When I originally wrote this story I left out a few minor details as I didn’t think it was right to possibly bring shame on my brother, mostly, as he has always been a pretty wholesome, upstanding sort. But in an attempt to tell it like it was, here goes.
It was in the hot summer time and I was out of school for the summer. I was 15 years old and working for my Dad, Cecil Lewis. We were building some roads down by Turkey Bend, for Frank Wycoff. They were just country subdivision roads. That’s about all we built back then, hauling and spreading out caliche for new roads. I always ran the loader, loading the five or six dump trucks that hauled the caliche. I was too young to drive a truck. The trucks were driven mostly by our school age friends, the ones at least sixteen and could get a commercial license. The typical crew of truck drivers were Jimmy Palmer, Kenny Lewis, Mike Shafer, Pat Henry and mostly likely a few of Cecil Lewis Trucking Company employees from town. Maybe a Nobles feller or two. Dubby Turner could well have been there also.
Socks Jackson was the mechanic and the pusher. It was his job to keep everyone and everything moving. He and Cec had grown up together in Smithwick. He was always around. A big part of my life. His favorite past time was picking on me, even from an early age. He was a raw boned, skinny fellow that wasn’t afraid of work.
We always brought our lunch and had it under a big tree, next to the caliche pit. There wasn’t a store for 20 miles. As we were eating one day, all gather together, Socks asked, “What is that sore on your arm, boy”? I told him I didn’t know, but my right arm, just above the elbow had a small red irritated patch on it. By the next day the sore had grown. Socks once again inquired. He surmised that it was some disease. “Boy that’s a damn Vunnerial Disease (his pronunciation) on your arm. Day after day the place on my arm continued to get bigger and look worse. Socks was keeping a close watch on it for me, so my arm was the main topic of discussion every day.
Socks knew that Kenny and I had made several trips down on the border to Eagle Pass hauling pipe and equipment for Nelson Lewis, where he has a job going on. We would get there late in the afternoon so we’d have to stay over the night. Kenny was bad to drag me across the river with him, like boys did back in the day.
Back to the lunch time breaks:
Anyhow within a couple of weeks, my whole upper arm was covered with this horrible sore. Finally one day Socks said, I’ve looked into that disease and it starts out on your arm and get worse and worse, then one day it’ll get on your pecker and it’ll eventually just fall off.
I had been lying awake each night worrying. I couldn’t think of anything else. I wasn’t sleeping, couldn’t eat, had quit even going to town at night. I was a nervous wreck. I was sure Socks was right so I finally figured I’d better go talk to, Big Hanna Cox about it. She was a nurse and Big Jimmy Palmer’s momma. I could trust her. She could help me. Hanna was always there to take up for me, since I was really small and Kenny, Jimmy, Socks and just about the rest of the world picked on me. I finally got nerve enough to go get that second opinion from her. Immediately she told me that I had a burn on my arm. “No way could that be right” I said. It kept getting a little worse each day and besides Socks had told me what was going to happen. She assured me that it wasn’t nearly as bad as Socks made it sound. She diagnosed it as a burn.
Well the next morning, when I got on the loader, I noticed an oily film on the right arm rest. A hydraulic relief valve was leaking and spraying a fine mist of oil and that was coating my arm. The hot Texas sun was slowly baking my arm to well done. I probably would have noticed the oil on the armrest days earlier, if Socks had not occupied my mind so heavily with his prognosis. I simply laid a rag over the valve and it collected the oil. Within a few days my arm was well and my mind was at ease.
Socks was always the kindest and most considerate person you ever met. He loved me dearly I know. I just don’t think he had any idea the torment he put me through with his joking.
Oh well, it taught me that there is a reason for everything. Just keep on looking and eventually you’ll find it.