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The Road To Fort Worth

Read » Chapter 8: Danville


Herman

Herman stopped by my office one day to show me his new mail-order teeth. One of his eye teeth was wrapped in gold with the shape of the state of Texas carved into it. He smiled at me proudly that morning, but two days later he was toothless again. He told me with a lisp, "The damn dentures didn't fit right."

My office was in an old house in a trailer park on the outskirts of downtown Fort Worth. I managed the park and ran the whole show from collecting rent to repairing sewer lines. My company owned a few rental trailers along with forty or so slots for individually owned trailers.

Herman fenced in his small lot and stored a conglomeration of junk inside it. I needed a gas tank for one of our rentals, and he had one stored by his trailer. Herman was a good ol' boy who sold me the tank for fifty bucks and painted it up right purty, as he said, with spray cans of silver paint. He guaranteed the tank, but he didn't tell me that it was a butane tank. The basic difference between butane and propane is that the latter is stored at a higher pressure, and propane was the only gas available for delivery.

Early in the winter, the tenant complained that the tank was leaking. There was a hissing sound coming from the pressure gauge, and I wrapped the gauge with plumber's putty to stop the leak. In June, the leaking started again, and I tried to stop the leak with the same technique, but it didn't work. I looked at the gauge closely and found a small hole in back and held it with my thumb, then the gauge blew off the tank. It sounded like a bomb exploding, and I hit the ground and crawled toward the road. When I looked up, a dozen people were surrounding me laughing. I saw Herman smiling proudly with another new set of teeth with the shape of the state of Texas etched into one tooth that was glittering in the noon day sun.

Herman was a welder, and he made a trailer from angle iron that he had collected, then he cut two 55 gallon drums in half to fabricate a long smoker-cooker for the trailer. He applied for a permit to sell barbeque outside Arlington Stadium during baseball games. After his debut trip to the stadium, he told me that he made around $5,000 for his day's work, a fortune back in the early eighties.

I don't know how in the world he was issued a permit. Maybe, he knew someone in the office or impressed someone with his gold tooth. If he's still with us, I'd bet that he lives in the same trailer, surrounded by junk, and that he's still making money from selling barbeque or some other idea that anyone else would think was impossible to do.

Copyright ©2012 Michael Jackson Smith


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