Tailgate Memories

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Sunday afternoon, I found myself sitting in the bed of Loretta, Lucy’s 1978 Ford pickup truck. While sitting in the bed was nice, it didn’t stir up a lot of memories. On the other hand, sitting on the tailgate and on the side certainly conjured up days gone by. When I was kid, we spent a lot of time in the backs of trucks, and it wasn’t exactly safe, either.
It wasn’t cool to sit on the hump above the tire. We used to ride down the road while sitting on the tailgate, and I don’t mean just piddling along. We’re talking 35-45 MPH. Sometimes if we hit a bump, our feet would drag on the road. My cheap, thin-soled shoes, known as “pie crusts” to the local kids of my era, didn’t last too long. Even more dangerous than that was when we sat on the side of the truck while it was in motion. What were the grownups thinking? We survived, hence the good memories.
It was just a different time. As toddlers, barely able to walk, we’d walk around inside the car as it was going 55 MPH down the interstate. My dad lived in Montgomery, and I remember the speed limit capping out at 55. We didn’t wear seatbelts. I was in the backseat most of the time. Sometimes I was lying underneath the back window. If my mama slammed on the brakes, I just rolled. My brother, who was sitting or standing in the passenger seat, got the extended arm from her. It always seemed to have worked. She even passed down that mama-reflex down to me. My dog gets it all the time.
While sitting in the bed didn’t stimulate memories of yesteryear, it did create new ones, such as Lucy spraying me with sunscreen after pulling it directly from the cooler. I hadn’t hollered like that since the morning in 2004 when I woke up in Iraq with a mouse on my face. You see, that’s a memory.
The radio in the truck is somewhat challenged, so I backed up my SUV, popped the tailgate, and tuned in to my favorite country music radio station, although it can sometimes be hard to find country music, even on country radio, but that’s a different story altogether.
We fired up the grill and cooked a handful of Nathan’s hot dogs. Those are the best darn store-bought hot dogs anywhere. I like to cook them to where they are almost burned. When topped with mustard, kraut, cheese, Wickles Pickles relish, and fresh onions from George’s Farmers Market, well, it might just be the best darn hot dog, period.
Lucy picked at me for washing my plate. It wasn’t just any plate; it was a fancy coated paper plate. I barely got it dirty, and I didn’t even lick it. I just made my hot dog carefully. I wanted all the toppings in my belly.
Lucy got real hot and decided to take a dip in the pool. No, we don’t have a fancy salt water pool. We don’t have a traditional rectangular pool, and we don’t even have one of those high-dollar above-the-ground pools. Nope, not us. We have a $9 kiddie pool from Walmart. “You can’t hide class,” my uncle always says. We like it, and so do the dogs. Next week, we’ll be jumping through a sprinkler. Talk about memories.
Most of the afternoon was spent on or around Loretta’s tailgate. It was nothing fancy. It was simple, sweet, silly, and so much fun. We thanked God for all the blessings in our lives, including our faith, family, friends, freedom, food, fancy coated paper plates, and this second chance at making lifelong memories.

Jody Fuller is from Opelika. He is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com.

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