November 12, 1965…

by Brandon

I’m going to tell you a story that led to a very significant date:

November 12, 1965.

Before I start, I should make one small disclaimer: Some elements of the following true story has been slightly altered. This was an artistic decision to help the story progress more smoothly. The essence of the story is true. And by “essence is true,” I mean “a detail or two might be true.”

Now, with that out of the way…

1965

Their story began just over fifty years ago.

Thurman Hale was a young man in those days. He was around 20 years old, I think. He lived a simple, hard-working life. He spent most of his days in the coal mines. Thurman worked around 27 hours, every day, mining coal to help support his family.

He wasn’t married yet, but he did help his Mom and Dad support his 23 brothers and sisters.

Back in those days, life was hard in southwest Virginia. People were poor. Thurman worked over 200 hours, every week. And even though he worked that hard, he only made around 78 cents a week. The rest of his paycheck (a total of $1.27) went to the Company Store.

Here’s a song about Thurman’s life back then:

Yeah, that was poor, young-old Thurman’s life. He couldn’t afford an alarm clock. Thurman’s alarm clock every morning was a cow, licking him on the face through the giant cracks in his little shack-home.

Well, one morning, Thurman woke up, pushed the cow’s nose back outside, put on his clothes, and began the walk to work. There was a small mountain between his house and the coal mine, so every morning, he had to go up one side to get to the mine, and every evening, he had to go up the other side to get home.

That’s right. He walked to work every day, and it was uphill both ways.

Anyway, one morning, he worked all day, then, after work, he decided to go to town and pick up some groceries. He had about seven cents in his pocket. Back then, seven cents could buy a lot. One of Thurman’s friends actually bought a car once, for twelve cents.

That was the day he met Rita Jean Yates.

She went by Rita Jean at home, but when she was away from home, she told people her name was Jean.

Now, Jean had a very different upbringing than Thurman. Jean was a teenager, a few years younger than Thurman. She grew up on the road. She came from a family of wanderers.

Her dad, Jerry, drove from town to town, working just long enough to travel some more. And he brought his entire family with him. His wife, and all 19 kids. They road in a car with a single-wide trailer attached to the roof. When they were parked, Jerry would put metal poles under the corners of the trailer, and that was their home.

And that’s how the Yates family lived. They traveled from town to town, admiring the beautiful countrysides of America.

Well, Jerry’s family originally came from the mountain above a small town in southwest Virginia. Back then, the town was called “Coal-burn.”

And Coal-burn was also the town that Thurman Hale called home.

And it just so happened that the day Thurman went into town for groceries, Jean was also on her way to the same grocery store. She just happened to be in Coal-burn, visiting family.

Well, while Jean was on her way to the grocery store, she bumped into a young man she went to elementary school with, back when she lived in Coal-burn for a while as a child.

The young man’s name was Spike, and he was cool in every way.

He had slicked back hair, full of hair tonic. He wore a slightly dirty T-shirt, with a pack of cigarettes rolled up into the left sleeve. His jeans were equally dirty, and rolled up past the ankles, revealing white socks and shiny black shoes.

Spike’s most distinguishing feature, though, was his sprocket chain.

Back then, people called bicycle chains “sprocket chains.”

And that’s what Spike carried, twirling it with his left hand. He called it “Sprocky.”

Well, Spike took one look at Jean and said, “Hey, groovy baby.” – That’s how people talked back then – “Going to the grocery store is square, see. Let’s go to listen to my mom’s new Beatles record. She’s got the whole new album.”

“I can’t, Spike,” Jean said. “I promised my Mom and Dad that I’d be back within half an hour.”

“Be late,” Spike said. “It’s what the cool kids do.”

“Perhaps,” Jean said. See, Jean was a reader. She used words like perhaps. “But keeping your promises to your parents is what the good kids do.”

Jean was a good kid.

“You’re missin’ out, Chicky Baby,” Spike said. “I’ll be sure to tell everybody at school that you hate the Beatles.”

“I didn’t say that!”

Jean loved the Beatles. They were her favorite band.

“Maybe not with your words, Square,” Spike said. “But you said it with your actions.”

Jean clinched her fists. “Spike, you know I like the Beatles! Almost as much as I loved the Lone Ranger as a kid!”

When Jean was a kid, she once pretended a street light’s pole was the Lone Ranger, and, just as she was kissing the pole (pretending it was the Lone Ranger), her brother caught her. He climbed up on top of the pole and put a cowboy hat on it.

Jean was angry that day.

But she was even angrier at Spike and his lies.

“Spike,” she said, “if you tell anybody I hate the Beatles, I’ll make sure the school knows you got beat up by a girl!”

“Ha!” Spike said. “I ain’t never been beat up by a girl!”

“If you tell them I hate the Beatles,” Jean said, “that will change.”

Spike lifted up his Bicycle chain. “I’d like to see you try… girl.”

Well, what Spike didn’t know as that the night before, Jean had watched an episode of Bonanza where a man pulled a gun on Hoss…

Hoss looked over the gunman’s shoulder and yelled, “Little Joe, get him!”

The bad guy with the gun laughed and said, “You don’t expect me to fall for that one, do you?”

Hoss smiled and said, “Nope.”

Then – from behind the gunman – Little Joe cocked his pistol and said, “But I do.”

The man instantly dropped his gun and put his hands up. Hoss and Little Joe held him there until the sheriff came and took him away.

At that moment, Jean saw a young man – covered in coal dust – walking behind Spike. The man was walking toward the Grocery store, not paying attention to Jean’s standoff.

Please work, Jean thought as she built up her nerve. Please work, please work, please work.

“We gonna do this, Square?” Spike said as he tapped the end of his bicycle chain into his right hand, over and over.

“Sure,” Jean said. She waited until the coal-dust man was directly behind Spike, and said – very loudly – “Get him, Little Joe!”

Well, as it turned out, the man walking behind Spike was Thurman. And Thurman was a big fan of Bonanza.

And Thurman had indeed watched last night’s episode.

He stopped as soon as he heard the words, “Get him, Little Joe!”

That’s when he noticed the stand-off. A young woman was facing a young man. The man was carrying a bicycle chain. That immediately made Thurman dislike the man. How fair was that? She was unarmed!

Then Thurman looked at Jean for the first time, and…

BAM!

His heart stopped beating for a moment, and when it started again, it was beating 10 times faster than it was supposed to.

This young woman… to Thurman, she was the most beautiful creature on Earth. In that moment, only three things existed: Thurman, that beautiful and strong young lady, and that jerk with the bicycle chain!

That’s when Spike said, “HA! Do you expect me to fall for that?”

And suddenly, Thurman understood. The young woman was asking for his help!

Jean just smiled. “Nope. I don’t expect you to believe it.”

And from behind Spike, Thurman took a deep breath, and said, “But I do.”

Spike’s eyes widened as Thurman touched his finger to Spike’s back.

Spike dropped the chain. “Hey, I don’t want no trouble. I was just havin’ fun, see?”

“Here’s what’s gonna happen, Spike,” Jean said. “You’re going to go home and you’re not going to tell lies on me.”

“Yeah, yeah! Sure! Sure!”

“And in return,” Jean said, “I’m not gonna tell people about you peeing your pants. Deal?”

Spike looked down at the wet spot on his jeans. “Deal,” he whispered meekly.

Defeated and embarrassed, Spike began to walk away.

“Hey, watch out for that raptor!” Thurman yelled.

“Yeah,” Spike said. “Right. Whatever.”

Just then, a velociraptor sprang from behind a building, clamped its jaws around Spike’s arm, then dragged him – kicking and screaming – into the shadows.

The history books don’t talk about this much, but velociraptors were fairly common in southwest Virginia in the ’60s.

“Thanks for the help,” Jean said.

“What?” Thurman asked. He couldn’t hear Jean because of Spike’s screaming as the velociraptor ate his legs.

“I said,” Jean yelled over the screams, “thanks for the help!”

“No problem!” Thurman yelled back.

“What?”

“I said no problem!”

“Sorry, I can’t hear you!”

“I SAID NO PROBLEM!”

“LET’S JUST WAIT IT OUT!” Jean finally screamed.

They stood quietly in the street, waiting for the velociraptor to finish its meal… or at least until it got to the parts that would stop Spike’s screaming.

Eventually Spike went silent and Jean and Thurman got to know each other.

They hit it off immediately and soon became best friends.

About two days later, Thurman was mining coal, thinking about Jean, when he ran into a coal vampire.

Coal vampires were every miner’s worst nightmare. They were vampires that hid deep within the mountains because they were afraid of clouds. Funfact: Vampires have weird phobias.

Since they lived so deeply in the mountains, they rarely got to drink blood. Because of that, when a miner stumbled upon one, the vampire immediately went into a feeding frenzy.

Well, luckily, Thurman followed all the safety regulations in the coal mines, so he had his Company issued vampire stake.

The fight lasted about an hour, but Thurman eventually managed to kill the creature.

After he finished his fight, he ran to Jean’s house. By now, he knew her family pretty well.

“She’s in the back yard,” Jean’s Dad said, “puttin’ raptor traps around the garden. Those things don’t eat the vegetables, but they tear the gardens all to hell looking for rabbits and such.”

Thurman understood perfectly. He’d captured and relocated many velociraptors in his life.

“I’m gonna go talk to her, Mr. Yates, but first I gotta’ ask you somethin’…”

“Go ahead,” Jean’s Dad said with a smile. He knew what was coming next.

Well, after talking to Jean’s Dad, Thurman went to the back yard to find Jean.

As soon as he saw her, he ran up and gave her a kiss!

“Wow,” Jean said. “If my Dad sees that, he’ll be mad!”

“No, he won’t,” Thurman said. “But even if he was mad, I wouldn’t care.”

“You’d better care,” Jean said. “He can be mean when he’s mad. Once, I saw him beat up a man up with a cigarette. And I don’t mean the man he beat up had a cigarette. I mean my Dad used nothing but a cigarette to beat a man up.”

“Jean,” Thurman said, “I just fought a coal vampire.”

“Oh no!” Jean exclaimed. “Were you bit?”

“No, no,” Thurman said, “I’m fine. But it got me to thinking. If I had been one second slower gettin’ that stake ready, I’d be a coal vampire myself. And I suddenly realized that meant I’d spend all of eternity in those dark mines… which would mean I’d never see you again. And that thought got me to fightin’ harder than I ever fit before.” Back then, the past tense of fight was fit. Anyway, Thurman went on. “So After the fight with the coal vampire, I realized that you were the reason I fit so hard… I did it so I could see you again.”

Jean just stood there, tears forming in her eyes.

“I know I’m twenty years old and you’re just sixteen,” he said, “but I don’t care. When we’re old, and I’m thirty-four and you’re just thirty, those four years won’t matter one daggone bit.”

Back then, the average lifespan in southwest Virginia was 41.

“What are you saying?” Jean asked.

Thurman dropped to his knee. “I ain’t got much to offer you,” he said, “I got a good job. And I can give you a good home. My uncle has a chicken coop he said we can live in for a while.”

“Are you saying what I think you’re saying?” Jean asked.

“I’m asking you to marry me, Rita Jean Yates.”

“My Dad won’t like it,” Jean said.

“I already asked your Daddy if it’s alright,” Thurman said. “He gave me his blessing.”

“What about high school?” Jean asked.

“I’ll make sure you can finish it if you want,” Thurman said. “And if you don’t, these scientists invented something called a G.E.D. It’s some kind of paper that says you finished high school even if you didn’t.”

“That doesn’t sound legal,” Jean said.

“No, it’s legal!” Thurman said. “You still have to take all the tests and stuff, but you don’t have to go to school.”

“I don’t believe that,” Jean said. “If that were real, nobody would go to school.”

“Dammit, Jean,” Thurman said, “are you gonna’ marry me or not!”

“I dunno,” Jean said with a smirk. “Spike looked pretty hip with that sprocket chain.”

“I bet he don’t look too ‘hip’ now that he’s raptor poop!” Thurman said.

“Too soon, Thurm,” Jean said. “Too soon.”

“You started it,” Thurman said.

“Yes,” Jean said with a smile.

“I’m glad you admit it,” Thurman said.

“No, dummy,” Jean said. “I’m not saying, ‘Yes, I started it.’ I’m saying I’ll marry you.”

“Oh wow,” Thurman said. “My family is gonna be so excited! I’m getting married! Dang, I need a beer.”

“Charlie!” Jean yelled. “Could you bring my future husband a beer?”

Charlie was the Yates family robot butler. Back then, people had robot butlers. The history books don’t usually talk about that either.  That’s because all robot butlers were destroyed after the Great Robot Butler Revolt of 1972. And you know how it goes… history is written by the winners.

Anyway, that was the day Rita Jean Yates and Thurman Wayne Hale became engaged.

Shortly after that, Jean introduced Thurman to the greatest pleasure he had ever experienced:

Pizza.

Up to that point, Thurman had never even heard of pizza, but Jean – being well-traveled – knew all about it.

And when a Pizza restaurant came to Coal-burn, Jean took Thurman to the pizza place, and the rest is history.

Thurman’s greatest love introduced him to his greatest food love.

That day, he ate 17 large Pizzas. He loved it so much, he spent over 24 cents on the meal!

It was the most he’d ever spent at one time in his life.

Well, time went by, and on November 12, 1965… The couple known as Thurman and Jean Hale was born.

And for the next fifty years, they had adventure after adventure after adventure.

And during those adventures, they managed to find time to have three kids…

Their first daughter was Nancy. Their first son was Chad.

And their second son was Brandon.

While they claim that they loved all their children equally,  I strongly suspect they loved Brandon the most. :)

And they didn’t let the kids slow them down. They continued their adventures.

They became masters of bowling. Their bedroom was practically wallpapered with trophies.

Then they became softball players (Jean was a pitcher and Thurman was the team’s coach).

Then they spent about two months tracking down the Ark of the Covenant. There was a movie about it in the 80s.

I can tell you, growing up with my parents was a hoot. I remember one time, the government sent them back in time to save Thomas Jefferson from another time traveler who was trying to prevent Jefferson from writing the Declaration of Independence.

Then there was the time Dad was in the coal mines when they woke a giant, fire-creature called the Balrog. According to my Dad, they eventually had to trick it into falling down a giant hole.

Eventually, my parents decided they wanted to take it easy for the rest of their days, so they sold their farm, bought a car, and just started driving… west.

They’re spending their retirement visiting all the great western landmarks.

My brother lives in Texas, so he gives them a home base to go to when they need to rest up and earn some money for more travel.

Really, it’s only fitting that they’re living out west…. it was, after all, a western (Bonanza) that brought them together.

And today…. November 12, 2015

Fifty Years Later…

They’re still roaming the American west, enjoying all that the west has to offer.

And they still love each other every bit as much as they loved each other back in 1965. After 50 years, they still enjoy life and they still enjoy each other.

So yeah, I admit it… I might have exaggerated some of this story, for artistic reasons.

But the one thing I didn’t exaggerate…. the one thing I probably understated… is the love these two people share.

They have the kind of love that all young lovers should strive to have. They have the kind of love that inspires love stories.

After fifty years with each other, my Mom is still my Dad’s best friend. And my Dad is still my Mom’s best friend.

They have the kind of love that proves love is the most powerful force in the universe.

And most importantly… after fifty years together, they’ve proven that the kind of love they share is eternal. It’s a forever kind of love.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.

Have fun explaining to people which parts of this blog are true and which parts are totally made up. :)

I love you Mom and Dad.

You both deserve every smile you’ve ever had.

–Bran


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