As early as I can remember I’ve always been in search of my niche in life. And, on occasion, I fell into certain things where I lucked up. (A non-Calvinistic term)
There were a few areas where there was moderate success. I typically did well in verbal areas like an interview context for our high school DECA class. Or being the orator at the school play. One area that I fell into was putt-putt. I went to a Charlotte Professional Putt-Putt Course and played one day. I saw they had a tournament and decided to enter it. I liked it and figured I was going to make 100,000 as a Professional Putt-Putt Champion. I suppose I didn’t do well that night, I don’t remember. But I do remember getting hooked. I would go up on Mondays as early as I could after work and practice for hours to get ready for the tournament that night.
During this time I met Putt-Putt friends and developed a few relationships. We had a good thing going. We also had a system. We would put dings in the sides of the metal rails (if it was a bank shot) so we would know exactly where to hit the ball to get it in. It was not a matter of aiming at the hole on most shots. It was much easier than that. We would aim at the ding on the rail about 3 or 10 or whatever feet in front of you. If you hit the spot and had the right speed, then it was nearly impossible to miss.
The real challenge was that all the regulars knew this so it was still a matter of some skill since we all were doing the same thing. It became a battle of who could do it better. The rookies didn’t have this advantage so they were never a challenge unless one was exceptionally skilled w/o the inside information.
There was one night that was one of those nights where I was on fire. I birdied 8 out of 9 holes on the front nine. Par was 36 for the whole course. I was sitting at 10 under on the front nine. Eighteen would be par on the front nine, smok’in. I three-putted (bogeyed) on the back nine, birdied and pared the rest of the way. I shot a 23 if I remember correctly, which means I birdied 13 out of 18 holes. It was the night of my life. It felt good. The trophy on that night was mine. It was my fifteen minutes of fame. That was a memory.
I remember one time sitting on the bank of Lake Twitty. It was the fall of the year I believe. I remember this because I was looking up through the trees and they had no leaves on them. The Lake was not a lake at that time. They were digging it out. Part of it used to be my grandparent’s property. They sold it for virtually nothing because Bubber didn’t know any better and my grandpa had died. They dug out a lake, made a reservoir and that was that.
Before it was filled-in with water I used to go down and walk around in the empty canyon of a lake. It was where our favorite creek ran, where we used to camp out, swim, swing into and more. Anyway, one day I was sitting on that bank contemplating. I looked up to the sky and thought that I was put on earth for some reason which I did not know at that time. Life seemed a lot bigger than just a 12-year old kid living on Olive Branch Road. There had to be more, but I had no idea what the “more” was. This was the first triggering in my soul that transformed me into a “compelled” man. I was put on earth for something special. It was still a mystery however. When Mrs. Russian, my tenth grade typing substitute teacher, told me in front of the class that I was going to do something important in life it just confirmed what happened that day sitting on the bank of Lake Twitty. It was a moment of powerful clarity. I never forgotten that subjective moment.
Now the question remained, “What was my purpose in life?” To get that answer I had to make some decisions. I didn’t feel like school was that place for my discovery. It was too painful and a seemingly necessary evil. However, I did find out that I had game in the workplace. Therefore, throughout my life I have been obsessing in every job I have ever had. For that matter anything that I found out that I could do well, I went to the extreme in the doing of it. This is why I couldn’t be satisfied with just running around my country block of three miles. I had to train for a marathon and blow out my leg. I couldn’t be satisfied with a simple bike ride with the boys; I had to go on a 100 mile bike trek and blow out my knee again. I couldn’t settle with being an average worker. I had to excel more than my peers. I set very high standards for myself and it was not odd for me to impose those standards on anyone especially management types who didn’t do things the way I expected them to do them. As you can imagine I set myself up for disappointment for most of my work career. I was fired at 13 or 14 years of age from Judd’s Restaurant because the future owners were stealing from the boss and I retaliated by not helping the wife serve customers. I would make coffee for the other waitresses as an offer to help. I would not make coffee for her. She was offended and I was fired. I don’t know how it happened, but I know it happened right after that night of not submitting to her. Later I ran into politics in the workplace. This was a brutal discovery and one that took me about 30 years to understand. Boy, am I stupid or what?
Sometime during the Prince Electric and/or Delaval years I took to pretty extensive exercising. I first began by running. I decided I wanted to run a marathon. Greta Weitz was a world famous runner at that time. She ran in the Charlotte Marathon. I decided I would run in the 10K or 5K, I can’t remember. They had a big pasta meal the night before and Greta was there. She may have spoke, I don’t remember. I don’t remember if Penny went with me or not. I went to the meal. It was so not me to do something like that. I don’t remember if I ate with anyone, met anyone, sat with anyone or whatever. I don’t remember. I showed up the next day and ran the race. I don’t remember how I did. It was pretty average, I’m sure.
From there I wanted to run a marathon. I began to train more intensely. I was running about 9 miles one afternoon and I felt something in my right side-knee area snap. It was a terrible pain. I was 1.5 miles away from home. I decided to run on in. It was not a good choice, but I had to get home. It was a day w/o cell phones, imagine that. I hobbled in. My knee has never been the same. It was checked out one time, but they couldn’t find anything. I can run and walk and ride a bike in a limited way, but if I push it the pain will kick in. It’s been that way for 25 years.
From there I took up riding. Like most things I was an incessant rider and it wasn’t long before I was doing 100 mile bike treks. And it wasn’t long before the same thing happened to my knee. It went out again and this time I was 25 miles from the house, but I wanted to do the 100 miles so I rode it on in and that was pretty much the end of my biking days.
Boy, did we have fun. One time I was coming across Skyway Drive and I spotted a dump truck at a traffic sign. I got behind it before it took off and when it did take off I began to draft the dump truck. I had a “cat eye” computer on my bike and before long I was drafting above 55 mph. It was a surreal moment. It was a dumb moment I suppose. But it was fun. I decided to pull out of the draft because he couldn’t see me back there. I was drafting anywhere from 5 to 12 inches from the truck.
When we made the long trips we would ride in-line and let one person take the brunt of the wind on point. We would draft behind and then take turns. It was the fun times for sure. I really do miss those day.
That is his real name. He changed it in the ‘80’s and has made quite the name for himself since then. His new name is Randy Travis. Randy and I went to school together beginning at East Union Middle and into high school. I don’t think he graduated, but it is hard to remember now. It was a long time ago. He had a brother one year older than him named Ricky. Ricky and Gary, my brother, were the same age and Randy and I were the same age. Randy’s parents lived outside Marshville on a farm. They had horses and were a bit more successful, though not rich, than we were. His dad built them a room in their house to perform/practice and they entered the school’s annual talent show. Joey, my brother, sang for them once upon a time. I remember them doing an excellent rendition of “House of the Rising Sun” for a school talent show. It was very good. I think Ricky was a better vocalist and musician. Randy was the one that caught the break.
I remember one time when we got together with Ken Griffin (I think) and stole some empty drink bottles at a store down from Randy’s house and rode up and down the road throwing the bottles at mailboxes. Another time Gary, Ricky, Randy and I broke into a local black church just for the fun of it. I was preaching, my brother was taking up the offering and the Traywick boys were singing, all of this was in a mocking way. It is humorous how those caricatured activities have somewhat defined our life. Another time we four skipped school together and went to Lake Lee. I wrote about this in another post called Sea Monsters. It was a funny time for some out-of-control teens.
Gary went into the military around 17 years of age. Randy went to Nashville with Lib Hatcher. Ricky went to prison. I got married and settled down, sorta.
Ricky got saved from what I understand. I last talked to him in 1989. He was singing in a local church. Gary got married, joined the Army, retired after 20 plus years. Randy has passed his peak, but made his millions. I was saved and have since made a major trajectory change.
I remember the summer I moved to Greenville (1986) I was in a Sky City store and passed the music section and saw an album cover that had a guy named Randy Travis on it. I thought it had an uncanny resemblance to Randy Traywick. I thought nothing else about it. Some time later my mother and I were talking and she asked if I had heard what happened to Randy Traywick. I said, “No”, and she told me about the name change, etc. Remarkable. Marshville, where he is from, put on their sign that leads into town on Hwy 74 “Home of Randy Travis”. That is humorous as well. They were glad to get rid of him. Funny how economic success can change our opinions about people.
I think the probation was two years. I had to meet with a very nice man during that time. To be honest I think he said eventually that we didn’t have to meet anymore and the probation eventually went away. I don’t remember meeting with him for long even though the probation lasted longer if I’m remembering correctly. I wish I knew his name. He was a nice man. What I remember the most about him is that he encouraged me. He was not mean, condescending or negative and seemed to have an interest in me.
He asked me during one of our times together what I wanted to do with my life. I told him I wanted to finish school, go to college and have a family and nice job. He told me something like he had never heard any of his troubled juveniles say anything like that. One of the questions he asked me was whether I was going to commute or not to college. I had never heard that word in my life, commute. I had no idea what he was talking about. I wanted to act like I could carry a conversation and was aware what he was talking about. I think I told him that I hadn’t decided. What he didn’t know is that I needed to go home and find out what he was really asking me.
During the probation time I decided that my life was going in the wrong direction. Robby was in prison by this time. Joey was not doing well. Gary was arrested with me and so was Dwayne. Dad was a habituated drunk and mother was out doing her thing. My family was out of control and I had no controls on my life so the prudent thing for me to do was to turn around and walk the other way.
I began cutting my hair, stopped cursing, stopped drinking, stopped smoking pot and sought to limp through high school while working anytime I was not in school. After considering my options I didn’t see college as a possibility. I decided to become successful through a solid work ethic. I was working at Hardee’s, moved into supervision, saved money, moved into Mama Grant’s house at 15 and pretty much walked away from the 15 years of hell I was born into. The next 10 years were various forms of self-reformation, which had various amounts of success. My template was to observe what others were doing who seemingly were successful and imitate them. That meant finish school, get a job, save money, get married and live happily ever after. I had a job; I was limping through school and I was saving money. The life reversal was in full effect though there was still something missing in my soul.
I did not know God.
I was sitting in the library reading a newspaper minding my own business. Teri Absher came into the library to let me know that someone wanted to see me in the office. Teri worked in the office though she was a student in my class. I saw Teri for the first time when I was in the fifth grade. She went to Marshville Elementary. The classes from Marshville came to Wingate Elementary for some reason which I do not remember. I also don’t remember how many came from the school, if it was the fifth grade classes or more. I saw her in the auditorium for a gathering. It was brief, from a distance and then they went home.
I never forgot her and couldn’t wait until middle school in two years to begin my pursuit of her. We did date briefly in the 7th grade and I maintained my crush throughout high school. I was glad she came to let me know someone needed to see me. It created another opportunity or us to talk. When I arrived at the office there were two or three sheriff deputies waiting to take me downtown. It was one of those surreal moments of my life. I was totally humiliated and quite fearful. Teri became the least of my worries at that moment.
They had found our stuff that we had stolen from the high school. The police were looking for something my older brothers had stolen. I’m not exactly what it was. In their search they found our stuff that we had hid at grandmother’s house. They soon arrested Gary and Dwayne as well. I think they let Dwayne go because he was either 12 or 13 at the time. I don’t think they kept Gary overnight and I don’t remember what his punishment was. They searched me, took my belongings including the leather strings to my knee-high moccasins. I didn’t understand why they took my boot strings. After five days in jail I began to understand why.
I wanted to kill myself. I thought about suicide. The days dragged by. I was in a room that was about 10’ x 10’. It was a concrete room with a cot, sink and toilet. There was a very small window in the door and a narrow rectangular window that faced Charlotte. They shoved yellow grits and other foods through the small slot at the bottom of the door. That was the only contact I had with anyone for the five days. I had tickets to see Bachman Turner Overdrive in Charlotte that weekend and was very upset that my brothers got to go and not me. I learned later that my dad made a decision to leave me in jail thinking it would change my life. It did change my life for sure. I’m grateful for his decision. I got a couple of years probation for that event, but the impact on my life lasted a lot longer. I determined that I was done with a life of crime, drugs and my family who were no help in my rehabilitation.
B & E does not mean beginning of the end, though it could be. In the legal world it means breaking and entering. And that is what applies to me sad to say. I had a drug business in school. Robby supported me with marijuana and I would sell it for him. I had a specially made jacket where different “brands” of marijuana would go in different pockets. They were also of varying sizes. I needed some scales to grow my business and someone suggested we break into the local high school and get some scales. I don’t know who really concocted the idea between Gary, Dwayne and me.
It may not have been so much as a business decision as it was a thing to do. We had been stealing things since I was 12 years old. I was 15 when we decided to break into the school. During this season of my life we broke into two church buildings and stole many things from local stores. The first store that I remember was a “mom and pop” called J. L. Austins. It was a local hardware/food store on Main Street in Wingate, NC. We would go in the back door, which was a screen door that was not locked during the day. We would crawl in on our hands and knees. We would crawl to the drink box and take what we wanted and then crawl back out and enjoy the snacks.
The last time we broke into Austins was the day we were initiating Joe Woodson in B & E. Joe was a bit green to say the least. We had crawled in, ducking from the front counter at the other end of the store. Joe who was following us came in standing up. He let the door slam behind him. It made a loud noise, we were startled at the blunder and someone from the front realized what was going on and hollered at us. That was the end of that.
Another time I stole some cherry blend cigars from a local one-man gas station on Highway 74. Joe and I would go into the woods and smoke them. We did this the entire summer. That fall we went out for the midget league football team. They had us running around the baseball field as part of our drills. Needless to say that was the end of our cigarette smoking days.
We continued our life of crime up to the high school break-in. I think we would have gotten away with the haul, but the law was suspicious of some things they thought our older brothers had done. They were on their trail. That trail led to our grandmothers out-building where they found our stash of goods. I do not know if they ever found what they were looking for, but what they weren’t looking for they found and it was a major turning point in my life.
Mrs. Bolden was a nice 10th grade English teacher. I don’t think she ever did anything wrong. She was nice, loved her job, did her job well and probably never caused anyone an ounce of trouble. That’s makes it all the worse in light of what I did to her class one day. I learned how to take a smoke bomb and turn it into a time bomb. It is simple really. (I better not say how I did it, but with time-release it will not go off until about 10 minutes later.) I placed the smoke bomb right outside the door of the classroom at the start of class. I went in, took my chair and began paying attention to Mrs. Bolden. That should have been a hint that I was up to something. Paying attention in class was not one of my strengths. Nevertheless, I was a model student for about 10 minutes and then all of a sudden smoke began to pour into the room. The alarms went off, class was let out and there was a degree of chaos. I, of course, wanted to help and get to the bottom of this prank.
About 20 years later I went back to Forest Hills High School looking for Mrs. Bolden to apologize to her. After I became a Christian and began to reflect on some of the antics of my youth I wanted to apologize to certain people. She was one. She never meant any harm to anyone. She was doing her job and I was not making her job easy. I could not find her. She was old in my day. I imagine she had passed away by the time I felt remorse.
On another day we skipped school and went to the ABC store to get a case of beer. We were also on some form of acid. The crew this day was my brother Gary, Ricky and Randy Traywick, myself and maybe someone else, I can’t remember the whole crew. We went to Lake Lee, rented a boat and spent the afternoon peacefully rowing…sort of. I do remember all of a sudden, out of the blue, Ricky stood up and began screaming, “Sea Monster, Sea Monster!” at the top of his lungs. He also took an oar from the boat and began to swing it wildly toward this sea monster that was approaching the boat. Upon closer inspection we noticed the sea monster was a limb floating across the lake near the boat. We were stoned. Ricky broke the oar.
We had to explain why the oar was broken to the guy who rented the boats to us. I’m not sure if we told him about the sea monster or not. I do remember standing there talking to the man at the dock and a beer fell out of my sock, onto the pavement and began to roll toward the lake down the boat ramp. We both stood there watching it roll. It was a surreal moment, sort of in slow motion as our day was falling apart.