1969, Southwest of Fresno: It was nearing midnight on a chilly Friday in October, when an old school bus rattled into the driveway of the Polvadero Country Club, a nine holer out in the middle of the nowhere known as Kettleman Hills. The bus was loaded with high school football players being delivered home after an away game in Kerman. Fernando the driver was skillfully circling the empty clubhouse parking lot when his headlights swept across a woman standing alone, holding a shotgun at port arms. "Lady with a gun," Fernando shouted, "let's get the hell outa here!"
"Wait," I yelled, "that's my Momma!" As I jumped off the bus, Momma tossed me a single shot 20 gauge, two shells and a flashlight.
"We've been robbed, go help your Dad, they went that way," she pointed out into the darkness. Spotting a weak flashlight beam bobbing and weaving in a serpentine manner down near the ninth tee, I sprinted the entire 400 yards. I was gassed when I caught up to Dad and the perpetrator. Dad was also gasping for air, but the robber was coughing and gagging like a heavy smoker trying to run a 10K. A small man, he was wildly swinging a liquor bottle in each hand, attempting to bash Dad in the skull. Dad, armed only with a plastic flashlight, was holding back, trying to contain the robber in the same manner a that border collie herds sheep. Dad was clearly hoping law enforcement would show up, as he considered fighting to have a detrimental effect on his golf swing.
I had seen enough cowboy movies to know what would happen if this character hit Dad with a full whiskey bottle, so I made a command decision: "Get back, Dad, I'm gonna shoot him!"
Now I had no intention of shooting this fellow, I just thought the bad guy would instantly surrender when confronted with armed reinforcements. (Shows how little I knew about the powers of alcohol.) At exactly that moment, the flashing red light of a California Highway Patrol topped a hill to the north. The robber dropped his bottles and fled toward the safety of the CHP, shrieking, "Officer, officer! Help me! They're tryin' to murder me!"
The trooper later revealed the man's original plan had been to steal just the cash box, but ran into complications when he discovered the bar. Taking a short break to ingest half a bottle of tequila, he was gathering up more loot when he saw Momma and Dad arrive. At this point, he initiated the escape phase of his plan, which involved running across a dark golf course carrying a cash box, five bottles of liquor and a dozen Black Titleist 100s while being pursued by an angry Pro/Superintendent and a somewhat unstable, bloodthirsty teenager.
The moral of this story? Greed will get you every time. He might have gotten away with it, but he went too far. Should have left the Titleists alone.
1970 (Course Name Redacted) West Tennessee Summer
Just off course property, an old sharecropper shack had been renovated into a "clubhouse" for a few rich kid elites. I was excluded, not only because I was the new boy in town, but also because I was a lowly migrant golf worker. (That's why the book was titled "Greens of Wrath". ) I didn't really mind being ostrich-sized, as I wasn't very social. What I did mind was Saturday mornings after the elite had held one of their black tie formal affairs in the shack. That corner of the course was always a mess. While driving the old MF tractor, towing a trailer loaded with a cup changer, cup setter, a bucket of Milorganite, a hose, a rake, and an elderly Toro walking greens mower, it was inevitable that I would encounter collateral party damage.
Flags and flagpoles would be missing. (I think their interior decorator must have selected a golf theme for the shack.) Cups were ripped out of the greens, tee markers were in the creek and the bunkers had mature artwork, along with instructions for me to do something physically impossible. Sometimes they attempted amateur aerification along with unauthorized syringing of the greens using filtered beer. In addition to those things, I was really irritated by the cheerleaders choosing to sunbathe at the shack's pond, rather than the Country Club's sparkling clean and shiny pool. My buddy Dayton and I had worked half the winter draining, scrubbing, sanding and painting the pool a cool icy blue, in anticipation of seeing actual cheerleaders in bikinis . . . yet they chose a muddy old pond?
Several times, the shack party-goers would venture out onto the course seeking privacy for romantic encounters. As a bored Night Waterman, (possessing magical powers of stealth) I tolerated this activity, until they broke into the fertilizer shed one night, ostensibly to utilize the soft comfort of ammonium nitrate bags. To liven things up, I used the pool house phone to notify the police, speaking in what I considered to be an excellent impression of Will, the club chef: "Listen here, my good man, burglars have broken into the storage building at the Country Club!"
Hiding at a distance, I waited for the hilarity to begin. The police broke up the tryst, but failed to make an arrest. If fact, they seemed more concerned with determining who had made the call. They even searched the area, but that was futile, because I was the Night Waterman, as I explained earlier.
The next evening, Dayton and I were participating in the Saturday night cruise around town ritual, in Dayton's '63 Chevy Impala--outfitted with glass pack mufflers designed to attract girls--when we ran afoul of angry elites seeking vengeance for the fertilizer shed incident. A short chase ensued and we found ourselves cornered near a dairy. Dragged from the car and set upon by rich kids, I escaped by running away. That was my job on the football team and I was good at it. (Probably my only true skill.) Dayton got a beating, mostly because I abandoned him to run through the nearest field in the pale moonlight. At this point in my life, I was completely unaware of the state of dairy cow living conditions and I fell several times, making excellent contact with fresh and fragrant slimy cow pies.
As I walked back to town along an old farm road, a Sheriff's deputy rolled up and asked if I needed a ride home, but rudely withdrew that offer when I came within range of his olfactory nerves. A week later, Dayton came up with a plan of retaliation. It was not a good plan, as it led to us being summoned into the banquet room--we knew it was serious because they pulled us off of sling-blading--and we entered just in time to hear a police officer say, "Witness said he saw a rocket lift off from the golf course and just barely miss that shack that belongs to Judge (redacted). Ya'll know anything about that?"
We knew nothing. Dad said nothing, at least until the police left. "Is this why you suddenly took up model rockets? Here I thought you were interested in science."
I went with my best defense. "It was Dayton's idea." I said that a lot that year. Dayton lived under the bus.
"Can't you knuckleheads be a little more clever?" Dad shook his head at us. "Don't be so obvious. Get some paint and write 'Hemorrhoids Live Here' on their fence or something."
"Dad, we can't get close to the fence, they got a bunch of dogs." Dad walked away in silence, just as Dayton's face broke into a wicked grin. He always did that when he had an idea. That night, laxative chewies wrapped in frozen hamburger were fired by slingshot over the fence. Sometime the next day, a gaggle of cheerleaders returned to the club pool telling tales of a horrific gastric doggy disaster that ruined the decor of the elite's shack. But it didn't end there, as the conflict only escalated.
The moral of this story? Nobody ever really wins a fight. What could have been solved with calm diplomacy, descended into chaos, PSYOP, hand-to-hand, conventional missiles and finally, bio-weaponry. Once that genie is out of the bottle . . .