Orangie woke up early, even though it was summer and he could sleep in if he wanted to. Today was Sunday, and the house was quiet except for the sound of his dad’s electric percolator making coffee and the occasional rustle of the morning paper’s pages being turned.
And then he remembered! His best friend and next-door neighbor Butch was coming home from camp today!
First, Orangie knew, would come church with his dad and then lunch right afterwards. But that was okay with him, partly because they’d get to sing some good church songs, then probably have lunch at the Dog House again. Plus he figured Butch not to be getting home until sometime in the afternoon, since Butch’s parents were driving all the way up to Hewitt Lake to pick him up on the last day of camp.
Orangie had wanted to go to camp too, but his dad had said they couldn’t afford it this year, what with big expenses on account of his mom’s breakdown, and his dad having to take a cut in pay a couple of months ago with his new job.
His dad had been working as a radio announcer at KPLT for years, doing what he loved to do, playing all kinds of jazz and old pop standards, plus doing the newscasts when he was on duty. Then suddenly, so it seemed, the owner wanted to get out of the business to retire, and sold the station.
A bunch of hot shots from L.A. made a great offer and Mr. McGregor, the owner, couldn’t resist. Then the hot shots brought in all their own people, and Orangie’s dad and his buddies were goners.
So anyhow Orangie’s dad had found a job pretty quick, working for a guy who had a station way out in the country in an old house only marginally made into a studio, to where you could hear a rooster crowing once in a while on the air. But that part wasn’t too bad, since it was a station that featured country and western music anyway.
“Hey, Dad, you wanna join me in a bowl of Wheaties?”
“Sure, son, if you think we’ll both fit!” came back his dad with the standard answer.
Orangie laughed, even though he knew the old joke was coming, as he collected bowls and spoons and the box of cereal. His dad, newspaper in hand, entered the kitchen as Orangie was getting the milk out of the fridge.
“You’re up pretty early for a Sunday, son. You know church doesn’t start for two hours. I figured you’d probably be sleeping in after I let you stay up so late last night!”
They had watched TV until around midnight so they could see Fats Domino, who was on the Tonight Show with Jack Paar. Fats even performed two songs, “Blueberry Hill” and “Walkin’ To New Orleans.”
That was about as late as Orangie could stay awake, even for Fats Domino. He almost didn’t make it through the 11 o’clock news beforehand. There was some unbelievably boring stuff about Africa and taxes and Congress, and the local VFW chapter raising money to send some unfortunate kids, not including Orangie, to summer camp. But that was okay too, ‘cause Butch was coming home today!
“I’ll be going to visit your mother this afternoon, but you’d probably rather stay home and play with Butch, and that’s fine. I’ll only be gone a couple of hours.”
“Gee, Dad, thanks! That’ll be great!”
They chatted about the Dodgers, the Beatles, Donald Duck, Superman, Orangie’s namesake Adlai Stevenson being Ambassador to the United Nations now, and how cereal is made, as they crunched and smacked their way through two bowls apiece.
After breakfast, as Orangie was getting ready for church, he was thinking that he was really lucky to have a dad like his, who was like a big hero to him and a good friend, too. He’d heard stories about kids that had no parents at all, orphans, and that seemed like one of the saddest things he could think of.
So, even though his mom was temporarily not at home, at least he had his dad, who was hardly ever mean at all, except once in a while when Orangie was “bouncing off the walls” when his dad was trying to read and got irritated with him.
As the two got into the car, a ’62 Plymouth Belvedere two-door hardtop that still seemed pretty ritzy to Orangie (they had bought it used about a year and a half ago, and it had a big engine and a push-button automatic transmission). As they got in, Orangie remembered the day his dad had brought it home, all shiny and like new.
From that day on for several months afterwards, Orangie and his dad played a sort of game where one of them would think of an excuse to go somewhere in the new car. Orangie would say, “Hey, dad. looks like we’re gettin’ low on pencils. Maybe we’d better go to the store and get some!” And then his dad would fervently agree, and off they’d go in the car, discussing along the way what a clever idea the push-button automatic was, how much power the V8 had, etc.
On this particular morning, being on their way to church, they spoke very little, as was their custom. His dad had said that the part in the Bible – Ecclesiastes – about everything having its own season was really important, and the ride to church was a good “season” to be quiet and just think about things, and maybe pray silently. So Orangie found himself thinking, “Lord, please let my mom be all better and come home soon!” He figured it couldn’t hurt, and he really missed having her at home.
After church, where the service had been pretty nice — Reverend Black had talked about Job who had so much faith in God that no matter what God took away from him Job still knew that it was okay ‘cause he wasn’t being punished for anything, and he knew that everything would turn out alright, God being perfectly good and all, plus they got to sing “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Standing On The Promises” (two of Orangie’s favorites) — anyway, after church his dad took him to the Dog House for lunch.
The specialty of the Dog House was an extraordinarily voluptuous chili dog, and root beer served in a frosty cold glass mug. And Richard Blather, the owner, who always worked the counter on Sundays, was a good guy, full of jokes and belly laughs. Orangie liked him, even though he was a Giant fan (Orangie and his dad being faithful Dodger fans, ‘cause everybody with a brain knew that Sandy Koufax was the greatest pitcher of all time and he pitched for the Dodgers, plus a lot of the Giants were cheaters and really mean like Juan Marichal who turned around one time and clouted the Dodger catcher John Roseboro right in the head with his bat). But Richard was always cool, and extra generous with the french fries ‘cause he knew Orangie loved ‘em.
When Orangie and his dad finally pulled into the driveway, it was after 1:30. Anticipating Butch’s arrival, Orangie ran into the house to go get his baseball and glove. He had made up his mind to throw pop flies to himself out in the side yard until Butch arrived, ‘cause he could see the next-door driveway from there, which entered off of Palm Street behind Butch’s house. Then he figured he and Butch could get right into a game of “ground ball to the shortstop, to second for one, back to first, DOUBLE PLAY!” and then maybe throw some high fly balls to each other for a while.
After maybe only 18 or 20 of these solitary pop flies, Orangie heard the Jorgensen’s station wagon pull in as he was about to catch the horsehide again.
“Well, hello Adlai!” Mr. Jorgensen bellowed, who always called him by his given name, as Orangie ran up to the car just as it was stopping.
“Hi Mr. Jorgensen, hello Mrs. Jorgensen,” Orangie responded, adding in the same breath “Hi, Butch, you wanna play some ball?”
“Yeah!” said Butch joyfully, obviously as glad to be back from camp as Orangie was for his return.
So Butch – after dutifully taking his gear into the house – quickly found his glove and ran outside to join Orangie in a long and most satisfying session of catch, and of catching up on each others’ adventures of the past two weeks. Orangie felt so happy he thought he might pop, and was glad to have his best friend back home again.
To follow all of Orangie’s adventures over the coming weeks, click here.
David Novell was born and raised in and around Fresno, and has lived in North Fork since 1978. David is a local building contractor and has been part of the musical group “Sugar Pine,” entertaining around the area and at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad for over 35 years.
“Like any kid growing up in the little San Joaquin Valley towns of Centerville, Sanger, Reedley, Selma, Kingsburg, Exeter, Dinuba, and all the rest, I was privileged to have many innocent ‘adventures.’ Overgrown back yards, vacant lots, and deserted storage sheds were magical places where anything was possible.
“To follow, in this and subsequent issues of Sierra News Online, are some stories loosely based on my experiences as a young boy. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them.” ~ David Novell