Pond-ering the Past

Now Playing: Impossible Germany, by Wilco. “Wherever you go, Wherever you land, I’ll say what this means to me. I’ll do what I can.”

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I like to listen to Spotify, the online music service. I like Pandora, too, because the two are different. On Spotify, you mostly pick what you want to hear when you want to hear it (there are a few biggies like Led Zep that aren’t on it). So you can listen to stuff you’ve always wanted to hear more of – for me, that’s been Gram Parsons – or that you’ve always liked but never owned – like Traffic and John Hiatt.

I don’t always use Spotify, though. I like Pandora, too, because of the randomness of it all. You get introduced to stuff you might not have heard. The Supersuckers, fronted by my favorite artist (or at least the artist with my favorite name) Eddie Spaghetti, fall into this category.

But anyway, I get sentimental sometimes – I know that’s a shock – when I’m listening to Spotify and listen to stuff from my youth back in old South Boston, Va. And a recent song got me thinking about my best bud in high school, Tommy Nelson, whom I haven’t seen or heard from in at least 32 years.

The song was from an entirely forgettable Uriah Heep live album that Tommy had. Actually it was a medley: The Rock’N’Roll Medley, in which the band covered Roll Over Beethoven, Blue Suede Shoes, Mean Woman Blues, Hound Dog, At the Hop and Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.

Was it any good? Hell, no. But we were 16 years old when it came out and we liked it. We liked it so much that we even sort of had a routine with it, where we’d trade the lead vocal back and forth. Bad enough that we did that. But I remember actually singing it for these girls (and I’m withholding the names to protect the innocent) we double-dated with. Who actually went out again with us after that. (Funny thing is, we never really set at the beginning who was dating whom, but it all worked out. Both of us liked both of them, and we had a good time. Which is all I’ll say about that.)

One thing I can’t remember about the above incident is whether we took the girls to Nelson’s Pond. Though I’m pretty sure we did. It would have been SOP.

Nelson’s Pond. Now there are some memories, though admittedly many of them are hazy.

We interrupt this blog for a special announcement to one potential reader: To Tommy’s sister, Anne Garner (who is one of my Facebook friends), if you’re reading this, stop now. Please. (I will always think of Anne Garner as being about 10 years old, though I know she’s not: She’s married to my cousin, for one thing.)

Nelson’s Pond was across the road from Tommy’s house on land that his parents owned. Or at least that’s what we called it when we went there to party. When we took dates there, we called it Passion Pond. Though I don’t know that it ever lived completely up to that name. Or at least I’m not telling.

But we had a lot of good parties there. We drank a lot of beer and did other stuff – again, I’m not telling. Let’s just say it sort of reminds me of the big field where they throw the party in Dazed and Confused, by far the best move ever made about growing up in the 1970s.

As kids can be, though, we were kinda stupid. I don’t know that we left them, but lots of beer cans – and other stuff – got left on the property. So eventually Tommy’s parents put a gate up on the road that went in there. Which didn’t stop us. Tommy had a key, after all, but it put a damper on having parties there. Particularly since it meant that Tommy’s parents, T.P. and Doris Anne, were kinda keeping an eye on activity there. We had to be a lot more careful after that – there was only one way in or out, so you definitely didn’t want to get caught.

Tommy and I actually met on the basketball court – we played on the two best teams in a youth league. He played for the Hawks – they had a 6-6 guy at center who went on to play some at Hampden-Sydney College, a really tough guy named Rex Puryear, a really good point guard, Stan Bradshaw, and some other good players. I played for the Springers. We had my best friend growing up, Mike Lipford, who was a damn good athlete and I think could have been a really good basketball player, my good buddy George Fountain, who was about 6-1 or 6-2 at the time and was a top player, and Larry Scott, who would later star at Elon. The other two starters were Ronnie Ratliff and me – our job was to play defense and pass – anything but shoot. Our coach was Harrison Connor, a tough guy who sponsored the team out of his own pocket when the local Ruritans withdrew funding because we had black players. Sadly, I’m not making that up.

Anyway, the Hawks beat us, but Tommy and I got to be friends. He’d later talk me into going to his church, First Baptist Church in South Boston. I went because they took beach trips and stuff. (Which might be fodder for a future entry. Or not.) I’d go to Sunday school, sometimes preaching. Or sometimes we’d go to the gas station down the street and hang out, sometimes with one of the Methodist Church girls I had a huge crush on. Sometimes we’d go to the Presbyterian Church across the street: Pound for pound, they had the best-looking girls.

But Tommy and I lost touch when we went to college. I was at UNC, Tommy was at Wake Forest. I went over to visit him once and really didn’t like it there at all. To top it off, we lost the football game to them that weekend.

I never went back, and I never saw Tommy much after that. I hear he’s moved back to SoBo, and some of my friends have reported running into him. I’d like to reconnect with my old buddy, but I haven’t put much effort into it. I’m kinda that way.

And I’d better quit now before this whole thing gets a bit too – here it comes – pond-erous.

“A fool can throw a stone in a pond that 100 wise men can not get out.” – Saul Bellow



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2 responses to “Pond-ering the Past

  1. Joanne Smith

    Enjoyed reading this!!! Seem like a lifetime ago,then again….seems like last week…Feel free to pond-er some more!

  2. Thanks, Joanne. Those times do seem just like yesterday. Guess we’re getting old.

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