The alpha males typically did the driving while the beta boys rode shotgun. After a few weeks, the cops showed up. The Dodge Street cruise then became the 144th Street cruise which underwent surgery and face-lifted itself into the Albertson's parking lot hangout.
Surely, the location has changed a dozen times since my tenure there. But I wouldn't know. After one graduates high school, hopefully he or she also graduates to new forms of dating.
And, may the ones who don't be cursed to drive cars with broken headlights forever. For then we will know them by the sight of their padiddle.
Since country boys lack both the parking lots and the people, they find other ways to impress the ladies. Instead, country cruises provide evidence of a boonie boy's manhood.
On such a cruise, the country male drives motorcycles, pick ups and even tractors (I can provide for my family... just check out my extended cab) to fields he helped plant, houses he helped build and traffic signs he helped deface.
But marring public property isn't the only use country boys have for artillery.
Unlike city boys, country boys carry weapons of the unconcealed kind.
Suddenly, the front seat of Cowboy's pick up was a Holy Trinity of him, me and a .22 caliber rifle.
See, in the country, boys show off their hunting skills whereas in the city, boys just show off their money. And they say rural people are simple...
So, a mile into my first country cruise, Cowboy pulls the pick up over TO SHOOT A LIVE BIRD.
The bird wasn't eating our faces or plucking eyeballs with his claws. And I wasn't going to cook, it, feather it or even build an addition to my house so I could mount it on a wall. He just SHOT at it.
Target practice, he said, slumping his shoulders. Coots, they're a trash bird.
Coot: gray-ish, blue-ish waterfowl, larger than that of a robin but smaller than that of a duck. Typically referred to as "trash bird," meaning, one unworthy of dinner. Oh, and coots NEVER HURT ANYONE.
Target practice? I asked. You want to shoot stuff... just to... shoot stuff? Isn't that what tin cans, clay frisbees and crying babies in church are for? How 'bout I pirate an old copy of Duck Hunt instead?
I don't know, you wannna shoot it? he asked, handing me the AK-47 as casually as someone would offer a taste of spaghetti sauce or cookie dough batter.
Sure, but only if I can shoot you.
No thanks, I said.
So back to the cruise we went, touring the James River Valley and watching the sunset melt like sorbet. For a while there, I caught myself thinking how pretty the area was, the greens crescendoing against rust windmills and into the blue sky.
The aesthetics of the area were more unbelievable than the sight of my dad in a USC jersey.
How could a valley that was so water-covered, iced-over and gray with mud two months ago, be so vibrant and Terry-Redlin-painting-like now?
COYOTE! Cowboy cried, (two syllables, not three) slamming the breaks, downing the window and stretching his shotgun over me like a mother's arm at a red traffic light. And just like my mom's, this arm could MESS my face UP.
You're NOT shooting that over me, I said in an octave so high the windshield cracked.
Oh YES I am, he said, his heart beating to the tune of "Mama said knock you out," by L.L. Cool J.
I think, however, my squealing got his attention. Or maybe it was my attempt to cover my eyes, ears and vital organs with two hands and a patent-leather purse.
Seriously, please don't shoot.
Not the coyote. Cowboy.
It's not going to hurt you, he said, dropping the gun and hiding the defeated look on his face. You don't much like this killing stuff do you?
Listen, I don't care if that coyote is COUSINS with OSAMA BIN LADEN. Get that gun off me! And while you're at it, could you please pass me my SOY MILK and SAVE THE WHALES t-shirt.
Not really, I said.
It's not just the thrill of killing, he said to me later. I'm just trying to help the ranchers out. Those cattle, each head is worth like $600-$700 a piece. And that's a lot of money. This is how they earn their living, put food on the table, buy medicine, etc. These ranchers out here, they have enough trouble keeping calves alive with disease, natural causes and now this flood on top of it. And that rancher where that coyote was, he's having the worst problems of all. I was just trying to help him out, I guess. It's what my neighbors would do for me, Cowboy said.
Sure, sure, I said. Protecting a families' livelihood. Like that's important while MY LIFE is on the line.
You wouldn't have DIED, he said. You wouldn't have even gotten hurt. Maybe a casing would have hit you. But I doubt it. And even if it did, it might of stung a little, but not hurt. Just a welt on your face, probably.
A welt? A welt...
Like I said, MY LIFE, MY LIIIIIIFE was on the line.
We didn't shoot anything the rest of the trip. Except heroin.