Written by John McElligott
Well this is a story that began when I became a quitter. I quit Pony League baseball, and only one good thing came from that decision. I made up my mind that I would never quit or give up on anything again. This decision has held true almost 100% of my life except for allowing a few women in my life to urge me to quit. I did not fight it to any great extent (in my mind).
So, I began digging septic tanks in Odessa in mid May of 1960 for $20 a hole. Well it took me 3 days to complete one hole. I took my money that Thursday and put it in the top drawer of my dresser. Well Saturday morning my money was gone! I told my mother and she said she used the money to by me a new pair of dress pants. I was angry like I have never been…ever…even to this day. (Oh by the way, I wore those same dress pants up until 1969 at Baylor).
I woke the next morning, packed a small black plastic bag, and put some change in my pocket. The total was 30 cents. It was still dark when I walked out to Highway 80 and started hitchhiking.
I made it to Fort Worth western city limits by about 2-3 pm. Here I spent my first nickel on a Snickers bar and got water from the fountain. I could not get a ride from there east. At dark I decided I would turn around and go back to Abilene. Well it was dark and no ride when a truck driver stopped and asked me if I needed a job and I said, “yes”.
Tommy was his name and he operated a moving van for Global Movers. He had a severely sprained ankle and needed a helper. I was ecstatic and got in and went to sleep. Well we went to Abilene Dyess Air Force Base and loaded up a family and went back to Dallas. I spent the night in Tommy and wife’s trailer house for two nights and then headed for Oklahoma City. We went to Will Rogers Air National Guard Base and loaded up more stuff and went back to Abilene for another load. Then, we went to New Orleans! This was a love affair that is still in my heart to this day. We spent 3 days loading up some folks who were military and moving to Florida. I ate some of the best food ever and Tommy and I were the only whites in that part of town and treated like kings. Tommy’s ankle was much better and we went on to Tallahassee Florida then to Mobile Alabama and back to Florida. Tommy took me up to Birmingham, paid me and asked me if i want to move in with he and his wife. I said, “No”, and took my $40 dollars and went to the bus station. I asked for a ticket to NJ. I did not have enough money they said at the counter. I found a peach tree in the park and ate peaches and drank water from the fountain. I got the worst case of diarrhea ever in my 13 years of life.
Eventually, I found a truck driver who was going to Roanoke Virginia and climbed in for a long ride through Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, and on to Roanoke. He never stopped that whole night and he went through a whole screwdriver handle full of cocaine. He offered me some, but I said, “No”. His nose was dripping clear snot all over his chest and shirt. He never stopped driving even to take a piss…and never stopped talking.
He dropped me off at the bus station and took off to drop the load he was hauling. Thus, this ended my one and only experience with drugs until I became a doctor which was 25 years later. Yes I was a late bloomer.
I now had enough money to get a ticket from Roanoke to Flemington, NJ. I got on the bus, and slept all the way to Philadelphia where I changed bus lines. At the Greyhound Station, I went to the bathroom when suddenly a guy with a knife flipped open the crapper door. I hit him in the face so hard he went flying back into the urinals. With a bloody nose, he took off out the door. I felt like Starman again wishing I had stuck with the Golden Gloves with my brother, Tom. Tom was a lightweight champion along with Zeke Sanchez from Odessa.
Anyway, I took off down to the Trailways Terminal down the street. Well coming out of the Trailways Terminal was my assailant with his nose red as Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, and he was holding hands with an elf. He did not even wink at me!
So on the Flemington,NJ! Iwalked to the farm close to Sergeantsville NJ. My grandmother and grandfather were on the front porch wondering who was walking down the dirt road walking like he was a cripple.
My grandmother started shouting, “Giovanni, Giovanni (Johnny, Johnny)” and I started running. My Grandfather yelled, ” It’s Barry Deamer”, a teenager with no teeth that lived on the far corner of our farm.
Anyway, I made it from Terminal Texas to NJ in 10 days and only lost 15 lbs and acquired one sore blowhole. I slept for 2 days, and ate pasta morning noon and night. My Grandparents were from Sicily and came to the USA via Ellis Island.
I worked the farm until late August gained 20 lbs and could press 175 lbs.,
Suzi Northcutt Griffith
Wow, John – that’s a great story!