Saturday, December 09, 2006
The Coal City Connection Part I.....
(Stim Carlton ruled Belvidere behind the scenes and with an iron fist.)
I have many times written that I spent my entire life until very recently living in Belvidere, Nebraska. It isn't entirely true. While I have spent the overwhelming majority of my life in Belvidere, I did spend part of one Summer in Coal City, a bustling miner town just south of Goose Lake where it is believed that Lou Diamond Phillips once stopped to urinate. This story has never been corroborated by Diamond or his publicist.
It was 1960, I was 27, and I hadn't yet found my purpose in life. The war was long over and life in Belvidere had returned to normal. I worked part time for Stim Carlton at his feed store and spent the rest of my time loafing or chasing Agnes around town. We would be married that Winter but didn't know it at the time.
Old Stim still called the shots around town back then. Even the mayor ran things by him. It was Stim that first called for a perimeter fence to be put up in the southwest quadrant when the Turkey Death Brigades were few in number and more of a nuisance than a danger. My how things have changed. So I listened when Stim asked me to go to Coal City to pick up a very important package for him.
"Why can't you just have it sent here Stim?"
"Why can't you mind your own business Spoon Man."
He was the only person to ever give me a nickname. I guess Spooner sounds enough like one to suffice for most people. I didn't like it but I also didn't have any choice. Nobody talked back to Stim Carlton twice.
"Now you got to pick it up in two days from a guy named Pid Powell. He hangs out at a place called Goose Lake Cafe. Get it and lay low for a few weeks, then come back."
"A few weeks? Where will I stay? I don't got much money. And what about Agnes?"
"Don't you worry bout that Spoon Man. Here."
Stim handed me a brown paper sack full of cash.
"Don't count it here! Consider that your payment in full. But if you don't make good on this job you'll be giving it all back plus interest!"
I knew exactly what he meant. Many folks around town had paid Stim back with interest before. You usually knew them from the bruises. It was hard to imagine a man this hard also spent so much time volunteering at the Shady Acres Correctional Facility for Wayward Teens.
It would take two days easy to make it to Coal City leaving precious little time to prepare and say goodbye to Agnes. So I didn't. I threw some things in a bag and tied it down to the back of my brand new Ducati Elite. I hit the road with the noon sun above and the laughter of the children far off in the distance. I remember that I was still thinking of children as I passed the city limits.