#Fulla5 Adam Hood

Tuscaloosa 2015

Tuscaloosa 2015

I’ve known Adam for close to 30 years, and I’m proud to call him a close, personal friend. I was a senior at Opelika High School when he was a freshman. We  have had a lot of good times together. He even came to stay with me in Washington State while I was stationed there and he was on a west coast tour back in 2005. After that, he often crashed with us when I lived in Shreveport and he was making frequent trips to Texas. I think I last saw him in Tuscaloosa last year. He came to my show with the GIs of Comedy and then we went to eat BBQ the next day.

With a John Denver grin and mind full of Alabama attitude, Adam Hood knows the beautiful mess of blue-collar love and everyone on Music Row wants in. Tracks from his critically acclaimed 2011 album The Shape of Things have been cut by Little Big Town, David Nail, Josh Abbott Band, Brian Keane and John Corbett. The legendary Willie Nelson and Leon Russell have each picked Hood for respective national tours. 

the shape of things

For more on Adam, please visit his website at adamhood.com.

“Bar Band is one of my favorite Adam Hood songs.

 

1) You’ve come a long way since I used to see you play at the Breezeway in Downtown Opelika? How has your music changed over the years, other than no longer playing Margarittaville, Brown Eyed Girl, and Sweet Home Alabama?

Well, I appreciate it. I’m pretty fortunate to be able to say I’ve been doing this for 25 years and I’m glad you can see some progress. The main thing that’s changed, as you mentioned, is that I write my music now.  The cover songs got me the gigs and gave me an outline for what a good song “feels” like (Margaritaville is a pretty well written song), but once I started writing and got the nerve to PLAY those songs in front of folks, everything changed. It got real. After turning that corner, I just started doing it, refusing to regress. I’ve found my own style through all the years of working at it and listening to folks that know more than I do. BUT, at the end of the day, it still sounds like me. Always has. I won’t ever be able to shake that.

2) I’ve seen you play in Shreveport, which is more like Texas than Louisiana, but please tell us about Texas music and how it differs from elsewhere?

Man, Texas is its own thing. All the way around. The music, culture, food, etc are self-sufficient and that’s the way they want it.  Coming into that music scene from the outside was extremely intimidating for a while, but I fell into it after a while and I think it suites me. Most of my heroes and influences were Texas writers, so my style fits in Texas, but the Alabama influence is what makes me sound a little different. And there are TONS of bands out there, so different is good!!

This is Adam's latest. In my opinion, it's his best work yet.

This is Adam’s latest. In my opinion, it’s his best work yet.

3) Congratulations on being a new dad. Talk a little bit about Drue and how have things changed from your first go around as a dad? Are changing diapers like riding a bike?

Adam and the newest member of the Hood family, Drue.

Adam and the newest member of the Hood family, Drue.

Saying I wasn’t a little “scared” about having a baby would be a lie. Honestly, anyone that says they’re fully prepared for children is telling a lie. The feeling wasn’t out of lack of love, but more my own mortality. Haha. I want to be able to keep up, you know.  But children just change everything for the better and we’re enjoying every minute of it.  All the folks in my camp and I work hard to keep a “balanced” schedule so that when I’m home, I’m home with no distractions. Ashlyn is at an age where she’s mature enough to handle being a helpful big sister without it cramping her style.  I feel totally confident in saying all of us are good!  As for diapers, what can I say…The mechanics are the same, but the package keeps you on your toes!

4) How’s the garden going this year? Any advice for first time gardeners like, oh, I don’t know…me?

I downsized the garden this year. We went nuts last year and planted too much with too little time to manage and most of the garden flopped.  This year we’re keeping it simple… A few tomatoes and peppers and that’s it. Growing things is a great pastime if you’re thinking about it. Planting one tomato plant in a clay pot can be really fun and sort of calming (sorry to sound Zen).  Hell, I don’t even like tomatoes. I just like to get up in the morning, walk outside and see what happened while we were sleeping… And something always does.

*I guarantee you I planted way too much this year.

5) This is like “Free Day Friday” in elementary school. Whatever you want to say, say it here.

I want to thank you, Jody, for asking me to do this and for your friendship.  I’ve enjoyed watching you work to develop your career as well.  And you’ve earned every rung you’ve climbed.  We have a common denominator when it comes to our line of work. We have different ways of entertaining people, but we do the same thing and we both know that the distance between “man, you’re funny enough to be a comedian” at OHS and being a touring entertainer is pretty vast; it’s a hard row to hoe, but being able to look back and see all the ground you’ve covered makes the effort worthwhile. I’m proud to know you, my friend. Go dawgs!

*I did not pay him to say any of that nice stuff, but I do appreciate it.

Like Adam’s page on Facebook by clicking here.

Follow Adam on Twitter by clicking here.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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#Fulla5 NYC and Opelika are basically the same place

I’ve only been in the New York area for about 10 hours but I’ve already noticed 5 striking similarities in the New York metropolitan area and Opelika. As far as I’m concerned, we’re basically the same town, not only because Miss America 2013 Mallory Hagan, the former Miss New York, is a graduate of Opelika High School and currently resides in the city, but also because of 5 more solid reasons.

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I give you the #Fulla5 in a New York State of Mind…

1) New York City has the Hudson River. Opelika has Stink Creek. The Hudson River is just like Stink Creek, only deeper. Furthermore, the Hudson goes all the way up to West Point, and I’m willing to bet that somehow you can get to West Point (Ga.) by way of Stink Creek.

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2) The New York metro area has approximately 20.2 million people. Opelika has approximately 20.2 thousand people.

3) New York City is known as the Big Apple. Opelika used to have The Big Apple, a grocery store at the corner of Ave B and South 7th.

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4) New York had Simon and Garfunkel Live in Central Park. Opelika had Adam Hood Live in Monkey Park.

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5) And last but not least, New York has the world famous Waldorf Astoria hotel, and Opelika has, you guessed it, The Golden Cherry Motel.

Golden Cherry Motel

And I’ve stayed at The Golden Cherry. Had I stayed at the Waldorf Astoria on this trip, it would’ve been a step down.

Jody Fuller hails from Opelika, Ala. He is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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#Fulla5 w/ Auburn great Will Herring (@wherring54)

So, who better for my first ever #Fulla5 interview (5 questions) than 8 year NFL veteran and former Auburn standout Will Herring? I couldn’t think of anyone. He’s just a super guy. Throw in the fact that, like me, he’s an Opelika boy, and he was the perfect choice.

Will H and me

He played 8 years in the NFL and I played 8 days at Opelika Junior High, so we’re basically the same guy.

Will recently went to work as a mortgage banker with Ameris Bank and is also one of the owners of The AU Club. He’s also very active in the community with organizations such as Youth For Christ. He is one busy guy.

He lives in Auburn with his wife Ashley and their three beautiful children.

At Auburn, he earned letters each year from 2003-2006 while playing safety before moving to outside linebacker his senior season. Upon his departure from The Plains, he held the school’s career record with 49 consecutive starts. He was selected in the 5th round of the 2007 NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks. He went on to play for the Saints and Rams, too. But his life is so much more than football.

1) How does banking compare to football? What’s more rewarding, sacking a quarterback or approving someone for their first home loan?

I can honestly say I didn’t grow up thinking I wanted to be a mortgage banker after playing in the NFL. However, both can be very fulfilling. Making a big hit to spark the defense is pretty cool, but it’s also pretty gratifying helping someone buy the home of their dreams.  It’s easy to let what you do define who you are. While playing football was a lot of fun, I tried to keep it in perspective. Faith, family, and friends last a lifetime. I always knew my football career would end.

Will Seahawks

* http://amerisbankmortgage.com/banker/WillHerring

2) The family keeps growing. Now you have little Isaiah. To you, how are baby boys different from baby girls? How has the faith that you and Ashley share impacted your decision to adopt?

I always heard boys were way more of a handful than girls. Well, besides Isaiah being twice the size of his sisters at 11 months, he’s pretty laid back. He will hit you with a mean head butt though if you’re not careful. Years ago, The Lord put it on Ashley’s heart to adopt. He has blessed up beyond our dreams with 3 beautiful children, two of which are through adoption.

Will Herring family

3) Is Auburn the uncrowned 2004 National Champions? What’s your fondest memory from your times on “The Plains” and why? (USC was stripped of their BCS title due to infractions involving Reggie Bush.)

I think we’re ok with just being 2004 SEC Champs. Sure, we all wish we’d have gotten a shot, but it is what it is. 13-0. No regrets. I think my favorite memory was beating Tennessee up in Knoxville pretty handedly. That was the game where we realized that this was a special team.

*By the way, if you haven’t heard Will’s 2013 pre-game Iron Bowl speech, watch this. It’ll give you chill bumps. @WarBlogle added it to the highlights following the game, which was one of the most exciting finishes in the history of college football. #KickSix

4) What are your fondest memories from growing up in Opelika?

Going to eat breakfast at Tyler’s with my dad and brother after freezing all morning in a deer stand.

*I love that he keeps it so simple. Family. That’s what it’s all about.

5) So what’s new at the AU Club?

The AU Club has got a lot of great things going on. We’ve hired Robert Hines as our new chef for Clubhouse Restaurant and he’s been incredible! The restaurant is open to the public. We’re slowing chipping away at a few minor renovations in the restaurant to enhance the dining experience.

  • The list of improvements include:
  • wine lockers for members
  • replacing carpet with hardwood flooring
  • addition of historic Auburn artwork throughout
  • replacing current countertop with concrete counter top

Now that the weather has warmed up, golf is in full swing and summer is just around the corner!

*AUGolfClub.com

Be sure to follow Will (wherring54) and AU Golf Club on Twitter.

Thanks for your time, Will. War Eagle, Go Dawgs, and God Bless!

Jody Fuller is from Opelika, Ala. He is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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One Tough ‘Ombre

One Tough ‘Ombre

Tom Ingram 8

Today is the 70th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Bulge. This is an article I wrote last year for East Alabama Living (http://www.eastalabamaliving.com) Obviously Tom is now a year older and has been back to Europe a couple of more times. He’s treated like a rock star over there and deservedly so.

Tom Ingram, 88, recently had a hip replaced. He stopped taking pain medication after just two days. When his doctor asked why he’d quit taking the medication, Ingram replied, “Because I’m tough. I’m a Tough ‘Ombre. Besides, I’ve already been through hell.”

Ingram was born in 1925, on a farm along highway 80 in what is now Lee County.

Ingram had two brothers, both of whom volunteered to serve during WWII, whereas Tom, the middle brother, was drafted.

The oldest brother served with the 42nd Infantry Division, more commonly known as the Rainbow Division, while the youngest brother served with the All-American 82nd Airborne Division.

In 1944, the middle brother completed 12 weeks of training at Camp Blanding, FL before embarking on an 18 day transatlantic journey aboard a troop carrier.

Those 18 days on board the converted British freightliner were challenging. The troops were required to stay below the deck for the duration of the voyage to keep from being spotted by the Germans. It also prevented the troops from tossing cigarette butts overboard, which would have been another indication of allied troop activity. If detected, torpedoes from German U-boats likely would have followed.

Ingram was one of the few troops who didn’t smoke, so he stayed sick while the others smoked and gambled their way across the Atlantic.

After arriving in England, he shipped out to Normandy the very next day and was assigned to the 90th Infantry Division, nicknamed the “Tough ‘Ombres.” They were originally called the Texas-Oklahoma Division, which was represented by the T & O on their shoulder patch. Their reputation on and off the battlefield warranted the change.

In December 1944, Ingram experienced his first taste of war in the Battle of Dilligen. It was here where he first witnessed the death of a platoon mate. It would not be the last.

Tom Ingram 1

The Battle of the Bulge, fought from December 16, 1944 – January 25, 1945, was the last major Nazi offensive against the Allies in WWII. The battle was a final effort by Hitler to divide the Allies in their drive towards Germany and to destroy their ability to supply themselves.

The surprise attack caught the Allied forces completely off guard and became the costliest battle of the war in terms of casualties for the United States.

Ingram will never forget how cold it was there amongst the densely forested Ardennes region of Belgium, France and Luxembourg.  He estimates there to have been 18-19 inches of snow on the ground.

One night, his unit marched through the snow, directly through an ambush zone, but the Germans were too cold to mount an offense.

Ingram survived the Battle of the Bulge and soon found his way to the Czechoslovakian border as the war came to an end.

Tom Ingram 3

Tom Ingram 2

For his service, Ingram received many medals including two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart.

He returned home to East Alabama where he enrolled at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (API.) In 1950, he graduated with a degree in Agricultural Education and went on to teach for 18 years. API is now known as Auburn University.

In the early fifties, he married Myrtle, who gave birth to five children.

Since the end of WWII, he has returned to Europe 20 times and is actively involved in many WWII ventures, including the 90th Infantry Division Association. He frequently attends Battle of the Bulge reunions.

“There was a break in action around Christmas of ‘44,” Ingram recalls. “I remember having Christmas dinner with all the fixings. It sure was good. I got to eat it at the radio station but as soon as I finished, I had to go back outside and get in my foxhole.”

These days, Ingram enjoys the holidays in the comfort of his own home as he gathers with his family each year on Christmas Eve.

His lovely bride of 50 years passed away in 2003.

Tom Ingram is a proud member of the greatest generation and a tough ‘ombre to boot, but he wants to set the record straight about one thing. “They say our unit walked 1,946 miles across Europe but that’s not true, because half the time we ran like hell,” explained a chuckling Ingram.

Tom Ingram 5

 

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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Happy 100th: Veteran from Opelika marks century of life

James Camp Mayfield, better known as J.C., was born in Concord, Ga., on Sept. 14, 1914. He was the oldest of 12 children born to Homer and Allie Mayfield. This week, he will turn 100 years old.

JC Mayfield

As with most people, his memory isn’t what it used to be, but he recalls moving to Opelika when he was 19 years old. At 20 he was in the U.S. Army and stationed at Ft. Benning. He served in the Army from 1934-37 before transferring over to the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), where he would remain until the US was pulled into World War II.

While at Ft. Benning, he was a member of a hitched artillery unit and learned to shoe horses. After being recalled to active duty, he was assigned to Ft. Bliss, Texas. There, he shoed just one horse before the Jeeps were brought in.

In September of 1942 he received orders to go to San Francisco. “I was there just long enough to be shipped out,” he recalls. From San Francisco, he sailed to Australia aboard the USS Washington. Although a member of the Army’s First Cavalry Division, Mayfield, along with a handful of other soldiers, was assigned to the Navy during the voyage. Because of the temporary transfer, he became a member of the Neptune Club when the ship crossed the equator, and he still has the citation to prove it.

Mayfield, now a communications specialist, spent approximately nine months in Australia before seeing combat in the Solomon Islands, where he contracted jungle rot and caught malaria. Upon evacuation from the South Pacific, he spent 11 months at a hospital in Oklahoma. His wounds had to be cleaned and his bandages had to be replaced several times throughout the day.

After leaving Oklahoma, he came home to Opelika for a brief stay with his family on East Street. He wasn’t in Opelika very long before being transferred to a field hospital in Miami Beach. When asked what he did there, he smiled and said, “I went to the beach.”

In 1940, before the war, he married Iris Mann, who served as a switchboard operator at Opelika’s Prisoner of War camp. He has a fond memory of standing in a long line with hundreds of other GI’s to talk on a phone when Iris cut into the line and asked to speak to J.C. Mayfield, who was somewhere in the middle of the pack. He made his way to the front of the line and was able to speak to his bride.

He would stay in Miami for about six months before being released from the Army and coming back to Opelika. Although released from active duty, Mayfield chose to continue to serve in the Alabama National Guard and would do so until retirement.

He spent the bulk of his career working at West Point Pepperell, where he served as the supervisor of the carpentry department. He retired from the mill in 1979.

He and Iris had four children; however, Iris passed away in 1969.

Although he loved his departed wife dearly, he did find a new love and married Noreen Freeman a short time later. Her husband had passed away as well, and, coincidentally, his name was J.C. They enjoyed traveling and spent many happy years together before her passing in 2000.

JC and Me

Mayfield has touched a lot of lives throughout his life, but perhaps none more so than the life of his brother-in-law, friend, and longtime Opelikian George “Red” Marlett. “He’s been a wonderful friend to me and such an inspiration. He’s responsible for getting me into the Masons,” said an emotional Marlett.

Mayfield lived by himself until the age of 98 but moved to Athens to live with his daughter Judy about a year and half ago.

They have a big surprise birthday party planned for him at church. They had one last year, too. The preacher jokingly said then, ‘We’re making a big deal out of J.C.’s 99th birthday this year because some of you might not be here next year, but we’re sure J.C. will be.” Sure enough, some of those in attendance that day will not be there, but Mayfield will certainly be there, surrounded by his family and the friends that he’s been blessed with throughout his century on Earth.

Some of them may not be around for his 101st birthday, but everyone seems to think he will be.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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Frank Waldrop: local war hero

I love interviewing members of our military. Here is a story from the Opelika Observer I did a few weeks ago on a gentleman from my hometown. Turns out, we are related by marriage. Enjoy.

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Frank Waldrop’s roots run deep in Opelika. He was born on South Eighth Street in 1921 to Thomas and Fannie May (Trotter) Waldrop. He also had a sister, Mable.

Thomas, a WWI veteran, was co-owner of Crossley and Waldrop Furniture. He was also a mortician.

He has pleasant memories of growing up in Opelika. Those memories include meeting his buddies for a game of baseball down by the Confederate monument behind First Baptist Church. “The road was paved there,” he says, “but was a dirt road just beyond there.”

Another of his favorite “gathering places” was the city pool behind Clift High School, adjacent to Moore Stadium.

Young Frank went to first grade at Palmer Hall, which was located where Opelika City Hall is now. The school became too crowded, so he attended second grade at Miss Nettie E. Webb’s house on South Railroad Avenue. Her classroom was filled with switches, and, according to Frank, she wasn’t afraid to use them.

He went to Southside School for the next four years. Southside would eventually become Miriam S. Brown Elementary School. Today, it’s known as the Cultural Center of Opelika.

From the 7th to 11th grade, he attended Clift High, where he played football under Coach Lindy Hatfield, a former running back at Auburn.

“FDR had Moore Stadium built by the Public Works Administration the year I got there. Before that, they played the games at the fairgrounds,” he recalls.

When not playing football, Frank worked with his father, who’d left the furniture and undertaking business in favor of the grocery business. Waldrop’s Grocery was located in downtown Opelika on Seventh Street.

When Frank was 15, his father went back to the furniture business but also started a mattress business. This was during the Depression, so people did whatever they could do to provide for their families. Wherever his father went, young Frank was right there along his side.

“In those days, we only went to school through the 11th grade. It wasn’t until the year after I graduated that they implemented the 12th grade,” said Waldrop, who graduated in 1937.

At 16, while still in high school, Waldrop joined the Alabama National Guard. He was a combat medic assigned to 167th Infantry Regiment of the 31st Division. His service included training soldiers in Jacksonville, Fla., and Alexandria, La.

In 1941 he left the Fort Dallas Smith Armory for Camp Blanding, Fla., for a yearlong assignment. He was there training soldiers when Pearl Harbor was attacked. The first units he helped train were sent to Europe and North Africa.

“We were not allowed to call them draftees,” he said. “We were instructed to refer to them as selectees.”

Over the next couple of years, his unit trained soldiers at different locations around the country to replicate the vast terrain differences that soldiers would experience in Europe, Northern Africa and the Pacific. They included Camp Bowie, Texas, and the mountains of West Virginia.

They were also assigned to Camp Pickett, Va., for amphibious training in Chesapeake Bay. This training would serve him invaluably.

Frank Waldrop’s unit was initially slated for Italy, but that changed. Instead, they were sent to General Douglas MacArthur. “They didn’t need us in Italy, so they sent us to MacArthur. We went to the South Pacific,” he said.

Their point of embarkation was the aforementioned Chesapeake Bay. Their mode of transportation was a Dutch freighter that was converted to a troop carrier. Because of the constant threat of attacks from German submarines, the carrier was escorted along the east coast all the way to the Panama Canal.

Once they cleared the Panama Canal, they were all alone in the South Pacific for four weeks before landing on the world’s second largest island, New Guinea. Frank and his unit had a month to get climatized before seeing any combat duty.

The natives in New Guinea’s coast weren’t civilized, and there was no infrastructure. A battalion of Navy Seabees attached to his unit built roads and airstrips once the area was secure. Within a matter of days, the airstrips were fully functional.

In spite of heavy combat, his unit eventually made it all the way up the New Guinea coast and built bases along the way. Although he was a medic, he was a target the entire way. The Japanese had no respect for the red cross on his shoulder. He mended and repaired broken bodies throughout the war, which was a foreshadowing of things to come.

After a stop in the Dutch East Indies, his battalion, First battalion, fought on the island of Morotai. Second Battalion remained in reserve for some much needed rest while First Battalion did all the fighting.

They were on Morotai preparing to invade the Philippines when the atomic bomb fell on Japan. “That was the best thing to ever happen to us. MacArthur was getting organized and ready to go back into the Philippines. Had that happened, there’s no telling how many more would have died.

“The Japanese soldiers we were fighting on Morotai had other ideas about surrendering. They took off into the jungle. For all I know, they may still be there,” he said with a chuckle.

First Battalion was given a break while Second Battalion was tasked to take a weather station three days away. Technician Third Grade Frank Waldrop was reassigned to Second Battalion. “I missed out on the rest,” he said. “It was the easiest assault job I ever got into. The amphibious assault vehicles drove all the way onto the beach. I didn’t even have to get my boots wet – ordinarily, we were all the way up to our neck in water. And there were just a handful of Japanese.”

By this time, he had enough points to be eligible for discharge as soon as the war ended.

“I left out of the Philippines on a real big, nice ship. It wasn’t a regular troop carrier. It was more like a hotel,” he fondly recalled. “It took us to San Francisco where we stayed for two weeks.”

After a week-long train ride, he arrived at Camp Shelby, Miss., where he spent a week in the hospital. Upon his release, he boarded a bus back to Opelika.

“I caught up on five years of fun in about two,” he said with a smile.

Upon his return, he had a couple of local jobs in the auto industry before landing a job in the body shop at Tatum Chevrolet, where he’d spend the next 40 years. “For the first 10 years, I was on the line repairing wrecked cars but spent the last 30 in management,” he said.

“He was the best body man in Lee County,” said one friend.

In 1948, he married the former Johnny Lou Knight and has been happily married for 65 years. They were blessed with two children, Thomas and Belva, and are proud of Chandler, their only grandchild, who is simply described as “the best.”

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Since retiring at the age of 71, Frank has kept busy with work in and around the house and, along with his bride, has been an active member at First United Methodist Church.

When asked what the secret to their longevity was, Johnny Lou said, “Well, we never did fuss much. We just always got along. He didn’t drink and didn’t cuss much. Sometimes he might say “doggone!” but that’s about it.”

At 93 years old, he’s not as active as he once was. He spends a lot of time resting, but if anyone deserves the rest, it’s Frank Waldrop. After all, he’s still owed that doggone rest from the war.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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The Car Line

When I was a kid, I rode the bus. At six years old, I stood at the bus stop every morning with my eight year old brother and the rest of the young hoodlums in West Side Subdivision. I stood there each morning enduring the elements. We were poor, so when it was cold, I wore tube socks on my hands. When it rained, I poked my head and arms out of a trash bag. That’s what I did when I was a kid.

My cheese wagon homies...Brent, Billy, and Adam....Notice the awesome Neil's Sports Shop painter's cap.

My cheese wagon homies…Brent, Billy, and Adam….Notice the awesome Neil’s Sports Shop painter’s cap.

I rode the bus every single day until my brother turned 16. It was at that time that he became the proud new owner of a 1971 Toyota Corolla. We had to go all the way to South Carolina to get this fine piece of transportation. Although it looked like a washing machine, it was nicknamed “the turtle” by my three cousins who’d had the pleasure of driving this marvel before my brother.

Every kid in this picture drove "the turtle" except for me.

Every kid in this picture drove “the turtle” except for me.

The past few weeks, I’ve spent most afternoons with Lucy in the car line at Dean Road Elementary School in Auburn picking up her seven year old daughter, Emily, and their six year old neighbor, Sara Beth.

Sometimes, I let Emily drive...

Sometimes, I let Emily drive…

The operation itself is a sight to behold. It’s on par with a full scale military operation. It’s quite impressive to say the least. There are walkie-talkies and everything. The long line of cars is reminiscent of opening night at the Lee County Fair, circa 1979.

Emily and Sara Beth wait on the front porch of the school along with the other riders, while other Oompa-Loompas are marched off to who knows where. I really don’t know where they go, but they follow a teacher and walk past my car every day in an organized manner.

There’s the lady on point who seemingly runs the operation. She calls in the number that’s displayed on each car that corresponds with the respective student or students. She also waves aggressively at people without ever making eye contact.

At some point, the coach makes an appearance, and everyone looks at him as if he’s so dreamy. I know he’s the coach, because he wears a visor. Somewhere along the way, the visor took the place of the whistle, the long-time coach identifier.

Once you make it past the point lady and the coach, you see the kids on the porch along with a handful of teachers and aids who are opening doors and shoving kids into vehicles like Laverne and Shirley on the assembly line at the Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee, Wis.

From there, we are on our own. It’s imperative to strap the kids in, but we’d better be rolling as we do it. If not, the teachers and aids start flapping their wings in a violent manner. Some of them are going to require rotator cuff surgery at the conclusion of their car line career.

It’s a daily adventure. I’m amazed at the sheer number of cars. When I was a kid, there were only a handful of kids who rode to school with their parents. For the longest, I thought it was ridiculous that today’s kids were coddled so.

Some kids do ride the bus, and I see them waiting in the comfort of their parent’s vehicle awaiting their bus’s arrival. I guess that’s ok. Perhaps the child doesn’t have access to tube socks and trash bags.

Now that I have a vested interest, I no longer see the carline as being ridiculous. We want to do what’s best for those we love. A lot of bad things can happen to a child who waits at a bus stop, not to mention there are some very bad kids riding the bus. The bus driver can only do so much. Thankfully, there are cameras installed on most buses, which certainly cuts down on some of the nastiness that can occur. Sadly, it does not completely eradicate the dangers of riding with bad kids.

It’s funny how our views change as we experience newness in our lives, and that’s a good thing.

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Just in case you were wondering, “the turtle” died before I ever had the chance to drive it. I didn’t have the luxury of owning a car when I turned 16. Nope. I got an alarm clock so I could wake up early every morning to drive my mother to work so I could use the car to drive to school…because there was no way I was riding the bus.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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