Written by Mike Morris
Later in the year, I made a new friend. Dean Atwood Chase. With a name like that, (one belonging on a family crest), he preferred that everyone called him by the initials of his first and middle names…D.A. At that time of our lives, no one had yet come up with the negative association that now identifies one as a D.A., so everyone just called him D.A. without concern. I found we both liked motorcycles and building model airplanes with gas engines. He became kind of a role model to me as he had a Cushman motor scooter and we would ride around for hours on that thing, so I held him in high esteem. One day he introduced me to a high school friend of his who rode a Harley Davidson motorcycle. He weighed around 235 pounds, wore a dirty, sleeveless t-shirt and greasy jeans that drug the ground, and had a big ole’ belly that shined beneath the edge of the bottom of his t-shirt. When we rode up to where he was, he was squatted down working on his bike with the “plumber’s butt crack” exposed. During our conversation, the only thing I remember him saying was “If a Harley doesn’t leak oil, it’s out of oil!” Harley owners back then were always having to work on them as they were highly unreliable. So, in order to be a Harley rider back then, you either had to either like being greasy all the time, or have a lot of money to pay for maintence. Thankfully, they (Harleys) have somewhat improved since then.
D.A. and I were both about the same small, but he attempted to “bulk up” by wearing a big ole’ black leather motorcycle jacket and the same color clunky motorcycle boots. I could hear him coming down the hall by the sound his boots made. For lunches, we would sometimes walk to the Spudnut donut shop across from the front of the school and grab a couple of donuts. This action probably started me on my later-in-life battle with atherosclerosis, but I didn’t know that big word back then, so nothing was off the menu for me. After eating our donuts, we would join some other guys out back of the store, and smoke cigarettes. Now I didn’t smoke…had never even tried to…and didn’t even want to. And, of course, I became the constant target of an immense amount of teasing and ragging by the smoking crowd because I didn’t smoke. D.A. just kept quite. I had to bear this unmerciful teasing on a regular basis. So, one day, tiring of this, I decided that in order for me to shut these guys up, I was just going to have to show them that I could smoke a cigarette. D.A. gave me one of his Lucky Strikes, I lit it and puffed away. No big deal! And then…here it came. I caught another round of hell from the smokers because I wasn’t inhaling! Worse thing was though, is that they instructed me on how I should be inhaling by taking a big ole’ drag from the cigarette and then quickly taking a deep breath with my mouth wide open. Well…I did! I immediately thought I was going to die! I saw stars! Then I went blind! I couldn’t get my breath…it had gone into lockdown mode and I thought I was going to choke to death! I was on the ground rolling around and hoping someone was calling an ambulance! I was not breathing! Then I lost my donuts all in one projectile moment! Damn! There went my lunch! Throughout all this panic, I was hearing an uproarious chorus of laughter and, when my sight returned, I saw that all of the smokers were rolling around on the ground with me, tears of laughter running down their nicotine stained faces! D.A. poured some of his drink on my face and that helped, somehow, for me to come back to a state of semi-normalcy. I made it back to school for afternoon classes, but I just know the teachers were wondering why my face was green…or at least it felt that way to me. BTW, I quit smoking at age 25, and I’m glad I did because I lost some good friends to lung cancer. Even lost one good friend, Tom Steele, to lung cancer who DIDN’T smoke…but his Mama did…until she also died with lung cancer.
D.A and I maintained a casual friendship through the years, and we saw and visited each other at all of our high school class reunions. After high school, he went on to attend Tech in Lubbock to study engineering, but left school his junior year because he was upset with, as he said, “How liberal all his damn professors were.” So, as he was very mechanically talented, (he helped me completely overhaul the engine on my ’50 Olds when we were Juniors), he opened up a small automotive repair shop. Later, after his parents passed, he took some of his inheritance, bought a 36′ sail boat, learned how to sail and sailed around the world….twice! He earned spending money by sailing from port to port offering his mechanical skills to rich yacht owners whose boats needed repairs. And he also made a good living installing water purification and reverse osmosis systems in remote island plantations. He surprised me with a visit about 10 years back. It would be our last visit, because he passed about a year later from the bad kind of skin cancer. All of that ocean sun apparently had taken its toll…and although he never mentioned it, I kinda think he knew, thus, the reason for the visit.