Back at the end of 80’s, when my hair was halfway down my back and I was playing in a Thrash Metal band (we said it was Power Metal — but let’s be honest), I was having a great time. All 5’9, around 170 pounds of me could walk up on stage and play any instrument that needed to be played — of course, that was limited to guitar, bass and drums at the time. My voice was a solid octave and a half deeper than what it is now. I could sing bass and baritone like nobody’s business, with booming volume that would rattle our drummers cymbals even before the mic was turned on.
Off-stage was a different story. Nobody could understand a damn thing I said back then, as my voice was so deep that it simply faded off into the background, only to be heard by animals, those odd people who get sick before an impending earthquake, and people who were so blitzed on alcohol and downers that I sounded normal.
We traveled around quite a bit, and just had a good time with it. We made enough money to keep ourselves in cigarettes, food, alcohol, hotel rooms and gas for the truck and van, and pretty much the only thing we had to worry about was how we were going to be treated when we got to our next stop. In most places, people were pretty cool, but there were certainly a few towns where there might’ve been six whole teeth in the lynch mob walking towards us at the gas station or restaurant we’d stopped at.
One night in particular, we’d driven out of Jacksonville, North Carolina driving towards Virginia Beach. Instead of taking the interstate like a normal human being, Michael led us through every curve of US17, through rural North Carolina at 2AM. “It’ll be easier!” he assured us on the walkie-talkie.
Of course, if you’ve ever seen the movie This is Spinal Tap, you know it never is.
Around 3AM, in heavy fog in the middle of nowhere, the van had flat tire. We all pulled to the side of the road, and all five of our long-haired, dumb-punk asses got out to watch, assist, smoke cigarettes and generally complain. Dave and Jeremy, instead of holding the flashlights where Michael could see what he was doing, began having a lightsaber duel with the flashlights in the fog. I had one of my typical “bad feelings” that I used to get, and started urging everyone to get serious so we could get back on the road.
“Man, chill out!” Dave urged. “It’ll be fine!”
Shortly after he said it, we heard a noise that sounded like a pack of wild indians.
“What the Hell was that?” Michael asked, just before banging his knuckles on the concrete due to a slightly stripped lug nut.
“Probably some birds or something,” Chris said, completely uninterested as he held the third flashlight where Michael could see.
Then we heard it again, along with a mechanical noise that sounded exactly like a clutch-slipping on a big, red truck with a gun rack in the back window. From behind us, down the road, the lights kept getting closer, and the whooping and hollering got louder and louder.
“Oh, shit, Michael!” I exclaimed. “Hurry the f$&* up, man!”
Without a word, Michael furiously pulled off the damaged tire and handed it to Chris, who quickly replaced it with another from the back of the van.
The whooping got louder and louder, the lights closer.
We all stood silent, watching, waiting. We were all nervous.
As Michael was tightening the first lug nut, they were on us. It was, in fact, a big, old, beat up, red-and-primer truck, three people in the front and three standing in the bed holding on to the top of the cab screaming like a bunch of wild indians. They passed us silently, all of them peering at us like they’d never seen human beings before.
We all breathed a sigh of relief until we looked ahead, and saw the truck put on its break lights — and started backing up.
“Michael, hurry up, dude!” Dave exclaimed.
In a fever, he quickly finger-tightened the remaining nuts and began spinning the speed wrench as fast as he could.
We all stood around Michael as they pulled up, still silent, still looking straight at us with looks of disbelief on their faces. The three in the back of the truck jumped out, shirtless with overalls, and the passenger door of their truck swung wide with a loud creak.
“Ya’ll ain’ frum ‘roun’ heeyah, ah ya?” said the biggest one, who looked like he could’ve picked the van up without the jack.
“Uhhh, no sir,” I stammered. “We’re driving through on the way to Virginia Beach.”
He looked back at his five friends, quietly at first, then turned back around shaking his head as they all began to snicker. “Ya’ll shu’ got lawng hayur!” he said. They all began to laugh.
We blinked back at them, holding our implements of destruction close. My knife was ready to flip from my pocket and Michael held the speed wrench as Dave, Chris and Jeremy clutched their Maglights.
“Ya’ll in a bayund?” he asked.
“Yes, sir, we are,” I told him.
“Wail,” he started, turning around to look at his friends, grinning and snickering a bit. “Why dincha jus’ say so? Sheeyit!”
They all laughed.
“Yawnt any help with’at tar?” another asked.
We stood around and talked for a few minutes with them. They were cool people, out drinking a bit and “raisin’ some hail!” They offered some assistance getting everything back in the van, asked if we liked Metallica or Megadeth better, and even tossed us all a beer right there on the side of the road.
Eventually, after having a beer with ’em and acting like idiots for a while, we offered our thanks, said our goodbyes, got our mini-caravan back togther and continued on to Virginia Beach.
It was funny… There we were, with our long hair, worrying about people judging us for it all the time. When six people in a beat-up truck drove by in the middle of rural North Carolina, we were doing the same damn thing.
Good people are getting harder and harder to come by these days.
I mean, hey, they didn’t even have a problem hearing my deep voice.
Just goes to show, you really can’t judge a book by its cover…
Even the ones who are so blitzed on alcohol and downers that I sounded normal. 😉