Whrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrclunk…whrrrrrrrrrrrrrrclunk…whrrrrrrrrrrrrrclunk whrrrrrrclunk…whrrrrrrclunk….whrrrrrclunk…whrrrclunk.. whrrrclunk whrrclunk. whrrclunk…
I grew up in a town of five hundred people, almost as many dogs and about half as many horses. I think the horses have gained ground since I left. Seasons were marked as much by events as by temperature or the length of the days. Winter had basketball. Fall had the start of school and the cotton harvest. Spring brought baseball. Summer brought with it two events to which every kid in town looked forward. The snow cone stand opened and the roller rink arrived. Yes, I said that the roller rink arrived.
The town had one main street where all the businesses were located. It was separated from the highway, a farm to market road actually, by a row of low posts with rounded tops and silver paint. Beyond the highway was the railroad track. The track ran through the middle of what had once been a park but now belonged to the railroad and provided a huge right of way. It was on this right of way that the skating rink was set up every year.
It was a circus tent type of structure with a canvas top the color of a paper bag and chicken wire sides. The floor was put together in sections and the skates always made a clunking sound when they rolled over the seams. At night, people pulled their cars up and sat on their hoods to watch the skaters and listen to the jukebox. Couples whirled around arm in arm or took turns skating backwards so that they could face each other. It was as close as you were allowed to get to dancing in that part of the Bible belt. I recently had someone ask me if I knew why Baptists don’t have sex standing up. Of course I do. Someone might see them and think they were dancing. The other day I heard Bill Moyers say that there are more Baptists in Texas than there are people. He is right. Of course, the couple could not get too close together skating. It would have interfered with their balance.
When the rink was open in the afternoons, my brother and I would get to go skate without parental supervision. Of course, no one really needed your own parents to look over your shoulder in a town that small. Everyone else did it for them if they weren’t around. One afternoon when I was about ten or eleven years old and my brother about eight, he got stung by a hornet while we were at the rink. His arm began to swell immediately. I told the owners that we had to call our mother. There was no phone at the portable rink and the owners did not know why I was so upset. “He is allergic!” I cried as we got to a bench and began taking off our skates. “He has to have a shot.” I got him across the street to the drug store hoping that the old country doctor who sometimes kept office hours in the back was there. By the time we got there, his arm was twice its normal size. The owners of the drug store called my mother, who hurried down to pick us up. Luckily the doc was there and gave my brother a shot of antihistamine , which stopped the swelling and made him rather sleepy.
One summer, the skating rink failed to arrive. It seems that the railroad execs had decided that it could no longer be set up on railroad land. There was really no other place for it so it was gone forever. The railroad is gone now as well and the old right of way is again used as a park. Things do to seem to go ‘round and ‘round, don’t they?