It was one of those days you look back on years later and think, “How in the world did we do all that?”
It was Nov. 23, 1968. The Saturday before Thanksgiving. As I recall, it was a perfect day for two small-town teens from Arkansas to be afoot in a big city: Dallas, Texas. The teens were yours truly and my buddy, Mack. I was barely 16. He had just turned 17.
Feeling freer than we’d ever felt, we giddily explored downtown Big D and its environs. I’d like to share a few moments from that day, but first a little about my friend and my dad.
First, my dad. In his 37-year career as a Greyhound bus driver, he transported passengers throughout much of the United States, plus parts of Canada and Mexico. Sometimes, he would let me ride along on shorter trips, say, to Little Rock, Memphis or Dallas.
As for Mack, you may recall meeting him in this space in September when I mentioned we had resumed one of our favorite youthful pastimes, wandering Arkansas back roads. Our friendship goes back to 1964, the summer before seventh grade, when we met in line waiting to play tether ball in a mutual friend’s backyard. Thereafter, at least once a year we got in so much hot water that our parents threatened to ground us until high school graduation. The first such occasion was the rodeo and fair parade my parents took us to in the seventh grade, and we acted like such nitwits that Dad vowed he would never take us anywhere again. He relented, of course.
This brings us to November 1968. We left the Pine Bluff Greyhound station about 8 that Friday night, and arrived in Dallas in the wee hours, walking blearily to a hotel where the bus drivers rested between trips.
After a few hours’ sleep, Mack and I were up and raring to see the city. Dad stayed behind to get more sleep for the return trip, but not before giving us sightseeing directions. He also gave us strict instructions to be at the bus station two hours before departure that evening. “If you get lost,” he said, “look for the building with the red flying horse on the roof.” The bus depot was in the vicinity. (For many years, the Pegasus logo was a landmark atop the Mobil Oil headquarters in Dallas.)
Our first stops included Dealey Plaza, where President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963; Neiman Marcus, the fancy department store; and a skyscraper with an observation deck.
The adventure really took off at the observation deck. We met some guys in green blazers. We wondered what they were dressed for, and they told us they were members of the Baylor Bears football team. They were playing the Southern Methodist Mustangs that afternoon in Cotton Bowl Stadium. Student admission was only a dollar. Why not go to the game!
Only the two of us were on the elevator going back down, and just before reaching the lobby, Mack said, “Let’s jump and see what happens!” The car stopped with a jolt just as our feet touched down. We lost our balance, laughing hysterically as we fell, sprawling on the floor. The door opened and there stood five surprised members of Kilgore College’s famed dance team, the Rangerettes, and they, too, were dressed for Game Day in their white hats and boots. They began laughing just as hysterically at us turkeys. We flew past them and headed for the nearest bus stop to catch a ride to the stadium.
It was a so-so game. The Mustangs won, 33-17.
Before our Big Time in Big D was over, we ventured into several places we were not supposed to be, including a bar we’d heard had been operated by the infamous Jack Ruby (Mack took a Lowenbrau coaster for a souvenir). Our only cross with the law was being admonished by a police officer for jaywalking.
With night upon us we got turned around for a while, but then Pegasus guided us back to the Greyhound station. Mere minutes before the bus was to pull out.
Dad was hot. After we received a severe scolding, we slouched to the back of the bus and didn’t talk until we were almost to Texarkana, when Mack leaned over and whispered, “Man, I haven’t seen your old man that mad since seventh grade.”
On this Thanksgiving Day, I will be thankful for forgiving parents, old friends, and good memories.
Turkey tales? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.