The junk yard is what we called it. It was a 5 acre abandoned field up the hill and just out of sight of our house. It was on our land, but Cec let Hugh Hampton use it. He would bring wrecked cars in and strip them down for usable car parts then scrap the remaining pieces.
One day a “63” (may have been a “64”) Chevy Impala was brought in that had been in a wreck and was pretty much totaled. It had belong to fellow Marble Falls schoolmate, Jerry Ford. It had a really nice set of wide ovals on the back (not sure why we called them that – tires should be round, not oval) with a fancy set of mags wheels. Jimmy Palmer, or JP as he was called, spied them. He asked what I thought about him going up there and getting them. He knew that the Lewis / Hampton agreement was pretty much if we needed or wanted anything from the junk yard we could have it.Mr. Hugh didn’t pay rent, so that was trade off. That trade off didn’t extend to JP, who lived across the highway.
I told him I wouldn’t agree to getting them for him, but if he wanted them it was up to him to go get them. He was needing tires for his 65 Impala and they would really look cool.
That night Jimmy decided to get the tires. He needed someone to hold the flashlight, so as long as I didn’t touch a lug nut, I felt like technically I wasn’t doing anything wrong. Besides, Old Man Hugh would probably just set fire to it in a day or so, like he did all the cars when it was time to scrap them out and the tires would just burn up anyway. That was our Justification.
Jimmy got the tires and wheels off and away we went.
A couple days later I met Kenny on the highway. He was headed to town for a date but wanted to warn me of what was getting ready to happen. He had overheard Cec on the phone obviously speaking to the sheriff’s office in Burnet. They were on their way down to make an arrest for theft up in the junkyard. Kenny being the good brother, had known about the tires and mag wheels, so felt compelled to forewarn me. He knew and I knew I didn’t do anything, but me just being along was enough to get me locked up.
I dreaded the rest of the drive home. Cecil Lewis wasn’t someone that took kindly to thieves.
When I drove up, before I could even get out of the car, Cec came out of the house and told me to stay in the car and go with him. When he got in he said “take me to the old house. That was the house may grandparents had lived in until my grandpa passed away. It had set vacant for over a decade, except for a couple of years that Minnie and Charlie Campbell lived there.
Now he mostly used it to store truck parts and other stuff out along the old sleeping porch. I was scared to death. Why would we be going there? Would I be beat to death, and stuck under that old house so I’d never be found? A lot of things can go through a young teenage mind, if you are feeling guilty.
I could tell he was so mad as he couldn’t even speak. When we pulled up, he got out and headed up the long sidewalk. I stayed just a few steps behind. I kept trying to speak, to start mounting my defense. But for some reason the words wouldn’t come out. I would get the first sound of a word out, then I would just lock down.
Upon reaching the area we called the sleeping porch, where he stored a lot of truck transmissions and other items, he said the Sheriff is on his way down here to arrest (once again I felt a need to speak but couldn’t) that damn Curtis, for stealing a bunch of transmissions out of the junk yard. Curtis was an employee of his that lived on our place.
He was just wanting to verify that he hadn’t also stolen any of the transmissions from the old house before the Sheriff got there to make an arrest.
The fool had taken perfectly good transmissions and sold them to the same scrap dealer in Marble Falls that Hugh sold to regularly. He had made it too easy to catch him.
Suddenly I was off the hook. I was going to live to see another day. Nothing was ever said about the tires and wheels.
Jimmy, then realizing that he couldn’t put them on his car, because everyone would know where they came from and he would get caught. He instead took them to Austin and sold them to a co-worker.
The co-worker noticed they were oddballs. One was a 14″ wheel and the other was a 15”. So he would never pay Jimmy for them.
The moral of the story for JP -“Don’t take anything that doesn’t belong to you”.
For me it was “don’t let someone drag you into something you have no business in”.