Until Rod introduced me to the group. "These lathes are called the Detroits blah blah blah and here's the operator, Kenny Lane."
The new guy's face breaks into a big smile and he nods his head. "Oh yeah, you're that fella that lives over there, ain'tcha?" waving his hand in the general direction of my place. He sticks out his hand and says, "Proud to meet you. I've been hearing good things about you around Riverbank, they say you can be a wild motherfucker."
"Thank you," I said modestly, "That's very kind of you to say so. And you are.....?"
"Oh! I'm sorry, I'm Ronnie Savitch."
"Ronnie Savitch of the Oakdale Savages? Fucking A, I've been wondering if we'd ever meet! Your whole family is notorious," and I stuck out my hand again. Hell yeah.
We shook hands again and started up a conversation when Rod interrupts us. "Excuse me? If you two thugs are finished stroking each other's cocks, may I continue my orientation?
Ronnie jabs a thumb in Rod's direction and asks, "Is he always this cheerful?"
"No, not usually. Somebody must've tossed a handful of valium in his coffee pot this morning."
The Savages of Oakdale really were notorious. I'm talking Daddy and all three brothers. The three boys would get bored and if they couldn't find anybody handy to fight, they'd beat the dogshit out of each other and if they were still standing afterwards, they'd pile into one of their trucks and go gang up on their father and try to beat his ass too. Ronnie was the baby of the family by 5 or 6 years, so he was the toughest on account of all the asswhippings his bigger brothers had dealt him over the years.
Both of his brothers had already moved away by the time I met Ronnie, but I did get to meet his father.
The first time I ever laid eyes on him was when Ronnie was just dropping something off at his place, so I was going to wait in the truck. He was about halfway to the house when the screen door slammed open and this tough looking old fart about 60 years old comes stomping out, kicking at a couple porch dogs as he stalked past them. He stops and turns towards the house shaking his fist and roars, "YOU CAN FAKE A GODDAMNED ORGASM BUT YOU CAN'T FAKE A GOOD MOOD??? WELL, FUCK YOU THEN!!!"
I'm glad I was between swallows of beer. That's some straight-up White Trash shit right there, but it got better. Right after he yells that, some little bleach blonde babe even younger than me and wearing cutoffs, a tit top and pink cowgirl boots came flying out the door and flung a cast iron egg pan at him, screaming, "No, fuck YOU!!!"
Goddamn, we're nowhere near a trailer park.
Ronnie's unfazed. He ducks the pan, hands his dad whatever it was he had to bring him, and comes back to the truck. I couldn't resist it. I handed him a fresh beer and waited until he was taking a big drink and said, "Please tell me that was your stepmom and not your little sister, bro."
He choked on his beer. "That's fucking audacious as hell, man!" He laughed with me for a few seconds more and said, "Yeah, that's wife number 5 or 6. I can't keep track of 'em any more. Dad goes to Reno once or twice a year and goes on a week long drunk, gambling and whoring his money away. He says Washoe County's got a real nice jail, by the way. But yeah, the last few years he started coming back married to a house girl and they're gettin' younger and younger. Hell, Lynette there's so young I bet her fucking baby pictures are in color."
Even though we had a bunch of mutual friends, we had never run into each other yet - one of those situations where I'd be walking in the front door while he was making his exit out the back door. Shit, he knew damned near everybody in the plant - everybody out there was related to somebody so if you knew one you knew 'em all, but somehow we'd never met.
It was my loss too, because by the time I finally did meet him he was right at 30 years old and settling into married life with a beautiful wife and young stepson, so I never really got to see him in his prime.
Hell, by the time I got to know him, if I was to call him to go out drinking and carousing, about half the time I'd get a 'Sorry man, but I've got a Parent-Teacher thing tonight' or 'date night with Gail' type of reply.
I've heard a few stories, though.
James, who had moved into the area from Escalon, told me shortly after he moved to Riverbank City of Action, him and Ronnie had hooked up in town and ended up somehow in Oakdale where Ronnie was born and raised. They got into an argument with a couple guys in a bar and the law was called. By the time Officer Friendly shows up, they're all out in the back parking lot. Ronnie, who is half fucked up and ready to fight somebody, anybody, tells the cop to take off his badge and gun belt and he'd whip his ass. So the cop did. They tussled around on the ground for a bit, separated and dusted themselves off, then the cop put his shit back on, told Ronnie to settle his ass down and then drove away.
James didn't know what to think. "What the fuck was that all about? How come he ain't taking you to jail?"
He said Ronnie spat blood on the ground and said "Shit, me and Billy been fighting since second grade. It ain't nothin' personal."
Ronnie paged me one Friday evening. "Hey man, can you get a dinner date for tomorrow night?"
"I guess. Maybe. I don't know. Why, what's up?"
"Me and Gail were supposed to go out to dinner with her sister and brother-in-law in San Francisco, but they cancelled. We've got a table for four reserved at this great Italian place off Columbus Avenue and Gail was really looking forward to dinner and company. What do you say?"
I thought about it. I could either do my usual and stay home and drink alone in my shack until I passed out on the couch like I did damned near every Saturday night or I could go out with good friends and a pretty girl for dinner and probably get laid when I got home.
"Well, you wanna go or not?"
"Wait a goddamned minute, I'm still thinking about it." Decisions, decisions. "Okay, I'll go."
"Right on, we'll leave my place about four. By the way, they've got a dress code. No jeans or T-shirts, so wear a pair of slacks and a clean button down."
I called my on again mostly off again girlfriend to see if she was off schedule at the hospital and wanted to go to dinner with me and another couple, and she agreed to put up with me for the evening when she found out it was a real date with dinner ordered from a paper menu instead of one above a counter. "Oh, I almost forgot. It's a nice place, so wear a skirt or dress, something nice. I'm supposed to wear slacks and a button down."
"You in slacks?" Dana snorted. "This I gotta see."
"This I gotta see," I mimicked her. "Fuck you, Dana. So, quick question: where exactly does one buy slacks and a nice shirt?" Then I looked down at my beat-to-shit cowboy boots and figured I'd better spring for a pair of those too. Mine leaked anyway. At least I knew where to buy boots.
"Jesus Christ, I'd never thought I'd have to take a 25 year old man clothes shopping. I'll be there in an hour. You'll be trying on pants, so wash your nasty ass and put on some fucking underwear if you own any." Damn, she's starting to sound like my mother.
Saturday night comes and I'm all dressed up in new slacks, shirt and drawers, and ready for some sketti. I had told Dana that we'd swing by and pick her up and when we got there, Ronnie honked and Dana came out with a big smile on her face which faded as soon as I opened the door for her to get in the back seat with me and she saw who was driving. "Aw hell no," she says. "I'll be right back." Ronnie and Gail get into a giggling fit as Dana hustles back to her apartment.
She comes back out just a couple seconds later, slides in next to me and says, "There is no way in hell am I going anywhere with him without my purse pistol."
"Hey Dana," Ronnie says.
"Y'all know each other already?" I asked. More snickering from the front seat.
Dana says, "You can say that, yes. I worked at Oak Valley Hospital for a while and every weekend we were patching up one or more of the Oakdale Savages. If we had a Rewards program like casinos, we'd be comping Ronnie for his visits."
"Oh come on, Dana. Me? I'm not that bad," Ronnie says with a completely innocent look on his face.
"Seriously? You don't think it's odd that you're on a first name basis with an ER nurse that you've never seen outside the hospital? No? Well, let me ask you this: How many times have you been shot?"
"Only once so far."
"So far. Stabbed?
"Three times," Gail corrects him.
"Stabbed twice, cut once. There is a difference, ya know." He tried to look miffed.
Dana's not done. "Here's a bonus question: How many teeth do you have left?"
"Twenty eight," he says proudly and then he took his uppers out and waved them at her to prove it.
Fuck, I'm glad I went. Gail had a split-tail ally in Dana and they gave Ronnie shit all night while I laughed my ass off. Dinner wasn't bad, either.
Me and Ronnie had made plans to spend the evening fishing with his son, meeting at his place late afternoon, but when I got there his wife Gail came out and told me they were running a little late because he was getting new tires and it was taking a little longer than he thought, but I was welcome to wait. I didn't want to go inside with Gail without him there because I got manners and shit, so I pulled my truck under a shade tree, dropped my tailgate and grabbed a seat while she went inside for a couple beers.
We were sitting there visiting and she brought up how he was a real handful when they first married. "I knew he was trouble when we were in high school together, but I really had no idea of just how bad he was. It's one thing to know a troublemaker, but it's a whole different ball game to be married to one. I thought I'd never get him to settle down."
"That bad, huh?" I asked as I finished my beer.
"You don't know the half of it. I'll show you. Be right back," she said, and went back into the house. A couple seconds later she comes back out carrying a small notebook and another beer for me. "Here, emergency numbers are in the front," she says, handing me her address book.
I opened it to the well smudged first page. You know how most folks' phone books might have one or two emergency numbers, usually a hospital or something? In hers, there were over a dozen entries on pages one and two - bail/bondsmen in Stanislaus and Tuolumne counties, Oakdale and Riverbank PDs, both the Stanislaus and Tuolumne County sheriff's offices and jails, both hospitals in Modesto, Oak Valley hospital in Oakdale, the Sonora hospital and what I assumed were a couple attorneys thrown in there for good measure.
"It's been a challenge, even with the normal things," she sighed. "Here's one for you: we hadn't been married 2 weeks when I got a call from my son's school saying Michael had gotten into a fight. They weren't going to suspend him because it was his first one, but they needed for me to come down and pick him up, so I went to the school wondering the whole time what to do. I mean, I know boys will be boys and boys are going to fight but I'm a girl and I don't know how to deal with these sort of things. Then it hit me - I now have a husband that wants to be a dad! He can handle it.
"Ronnie was home from work when we got there, so I pulled him aside, calmly explained the situation to him and told him it was his time to shine, go do Daddy stuff. Ronnie took Michael to his room and they had a long, long talk and when they came out, both looked pretty somber. Come to find out, older boys had been picking on Michael and he'd finally had enough so he fought back. Now, there's no way I was going to punish him for that, but I really hoped their little talk would provide a solution to keep it from happening again, you know, like maybe avoiding those boys or something like that?"
Right about that time Ronnie's truck rattled into the yard. Gail paused until they came over and she collected a kiss from both of them.
"Then, the very next day I got another call from the school, this time the principal want to see both of Michael's parents, saying there was a possibility of expulsion." Ronnie's getting a big grin on his face. "As soon as we walked in the door, I swear to God, Kenny, the principal saw Ronnie and went 'Well hell, that explains this' and he threw something on his desk. In their talk, Ronnie told Michael to put a bar of Lava soap in a sock to use as a weapon! He was only eight, for Pete's sake!"
Ronnie's haw hawing away. "Hey Mikey, has anybody picked on you lately?"
Mikey shook his head and grinned. "Not since everybody heard I almost got expelled for carrying soap in a sock, nossir. Now they call me Lava Man!" and he puffed out his skinny little chest, flexing hard.
Ronnie said, "See? You told me to deal with it, and I dealt with it. End of problem. Go get your fishing pole, Lava Man, and let me and Kenny show you how to not catch any fish."
Ronnie lasted a couple years at the ammo plant until one of his brothers who was working on a drilling rig in the Texas oilfields said he could get Ronnie a job that paid much better than running a press for 9 bucks an hour, so he packed his family up and moved to Texas. Word had it that with all three of the younger Savages finally gone, Oakdale PD had to lay off 3 cops for lack of work.
What a great story, Wirecutter. You have a gift for writing, young man!ReplyDelete
as always, good shit!ReplyDelete
most of those types from my younger years are still in prison or died before they could straighten up, sadly
That's a great story and a bar a saop great ideaReplyDelete
The PD may have laid off a couple of cops, but there was a need over in TX.ReplyDelete
We all speculated that Ronnie and Gail let them stay with them until they found housing.Delete
Man, you write your book, I will buy a copy or three.ReplyDelete
Never had any friends quite like that.ReplyDelete
That fact makes me happy and sad.
That would be a dang good chapter in a better book.ReplyDelete
Ken, that's one for the books. Spent a lot of time in that part of California, mostly around Coulterville, but in other parts, too.ReplyDelete
You killed me with "Hell, Lynette there's so young I bet her fucking baby pictures are in color." Damned great line!
Huh, I had a gold claim there on Maxwell Creek off of Dogtown Road a couple miles outside of Coulterville.Delete
Excellent ! Reminded me of home, many years ago. Thanks.ReplyDelete
Those stories took place around 1984-85. I was still a youngster.Delete
Classic! Thanks for the story, wirecutter.ReplyDelete
White fing trashReplyDelete
Yes we were and 10 times the man you were at that age.Delete
Sure buddy, ss long as you believe thatDelete
I do. At least he wasn't a judgmental fuck like you.Delete
You just brightened my day even more than usual!ReplyDelete
If you ever put your stories in a book, I'd stand in line for an autographed copy. If you need an editor and publishing house, drop me a line and I can connect you with the local writing mafia.ReplyDelete
Good story, Kenny! Most of my life was spent with guys tip-toeing up to the edge, occasionally stepping over and that's pretty much how we liked it. Seemed normal to me. Eod1sg RetReplyDelete
Uh-huh, seemed perfectly normal to me, too. Matter of fact we used to wonder about men that didn't live like that. Sometimes I still do wonder about them.Delete
Respect. Not only for the grand storytelling talent of the writer, but because when you think about it, these are the kinds of people who created our civilization after the end of the last ice age. Where do you think all those myths came from, like the Gods vs the Titans?ReplyDelete
I mean shee-it, you got Zeus vs Kronos right there in paragraph nine.
Write the book.ReplyDelete