In the summer of '60, Tommy Barnett and I were invited to take a Spanish class at Converse College. Our teacher was Seņor Guigain, a guy who was pretty good at what he did, namely making learning fun.
Not long after we started our Converse shtick, S, an older friend of ours, came home from Tulane. Now there was a young man with way too much time on his hands, and at some point he got the idea the three of us should ride our bicycles up to Pearson Falls. I'd never heard of the place, but it was real enough -- just up the road from Tryon, which itself wasn't that far from our home turf. Anyway, something about what S was talking about smacked of adventure.
I was the boy standing on the left, Tommy was on the right. My friend Meldra Thompson was standing 3rd from the left, while another classmate of ours, Nelson Terry, was sitting on the end of the couch. Sorry to say I don't remember the names of the others. Except Seņor Guigain -- that's him on the extreme right.
Can't say Seņor Guigain was thrilled to hear we were going to miss class, but he made the necessary emotional adjustments quickly enough, and Tommy and I promised faithfully we'd be back the following day.
The three of us left early the next morning, pedaling our bikes up Spring Street over to North Church toward the high country. Just outside of town we crossed a bridge over new Interstate construction. S informed us that if we were to look down on it from a plane, we'd see the exit ramps formed a cloverleaf pattern, hence the name for that design -- cloverleaf. It's always good to know stuff like that, it really is, and I wasn't an ungrateful kid. Cloverleaf. That stuck with me.
Bear in mind, we were riding heavy single-speed American bikes. They were tough, durable machines, which probably owed a lot to pre-war tractor design. On the other hand, they weren't ideal for tall hills, and after a few miles my legs began to feel awfully heavy.
We arrived in Tryon around 11 that morning. We -- maybe it was just me -- didn't have extra energy for major exploring, just a quick visit to a grocery store for snackables, and somewhere I bought a postcard. Eventually we wound up in a greasy-spoon diner where we ate lunch. Greasy spoon. That was another term S introduced to us. Even for a college man, he was full of information.
Paul did this.
After lunch I wrote my address on the postcard, mailed it, then we hopped back on our bikes and set off for the falls.
Although Pearson Falls cuts through private land, at that time there wasn't a charge for hiking to the top. We parked our bikes and made the climb up through the weeds and brambles. At the top everything looked pretty much the way it appeared down in the real world. I didn't have any epiphany and don't recall thinking I should have. Just another wonderful day in a kid's life.
We sat and caught our breath. S warned us about getting too close to the edge, pointing out that a boy had done that a couple of years earlier and had fallen to his death. At some point Tommy mentioned the trip back, that it was downhill. A pleasant thought, as I recall.
Eventually we began our descent back to Spartanburg. May have been mostly downhill, but there was still some hard pedaling and I was becoming most sincerely pooped. Which caused S a little concern. Not for my well being, you understand, but because he had better things to do than walk his bike back to the house.
At a scheduled rest stop he pulled out his wallet and produced his stash, consisting of a single benzedrine tablet. A benny. That was to be the day's third vocabulary addition. He broke the tiny pill into three pieces, and gave me the biggest. I took no more rest stops that afternoon. Incidentally, a couple of years later I learned the word "placebo".
We got back to town at a decent hour. After walking through the front door, first thing I did was grab a bite to eat, then I buried my face in a book. I have no specific memory of doing either, but I was a creature of habit and that's the sort of thing I did.
My friends had another few blocks to go before they got home. S went on to achieve great material success: works hard and tackles problems with a keen eye for detail. That's what I've heard.
As for Tommy, I lost contact with him after high school. Found him a few years later -- he was living about two houses down from his old home on Irwin Ave. My friend grew up to be an honorable man and a good father. Died several years ago.
The next morning, Seņor Guigain seemed genuinely glad to see us. As before, we continued to arrive early for class so we could sit out on the veranda with our fellow students and whichever teacher happened by. And we'd ask questions. We always had questions.
Like the time Tommy asked how to say, "See you later, alligator," in Spanish.
Seņor Guigain thought about it, and replied, "Adios, cayman." That sounded about right to us.
I still have the postcard. The postmark reads June 30, 1960.
House of good eats