Me and the boys were down at Joe Pete Wheeler’s Tire and Taxidermy last Wednesday and we got to talking about the local high school. Seems Lester Huggins, that’s Joe Pete’s best flat fixer, was having trouble with his boy Skinner Jr. (Lester’s God-assigned name is Skinner too, but he was never really a handsome man by worldly standards. Story went that his mama was always fixing him up on dates. His daddy used to tell Skinner’s mama “Lest her eyes was bad or she was set for taking pity, no girl would ever go out with the boy”. That’s how he got the name Lester. Least that’s what I always heard.
Anyways, Lester was telling me and the boys that Skinner Jr. wasn’t learning anything down to the School. Said mostly what they done in class was talk about current events. Now I’ll be the first to say that a feller has to know what’s going on in the world around him. I seen the other day where they was letting that Leon Harvey Oswalt loose. He shot and killed Jack Lemmon who was one of the Beatles. What’s this world coming to? Lester said that they even had a new kind of math where all you had to do was get close to the answer to get a good grade!
As a member of the graduating class of 1984 (after a real close call in ’83 in which those new math rules would have helped me an untold amount), I was heart-sick to hear that the learning standards at my alma mater had gotten softer than the middle of a baby calf’s head.
Alton Wrigley just sighed and hung his head. Bad news about the high school hit him ‘specially hard. You see, he was the smartest feller in our whole graduating class! He was our class Validictator. Learning was something he took real serious. After graduating Jimmy Jack Middling High School, Alton went to college to get a license to fill prescriptions. He came home and opened Wrigley’s Pharmacy and Taxidermy. The first thing he did after getting one of them machines that spits out fake teeth when you put .50 cents in it is he put in a magazine rack. He carried everything from Popular Mechanic to Sports Illustrated. He was always dead set on supporting our school’s motto:
“ If you can’t read, least look at the pictures”
Then Lester said something that shocked us all. He said he and the Mrs. was gonna home school Skinner Jr.! None of us could believe it. Not having a Huggins at J.J. Middling High for the first time in 25 years, 9 of them by Lester, was just wrong! Who would teach the boy? When it came to smarts, Lester’s coke may not have been flat, but there sure wasn’t much fizz left in the bottle. It was downright pitiful to think of poor Skinner Jr. having to sit in his daddy’s tool shed when he got detention instead of the principal’s office.
The boys and I knew this was an irrational decision, but when Lester’s wife makes his mind up, it’s pretty much set in stone. We knew we had to help Skinner Jr.. The school needed a Huggins on the football team… THAT WAS IT! Lester had forgotten the most important math of all! Skinner Jr. may have a 7 on his ACT but he had 1231 yards rushing last season! Just when my revelation came to me, Lester had a flat come in. 73’ Buick. Right rear. That left me and the boys to discuss our plan to keep Skinner Jr. at Middling.
When Lester got back we had a projector set up in the car bay. Joe Pete said given this was an emergency, we had his blessings. We spent the next 2 hours showing Lester film of his boy breaking tackles and scoring touchdowns. I think Lester woulda cried except we were there. He left us without saying a word. He didn’t have to.
This morning I saw Lester again. He has a black eye and a neck brace. He’s sleeping in the restroom down at the station til the Mrs. cools off . The good news is Skinner Jr. is back on the football team and we’re looking at a state championship if he can keep his grades up in Shop. I waved at Lester. He smiled. Sometimes a man has to stand on his principles no matter the cost.