I met several of my lifelong friends in Sunday School. Clark and I were especially close because we had so much in common. We were born 12 days apart. We both had 2 older sisters and no brothers. But most of all we loved cars. By the time we were 15 that is all we ever talked about. We counted the days for a year prior to our 16th birthdays. We turned 16 in 1970 when muscle cars were at their peak. Everybody was driving GTO’s, Camaros and Mustangs. Gas was only 19 cents a gallon that year which made up for the fact that big V-8 engines only got 10-12 miles to a gallon.
We both passed our driver’s test on the first try and climbed behind the wheel for the greatest ride of our lives. Every Friday night was an adventure as we prowled the streets looking to race with other thrill seekers. I was more interested in finding girls but Clark had a steady girlfriend named Adenia so I was on my own in this department. (They are actually still together and the happiest couple I know.) Clark came from a fairly wealthy family and they always had nice new cars. Shortly after we turned 16, his parents bought him a 1970 Chevy Nova with a small block 350 V-8. It was a sedan so we had a hard time looking really cool but it did have a big enough engine to give us something to brag about. He even took it to the drag races one weekend and won his class. I suggested we should carry the 3′ tall trophy around with us so we could show proof of our ability. Girls love trophies, or so I thought.
Since Clark did most of the driving it was my job to hit on the girls we saw at drive-in restaurants like Winsteads on the Plaza. I was just clueless enough to pull this off because I really didn’t care if I struck out. After years of verbal sparring with my sister Karen I was used to being shot down. I relied on the fact that there would always be another car load of girls coming along any minute. This allowed me to reuse the same incredibly lame lines I had just crashed and burned with 5 minutes before. No sense thinking up better stuff when there was an unlimited supply of new girls. Clark just sat in the car and watched me fail time after time. That’s probably why he’s still married to Adenia.
There was one time when Clark took it upon himself to help me pick up girls. We were driving aimlessly over on the east side of Kansas City when he pulled over to pick up a bunch of girls who were hitchhiking. We were driving his Dad’s big Impala sedan that night so we were able to cram all 5 of them in with us. Clark had 2 in the front seat with him and I volunteered to sit in the back with 3 more. I even let the cutest one sit on my lap for safety reasons. As we got back on the road I struggled to think of something to say as this was a new experience, actually having girls in the car to talk to. All I could think of was, “Where are you girls from?” They kind of stammered for a while then said, “We just came from Boonville.” All I knew about Boonville, Missouri was that the state’s reform school was there, so I commented on that. And then they said something I will never forget, ” Yah, we just escaped from there.” My head whipped forward as Clark hit the brakes and pulled over to the side of the road. We both had the same thought and each said “What did you just say?” They were laughing hysterically at this point and just ignored the question. As the one on my lap became much less enticing I said, “So where do you girls want to go?” The cute one gave me a big hug and asked, “Can you take us to my boyfriend Butch’s house?” A split second later Clark stomped on the gas and off we went in search of Butch. It didn’t take us long to get to the seedy house in the rundown neighborhood. The girls invited us in to meet the “Gang” but we graciously declined. We just barely slowed down long enough to let them out. About a block later I was beating on him for his worst decision ever. We called it a night shortly after that and agreed to be up in time for church the next morning, even the early service. I couldn’t sleep anyway as I replayed my first near death experience in my head while I laid in bed pondering all of my sins. That night truly had a lasting effect on me. It lasted one week till we did it all over again but this time I drove.
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