The Last of the South Town Rinky Dinks - Excerpt 34 - 2018



Betty Blanche Mayes was a slender young slip of a girl, pretty as a picture, with blonde hair and the most wonderful eyes. Betty was Lucille's daughter, and had inherited her mother's looks, laughter, and devil may care attitude. Being as Lucille was Mama's sister, Betty was my first cousin, but for years I think we both thought we were brother and sister. One thing's for sure, we wouldn't have been closer if we had been born to the same mother.

In 1955, when the heart condition finally got the best of Lucille, they brought her home for the last time. If I remember it right, we had her funeral there at the house. That was the first time I remember hearing gospel songs sung when someone had passed away.

During this time, I guess I loved Betty more than anyone in the world. She was older than me, but not by much, and my first cousin of course, so it wasn't the boy/girl kind of love, it was the like/adore/admire/believe/ want-to-be-around kind of love. Betty and I played together, and we always had lots of fun. But we were also good friends, besides being just kin.

Mama had a big bed of four-o'clock's planted outside the house, and to this day I remember thinking that Betty was prettier than the flowers. Course, I never told her that. I’m sure she knew she was pretty, and she knew I thought so, so we never discussed it. I do recall that she had a dress that had big flowers on it, and I know for a fact that when she wore that dress, the real flowers came out in second place every time. Like I said, I always loved Betty. Still do, and I'll bet, if you could call her up and ask, she'd tell you she loved me just as much.

And then John Mayes came along. John was a big, good looking fellow that everyone called "Dude," and he and Betty hit it off from the very first. All at once, Betty had a boy friend, and I had a hero. I guess John was my very first role model, although no one had ever heard that term back then. I wanted to do things just like John did. I even thought as much of John as I did the cowboys.

John was in the Army, and had fought in Korea, and he was one heck of a striking figure of a man. He was big, and strong as an ox, and as handsome as a man could get. It was easy to see why Betty fell so head over heels in love with him. And vice versa, I might add. Right from the start it seemed pretty apparent that John worshipped Betty, and always would. If there were ever two people made for each other, it was Betty and John.

Everybody knew John wasn't scared of anything that walks, crawls, flies or otherwise. He'd fight a man at the drop of a hat, and every now and then it'd be John who dropped the hat. Or, at least that's what everybody said. And I believed them.

I'm not exactly sure what year it was that John and Betty got married, but I seem to remember that it might have been a double wedding. John's brother, Tommy Mayes, had also met and fallen in love with a Betty. This pretty young girl was Betty Thaxton. Betty was Lawrence's older sister, and she and Betty Mayes were best friends.

John and Tommy both played the guitar and sang, and Tommy had the most perfect natural tenor voice I've ever heard. I always thought they were good enough to have made a living at it, but I guess they sang mostly for pleasure, and for the enjoyment of everyone who would gather to listen.

Tommy was a farmer, and he and Betty lived in Coopertown, a small community about six miles West of Springfield, out Highway 49. Tommy and Betty were good people, hard to beat both as family and friends. And even though Tommy liked to take a drink now and then, the last time I saw him before he passed away his voice still sounded as crisp and clear as ever.

But back to the story.


I decided a long time ago that I’d rather drive than ride shotgun. I’ll figure out where we’re going, push the gas and do the steering. The other guy can watch the world fly by on the right. – The Rinky Dink Wisdom of E. Don Harpe


Copyright 1994/2018 Ernest D. Harp & Flint River Press

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