As a teenager, I had an after-school and Saturday job working in my brother’s paint and body shop. A camper sales business, owned by a man whom we called “Quail,” was located next door to our shop. Quail became a good friend of ours, but we enjoyed “messing with him.” His real name was Mr. Partridge, but we thought calling him “Quail” was funny. I’m not exactly sure why we did some of the things we did to him, other than the fact that we were boys and sometimes we acted like it.
Camper sales in a small town had quite a few slow days. Quail often had a good bit of idle time between customers, so he came up with different ways to pass the time. A friendly game of horseshoes was one of our favorites. We often took a break from work and ambled up to his place to pitch a few games. He even hosted a horseshoe tournament a time or two. Quail converted one of his campers into a sales- office. Several retired guys loved to hang around there and shoot the bull. Quail had several folding lawn chairs under an awning where they sat. He also had a hammock that he had strung up between two poles. Occasionally, Quail stretched out in that hammock for a little afternoon siesta. One of our favorite activities was slipping up on him while he napped. You surely don’t think we scared him, do you? Have you ever seen someone trying to run while they were still lying down? Those legs were moving ninety miles-per-hour but taking him nowhere. We boys literally howled with laughter. Quail had to be a great sport or he might have killed us. He may have actually come close once, but it was our fault, not his.
One day we caught a rat. I’m not talking about a mouse. That thing was fully grown. I’m not sure what he had been eating, but he had been eating plenty of it. I don’t remember exactly how we accomplished the feat, but we managed to corner him in the shop and catch him in a five-gallon bucket. We thought Quail might enjoy taking a peek at our new friend, but much to our surprise, he didn’t seem to enjoy it at all. When we walked up to his place, he was not outside pitching horseshoes or napping in his hammock. We knocked on his office-door and heard him say, “Come in.” We didn’t, but the rat did. We opened the door and threw that thing inside. We didn’t think about the fact that Quail had a pistol, until we heard “Bang, bang, bang!” We boys probably looked like the three stooges as we tripped over one another trying to run away. None of us were hit by flying bullets, and neither was the rat. Quail didn’t quite find our little joke nearly as funny as we did. He had three bullet holes in the floor of his office and a live rat on the loose in there. We never knew what became of the rodent, but obviously, none of the shots hit him. We gave Quail a couple of weeks to cool off before we went back to visit. We played horseshoes again, but we never took another rat with us.
Mr. Partridge was a good man and a dear friend to a bunch of immature boys. He was indeed a man with a good sense of humor about most everything, except live rats. Practical jokes are often not funny and sometimes may even cause someone to get hurt.
— Bill King is a native of Rainsville, where he and his wife graduated from Plainview High School. King is a director of missions in Opelika, a writer, musician and author. His column appears in the Times-Journal Thursdays edition. Visit brobillybob.com for more information.