[As a sort-of prelude to the Summer of 1965, Cole and Joe Woodard made sure memories of the M-4 would not fade in Cisco while Adling, Berry, and Hastings were out-of-town in their first year of college. During the Christmas holidays of 1964, these two, to honor The Flag Escapade — Phase II [Aug, 2013], climbed to the top of the City Hall and wired a used Christmas tree to the flagpole. Joe wrote me an account of the incident and sent it to me after I returned to A&M. Like the M-4 flag wired at the same site by Adling and Cole, it stayed atop the building much longer than expected. Also, on the first anniversary of the chair/desk escapade in February, 1965, Cole and Woodard, with the help of Earl Carson, commemorated the birth of the M-4 by working hard to move an abandoned outhouse from some remote place outside town to the little driveway circle of the new high school, the school finished too late to do the Class of 1964 any good. The outhouse barely fit in the back of the pick-up they used.]
Of the three summers in Cisco following our graduation from Cisco High School in 1964, the Summers of 1964, 1965, and 1966, the middle one had a distinct variation. Just briefly listing that variation is very revealing of the latter years of the M-4 and our accompanying friends; its distinction lies in that not just one or two events characterize the summer, different from the cases of summer 1964 (The Flag Escapade — Phase I [Aug, 2013] & The Flag Escapade — Phase II [Aug, 2013]) and summer 1966 (Crashing the Cisco Beauty Pageant — Night of the Long Knife [June, 2013]).
Berry (Ode to Bob B. Berry [May, 2012]) and I had survived the “fish year” as cadets in Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets — he in the Air Force R.O.T.C. and I in the Army R.O.T.C. We both looked forward to the “freedom” of a summer back in Cisco and planned on a camp-out together before we left Aggieland after semester finals. But Berry’s “freedom” was qualified and confined to the beginning of the summer, as he was facing academic probation at A&M, because, in my opinion, he majored more in the “campus-ology” than in his courses; he was learning too late that he could not go through A&M the same way he went through Cisco High School — making good grades easily. He, therefore, was going to have to return to A&M for summer school. In our window of opportunity, we planned on walking out of Cisco some thirteen miles to my parents’ place near Long Branch, after we had “stocked” the campsite with our “stuff” the day before the walk.
For different and diverse reasons, Adling (Ode to William L. (Bill) Adling [May, 2012]), Lee (Ode to Dr. Bill R. Lee [May, 2012]), and Cole (Ode to Robert W. Cole [May, 2012]) could not join us at such short notice before Berry had to go back, so the two of us “carried on” anyway. Walking south out-of-town along US Hwy 183, we were met by my Uncle Joe McKinney, who reminded us in “personal exercise” state that Kennedy was dead. Kay (Wallace) Morris said “Hi” to us on her way to Rising Star and met us on her way back to refresh us with fresh berries she had just obtained.
Two musical events highlighted this hike out. The first came at “Six-Mile Hollow” bridge, about four miles down the highway, the hollow forming the natural geological boundary on either side of which my sets of grandparents lived. North of the hollow is gravel-and-mesquite; south is sand-and-post oak. On the transistor radio we were carrying, the KLIF (Dallas) D.J. said, “Turn up your sets! Here’s the new one from the Rolling Stones!” That was the first time Berry and I heard “Satisfaction,” with that distinctive guitar riff literally dreamed up by Keith Richards. The second came as we were cutting across country off-road through the post oak and blackjack brush. The hit Adling had introduced to us on the car radio a day or two before, “Gloria” by Them, blasted out.
We had made the mistake of letting Earl Carson and Keith Starr know about our camping plans, thinking they did not know our location. We were wrong. The first night of our campout, after we had completed our hike, those two scared the hell out of us by firing their 22 rifles in the air suddenly. The next day, for some unexplained reason, back in Cisco, they tell my mother at the bank what they had done, I suppose not thinking that guns and goofing off do not mix well in the minds of mothers everywhere. After she was off work, she came out to take us back in and not spend our second night. Berry and I had just about had her convinced to let us stay, when, who should show up again with their rifles but Earl and Keith! Berry and I, without a word, began packing to go back in with my mom; we knew this camping trip was prematurely aborted by our “buddies.”
How Adling found time to get into trouble this summer is beyond belief, but get into trouble he did! You see, he basically was holding down four jobs, at Westfall’s service station, at West Texas Produce, at Heidenheimer’s clothing store, and at Cisco Steam Laundry, “juggling” the work shifts among all four. Because of his jobs and because we thought of each other as “most gullible” of our friends, I got to be a “temp” at West Texas Produce unloading trees of bananas off railroad boxcars and watching out for hidden Central American tarantulas, and he talked me into buying a “Prince Jac,” a Nehru jacket at Heidenheimer’s. Because I had lots of different jobs hauling bales of hay that summer, mostly for my dad, Adling crammed in hay-hauling sessions in addition to his four “town” jobs with me, featuring hauling hay throughout the night to avoid the searing heat of the day, and finding a beheaded snake inside a hay bale we at first could not see in the darkness.
With Berry gone to summer school and Lee not a close friend of Cole’s, just Adling and I from our class got to join Cole at the Cole ranch for overnight camping out at the ranch trailer house, where Adling got acquainted with Chuck Cleveland and Marlin Marcum (a year younger than we). Adling also got to know well Prince Altom, a life-long Ciscoan known for driving a hearse when he attended Cisco High School (He was three years ahead of us in school.) (That Damn Dam Painting! [April, 2013]). Our freshman year in high school, 1960-1961, would have seen him the President of the Student Council instead of Ken Keltner, had his family not moved just before his Senior year. Also a life-long Baptist, Prince was in seminary, but not the “orthodox” Southern Baptist one in Ft. Worth, a “progressive one” in Switzerland in-between summers. This summer of 1965, he was the music director at First Baptist Church in Cisco, the church which he attended when a boy. He was a favorite of Sylvia’s and Sandra’s, and I got to know him well through them. Berry joined into our times with Prince when home on weekends from summer school, he having known Prince from the days when Prince drove school kids living in southeast Cisco to West Ward elementary, “piling” them in the back of his hearse. The future minister was known for making “beer runs” to Strawn or Mingus for various under-aged Cisco drinkers. I’ve always characterized Prince by one of his “famous” quips: “If you are going to preach about sin, you gotta go out and know what you are talking about!”
In addition to all this (I did not even mention Adling moving on the girl-friend-scale from Cherrie to Suzy to Pam), Adling and I had fun waking each other up “too early” in the mornings — we lived only blocks from each other — he would scratch on the screens of my bedroom to wake me, and when it was my turn, I would sneak into the house and into his bedroom to put on a record and turn the player up “full-blast” as an alarm clock (“Gloria” was my favorite to use for this (see above)). If he and I wanted to wake up Cole for some “Teddy boy” action during the night when Cole was on break from the ranch, we would throw pebbles against the window of his upstairs bedroom; when we wanted to wake him up in the mornings, we would have to get into the house and climb up the stairs to his bedroom, all encouraged by his mom.
One would think that piling on demands of Adling’s time, such as a “burying of the hatchet” incident with the City of Cisco, would assure there would be no M-4 incidents the entire summer. It almost worked for me and my time! One day Adling was telling me of his roller coaster relationship with Pam (College had somehow caused us to talk more to each other about girls.), when his mom called to ask Adling if he would do a favor for Police Chief Parkinson (The Flag Escapade — Phase II [Aug, 2013]), driving a family whose driver/father was sick to Gilmer, Texas. Adling and I drove down to the Cisco motel where the family was staying, and Chief Parkinson explained the situation, including there was not enough family money to cover the return bus fares for two, so only one of us could go. Adling agreed to drive the family for $15.45. Chief Parkinson seemed to think differently about the M-4 than he did a year before, which was good; he did not treat us like felons and he seemed to trust us. Adling, after successfully driving the family, saved some of his money for bus fare by hitchhiking, but decided to take an early morning bus from Ft. Worth back to Cisco, after hitchhiking between Gilmer and Ft. Worth with a true bar-fighting hood, an Irving policeman, and a homosexual. Waiting for his bus, he got some free booze and visited a “wild” place called “The Cellar.” On the bus he had to ward off another homosexual, so he was glad to finally make it back to Cisco with a great need for sleep.
Not long after Clark Odom’s dad watched Adling, Lee, Carson, Clark, and I screwing around, swimming in the lake at the Odom lake house allegedly painting piping and platforms of the Odoms’ boat dock at Lake Cisco using inner tubes and calling us in his best “Air Force” dialect “a bunch of malfunctions looking for someplace to happen!”, Adling somehow found the time for the following:
In the large-ranch area north of Lake Cisco, on a spread owned S. E. Hittson, a deserted house became notorious as being haunted, sort-of an “urban myth,” Cisco-style. In the school year 1960-1961, when they were Sophomores, George Mitcham and Cliff Clary, got into serious trouble when an employee of Mr. Hittson found them snooping around the “haunted house” one night; the employee was using the house as a temporary residence. George and Cliff went to the Cisco police station at gunpoint to be turned in for trespassing. Hittson did not apparently press charges, and the myth submerged, only to rise again like a phoenix years later in the summer of 1965.
Adling’s younger brother John, Mark Gerrard, brothers Harold and Darrell Davies, and others, on their “nightly summer drives” noticed a light on inside the house of interest. In those days, no one seemed to be living in the house anymore. One evening, spurred by the stories of John, Adling, his girlfriend Pam, Bobby Smith (The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 4 (Coming Together and Planning) [Oct, 2013]), John, and others took a drive out to see the light for themselves; upon arrival, Mark Gerrard and the Davies brothers were already there observing from the road. Clearly Adling was the only one of the observers literally carrying an M-4 card in his wallet, and, to him, he thereby had a reputation to uphold in situations like this; the M-4 experience carried its own “urban myth,” which included fearlessness to tread where others dared not go. He decided to lead the investigation of the house with its mysterious light, with the rest following a distance behind. He announced his intentions out loud in case someone was inside (there, of course, was no one) and then managed to pry open a small window set high, through which he squeezed himself. About the time he noted the house full of old “stuff,” John, not to be outdone by his older brother, kicked open the front door, and the whole crowd came in to discover the mystery light to be an ordinary incandescent light bulb apparently left on as a night-light.
About the same time someone drove up in a pick-up to see what the visitors were doing. Adling, thinking quickly, made up a story he was looking for some old lumber for a lake cabin, and he suspected some might be at this deserted house. The man in the pick-up apparently “bought” this story and drove off. The crowd of visitors made a hasty trip back into Cisco, and Adling and Pam came over to my house to relate this adventure and listen to the Stones on my stereo set. I had a date with Sylvia and had to go, but while I was on the date, Adling, Bobby, and some of the others went back out to the house, finding nothing of further interest.
It might be surmised, knowing the bond we shared as M-4 members, that if it were not for things like dates or being out-of-town, Cole and I would be “right in there” from the beginning of this “haunted house” caper. But Cole and I all but lived on farms and ranches, and could have told Adling before he went out what he would find, having seen night lights in old deserted houses and barns throughout the rural countryside. We would not want to go on the land of somebody’s else’s ranch because our fathers taught us “not to trespass, that you be not trespassed upon.” It was a code among owners of farms and ranches: Do not go on someone’s place without permission — you might get shot. (As George and Cliff had found out about this particular house years before.)
But “this was different,” argued Adling, fascinated by the mythology of the mysterious; this was “UFO” stuff to him, and clearly he was getting a big, bad charge out of being the leader of the investigation, especially in front of his girl friend. Besides, earlier, I had learned the lesson of the mysterious on posted property when rumors of a “monster” on a ranch just south of Cisco turned out to be the owner, Les Threet, proprietor of a variety store that competed with Mott’s variety store, dressing up with a rug or old fur coat scaring off teens hanging out at the gate entrance to his property. I had actually gone out with some “monster” hunters one evening, but we saw nothing. When my dad found out about the trip, he clued me in to what was going on, as Les was a coon hunting buddy of my dad’s and he told my dad what he was doing. In the end, to do what he was doing to scare kids was too dangerous; kids can carry guns, especially if they think they are seeing “monsters.” Luckily, no one got hurt, Les stopped his “pranking” the kids, and “monster” stories of that site faded away.
On a Sunday night (while I was at church), Adling returned once again with John, Bobby, and the Davies brothers, Cole’s and my M-4 buddy apparently not wanting any “country” perspective on the light, which was still burning bright. They were joined by Jimmy Smith and Travis Roach. Adling and one of the Davies approached the house with the usual verbalization in case someone was inside with a gun. He eventually got some writing materials from the car and left a smart-ass note that read “To save money, turn off lights.” Someone shouted out that a car was coming down the road, and Adling had to make a dive into Bobby’s get-away car, just as he had to do at the end of our painting the Lake Cisco dam spillway the night before our high school graduation (That Damn Dam Painting! [April, 2013]).
No more visits to the house were made after that, and it looked like the whole thing would “blow over” like Les Threet’s “monster,” but, while Adling was out-of-town visiting Pam’s family, things got “hot” for Adling and his fellow house visitors when rumors began circulating around town that Mr. Hittson was trying mightily to find out who had been trespassing on his property. Adling found out about the “heat” by phone before he got back, and, upon his return, I filled him in on all I knew — he, as the “leader” of the house visitors, and the oldest of them, was being fingered by all the questions thrown at the others; in his absence, without his being able to defend himself, he was being incriminated, as if plea bargaining was going on. Adling was being painted as a “gang leader.”
Adling was scheduled, along with a couple of the other “house visitors,” were to appear down at the police station, reminiscent of our appearance in city court a year before (The Flag Escapade — Phase II [Aug, 2013]). He and I thought it best he should get a haircut, for an improved appearance, before he went for his appearance. At the police station Adling was questioned for about two hours and he then requested to make a written statement, which took another hour. He was straightforward, truthful, and thorough in his statement. Confident he had shown there was no reason to make this a serious case, he was disappointed to find Mr. Hittson was apparently doing his best to create just such a case. Cole, in from his dad’s ranch, and I went over to Adling’s house to show him support and offer to help in any way we could; we found solace in the legacy of the M-4, but that did not seem to ease the uncertainty of the situation.
A few days later Adling and the guys who had been with him at the house were ordered to appear before the county’s grand jury to review the case Mr. Hittson was building. The grand jury convened at the county courthouse in Eastland. The story we heard was that Hittson was pressing charges under the influence of the County Sheriff, but Hittson seemed to be entirely self-motivated. One the afternoon the grand jury met, Prince Altom and I drove over to Eastland to offer our support. In the courthouse, where Prince’s grandfather worked, Mr. Altom wondered “what in the world” Prince and I were doing being so interested in the grand jury hearing. Mrs. Adling, who was present with a host of parents, seemed to appreciate our show of support. All the guys who were with Adling at the “haunted house” — his brother John, Bobby Smith, the Davies brothers, Mark Gerrard, Jimmy Smith, and Travis Roach — were present. Prince and I got to talk to Adling (with his fresh haircut and dressed in a suit) in the halls of the courthouse, even there joking to lighten Adling’s spirits, saying we were his “personal lawyers,” though we would make lousy character witnesses! We seriously advised him to take a “cool” attitude in front of the grand jury, never acting belligerent or haughty, though that was probably unnecessary for Adling’s head at the time. Adling’s “lawyers” took him out to lunch before the hearing began, back to joking we were taking Adling to his “last free meal as a free man,” and we almost got Adling in trouble by not understanding the afternoon starting time; we were late and barely made it for Adling to be questioned first. “Adling’s lawyers” were not allowed to be in the jury room. Prince and I had to “sweat it out” in the halls of the courthouse.
As Adling was questioned, the others were brought before the grand jury also. Adling did most of the talking, answering questions straightforwardly and politely, and even, near the end of the questioning, getting in some points about the necessary curiosity of Columbus. The jury deliberated for a while, during which Adling made a quick round trip to Cisco and back, and returned their verdict — no indictments would be handed down to any of the guys. This, despite the fact a couple of ranchers were on the jury, and because, probably, of the fact the jury’s chairman was Mr. James McCracken, President of the First National Bank of Cisco, where my mom worked; Mr. McCracken was one of the great humanitarians of Cisco in those years. After the verdict was read, Adling, as the guys’ spokesperson, offered to do free labor for Mr. Hittson on his ranch, which he turned down. Adling emerged from the courthouse more firmly convinced that Hittson had not been the boys’ “friend” he had tried so hard to make himself out to be, for, after he rejected Adling’s offer, he emphatically “advised” Adling and his “cohorts” to “go straight.” He really thought them criminals, not pranksters.
Immediately available to Adling and all of his supporters was the image of his disorganized lawyers Altom and Hastings midst stacks of messy records and law books, of a raving Hittson screaming “Hang ‘em! String ‘em up!”, and of a zealous Teddy Boy Adling “squirreling out,” finally, of a bad situation.
One might think the preceding would be enough for one summer, but this is the M-4 we’re talking about, and about the weird summer of 1965.
At the same time Adling was getting into “hot water” over the “haunted house,” someone he had met at Boys’ State back in high school and with whom he had stayed in written correspondence, Jerry Akers, was scheduled to arrive at Cisco as Adling’s guest! Imagine his surprise when the guest was met at the bus station by Adling, Lee, and Clark Odom and told Adling was under grand jury investigation! It says a lot about Jerry (Adling never invited just anyone to visit him in Cisco.) that he was none too “put off” by the situation, as one would expect an “ordinary” guest to be. Adling brought Jerry over to my house for introductions and record-playing, and the next day I took Jerry on a driving “tour” of Cisco, featuring visuals for my verbal history of the M-4, all while Adling had to work. My memoirs recorded my initial assessment of Jerry as a guy of “remarkable adaptability and freedom from ‘hang-ups.'” He filled in for Adling at work the day Adling had to appear before the grand jury; the day after Adling was “free,” the quartet of Jerry, Adling, Altom, and I went to Abilene to see a Jerry Lewis “flick.” Adling, Akers, and I took pictures of each other on the steps of CJC (Cisco College) dressed in a sheet with a laurel-leaf wreath around our heads, like we were Roman Senators or Greek philosophers. Akers (note how he deserves a last-name label) put on a façade, as if he was “flabbergasted” at all the Cisco/M-4 treatment we were giving him, a “façade” in that when each “party” was over, he was actually cool, calm, and delighted, even after drinking one night with Adling and Earl Carson or after meeting characters like Cliff Clary.
Meanwhile, I was in need of a harmless retaliatory prank. This summer involved a lot of interaction with both Sylvia and her sister Sandra, and I’m not talking about dating, though Sylvia and I steadily did date. Prince Altom had introduced the party novelty of “table lifting,” the fun “game” of four people raising a light weight card table with all eight palms down on the top upon one table leg; the novelty featured spinning the table around on its one leg, all four “lifters” going in circles, and “asking the table” questions whose answers could be tapped out; often the table was mysteriously “correct.” It took a while to figure out, but the whole thing works by diversionary chanting, which gets the four “lifters'” minds off the fact they are doing the whole thing through their hands; but they are doing it subconsciously — lifters are not aware they are making the table do all the things it does. I remember having fun introducing people to the “spirits” of the table, and watching skeptics from the youth groups of Prince’s, Sylvia’s, and Sandra’s First Baptist Church and Joe Woodard’s and my East Cisco Baptist Church become astonished when they experienced the subconscious phenomenon for themselves. I introduced it to Adling and Cole, of course, and we had fun trying to figure it out. Sylvia and Sandra invited the three of us to come out to the Hart house one Sunday afternoon when we happened to be at Adling’s house lifting a table — to come out and do the same thing there. So it was 3 of the M-4 and Sandra raised the Hart card table to wild gyrations.
One of my odd “odd” jobs that summer was being the substitute secretary in the office of East Cisco Baptist Church, while Mrs. Marie Brock was on vacation. During that week, Sandra, in the wake of our “table” visit, I suppose, got the idea to have Rev. Mart Agnew, a long-time Baptist minister known for his practical jokes and telephone pranks, to call me at the church office in the voice of an “old woman,” and I fell for it, much to my chagrin as a “professional” M-4 prankster. Sandra’s prank was made even more successful with me when Sylvia “played along” and acted interested in the call I got from this “eccentric old lady.” I did not find out I had been “conned” until Mart told my mother at work at the bank what he had done, and my mother had a good time relaying the details to me. So, as a matter of M-4 pride, “something had to be done.” And it was not going to be easy to fool someone clever enough to utilize the talents of Mart Agnew. I realized I had to “hit” them close to “home,” having faith that, once more, Sylvia would not “drop me like a hot rock;” my faith that true love trumps pranks was again going to be tested. (The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 7 (Found Out…) [Oct, 2013], The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 9 (Continued Aftermath and The Birth of a Legacy) [Oct, 2013], The Flag Escapade — Phase II [Aug, 2013])
Jerry Akers’ visit gave me a way of fulfilling my “need.” Sylvia and Sandra were well-known church soloists; the “Hart twins” were in “high demand” for special music presentations at Cisco’s First Baptist Church, for other churches in the area, and for funerals. (Sylvia sings alto and Sandra sings soprano.) I came up with the idea of Akers posing as an agent of Word Music Co. out of Waco, a music company that recorded regional church music performed by amateurs — an agent looking for new talent, namely wanting to record a sampling of Sylvia’s and Sandra’s singing. Akers pretended like he couldn’t do something like that, but by now Adling and I saw through his false modesty; Akers could pose as anyone he wanted. I checked with Altom at the church with my plans, and he offered the use of the church’s tape recorder for the “agent.” On the day before Akers had to leave Cisco, he was skiing on Lake Cisco with Adling, and I (a non-skier) took photos of them on the water. That night the three of us went to Eastland to see a couple of Edgar Allan Poe “flicks.” Akers was coming around on the idea, but was still not convinced to do it.
The next day, his last in Cisco, Akers was back at the lake skiing with Adling and Clark Odom, so I took Altom out to the lake with me for one last try. By the end of a boat ride full of answers to questions of Akers’, Altom, Adling, and I got him to “come around.” The deed had to be done before Akers left on the bus early that evening, so we all went back into town for preparation. I got detoured by something I had to do for my dad at one of the farms at midday, so by the time I got back into Cisco for the second time that day, I thought it was too late, and I had decided I had to call the whole thing off. But, Adling and Akers already had the whole thing going: Akers, who alias was “Warren Atwood,” so he could use Ading’s monogrammed brief case (“W” & “A” for William Adling), “agent for Word Music Co.,” had called the Harts, where we knew Sylvia and Sandra would not be (both working in the offices at CJC), the number to contact them was given “Warren” by their mother, and “Warren” set up an appointment that afternoon at the Hart house, talking to Sylvia on a CJC phone, for a recording of the Hart twins’ talents. We had to scramble fast!
Akers dressed in a suit and we all bivouacked at the First Baptist Church. Altom had the tape recorder ready and gave Akers some operating lessons (We all hoped the twins would not recognize the recorder from the church.). Altom and I also gave Akers some church music jargon, including names of famous gospel singers we knew Sylvia and Sandra admired. We faced the problem of coming up with a car the Harts would not recognize, and who should drive by but my cousin Dwayne in a white Chevy. Flagging him down in the street by the church, we told him quickly of the plan, and he consented to let us borrow his car for a few minutes. Then, up drives Lee (Ode to Dr. Bill R. Lee [Apr, 2012]) off work from Cisco Steam Laundry to visit Altom, and he gets briefed on the situation to become, at the very least, an interested bystander to see if all this was going to work. Adling, Altom, Lee, Dwayne, and I watched Akers load up the recorder and brief case into Dwayne’s car, and Adling, Lee, and I, in Adling’s car, led Akers out the Breckenridge Hwy (US 183) to the turn-off to the Harts’ house (Akers had forgotten the directions Sylvia gave him over the phone.). The three of us returned to the church to await with Altom and Dwayne the results of my “brain-child.”
Akers alone in Dwayne’s car did return to the church after what seemed an eternity. By the reserved smile on his face, I first thought he had been found out. I asked him how things turned out.
“I want to get out-of-town as quickly as possible!” he answered.
“What do you mean, Jerry? Did things come off all right?” I asked again.
“Just fine — too good, in fact!”
Indeed, similar to the chair/desk escapade that spawned the M-4, the execution of the “Word Music” caper exceeded expectations, thanks to the incredible impromptu acting skills of Jerry Akers. So convincing before the Harts had he been, he had no stomach for ever facing any of them again; he was not acting at all now, but was most sincere about catching his bus and getting out-of-town! With our thanks to our visitor, Adling saw to it Akers made his “escape” from Cisco, but it took, ironically, Adling and Akers having to chase the bus down (which was late) to get “Warren Atwood” on it.
Dwayne had hardly driven off with his returned car and Lee had hardly left, wishing us luck and promising his silence on what he had seen that late afternoon, when Altom and I began discussing what we were going to do with all this “stain of success on our hands,” especially upon mine. We at first thought we might wait for the next youth fellowship the following Sunday and “spring” the tape “Warren” had recorded of Sylvia and Sandra on them. But things “got out of hand” too quickly (as seemed to happen in most, if not all, M-4-related escapades) for that, so successful had been my “retaliatory prank.”
Sylvia called me that evening about “their surprise visit,” and Sandra called up Altom with the same excitement. Both of us had to feign excitement and congratulations, but we both asked questions to calm down the situation, like did they see any Word Music I.D. on “Warren.” We both had to say we hoped they would hear back from Word soon. We also found out they had already contacted several of their relatives with the “good news!” I was present out at the Harts when Sandra called Prince, and he asked to speak with me over the phone. While I was saying something for the Harts’ ears as if he was saying something completely different, he was actually saying something similar to “Ronnie Jack, this is going too far! Things are getting out of hand! You had better tell them, and the sooner the better. I cannot lie to Sandra and keep this up. I’ve got my job” (music director at First Baptist) “to think about too!” He went on to say that in light of the twins having contacted already members of their extended family, to wait until Sunday to “come clean” would be way too late to avoid an even bigger “catastrophe.” After talking with Altom, I knew I had to reveal the truth that very night.
The confession I had to make to Sylvia, Sandra, and their parents seemed even harder than the answer I had to make in the M-4 “line-up” in the principal’s office back in February, 1964 (The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 7 (Found Out….) [Oct, 2013] & The Chair/Desk Escapade — Chapter 8 (Admission, “Punishment,” and Immediate Aftermath) [Oct, 2013]). I started out with, “Well, things did not turn out as I had originally planned.”
Soon I was asked, “Do you know who that was that came out here, Ronnie?”
“Yes,” I said, trying to smile appropriately.
“Who was it?”
“A friend of Bill Adling’s visiting in Cisco.”
I did not know what to expect — was I going to be thrown off the premises? Were they going to laugh the whole thing off? Were Sylvia and Sandra going to break down and cry, after they had broken a few articles upon my head? The reality was a mixture of being stunned and amused, followed by a disbelief I would do such, along with a disbelief they would “fall” for such. I had to express a back-handed apology for the plan working so well. Most of the rest of my “date” that evening was spent on Sylvia and Sandra re-phoning their relatives with news of what had really happened. One of Sandra’s calls was typical:
“Do you remember me calling you about the representative from Word Music Co. coming out today to record our voices?” (response) “Well, do you know a guy named Ronnie Hastings?
“He didn’t!?!!” came the voice on the other end of the line.
“I’m afraid he did!” said Sandra. Etc…….etc……
As news spread about what I had done, all the reactions from different denizens of the community were summed up in one: a good friend of Sylvia’s and Sandra’s, Bernadine (Campbell) Donovan coming up to me in the lobby of East Cisco Baptist Church and exclaimed, “Oh, Ronnie! How could you!?” I didn’t know whether she wanted me to feel like a war criminal, or a Casanova, or both.
I surmise that by the time that summer was over, the Harts had somehow forgiven me. At least Sylvia and Sandra seemed to, for I traveled with them to a church music camp — at Piasano, in the trans-Pecos area of Texas, lead by none other than Prince Altom, and I returned without being maimed or poisoned. Even better, Sylvia and I were still a couple!
The Summer of 1965, despite its chaotic and motley mix of Prince Altom, Jerry Akers, grand juries, and The Word Music Co., actually came to an end in a somewhat circular, almost logical way: Berry returned to Cisco in the break between summer school and the start of his and my Sophomore (“Pisshead” in Aggie lingo) year at A&M. He was going to be a Pisshead in the newly-non-compulsory Corps of Cadets and I was going to be in my first year out of the Corps as a “non-reg” — a civilian. To celebrate Berry’s return, we decided to camp out at the same place to which he and I walked at the beginning of the summer (see above), only this time without the hike. Thus, Adling, Berry, Lee, and I camped out at the Long Branch camp site with no visits from Earl, Keith, or their 22’s. Even while driving out to the site, we behaved just as we did when we camped out on the hill at the Mangum camp site during our high school, conjuring memories and feelings that were to us priceless. We were joined by Cole and Marlin Marcum later that first night. There we were — the M-4 + Lee + Marlin — having fun and giving Berry plenty of renditions of the summer of ’65 that was about to end.
Little did we know that was the next-to-last time ever the M-4 would be together as a quartet.
[Lest the reader think Rev. Mart Agnew got off “scot-free” from his part in Sandra’s prank on me, during the Thanksgiving holidays of 1965, Darrell Holt, visiting my house, being reminded of the Word Music escapade, decided that Mart needed to be “paid back.” With the encouragement of my parents, I called up Rev. Agnew in a high-pitched nervous voice like I was a CJC student needing to get “married to my boyfriend” because I was pregnant! I told him both of us were beyond the age of consent. My “boyfriend” and I were invited to his house right away. I donned grubby work clothes and my coonskin cap (genuine, by the way) as the “groom,” and Darrell, much larger and taller than I, put on one of my mother’s old dresses, rolled up his pants’ legs to expose his hairy legs, and stuck a pillow up his dress front as if he was “the bride with child.” Mart met us at his door all dressed in a suit — surprised, to say the least, to see the “couple” on his front porch. He denied he was fooled, but, after a few minutes of good-natured laughter, Darrell and I got back into the car in front of Mart’s house. We looked at each other, giggling, snickering, and thinking the same thing: “I think we fooled him!” said Darrell.
“I think we did too!” I said. My memoirs describe that visit to the pranking preacher as a “sweet success.”]