Gift to mom taking kids to drive-in

By Bob Huber: Local columnist

Mother’s Day always reminds me of a time when I supported a family, a dog pack, an ancient Ford, a cigar addiction and the federal government on $400 a month. In those days I put all our bills in a hat each month and drew one out to pay. If anyone complained, I didn’t put them in the hat. Life was simpler in those days.

The mongrel dog pack was an unnecessary burden, forever increasing as our three kids kept bringing them home. The dogs were “Nicky,” part coyote and leader of the pack; “Bee-Bee,” who liked to break into the house during storms and hide in the bathtub; “Lonesome,” who could leap tall buildings in a single bound, “Bean Dip,” who stared into space most of the time, and “Dammit,” who loved to chase tennis balls and acquired his name when I said, “Dammit, where are you finding all those balls?”

All together, that wild bunch kept friendly folks away and invited burglars in, chased the wind and cuddled cats, made foes of our neighbors and friends of the homeless, and if it were possible to perform an uncouth act in front of guests, they did it.

It was inevitable, I suppose, that my wife, Marilyn, asked one evening if I would get the dogs and kids out of the house, because she was having a bridge party and didn’t want any of the ladies to be bitten by the children. I said, “Sure,” because a good movie was playing at the drive-in theater —“The Prisoner of Zenda” with Stewart Granger.

You remember those drive-in theaters? That’s where you took a gang of three kids and their five dogs to the movies for the price of one adult ticket. You took your own popcorn too and sat under the stars with the volume turned low on the little speaker hanging from your window. Despite certain canine odors, it was a unique experience.

As soon as we settled down, a young man happened to walk by on his way to the refreshment stand, and the dog pack came unglued. They thought he was a friend. The kids, in turn, leaped on the dogs, shouting and yanking on collars, bouncing our old car around like a bronco.

I rolled down my window to tell the young man I was sorry, but he didn’t hear me. He was on the roof of a neighbor’s car, screaming, and the owner was yelling at him to get off before he needed a face implant. And that’s pretty much how the evening began with Nicky howling, Bee-Bee frantically looking for a bathtub, Lonesome leaping in and out of the front seat, Bean Dip staring into space, Dammit placing tennis balls at my feet, and the kids singing, “Thirty-two bottles of beer on the wall. …”

I lost track of the movie. If the kids weren’t screeching, the dogs were. I kept muttering to our neighbors, “Sorry, sorry,” but they moved their cars anyway. The area around us soon was empty except for spilled popcorn and Coke cups where passersby had levitated at the sound of our glee club. The bridge party was still going strong when we returned home, so we sneaked in the back door. Marilyn joined us and asked, “Did you have a good time?”

“Wonderful,” I said. “We had the entire drive-in to ourselves. Everyone left before the show even started. I think they forgot their popcorn. They probably wouldn’t have liked Stewart Granger anyway.”

That’s when a woman shouted from the other room, “Bring them in, Marilyn, so we can meet them.” At that moment sly glances were exchanged between man, offspring and beasts, but I’ll save that story for another Mother’s Day. I don’t want to spin all my yarns in one sitting.

Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. He can be contacted at 356-3674.