The Peeping Tom Incident
For several years, we went to California in the spring, worked the crops all summer, and then returned to our home in Texas for the remainder of the year. We covered a lot of miles between Texas and California during that time.
In the early forties, the highways and byways were a lot different than they are now. Where there is development along the freeways as far as the eye can see in many places, then there was nothing. This was especially true in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. We drove miles with out seeing anything except sagebrush, cactus, mesquite and an occasional coyote.
The cars didn't have air conditioning and we didn't have ice chests. We carried water in a canvas water bag which we hung on the hood ornament. You haven't tasted nasty until you swallow a mouthful of very hot water flavored with canvas! But out in the middle of nowhere, water is water.
This particular year, we were traveling in two cars; my dad driving one, and Uncle Dick, Dad's youngest brother, the other. One day we had been driving through miles of empty desert on Route 66 without coming to a stopping place. Everyone was desperate for a restroom.
Finally we came upon this old, barely-standing, grey wooden building leaning about 90 degrees to the east. There were two gas pumps in front, the kind with the gas in a glass container at the top. Naturally, out front, there was the Coca-Cola box.
While the men gassed up the cars, my mom, Aunt Gean, my two sisters and I found the women's restroom entrance on the side of the building. The men's was around the corner, accessed from the back. The women's was a two-stall, so my middle sister and I went in first, then my mom and youngest sister, leaving Aunt Gean until last.
Louise and I raced back to my dad to get nickels for the Coke machine and then piled into the car with our precious cold drinks. Mom and Millie got in the car with their drinks right after us.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch... no... the restrooms… This is the story we were told. Aunt Gean was exiting the women's toilet when Uncle Dick walked around the corner and said, "The men's door is locked. It's out of order. Stand out here and don't let any women in while I use this one."
She said "Okay," but he hadn't been inside but a couple of minutes, when my mom leaned her head out the window and called Aunt Gean. She wanted her to bring some extra paper towels. Auntie walked to the corner of the building to see what Mom wanted, and while she was distracted, a lady entered the restroom.
Uncle Dick was just finishing his business, when he heard someone in the next stall. He jumped to the conclusion it must be Aunt Gean, because surely she wouldn't let any other woman in. Always looking for the opportunity to prank somebody, he stood on the toilet seat, peeked over the partition and said "Boo!"
He almost broke his neck getting out of there while the woman screamed bloody murder. Grabbing Aunt Gean's hand, and dragging her along, he made a run for his car.
Just then my dad came around the corner looking for the restroom but when he heard the screaming and saw the two running toward him like the demons of hell were after them, he turned and ran, too.
"Get in the car! Get in the car! Let's go!" Uncle Dick yelled like somebody was chasing him with a hot branding iron. They piled in and we screeched out of there, throwing dust and gravel all over the place, Uncle Dick in the lead.
My dad was the only one who missed using the restroom. It was many miles before we came to a rock or bush big enough to get behind. When we stopped, those of us riding in Dad's car learned what had happened.
Back in the early forties, Uncle Dick could have potentially gotten into some fairly serious trouble. A good part of the day passed before he stopped worrying about the highway patrol screaming up behind us to arrest him. Of course, we were so far out in the boonies, it would have taken the law a good hour to even get to the station, if the operator had a phone to call them.
In the end, the joke was on Uncle Dick because in the moment, he was more scared than the poor woman, and we never let him live it down.