I’m not sure just when this next story took place as I had completely forgotten about it until Buck reminded me of it in a phone conversation a year or so before he died. When I asked when it happened, his words were, “We were old enough to get into trouble.” That wasn’t terribly helpful because that covered a lot of years! We finally isolated it down to when we were in our late teens.
Four people were involved: Mike “Buck” Roy, Alvin “Al” Bartlett, me, and Oliver Darrel “Dee” White. We were kind of a “rat pack” that ran together for decades. Buck and Dee are both deceased now.
Dee lived on Williams at 16th Street. Actually, he lived in a small garage apartment behind his parent’s house and had lived there for as long as I knew him. Dee was two years younger then I was, and I meet him when he joined our scout troop. His folks were not poor and the house was large enough for Dee to live inside, but he didn’t. They fixed up the garage, and Dee had this really cool garage apartment complete with a bathroom where we liked to hang out.
The conversation I am about to relate began by Dee expressing the desire to have a nickname, and he wanted a cool nickname. He was already called “Dee” shortened from Darrel, so the request seemed rather strange to the rest of us, but then Dee could sometimes be a bit strange.
Curious, we asked what name he would like to have, and his reply was “Ace”. And he said it with a straight face, but that didn’t stop the rest of us from laughing. “Lib” White, his mother, would not have tolerated “Ace” for even a second, but Dee, I mean Ace, persisted, and we resisted. “Ace?” Really?
At which point, we began calling him by a nickname we knew he absolutely hated. His first name was Oliver, and we sometimes called him “Ollie” when we wanted to irritate him—like at that moment. That was always guaranteed to send Dee into a dose of the vapors.
After we had our laugh, we finally agreed. I think Al started it, and Buck and I picked up on where he was going with it. “OK, we’ll call you Ace, Dee,” said Al.
That lit Dee up. “Not Dee! Just Ace,” he insisted.
“OK, Dee, I mean Ace,” Buck said. “We get it.”
“Dammit. ACE!” Dee insisted even more assertively.
“OK, OK, ACE it is, but, Dee, this is gonna take some getting used to,” I chimed in. Buck and Al nodded their heads in agreement.
Ace became exasperated then and even more vocal about his nickname. The rest of us were thinking he needed another trip to the rain barrel.
Dee (or Ace if you prefer), an only child, was a bit spoiled and could get disrespectful sometimes. We mostly verbally slapped him down when he did that to us or simply ignored him. But there was one time he dissing someone, and we could not ignore it, and we all ganged up on him to administer some “brotherly love” discipline.
I don’t remember just what he said, but in front of us, he was very disrespectful to his mother. It was bad enough that those of us who witnessed it were offended, and not because we were all pillars of society always showing respect to our elders; it was just that bad.
The Whites had an old whiskey barrel in the backyard, and it was full of water. I don’t recall why they had this barrel of water. It was just sitting in the middle of the yard and doing nothing beyond that and collecting water.
Someone made the comment to Dee that his words to his mother were uncalled for, and Dee pushed back with something like, “What are you going to do about it?”
The gauntlet had been thrown down. The “double-dog-dare” had been figuratively tossed into the ring. Buck, Al, and I looked at each other knowingly. We all three looked at the barrel and then Dee. Lib White was watching all this and must have suspected something was about to happen.
In perfect unison as if rehearsed, Al, Buck, and I said, “The barrel!”
Dee looked at us with a confused expression on his face, then at the barrel, and back at us as we closed in on him. He laughed a mocking laugh! And that did it! The three of us were on him before he could take even one step. We had him off the ground and unable to do anything but squirm as we headed for the barrel.
About then Lib White figured out what we had in mind and called out from the back steps of their house, “Don’t drown him!”
Dee went into the barrel head-first and we held him down while he thrashed around throwing water over everyone. After an appropriate amount of time (short of drowning), we brought him up, and he was spitting out profanity between gasps for air.
“You going to apologize to your mother?”
The answer was a defiant “no” laced with profanity.
Back into the barrel he went, and this time he stayed down longer. We brought him up sputtering and cursing. “You win! You win! I’m sorry!”
We let him go, and Lib sighed with relief we had not drowned her only child.
I don’t remember how much longer the Whites kept that barrel around, a few years at least, and every time Dee got smart-assed, we would suggest it was time for another trip to the barrel. That usually calmed him down.
And we never did call him Ace.
The pic is of Dee and his wife, Patsey, in 2004.