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Shortly after my early September birthday, I developed a dull persistent pain in my lower left abdomen. At first, I ignored it hoping it'd go away because I was 19 and invincible. Around the same time several bursts of reality snuck into my brouhaha life. Jesus, I hate when that happens!  Nothing kills a good buzz like quite like reality.

First, if I wanted to eat on a regular basis and have a roof over my head I was going to have to get a job. My first attempt at doing just that was a complete wash out. I went to work at Christo's, a small five and dime store in Chipley and almost as soon as I was hired, I was fired. The reason? Are you sitting down? I wasn't wearing a bra. Hell, I didn't even own a bra, but it wasn't like I was flopping all over the place and wearing revealing clothing. Unless you really looked hard, my firm breasts pretty much stayed where they were supposed to stay. Of course, Carol and I had a good laugh over my plight. Other than putting me back at square one, it really wasn't a big deal.

Around that time, Carol and I opened our small circle to a third person. Theresa was a local girl, but we deemed her acceptable anyway. Our two became three and now, we were three unemployed females in dire need of employment. We heard Evergreen Construction Company in Chipley was hiring laborers so the three of us went to fill out applications and all three of us got hired.  No bras required! Thank goodness! Interstate 10 still had large gaps of unfinished road between Defuniak Springs and Tallahassee in which Evergreen was contracted to help remedy. Our primary function was to lay sod on the embankments to prevent erosion as the overpasses were built. The job was a real no-brainer, but it was a job and it had its perks and disadvantages like most jobs. But what do all construction companies have in abundance? Men! Men with great tans and hard bodies! Oh boy! This was going to be fun!

I almost believed that the pallets of sod that were delivered to us were purposely full of fire ants just for our male coworkers entertainment. Yes, fire ants bite men, but when swarmed by a colony of pissed off fire ants, men could peel off their clothes without much commotion involved. With us women, as the ants swarmed and bit us, it involved being yelled at to strip down quickly in front of a cheering audience. If you ever encountered fire ants, you know that they dictate how you react and the speed in which you react. If you aren't familiar with them, trust me you you're better off staying that way.

Now, for a brief lesson on fire ants... If nothing else, always remember fire ants are called that for a reason!
This leg is just a tad bit hairy to be mine.
Fire ants can turn a blissful afternoon outside into an itchy, burning stream of misery. Recent testing of fire ant venom suggests that the venom contains poison that affects the nervous system. This may explain why some fire ant sting victims report hallucinations (and here I thought it was the mushrooms) and other similar symptoms, particularly after getting a large number of stings. A fire ant sting often begins with an intense pinching or burning pain immediately after the sting. This pain is relatively

short-lived, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Next comes itching or burning that may be mild or intense. Itching tends to get stronger over the next few days. Fire ant stings produce a mark that sets them apart from other insect stings. The wounds are pus-filled blisters that are round and may look like pimples. Oh boy! Fire ant "acne" sounds like fun, doesn't it?
It wasn't long after we started working there that the foreman took a liking to me. First, let me tell you that it wasn't a mutual admiration. He wasn't ugly, but how he handled himself turned me off completely. He thought offering me an opportunity to learn how to operate heavy equipment would get him in my pants. What it got him instead was being told to go fuck himself instead. In hindsight, knowing how much heavy equipment operators make, I probably should have fucked him deaf, dumb and blind. Oh well, live and learn!

A couple of our fellow crew members immediately became our friends. Willie Van Lanningham (a typical, long-haired, country boy hippie) paired off with Theresa. The set up was supposed to be with me, but I passed because I was busy stirring things up with the oldest son of one of Washington County's finest. Kenny Rowe was a year younger than me, but with the thrill factor added in he more than made up for what he lacked in experience. Kenny's father was a deputy sherriff and it was oh, so fun helping to corrupt his first born. My unlikely pairing with Kenny started one night when a bunch of us were hanging out and Kenny and I went inside the store at the same time to get a Coke. The cashier commented on us being a cute couple because we both were wearing jean jackets. I guess we looked like the Bobbsey twins to her.  We looked at each other and said WTF? Neither one of us had anything better to do at the time, so why not do nothing together? We left the store arm in arm and stayed that way for awhile.

Carol paired off with Gene. And yes, Gene was a married man who whined all the time about his marital discord so Carol took pity on him and told him he could come live with us.  I often wondered if Carol had a death wish. At the time we first met Gene and Willie, Carol and I lived in a mobile home way out in the boondocks. The area was referred to as The Sand Hills.  Paved roads only existed in town. Everything out in the Sand Hills stayed dusty all the time except when it rained and then driving on those dirt roads was fun. Carol drove like a seasoned stock car driver. No terrain seemed to slow her down very much. She loved doing donuts on those slick roads and scaring the bejesus out of me.

One the advantages of living out in the middle of nowhere is that you could hear a car approaching for miles. One evening, as we listened to a car approaching we wondered who was coming to pay us a visit. We had already chased off all the regulars and was just about ready to call it a night. Had one of them forgotten something? When the car pulled in the driveway, I said, "OMG! It's Janice Arrant!" Carol flew to her bedroom with instructions that she wasn't home. That left Theresa and I to deal with Janice. Thanks a lot, Carol!

As the anticipated knock came on the door, Theresa and I just looked at each other. Neither one of us wanted to deal with Janice's nonsense, but I opened the door only to be greeted by a smiling Janice Arrant who was all by herself. Wait a minute! Wasn't Janice Arrant Psycho Bitch #2? Curiosity got the better of me, so I invited her inside. Janice was on her way to Panama City Beach for some serious partying and wanted to know if we wanted to come along. Just for a second, my brain seemed to short-circuit. What? She wanted us to do what? Why would we want to ever do anything like that with her?

I quickly regained my composure and thanked her for the invitation, but told her that we worked and had to get up around 4am each day to get to work on time. That explanation seemed to satisfy her and she left as happily as she arrived. Or as the old Southern saying goes, "She got glad in the same pants she once got mad in..." When Janice was no longer in site, Carol reappeared and the three of us speculated as to what she was up to and decided she had wanted to take us off somewhere and splatter our brains all over the countryside because we all knew she didn't really want to bury any hatchet unless it was to bury it in the back of our heads. The likelihood of one or all of us going off to "party" with Janice Arrant on a scale of 1 to 10 was about a minus 30.

One of the many bursts of reality we encountered on our way to official adulthood was that because we were employed and had our own place, everyone thought our place was party central 24/7. The problem was that our job really did require us to get up before the crack of dawn. Now, if you party until 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning that only leaves time enough to shut your eyes before your have to open them again. We learned quickly that working out in the heat all day required some TLC afterhours. We decided to tell everyone that our place was off limits during the work week, but let's just say that went over like a fart in church. Everyone just looked at us like we were speaking some foreign language and that we smelled foul. From that point on when we got ready to go to bed, we'd go regardless of who was sitting in our livingroom. We thought moving to Chipley to be closer to work might help, but the party and the party animals followed us. By the time we moved, Gene was living with us and Willie was there most of the time when we weren't at work even though he didn't officially live with us. 

The year was 1974. I remember eating a lot of plain bologna sandwiches and actually liking them. Often those bologna sandwiches were washed down with psilocybin mushroom tea from the mushrooms Gene and I had freshly picked earlier in the day. Gene knew all the best mushroom picking cow pastures and we always had fun goofing off. I guess when you’re young and stay perpetually high, eating anything tastes great even when what you eat is washed down with putrid-tasting mushroom tea cut with kool-aid in attempt to hide its horrid "earthy" taste.

So we moved from the desolate Sand Hills to a small 2 bedroom house on Highway 90 in Chipley, Florida (population: approximately 3,000).  That small move was like moving from back hills of West Virginia to New York City. My bedroom had these weird peacock curtains. Looking back, I really think those curtains were symbolic of my life and times…loud, proud and wowed. We would fell asleep each night listening to Lynard Skynard and would awake to Bad Company singing good morning to us. And in between there was sex, sex, sex…lots of drugs and a few bologna sandwiches to keep our strength up for all those midnight rodeos.

By the time, we made the move to Chipley the pain in my abdomen had gotten worse. I was beginning to get concerned and realized I wasn't invincible after all. I finally broke down and hitchhiked to Pensacola to see a doctor at the Navy Hospital. I was still considered a military dependent until I turned 21 unless I got married before then and the chance of that happening was even less than the chance of me going off partying with Janice Arrant. The Navy doctor examined me and told me I had an ovarian cyst and that it most likely would go away on its own without having to be drained. He put me on medication and wanted to see me again in a month. I wasn't

supposed to do anything considered too strenuous in that time period. I guess that meant I wouldn't be pushing Carol's car off as she put it in second gear and popped the clutch until further notice. I don't know if that contributed to the pain I was feeling, but I was ready to follow the doctor's orders and get back to my normal running speed.  All I knew at this point was that pain is bummer and I wanted it to go away!

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