From Thunder to Breakfast (continued)
FROM THUNDER TO BREAKFAST (continued)
To really know people you have to hear them talk, listen to what they’re saying, watch what they do, and see how they react in various situations.
You could pretty well peg Hube Yates as a responsible little boy who looked a lot like a Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. He did his chores because it was expected of him. His duties even included taking over his share of the night watch while his parents and six brothers and sisters slept in two covered wagons on the trip from Guthrie, Oklahoma to Phoenix, Arizona when he was only eleven. He stayed awake—with his rifle always within reach, sometimes frightened, but brave enough to think he could handle anything that might occur in the new-to-him countryside.
When the family got settled in Phoenix he earned money to buy a cow. “I kept it between Fourteenth Street and Sixteenth Street, in a mesquite thicket. It cost me fifty cents a month to keep it there.” He sold milk to the neighbors to earn a little money.
Later he delivered newspapers by bicycle, over rutted dirt and clay streets for The Arizona Republic.
When the family moved to the west side of town new opportunities presented themselves. He got a horse paper-delivery route, and an after-school job at a horse stable. The boy made himself useful. “I’d stop off at the Palo Alto Stables and clean stalls and do anything else they wanted done.”
In his seventies he could describe the environment as though he had been there yesterday. “There was a wash-rack for buggies and surries, with a sump in the middle of it. There were brushes, bucket’s, sponges and water hoses there. People would come in and get their buggy washed just like they go to a car-wash today. Then there must have been twenty stalls on the right and left. Behind that was where they came down the alley and unloaded the hay. The a had a little granary there, but the horses were overworked and underfed. That’s the way a lot of people did in order to make a dollar.” This was about 1918.
And that is where the action in the chapter titled Crisis At The Drive-In Buggy-Wash took place. The villan’s name was Dick. He was not pleasant. He got his come-upance one day when a stranger came to town. Hube did not know the man. That bothered him a little because he “knew pretty near everybody in Phoenix. This guy would make you look back at him. He was an older man than Dick by about fifteen to eighteen years. He was all silver around the ears. He had only two or three days’ whiskers on his face. He was strong-lookin’ and probably an inch taller than Dick. He had gray-blue eyes, as clear as crystal. He looked like he had gone through the worst dust storm in the world. He also looked like the kind of guy you’d like to have on your side if you had any trouble.” Hube watched the gripping story unfold from a buggy seat in a darkened area.
As he grew up Hube became an athlete, sparred with boxers who came through town, and later became a Phoenix firefighter. The firemen and the police force held friendly competitive events, such as baseball games, but there was a wild side to them. They loved practical jokes and were very creative about it. He called one The Frog Stunt.
“I can still see the Chief of Police. I don’t know how he got to first base. He must have weighed three hundred pounds. They either walked him or he made a hit. Somebody brought him a little chair to sit on. You couldn’t even see the chair when he was on it. It was like he was sittin’ on air. Somebody else gave him a little parasol for shade and a cold drink. There was a drinkin’ fountain at the north end of the grandstand with a lot of grass and stuff growin’ around it. In this grass was a whole bunch of these little old toad-frogs. They’re desert toads. I reached down and picked up three frogs and washed them off real quick and held them in my hand. I let some more water run over my lips. Some guy yelled, ‘Hey, you’re goin’ to get sick.'” The idea was that it’s not a good idea to drink a lot of cold water when the temperature is high. The whole team gathered around, discussing the ball game and drinking water.
Hube walked away from the fountain, leaned over and made a special point of having the team see that he was getting sick. “I had sympathy all over the place immediately. I had slipped those three little frogs in my mouth and pretended I was gaggin’. Those toads were kickin’ up a storm.”
One fellow said, “Just let her go, you’ll feel better.”
“As I pretended I was gaggin’ I let one of those little old frogs come out. Another was kickin’ to get out.”
There was a hush.
“I made a retchin’ noise and out came another one. I straightened up and said, “Listen, be careful about drinkin’ that water. It’s absolutely full of frogs.”
That became a catalyst for extending the stunt to include a repeat performance at the fire station. It worked extremely well, and Hube lived to tell the story.
So, after all that foolishness, would you believe that Hube Yates received the Carnegie Hero Medal for saving the life of a drowning man clinging to a tree branch on a tiny island in the middle of the roiling, raging Salt River flood of Friday, February 13, 1931? He did. On a freezing, hailing night he made several attempts to swim out and save an old man who didn’t have sense enough not to build a shack in the middle of a dry river-bed. Hube’s life wasn’t all fun and games. He could have lost his life on that one.
Although I am a member of the Western Writers of America, I don’t go for shoot-em-ups. My writing is usually about pleasant happenings, lifestyles, personalities, things that grab my attention and won’t let go. From Thunder to Breakfast is one of those books. It can be ordered almost anywhere that you buy books — online booksellers such as amazon.com (I suggest that you search by author’s name, Gene K. Garrison), brick-and-mortar bookstores (they’ll order it for you if they don’t carry it), directly from publishers (in this case, Xlibris) and, for heaven’s sake, don’t forget Kindle.