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So how does one get properly "rubbed" in Nub City? I have to admit that being a Yankee was a definite disadvantage at times, but being fresh meat more than made up for being a Yankee. Hey, believe it or not, many Southerners are still  fighting the Civil War and I definitely enjoyed enlightening them about who won that war. Yes, this Yankee had big brass balls that made riding on her broomstick a difficult undertaking.

After spending the summer in Maine, As I previously mentioned, I traveled South with my two brothers, Jeff and Brian and Brian's family.  Brian had enrolled in a school in Northwest Florida, so instead of flying home at the end of the summer, I hitched a ride on the family caravan going South. The August days in Maine had already started to feel like fall, so when we arrived at our destination to find summer still alive and well, we all were happy.  After settling in, we explored what there was of a town and easily found the local swimming hole.  It was located at wayside park just outside of town on Holmes Creek.  Of course, we became the immediate center of attention.  As newcomers, we were objects of continuous scrutiny, only to be studied from afar and not least not yet.  We needed to be fully vetted first before any serious mingling could happen.

We arrived at the creek in a 1969 green convertible Mustang, top down and music blasting. The Yankees had arrived! When in Rome, do as the Romans do... so we took turns jumping off  the rope swing into the spring-fed creek.  I can't adequately describe the sensation of hitting that frigid water, but if you've ever done it, it's an experience you'll never forget.  When playtime was done, we loaded up and left the park as pristine as when we arrived.  As we sat at the park entrance waiting to turn out onto the highway, suddenly behind us appeared a bright red Chevy Chevelle SS with wide black racing stripes.  Inside were two young Southern gents who were obviously a little braver than all the others had been.  From the backseat of the convertible, I motioned to my brother to gun the engine and peel out as we left.  The Chevy stayed right behind us...close enough so I could see the faces of the two guys inside.  As I looked directly at them, giving them my best "hello boys" look followed by blowing them a kiss, I said to my family, "I wonder who these two jokers are!"  As soon as we crossed into the "city" limits and turned down the road on which my brother lived, the two jokers disappeared into the haze of the lazy summer heat. 

I was an eighteen year old new kid on the block in this small Southern town with a population of less than one thousand.  This new position wasn't exactly the position I had on my bucket list, but this position definitely had its advantages. I could tell by the inquisitive looks people gave us as they drove by my brother's place that they hadn't quite figured out who belonged with whom and what was going on inside. This was something I was used to by now and always liked the initial reactions I got when the truth finally came out. And the truth always did come out...eventually! But for the time being, I was going to savor the looks I was getting and just sit
back and let people wonder. Being the object of speculation sometimes can have very interesting outcomes. I think it might be described best as mental foreplay. And in this case, the outcome was not only interesting, but a lasting one as well.

My brother, Brian liked the game. He liked being admired. I laughed when he set up his weight lifting equipment outside in the front yard next to where he kept his customized BSA motorcycle. Not long after he started his daily workouts, the drive-byes increased. The brave ones did walk-byes and even waved hello occasionally. We'd been there several days, when early one evening Brian decided it was time to take a walk "uptown." We strolled through the center of what seemed to be a one-horse town...a post office, a grocery store named the Dixie Dandy, a small hamburger joint named The Burger Smith, a gas station, a convenience store and of course, a real live honky-tonk on the outskirts of town called The Cat's Eye. 

A group of locals were clustered around a bench placed outside the post office. The area was considered the town square. As we approached, the noise from the small crowd died down in anticipation. When we reached the group, Brian stopped and we introduced ourselves to the handful of people who seemed quite mesmerized by our presence. We chatted long enough to show them that Yankees could be friendly. As we left we knew we had given them plenty to talk about for days to come. 

The ice had been broken and now I was anxious to see what would follow. In the next few days I met another female who became my first friend in Vernon. Carol was from Miami and like me, she had found her way to Vernon under unusual circumstances. Maybe the fact that we were outsiders was what gave us an immediate common bond. From the moment we met, it seemed like we had been friends forever and at our age that title came with the subtitle of "partners in crime." We were two new females in a very small town.  That dubious distinction earned us the title of being new, a thinly sliced, medium rare piece of roast beef riding shotgun and Carol, a slightly thicker sliced piece of brown sugar cured ham was at the wheel of her white Duster.  From the moment I met Carol I had a hunch that our time in Vernon was going to be a learning experience for both of us.  Looking back now all I can proclaim is how right I was!

Seldomly, do we meet people in life that can give their friendship without a price tag. I was fortunate to have found a friend in that one horse town who not only loved unconditionally, but also withheld making judgment calls as well. Carol was a true free spirit. Yes, she had faults and it was one of those faults that heightened the danger factor of our friendship and made our time together always an adventure.

I tend to gravitate towards the edge. It’s where I feel most comfortable. Maybe it’s the suspense, the thrill, the uncertainty of the outcome that makes teetering on the edge so appealing to me. Whatever it was, that certain something was a definite factor in what kept a smile on our faces in those days. The day I met Carol, we headed off to Panama City Beach to have some fun in the sun. The guy Carol was "with" had a friend, so the pairing off was a given. I usually don’t do prearranged dating set up by a friend, but I was bored and in dire need of some male attention, so WTF?

That trip to Panama City Beach turned out to be one that stayed with me my entire life. Donnie Arnold was the guy I was paired up with and I can't honestly say if under different circumstances he'd be someone who would have piqued my interest, but that day he had my full undivided attention. Carol and Jerry McDade "disappeared" down the beach while Donnie and I frolicked in the Gulf of Mexico and had sex for the first time right there in the warm salt water. We laughed because I lost my underwear and pictured some tourist finding them later washed up on the beach. We could picture that person trying to figure out how some female lost her panties on the beach. I should have stamped them IF FOUND, PLEASE RETURN TO OWNER (with my address in very small text.)  I did, however manage to hold onto my shorts, so I didn't have to exit the water bare-assed.
We stayed overnight in a house near the beach and it wasn't until years later that I discovered that Donnie's family owned many beach properties and also a motel somewhere on Panama City Beach. I wouldn't be surprised if it was named The Dew Drop Inn or something equally redneck sounding. Looking back, I'm fairly sure that the place we stayed was owned by his family because there was no checking in process and like magic, he pulled a key out of his pocket that unlocked the front door.

Donnie and I didn't really talk that much because we were too busy doing other things. Getting to know each other didn't seem to be high on our agenda. Our midnight rodeo lasted all night and by the time morning rolled around, I felt like I had been bull riding and the bull had gotten the better of me. YEHAW! It actually hurt to walk, but I was too proud to say anything. My only request was discreetly asking Carol if she had a clean pair of underwear I could borrow since I lost mine the day before. Ordinarily, I would have gone commando, but I was so sore my shorts rubbing against me made the pain worse. We all had breakfast and then headed back to Vernon. It wasn’t until that morning while we ate breakfast that I found out that Jerry was not only married, but was married to a legendary bitch in those parts. Rumor had it that his wife, Peggy would just as soon shoot you as look at you. Yes, birds of a feather flock together and just as free spirits (aka "saucy tarts") tend to seek each other out and form alliances, the psycho bitches of the world do the same.

The next day I tried to hunt Donnie down to retrieve my ring he had slipped off my finger and had decided to hold hostage. When he removed my ring and put it on his pinkie, I assumed that he did it as a way of seeing me again. He knew I'd come looking for my ring, but when I did, I found out he had been arrested and was in jail in Chipley. Carol, a guy named Chip Coatney (he was one of the "jokers" in the red Chevy Chevelle I previously mentioned) and I drove to Chipley to get my ring. We stood outside the old jail and hollered up to Donnie on the second floor to get his attention. Chip immediately started to razz Donnie about being in jail and put his arm around me as he gave Donnie a hard time. I looked at Chip like he had lost his mind and Donnie laughed at Chip as he threw my ring out the barred window. And that was the last I ever saw of him. I never did find out why he had been arrested and to be honest, I wasn't curious enough to inquire. I just went about my merry way and figured if he was interested he'd look me up when he got out of jail. Until then I turned the page and started a new chapter.

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