Dem Dry Bones

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Dem Dry Bones

By William Frank Hulse III 

            In my hometown, the old hospital is where I was born. The same holds true for almost all of my 1947 vintage classmates. The old hospital was built in 1923 and razed in ’65 when the new hospital was completed. The memories I have of the old hospital and the memories I have of the old high school are sufficiently intertwined that I can hardly separate them. Both places were mighty scary after dark – mighty scary. Both buildings had basements with very little light from outside, so they were scary with shadows and dark corners, if the lights were out – even if it was high noon. There were classrooms in the high school basement – physics, biology, chemistry and home economics and student restrooms. The hospital basement was almost exclusively storage, as I recall. My memory of the hospital centers around three trips there for stitches. I wasn’t accident prone but I was adventurous and didn’t always look before I leaped!

          When we were 13 years, there were three of us who were far past adventurous. We were bold, audacious and mischievous in the extreme. We didn’t break the law but we sure bent it into a pretzel. We were thrill seekers. There was no leader of the pack. One day Larry would have a crazy idea, the next Robert would get an unwise notion – and on the third yours truly would have a flight of fancy and no parachute whatsoever. The only reason we didn’t get in trouble was due to the fact that we were nighthawks, typically on a Friday night.

          I’ve probably failed to mention the fact that my Dad’s dad, my grandfather for whom I’m named, was the high school janitor and a bus driver. Granddad knew more about me than he let on because I’d ridden on the school bus he drove for a year. I behaved – to be sure. Granddad didn’t brook any nonsense even from his favorite grandson. That would be me. I inherited Granddad’s gleam in my eye and a propensity to laugh from dawn to dusk and then some. Sometimes, I would help Grandad clean the school. I wasn’t looking for a job – I just enjoyed being around him. When he got back from his bus route, he’d go back into the high school and give it a once over before the next day’s activities.

          Being in the high school after ‘business hours,’ I figured out two or three different ways to do so – even when Granddad wasn’t around – especially when he wasn’t around. I’d been known to smoke in the boy’s room but hadn’t ever been caught. I figured I was bulletproof so I told my nighthawk pals we should invade the high school one night. We didn’t have vandalism in mind – we were just intrigued by being someplace we weren’t supposed to be. One Friday night, a senior with a large dose of ornery took a cow up on the top floor. He left hay and water but that cow roamed the halls for the whole weekend and dropped manure deposits about every 10 feet. School opening was delayed that following Monday while Granddad and I cleaned up after ol’ Daisy. Nobody thought it was funny – everybody thought it was hilarious. Most of the teachers and Granddad pretended to be upset but the truth is it was a heckuva prank.

          My memory is a little fuzzy here but I think the three of us brainstormed a prank to top the cow in the high school. It might’ve been my idea but Robert and Larry have graduated from this life and are probably smoking in the boy’s room in heaven. Bless ‘em. But back in 1960 we were full of enthusiasm for one particular prank. We wanted to ‘liberate’ the skeleton in the biology lab. We named him Mr. Bone-jangles. At first, all we wanted to do was bring him out for a weekend – a furlough of a sort. But try as we might, we couldn’t figure out a way to get old’ Davey Bones back into the high school biology lab. We knew Mrs. Ahrend would be calling the FBI and Scotland Yard to help recover her lab partner. Getting caught by the authorities – that would be bad. And for me, having Granddad and Dad find out I was involved would be a fate worse than death. So, just for the record and in case they’re watching down from one of Heaven’s fishing ponds, “It wasn’t me.” I’m just reporting the facts as best I know them. Sorry, Larry and Robert, but you’re on your own.

          Davey Bones somehow ended up in my basement. To this day, I’m still baffled how it happened. I was certain Mom and Dad wouldn’t find ol’ Bone-jangles because he was back in the darkest corner of the basement where my aunt and uncle’s non-essentials were stored. They had moved to Oregon and had planned to retrieve the goods when they came back to visit.  I think their junk may still be back in that musty corner. They’ve been gone for 20 years now but they might need that stuff – you just never know.

          On Sunday afternoon we put an old shirt and trousers on Davey and found two perfect blue marbles for his eyes. About 11:00 that night we all snuck out and retrieved our pal and took him up to the hospital and ceremoniously left him on the front steps. We had made a placard and put it on his lap. It said, Rest in Pieces. The skeleton was back in the biology lab later that week. Three years later, Mrs. Ahrend was our biology teacher. She looked right at us but warned the entire class to expect fire and brimstone if Mr. Bone-jangles ever went AWOL again.

          The old days were nothing short of amazing. I was careful not to tell my son about our shenanigans. He didn’t have the sense God gave a goose and that was like father like son.      

William Frank Hulse III is a native Oklahoman, born and raised in the Indian Cowboy Oilman community of Pawhuska. He began his college career at Central State College in Edmond but enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1968. While serving in the military Frank completed his undergraduate degree with the University of Maryland. Upon his return to civilian life in 1975, Frank was employed by Phillips Petroleum Company for almost 30 years. Since retiring he plays guitar and writes.

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