Other Early Memories:
with Ron Pray
Ron made friends easily and kept them, just like the MTTTTT who were all his classmates!
In our retirement years we took to fun golf outings with other classmates. What is the MTTTTT? Our golf group is tongue in cheek known as "The Montevideo Class of 57 Traveling Terrific Touring Tournament Team.
Sounds impressive doesn't it? And we actually had our own coach, team bus and post tournament reports.
However, the truth was that did not tour, we never played in a tournament, we were a far cry from being terrific, but we did travel…frequently… into the woods looking for lost golf balls!
Champion of the Under Dog
Not far from the Pray home in Montevideo lived a family with two in our class, David and Agnes. Agnes got picked on by some of the kids. Sometimes she came to school in unwashed clothes and uncombed hair, and her lack of social confidence was obvious. Ron worried about how she felt. I was with him several times when he walked over to her house, just to talk to make her feel better. This was not only compassion, but in those days in that small town it was brave. He put her feelings above his sense of comfort with his peers.
Pre Teens: The Wild Bunch
Ron, Wes, Ron Ross and I each had a motorcycle..(pause)….well…well, we had bike which had a small open engine mounted on the frame, was belt driven which you pedaled to get started, and had a half gallon gas tank. Not exactly a Harley Hog, but we still had adventures as we rode them. We didn’t have a license and we were about 12 or 13.
We probably thought we were The Hell's Angels pack, a wild bunch, as we rode four abreast down the State Road to Wegdahl at the mind boggling speeds of up to 25 miles per hour!
One hot summer day our wild bunch swagger led us to learn a science lesson the hard way. Ron suggested we ride out to the gravel pit, where older kids went swimming. This was exciting because it was the first time we had done this. After swimming for 3 or 4 hours we changed into our jeans behind the evergreens. hung our swim suits on our handlebars, and pedal started our rides west on Hwy 7.
As soon as we picked up speed Everyone's driving became erratic, all over the highway barely missing each other, and you could hear snapping by our legs and us yelling "ouch, ouch what the???! "
Was someone shooting buckshot at The Wild Bunch??? Had we hit a horde of bees! As soon as we pulled over the snapping and our yelling stopped.
Upon further analysis the science lesson was, Don't hang your WET swim suit where the wet cloth can touch the open spark plug wire and ground it to your legs!
That was a way of "being grounded" without parental involvement.
We weren't as cool at 14 as we would be though.
That is Just Wrong! He Can't Get Away With That!
Most people who met Ron correctly judged him to be without much of a temper. I think that is a fair and overall true judgement. But, there were times……..
In our teen years pin setting at the bowling alley provided Ron and the rest of us with gas money. Three friends, Ron, Ron Ross, Wes and I--the old Wild Bunch-- usually set pins at the same time.
Today's bowling alleys are a marvel to us old pinsetters. An electronic machine sends the ball back, scrapes the pins back from the knock down area, re-sets the pins in the rack and even keeps score.
In those days everything was done by hand, no hydraulics or electric motors. If you set pins, you sat on a low wall behind and above the pins and held your legs up when the ball came to strike the pins. Then you jumped into the pit, sent the ball back on a rail to the bowler, and quickly picked up the pins, 3 or four in each hand, placing them in the right positions in the rack on the hand powered pinsetter, and jumped back up and raised your legs before the next ball came roaring down the alley. When the ball hit the pins you were usually safe, but every once in a while pins collided and flew everywhere, including striking us in the body. But, you were ready for that.
What we weren't ready for though, was a rogue bowler would have too much to drink, or was just plain mean, and threw his ball down the lane before we could get the pins re-set and jump up out of the pit.
One night an impatient bowler, who was known for early throwing, did it again before Wes could get out of the pit. After a couple of near misses a pin finally clipped Wes' leg. Wes howled and yelled at the bowler, but did nothing more about it. The bowler was the adult son of the owner of the bowling alley, and Wes wanted the money from this Job.
Ron, who was setting in the alley next to Wes, had seen enough, was spitting mad, grabbed a pin, jumped out of the pit and was on a mission to go have it out with the irresponsible bowler. He was mad and was not going to let this guy get away with it!
Ron never made it up to the front, and it might have been for the best, because, pin in hand or not, the bowler was an ex fullback who stood 6 ft. 2 inches and weighed in at 230 pounds!
That was one of the handful of times I have ever seen Ron really angry.
Billy Dixon from Harlan County Kentucky
Later, Ron's concern for and ability to reach out to unusual people led us into a bizarre situation while checking into the Great Lakes Naval Training Center.
Upon arrival at the training base in Milwaukee, we had to immediately strip down to our underwear and put all of our clothes and possessions in a tray on a table. They were to be collected and shipped back home.
There were recruits there from all over the country. Most of us had been pre-warned and had almost nothing except the clothes on our backs. Ron, Jim and I watched the parade of recruits routinely dump their possessions until in amazement we witnessed a guy with a southern accent step up to the table and emptied his pockets of brass knuckles, then a leather "sapper", and finally a six inch switchblade knife. We were sure we were going to be going into training with some kind of tough gangster!
Jim and I stood in stunned silence, but curiosity got the best of Ron. As soon as he could, he asked this thug why he had all of those weapons.
It turned Billy had never been far from his county in Kentucky. He was terrified of coming to boot camp and dealing with NYC and Chicago hoods. He had been told that the way to keep safe was to show up looking like a tougher hood than they were.
Billy turned out to be a real softy, and we all became close friends thanks to Ron.
Adventures: Monte to Norman Oklahoma in Third Gear Only!
In the fall of 1958 Ron and I were stationed in Norman Okalhoma, attending Aviation Preparatory School. We could have cars on base and we wanted one of ours there! We never had any money of course, so we hitch-hiked to Montevideo one weekend to bring my Ford back. We had to be back by midnight on Sunday or we would be AWOL.
I drove a 1951 Ford with a standard transmission.
Saturday night we were up by the old Montevideo Armory when I hit a patch of ice while accelerating in 2nd gear. The drive wheels started spinning and then suddenly hit dry pavement. A resounding "snap" of metal took place. The resulting torque had ripped out every gear in my car except 3rd gear.
This left us with a dilemma. How could we get back to the base with only basic gas money? Busses out of Monte had to go to Mpls. to make a connection and would take a long time. We could not be AWOL!
After a long discussion We drove it back to Norman, OK that Sunday. 500 miles with no reverse, and no first or 2nd gear. Crazy!
MAD AS HELL and I'm running away!
I'd bet that most people who have socialized with Ron judge him to be quite laid back, very easy going, and without much of a temper. I think that is a fair and overall true judgement. But, there were times……..
For example one summer morning after we both had cars, Ron stopped by my house to let me know that he was running away. I had never seen him so angry or sullen. Apparently he had a fight with his family, about something, and felt he could not take "IT" anymore and said he was going to run away in his 40 something blue Ford. He did seem very determined, mind made up, so I decided not to argue with him, but instead told him I wanted to go with him. He agreed. Now I wasn't interested in running away, I just wanted to make sure he got back after time had soothed his anger.
Together we headed out in the early morning hours. We had a map but no sense of where we were going. No one left a note. We had very little money and no job of course, and no skills to earn money. We decided to head west, and hey, gas was only a quarter a gallon!
We meandered and talked, not getting very far each day. We slept in the car a couple of nights, bought bologna and sandwich bread in a grocery store, and wound up in the vicinity of Sioux Falls/Sioux City. It was beastly hot and we didn't even have water to drink in the car. We really didn't have a clue about how to proceed to get a job, or where to stay.
It was about this time that the idea dawned upon the two teenage boys that home had a bed, a fridge with cool water, we knew there was some work and home had comfort. We returned directly home and never thought about it again.
Ron chose to work instead of going out for HS sports despite my pleadings. But we were really active anyway. In our early years, every single day in the summer or weekend, you could fine a dozen of us playing basketball at Gustavson's side hill, or Hillman's driveway, or playing touch football in the open fields.
Sometimes we even took our sports teams on the road! We would bike, walk or hitchhike to a nearby tiny town of Wegdahl to play baseball against the kids who lived there. Sometimes we even went to see the girls who lived there! And after baseball you'd find us hanging out with the Wegdahl boys and girls, swimming in the river and diving off of the old iron bridge. Those were experiences cast out of a Mark Twain novel.
Swimming with the Sharks (literally)
So we were in the Navy now, and everything was new and exciting. But we were still kind of hicks in some ways.
While stationed in Beeville, Texas we developed a group of friends, and a guy named Bobby Bertrand had a car. So one pay day weekend we all piled in his car and drove to Corpus Christi, which was about 90 miles away.
A variety of activities occurred during the evening and we wound up deciding to sleep in the car at a beach parking lot. It was very hot, humid, pitch black night, but we could hear the surf crashing and decided a swim would be just the thing. We swam alongside of a pier which jutted out from the beach, and even dove off of it later when we figured out the water depth.
The first thing we did though, was to run out into the water at the incoming waves. We had never seen anything except lake waves in Minnesota, and were not prepared for what happened. The wave grabbed us and flung us bodily back on the beach! We were stunned, litteral. But we figured out how to get out and catch the right waves, and we night body-surfed the waves until past midnight. Thereafter we made a room out of the car and slept until mid morning.
At mid morning we awakened to a lot of activity along the beach and on the pier. The activity on the pier which really got our attention. There were many early morning fisherman with large rods and tackle. They needed it, because they were fishing for hammer head sharks, which they were catching in abundance, from the pier, right were we were swimming in the dark.
In the Closet With Ron
Chicago was the destination for our Senior Trip in 1957. We took a train to Chicago and then stayed in a hotel.
Among other warnings and "do nots", we were sternly instructed that there would be no boys in girls room or the reverse. We might be sent home if caught. Well, Sue was Ron's "steady" and Jan (my wife for 53 years now) was my "steady" by that time. So those instructions fell on deaf ears.
It wasn't long before we found ourselves having a great time in the girl's room. The taboo of not supposed to be their added to our sense of adventure!
This was a load of fun and slightly dangerous too, until a stern knock on the door threatened that the long arm of the chaperones was about to dampen our fun. What to do? Where to go? We had seconds to decide!
It turned out that it was a routine check, and they entered the room but didn't check the closet.
Somewhere there exists a picture of Ron in the closet, hiding, on his knees behind the coats, silent as a church mouse, until it was time to come out.
That was a long, long time ago, when "coming out of the closet" had a much different meaning!