar packets in his mouth at once and eat them paper and all. He thought things like this were funny.
Life was certainly exciting with Harry around; I never knew what was coming next.
My sister Deb was frequently with us. One day we three were driving down the interstate and decided to pull in at a rest-stop. The plaza was large and had these 6 glass doors across the front. As we were walking in, Harry said, “Hey, let me show you guys something!” So we waited and watched him, and as soon as there were no people around, he took hold of two of the doors, one in each hand, and suddenly yanked them open simultaneously. This caused all the doors to bang open and shut at once — must have been some sort of vacuum effect. It really was pretty neat. EXCEPT. At the last second this guy walked up and got the door banged open and shut in his face. Harry apologized and we went on in. When we left, about half way to the car in the parking lot, there was the guy. He was a trucker, and he had a shotgun slung across the hood of his truck aiming at us! I was frozen in fear. Harry started apologizing profusely. Finally the trucker lowered his gun and said “Don’t ever do that again.” Harry assured him he wouldn’t, which seemed to appease the trucker since he got in his truck and left.
One time Harry was driving, and for some reason (I wasn’t paying attention) these 2 guys got angry with us. They started threatening us with aggressive driving and fist shaking. We eventually had to pull off the the side of the road. The two guys pulled off right in front of us, jumped out of their car and started heading toward us. Harry quickly made me give him my belt, which was wide with a large buckle. Harry got out of the car swinging that belt. The two guys took one look at him (remember he was a big man) and ran back to their car, jumped in and sped off.
Another time Deb and I drove a VW Camper into the Smokey mountains, taking our two little brothers and our little sister camping with us. Harry joined us there. We were just falling asleep in the camper when we heard sounds outside. We looked out the window and it was a huge black bear! We were shivering with fear when Harry decides it would be a good idea to scare the bear, so he opens the door!!! We screamed and yanked him back inside and told him no way!
On this same trip, My sister Deb reports:
I am convinced I am alive because of Harry. When we went into the Smokey Mountains on that 2 week trip I was 16 – not a time known for mature judgement. All 5 of us Gateley kids and Harry were playing in water above a waterfall that was about 20 feet deep. We decided to cross to the other side but I was crossing too close to the falls and couldn’t make it. The flow was way too strong and about to wash me over the falls. I managed to wedge against a rock and Harry came back and was strong enough to get me to safety. I would have been killed or seriously injured otherwise.
On another occasion I was driving us down a dirt road in my car. My sister Deb and her boyfriend were following us in their car. I was driving too fast and slid into a ditch, damaging the car. First of all, my Dad had always said I must file a police report if I ever get in an accident, for insurance purposes. Second of all, I had forgotten my eye glasses. I knew that I would be in big trouble with my Dad. (This was before our big financial falling out — see Blog Post #54.) So my sister and her boyfriend drove back home, got my glasses and came back. Then we called the police. While waiting for the police, we were standing around talking and Harry decides to sit in my car, talking with the door open while he lounged in the driver’s seat. Then the policeman arrived. While making his report, he said to Harry, “Okay, you were driving.” “No,” I said, “I was driving.” The police didn’t believe me, since Harry was sitting in the driver’s seat. But we were insistent, and he finally wrote down that I was driving. Then he asked what happened. Rather than admit I was speeding, I said I swerved to miss a dog. The policeman just looked at me in disbelief. “I can show you the dog tracks if you like.” I said. At this point the policeman sighed and said no thanks, giving me a look that said he wouldn’t believe anything I said. I didn’t get in too much trouble with my Dad because the final police report did NOT say I forgot my glasses, and did NOT say Harry was driving.
Just one more story. After I broke up with Harry, he didn’t want to give up. So two months later he drove up to Gainesville from Orlando to see me. I said no, but he came anyway. So I borrowed Josh, a friend’s dog, to give me protection while I told Harry again that there was no way to get back together. We met in the dorm parking lot. As soon as Josh saw Harry he ran to him and rolled on his back for Harry to scratch his tummy! Good grief. Anyway I finally convinced Harry we were done and that was the last time I saw him.
LESSON LEARNED: Don’t clown around in a public area, especially with lots of people around.
LESSON LEARNED: Don’t mess with truckers!
LESSON LEARNED: It’s always good when a sister has my back.
LESSON LEARNED: If my drivers license says I require glasses, then wear them to drive!
LESSON LEARNED: It’s only in looking back at our younger years that we shudder to realize how often we were a lot luckier than smart.
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