Dean and I ran around together. My brother and his sister dated throughout much of high school so that connection threw us together. They eventually married after high school. Dean was a little older than me so he had left school to join the Army when he became eligible but I was still just sixteen years old and a sophomore in high school.
After completing basis training Dean came in on leave. He and several of our friends came out and picked me up to celebrate his return. It was a Saturday afternoon around 2:00 PM. They were in Larry Joe’s little Mercury Meteor. Besides Dean and Larry, there was Jimmy, JW and another one or two. We were packed in that little car.
Jimmy was older than the rest of us, but still was a ways from being legal age to buy liquor. But he looked older. We headed straight for Johnson City, the closest place to purchase liquor back then. All the others had him get them vodka or rum or something that would make good tasting drinks. I said “get me a fifth of Old Crow” and Dean said the same for him. Wanting to press Dean a little I said “and also a pint” and Dean said he wanted another pint also. Maybe we brought out the worst in each other.
As we drove across bridge at the Pedernales River, leaving northbound out of Johnson City, I threw the empty pint bottle out. Dean did the same, shortly thereafter. As we got back to Round Mountain, a 15-mile trip, I was finishing off the fifth. I guess you could say I was a showoff. I am not sure why I was in such a hurry, but I guess I didn’t want some Army boy thinking he could out drink me. We turned down a little country road, just for some good out of the way partying. It must have been 4:00 PM by that time. I remember a few miles down the road that we made a pit stop. The whiskey must have hit bottom about then, because I don’t remember anything until just before daylight the next morning.
When I woke up, I had a very strange feeling that I was in a place very foreign to me. As I swung out of my bed, my feet hit a cold metal floor. My underwear was wadded up around my ankles. That was all I had on. It didn’t take long for me to realize I was in jail. But where? The door to my cell was left unlocked. So I made my way to a window in a larger enclosure. The streetlights below lit the Town Square. But nothing looked familiar. I had never been at that vantage point. Later I found out that I was actually in the Burnet County Jail. Yes, Sheriff Wallace Riddell’s jail. The main confusion for me was why do they take young boys pants off when they put them in jail? But I had more troubling things than just that to worry about. I was really sick.
A little later that morning, when the Sheriff came up to discuss my current situation with me, I posed that question to him. That is when he delivered the news to me that I was in that condition when I arrived there. I don’t think that made me feel any better. He asked who he should call. I ask him to call my Dad and please tell him I needed clothes. He told me that Dean, was also in there, but had arrived with his clothes on. Knowing Dean was there too brought some measure of happiness to me. I guess I didn’t to be the only one. But him arriving clothed and me naked didn’t make me feel much better.
I was served a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. I wasn’t very hungry. I just set it aside. For some reason, I was coughing up little gravels and sand. The same substance was packed in my nostrils and ears. I also had welts and stings on every inch of my body. Later I found out the reason. Soon after I lost consciousness the car load of us ended up down by the river up from Marble Falls. My friends, taking care of me in my drunken state, took me out of the hot car and left me on the ground, not noticing that I was lying in a red ant den. After a while, when someone noticed I was covered with ants, they removed my clothes and threw me in the river, hoping to rid me of the ants. I guess they thought that may help sober me up a little. I sank to the bottom. Luckily, the water was shallow, with a sandy gravel bar coming up to the edge of the water. They were able to find me lying there on the bottom and pulled me out. Perhaps, not thinking to get my clothes, they put me back in the car. Dean had passed out long before also. Not wanting to drive around all night with us in the back seat, they drove up to the roadside park overlooking Marble Falls and got in with someone else.
The City Marshall, noticing that the car was left sitting there, he got out to inspect. When he found us, were loaded into the back of the police car a driven around town attempting to identify us. After finding someone that knew us, we were hauled off to Burnet. The Sheriff lived on the bottom floor of the jail, so when a prisoner was brought in, they entered through the living quarters. They were having a family get together when we were brought in. Two drunk teenagers, one naked. He was not happy with the situation.
After he got the call my dad and brother brought clothes for me to wear. Dean’s dad picked him up and we all had to go to the Marble Falls City Hall. We were charged with several offenses each and me one extra one. A deal was struck for the charges be dropped if we didn’t get into trouble again. I never did have any problems related to that incident. Either there wasn’t really a record kept or it was overlooked in the future.
I did get teased a lot when I got to school that Monday and for a long time afterwards. But it wasn’t all bad. I today’s terms, I received a lot of street creds. I have never been able to stand the smell of whiskey. That was probably a good thing. The ant bites went away within a few days. An irregular heartbeat I had for a while finally became normal.
The strangest thing was, when they arrived in Burnet to pick me up, my dad wasn’t really upset, but Kenny had smoke pouring out of his ears. He thought I must have been the stupidest kid alive and the embarrassment he was going to endure. Some years later, while talking to Wallace Riddell about that incident, he made me understand why my dad was as understanding as he was. When he was a teenager, Wallace found him naked swimming in a stock tank at the edge of Burnet. He was totally inebriated and Wallace hauled him over to his place for a night upstairs.
My real punishment was when I got home and I had to look my mother in the face. She didn’t say a word. She didn’t have to. I could see the concern in her face. Before I was grown, I saw it many more times. I think she just silently prayed that all would work out and it did.
The Old Burnet County Jail
Wallace Riddell – Best Darn Sheriff There Ever Was
I’m gonna tell y’all the truth about something:
It’s only been in the past 10 or 15 years that I quit having dreams of getting somewhere and discovering I didn’t have any clothes on.
Wonder where that came from?
Only reason I think the dreams stopped is I finally got to a point in my life that I didn’t care if I showed up naked.