The Rubber Biskit Road Show: With The GYPSY

The Rubber Biskit Road Show - Never Say Never: An Epic Journey Part Seventeen

January 25, 2022 The GYPSY Season 1 Episode 17
The Rubber Biskit Road Show: With The GYPSY
The Rubber Biskit Road Show - Never Say Never: An Epic Journey Part Seventeen
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

The Rubber Biskit Road Show Presents, "Never Say Never: An Epic Journey - Volume One, Part Seventeen: Love Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry

In Part Seventeen of Never Say Never: An Epic Journey - Volume One Shirley is faced with a hard truth that she refuses to see. And Jimmy becomes a different person who comes to a realization about his mother that changes their relationship forever.

Join The GYPSY as he takes you on an Epic Journey into his life, the life of his family and the life of his mother; Shirley Elizabeth Hummel, who suffered from mental illness her entire life.
Shirley's story is not an easy one to hear.  At times you will be uncomfortable with her situation. Other times you may laugh or fill the warmth that all to often eluded her. You may even find yourself angry and horrified at the situations and tragedies that drove Shirley further and further into her illness. The one thing you will not leave with is ignorance.
The telling of Shirley's story will educate and inform you. You will come away with an understanding of the highs and lows that mental illness plays in the sufferer as well as the family, friends and acquaintances of the mentally ill.

Each Tuesday On The Rubber Biskit Road Show The GYPSY will present a new chapter of his novel "Never Say Never: An Epic Journey - Volume One"

Next Weeks Episode: I'll Have What She's Having

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Shirley liked the little house on Walnut Street that Jerry had found for her and the kids, she even liked the way the address flowed off the tongue; Route 2, Box 2, Weston, Missouri 64098. The little 2 story house had once been a sharecropper’s house on the land that had belonged to Jerry’s father. It had been purchased by the Pepper family and moved to its current spot. The only thing Shirley didn’t like about the location was that the Pepper’s had to use the driveway to gain access to their tobacco field behind the house.

           The tobacco field sat at the foot of a tree covered bluff and separating the bluff from the tobacco field was a small stream. Ernie had told Jimmy a story about the stream that had made him laugh and wonder if his Dad had been pulling his leg.

“That stream separated our land from the McCormick Distillery property; cut right through the edge of both. One day my Daddy went looking for his mules, it was time to do the spring plowing, and he couldn’t find them. He had put them out to pasture a few days before and now they were nowhere to be seen. So Daddy sent me and Joe out to find them.

We looked down in the hollow first, and it wasn't unusual for a mule, horse or goat to get stuck down in that ravine. Great place to hunt cottontails or deer, bad place for a mule. But they weren’t in there. So we decided to walk the fence line.

Now son, you got to understand, walking the fence line on our land was not an easy task, you’ve seen it out there, nothing but hills, outcroppings trees and brush. By the time Joe and I got around to the north side over by the stream we were hot, tired and mighty thirsty.

As we headed down the incline towards the stream we could see the distillery on the other side. Joe remarked that a big ol’ drink of Platte Valley Corn Whiskey would do him a lot of good right now. Now Joe was only 15 at the time ’bout the same age as you and I was 13. I told Joe that if Daddy knew he drank that he would whip his hide and Joe just laughed. Now Daddy wasn’t no teetotaler by any means but there was a time and place for everything and Daddy believed 2 things; you do not drink when working and doing chores. Also children should not drink.

Well as luck would have it we spied those mules down by the stream, they had found a break in the barbed wire fence and had gone down to have a drink of cool water. The mules were just sort of standing there…. sort of. As Joe and I got closer to them we discovered something peculiar about them; they were swaying back and forth and seemed to be retarded.

Now I’m going to tell you, a mule is one of the dumbest creatures on God’s green earth but these two had gone full retard. Their eyes were glassy and their mouths hung open with drool coming out. I went over to grab the harness on one of them and I swear his breath smelled like he had been drinking that bottle of Corn Whiskey that Joe had wanted so bad. It wasn’t unusual for the smell of spirits to be in the air. When the wind was right you could smell what McCormick’s was cooking and Corky use to say that smell could make a man mighty thirsty.

Joe found that the other mule’s breath smelled the same. Joe scratched his head and without saying a word walked down to the stream and scooped himself up a big ol’ handful of water. Slurping it down Joe stood up and wiping his sleeve across his mouth exclaimed, ‘It’s Alcohol!’ Seems as though McCormick’s had been sending their runoff into the stream. The mules drank it and got drunk. So Joe reasoned that if the mules could drink water from that stream and get drunk, so could we.

Daddy found us and the mule’s right about sunset in full retard mode. I don’t know how much of that water Joe and I drank but it was enough to make us stupid. The next morning I woke up with the first hangover of my life. I was so sick that the smell of Mama cooking breakfast made me want to puke; I almost didn’t make it to the privy.

Daddy had extra chores that day for Joe and I to do including mending that fence. We were both sick all day long and we heaved until there was nothing but our guts to heave up. Daddy said that it was good for us; clean the poison right out of our bodies. Daddy also told us that if he caught us drinking from that stream again he would tar the hide right off of us. I sure am glad we were careful and Daddy never caught us again.”

           Jimmy loved the story and now with an opportunity to explore the fabled stream he just couldn’t help himself. Kneeling down on the bank he scooped himself up a big ol’ handful of water. Slurping it down Jimmy stood up and wiping his sleeve across his mouth exclaimed, “It’s mud!” The stream water had tasted like all northwest Missouri stream water tasted; dirty. Jimmy suspected Ernie was full of shit but even if he wasn’t, it was still a good story.

           Shirley did not like the 60 mile round trip commute to work in Saint Joseph daily but she was happy that the children had adapted well to Weston. Patty liked her teacher and for the first time in her life wasn’t complaining daily about going to school. Jimmy seemed to like the school and had quickly made several friends thanks to his cousin Mike who knew everyone in town.

           It was Jimmy’s first day in West Platte RII High School and he was nervous. He had never liked having to be the center of attention but being the new kid in a class that would eventually have only about 70 graduating students it was hard not to stand out like a sore thumb.

           His third hour History Teacher was overly sexy in her low cut tops and tight miniskirts and she was also overly enthusiastic. She insisted that every new student stand up in front of the class and give a brief talk on whatever they knew of their family history. Brief, right.

           By the end of the hour Jimmy had answered more questions about his ancestry than he ever had before in his life. Jimmy’s family was all about family and family history. He had been raised on a diet of his family’s long and varied Romani history and was well versed in what it was to be a Gypsy.

           As Jimmy walked down the hallway heading to his next class a girl named Melinda that had been in his history class was trying to get his attention. Melinda was Jimmy’s new next door neighbor and had wanted to introduce herself. The problem was that Melinda could not remember his name. So with Jimmy at one end of the crowded second floor hallway and Melinda at the other end she called out; “HEY! HEY YOU! HEY GYPSY!”

           In years to come if you would ask anyone that Jimmy went to High School with what his real name was they would have been at a loss for words. Some might say JAGS because that is how he signed his artwork but most would just say “Gypsy“.

           Shirley still wasn’t sure how she felt about Jimmy using his Gypsy ancestry as a nickname but she was pretty sure he would grow out of it eventually.


One day Shirley walked into Ross’ Drive-In, she was animated and looking for her son. Ross’ Drive-In was divided into two sides. On the north side of the building was where the adults would congregate; Farmers and Locals gathered to chew hamburgers and chew the local gossip of the day. On the south side of the Drive-In the teenager’s gathered to play foosball, pinball and the juke box. Jokes and Cokes flowed freely and all was divided by the kitchen acting as a neutral zone between the two sides.

           “Jimmy, there you are, I have been looking all over for you.”

Gypsy flushed red as his buddies started to raze him.

“Yeah Jimmy, your mommies looking for you.”

Gypsy gave his friend Butch a look. “Shut-up asshole.” Gypsy hissed through gritted teeth. “What’s up mom?” he asked approaching Shirley.

           Shirley waved her arms towards the door. “You have got to come with me now, do I have some news for you.”

Gypsy followed his mother out the door.

“Get in the car Jimmy, I have something for you.”

Gypsy climbed into his mother’s new car, a 1964 light green Dodge Dart. The Buick station wagon had a blown head and now sat in the backyard collecting dust, weeds and insects.

           The Dart was a clunker with rotted out floorboards and a constant faint gas smell when running. There was no headliner and the seats were covered with an old blanket so that you wouldn’t get pieces of the crumbling foam cushion on your clothes. Gypsy hated the car and had hand painted a portrait of Jesus on the trunk at Shirley’s request. When Gypsy asked her why she wanted it Shirley had said, “Hopefully he will see his picture on the car and keep it running until I get my income tax return next year so that I can get a better car.”

When Gypsy had laughed at this Shirley had got angry, “I’m serious, I need Jesus to keep this car running.”

           “Look what I got for you.” Shirley said excitedly as she got in on the driver’s side.

Shirley snagged a brochure off the dash and handed it to her son. Gypsy looked at the brochure from the Missouri Department of Employment and Human Resources. On the cover were the United States Department of Agriculture logo and the Job Corps Logo. In large bold letters the brochure stated; Scholarships available.

Gypsy looked at his mother. “Ok, but what does this have to do with me?”

Shirley grabbed the brochure from his hand opening it; “Read!” she said handing it back to him.

The brochure offered scholarships for Forestry and Wildlife Management in association with the Job Corps.

            “Mom, I don’t want to join the Job Corps. Weston isn’t Topeka but it is a far site better than Saint Joe. I like it here and I like my friends.”

           Shirley was beside herself, “No, no, no, you don’t get it! It is not a Job Corps. I talked with the recruiter, you qualify for the scholarship. It is a college level course. You would take your remaining High School and beginning College classes at the Job Corp training center. You would get paid for doing the work of a junior forest ranger and get a degree way ahead of everyone at West Platte. You love the outdoors and nature. This was made for you.”

That was 6 months and a lifetime ago. Now Gypsy was back home with the realization that this wasn’t made for him. He also had one last realization; How to make his delusional mother realize the tragic mistake she had made when she violated his private space and burned his collection of rare comics.

           “Mom”, Gypsy began slowly as if talking to a child, “I really need you to understand how serious this is.”

He watched as Shirley sat on the edge of his bed fiddling with her Elizabeth ring. The Elizabeth ring was a small ornate gold band that had a strange yellow rose shaped stone in the center of it. It had been passed down from Elizabeth to Elizabeth in Shirley’s family since the 1600’s. It was a unique ring with a unique curse.

Sometime after the Mayflower made her fabled voyage to the new world a craftsman by the name of William Sharpless came to the new world to set up his business and a home for his new bride Elizabeth whom he had left in England waiting for his return.

           While building their home William found a small stone. He had never seen a stone quite like it; deep yellow in color it felt smooth and soft to the touch. He meticulously carved it into a rose shape and set it in a small ornate gold band. William felt that this perfect little ring would symbolize his love for Elizabeth in their new perfect little home.

           William finished the small house on the coast of Massachusetts and leaving his tinsmith shop in the care of his apprentice returned to England to collect his bride. What William did not know was that during his 18 month absence Elizabeth had met and fallen in love with a Romani man from the Germanic region of Europe named Alphonse Hummel. William had sent word ahead several months before that he would be returning to collect his bride; the lovers agonized over how to handle the return of Elizabeth’s husband.

           William was overjoyed to see his bride waiting for him as the ship docked. As he disembarked he reached into his pocket and pulled out the ring. Embracing his bride he whispered in her ear, “I have missed you so dearest Elizabeth.”

He took her hand and slipped the ring on the third finger of her right hand. Elizabeth admired the small ring thanking her husband.

William said, “A symbol of our love and our new life in the new world."

Elizabeth smiled and extracting herself from his embrace said, “Come husband, it is late, we should retire to the rooming house. Tomorrow there will be much to do.”

As husband and wife walked down the dark nearly deserted dock a shadowy figure slipped out from behind a stack of crates. A hand was raised and a knife was plunged into the back of William.

           Elizabeth and Alphonse looked down on William bleeding out his life’s blood on the pier. Looking up through his dimming vision William saw the lovers with their arms around each other, smiling down at him and the murder weapon still in Alphonse’s hand. Weakly pointing at Elizabeth William muttered his curse with his dying breath. “May death attach itself to the ring you wear as my death is attached to your soul.”

           Alphonse rolled Williams' body over the edge of the dock and into the water. Using a bucket of water he had prepared ahead of time Alphonse washed the blood from the dock and the two lovers escaped into the night. William’s body soon was found but no one knew where his bride had gone too. The lovers had escaped to Germany where they were married and had several children one of which was named Elizabeth.

           Williams' curse had become apparent one day when Elizabeth Hummel looked down at her ring and noticed that the yellow stone seemed to have taken on a pink tint. The next day one of Elizabeth’s children had died when kicked by a horse. Over the years Elizabeth came to know when someone she was close to be it family member or friend would be dying the ring always turned from yellow to pink the day before death claimed them.

           As time caught up with Elizabeth she found that she would not live out her remaining days with her dear Alphonse. After years of poor business deals and unfortunate financial downfalls the family debt was so high that Alphonse faced debtor’s prison. The ring turned pink the day before Alphonse took his life.

           A few months after Alphonse went to stand before his maker to account for his crime of long ago Elizabeth looked down at her ring and saw that once again the stone was pink. Calling her daughter Elizabeth to her she told her the story of the ring and its curse.

With the confession of her sin the elder Elizabeth placed the ring on her daughter's 3rd finger on her right hand and said, “Perhaps the curse will die with me, perhaps not. But see that you name your daughter Elizabeth and her daughter Elizabeth and so on. In this way my sin will be exposed and God may see fit to show me mercy and forgiveness with my confession on the lips of those yet to be born.”

           The next morning Elizabeth Sharpless Hummel was found in her bed having died in her sleep; gone to stand before her maker to, as Alphonse had done, account for her crime of long ago.

Gypsy took a step towards his mother and held out his hand. “Mom, can I have the Elizabeth ring?”

Shirley looked down at her hand and her most prized possession.

“Why do you want my ring?”

Gypsy, hand still outstretched, said, “I want to take it out back, smash it with a hammer and throw it as far as I can into the tobacco field.”

           Shirley looked at her son horrified. “Are you crazy? This ring is priceless, it can’t be replaced. It’s mine, why would you want to destroy it? I won’t let you hurt my ring…”

Gypsy dropped his hand and lifting an eyebrow said, “Precisely!”

Shirley jumped up from the bed screaming, “THEY WERE JUST COMIC BOOKS NOT A VALUABLE RING!”

Gypsy had finally had enough and shot back, “MOM! TWO OF THE BOOKS YOU BURNED WERE WORTH TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS EACH!”

           Gypsy took a deep breath to calm himself. “Mom, just one of those books was worth more than your Elizabeth ring. Action Comics number one and Detective Comics numbers 27 are almost irreplaceable. They were mine and you had no business going into my closet and messing with my personal property.

Shirley wrung her hands and looked at her son wide eyed.

“You are a man now. Not a Jimmy… a James. The bible says put away the things of youth and as your Mother it is my responsibility to help you do that.”

How am I going to get her to understand?

Gypsy closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. Keeping his anger and anguish in check over his forever lost comic collection was giving him a headache.

“My money bought those comics not yours. You burnt and destroyed almost thirty thousand dollars’ worth of property that did not belong to you and you wonder why I am upset.”

           Shirley just stood staring at Gypsy saying nothing. She was biting her bottom lip, a habit she had developed when she was highly agitated and on the verge of an irrational state of mind. Gypsy had seen this behavior before and knew that the time for rational conversation had passed. He turned and headed down the stairs, on the verge of tears he was a bundle of mixed emotions.

           Gypsy went to the refrigerator and pulled out the jug of ice tea he knew would be there. In recent years Shirley had taken to keeping a jug of tea in the refrigerator at all times. He walked to the far side of the kitchen to grab a glass from the cabinet when Shirley came down the stairs.

“James, they were just comics.”

Gypsy not turning around said, “I’m done talking about this mom. You are wrong and there is no changing now what you did. You refuse to understand so just leave me alone right now, OK?”

           As Gypsy poured the tea into his glass Shirley screamed, “THEY WERE JUST COMICS!”

Gypsy turned around just in time to see his mother running at him with a five pound can of tomatoes she had taken off the shelf by the back door held high above her head. Gypsy knew in that fraction of a second that his maniacal mother fully intended to bash his head in with the can of tomatoes. Backed into a corner, with no escape and only a moment to react Gypsy dropped his glass which shattered on the floor sending tea and glass fragments out to all corners of the kitchen. He doubled his fist and ducking under the descending can he hit Shirley in the armpit.    

The effect was immediate and effective. Shirley dropped the can which grazed Gypsy’s shoulder on its way to the floor. Shirley registered a look of surprise on her face and followed the can to the floor holding her armpit. As she landed on the floor with a ’humph’ sound coming from her mouth a knock came on the front door. Shirley upon hearing the knock started screaming; “HELP ME! SOMEBODY HELP ME! HE’S TRYING TO KILL ME!”

           Gypsy stepped over his screaming mother and headed for the front door. Before he could get into the front room the door came open and the Minister and his wife came rushing into the house. Richard Parrot was the young minister of the Iatan Nazarene Church, the church that Shirley, Gypsy and Patty attended in Iatan Missouri, ten miles north of Weston. He and his wife Carol had come to welcome Gypsy home but instead found themselves slammed into the middle of an incident that was not how it appeared to be. Carol Parrot ran to the kitchen where she found Shirley backed into a corner curled in a fetal position crying.

“He tried to kill me, he tried to kill me, he tried to kill me.”

Richard Parrot gave Gypsy a stern look and pushing past Gypsy followed his wife to the kitchen.

Gypsy left the house and walked up to the home of his new found friend Eddie Pepper. Over the next 30 minutes he related to Eddie and Sherri Pepper what had just happened. The couple listened intently exchanging glances now and again but not interrupting the upset teenager. As Gypsy finished his tale Eddie let out a low whistle. “Well, your mother…” But Eddie never got to finish the thought as a hard knock on his front door interrupted him.

           Sherri ushered the Reverend Richard Parrot and Gypsy’s Uncle Jerry, who was in his official capacity of Assistant Police Chief, into the dining room where Gypsy and Eddie sat at the large round table. For the second time that night Gypsy repeated the story of what had happened and for the second time that night all who sat at the table in the Pepper home listened intently.

           When Gypsy had finished his story Richard Parrot stood up and said, “Your mother scares my wife.”

Gypsy just looked at the minister and said nothing.

“Well”, Jerry said, also standing up, “don’t go home tonight. If you want you can come home with me and we will put you up for the night. I’ll go down to the house with you tomorrow and see if we can work this out.”

           Sunday morning broke bright and clear. Gypsy had not slept well, between his anxiety over the disastrous homecoming, the loss of his comic books and the lumpy couch at his Uncle's house Gypsy felt like a pile of old manure.

Jerry, now off duty, pulled up in the driveway of the small house. Shirley came out of the front door crying as Gypsy got out of the truck.

“Oh James I am so sorry I got upset yesterday. Jerry explained to me that the comics were expensive. If I had known I would have asked your permission before I burned them. I have put $5.00 on your bed so that you can go buy some more comics.”

           Gypsy turned and looked at his Uncle Jerry. Jerry met Gypsy’s gaze and shook his head no. Gypsy looked back at his mother and realized within that moment the depth of her illness. She still had no concept of what she had done and was handling it by being in denial of all she had done. Gypsy also realized one other thing; that he did not like her and probably would never like her again.

           “That’s OK Mom, Thank you. I need to go to my room and unpack.”

As Gypsy entered the house he heard his mother say to Jerry, “See, I told you he would understand and forgive me.”

I finished telling Brandon the story of the forever lost fortune of comic gold. I gave him the condensed version. Leaving out the more graphic parts of the story. I had just met the man and I have always found it hard to tell people I know, let alone a stranger, that I was once put into a position where I had to punch my mother to save my life.

Brandon and I finished our visit and, shaking his hand, I promised to return on Thursday to Oddfellows Books and Collectables to meet his wife Martie. I went out and fired up my big v-twin engine, pulled my bike from the parking space and roared Black Betty up the street and back towards my campsite at Lake Shawnee.

I had not realized how emotionally the telling of the story of the forever lost comics and everything that surrounded them had affected me. I decided to go for a short ride to try and clear my head before heading back to my campsite.

Heading up Topeka Boulevard it wasn't long before I came to the Cloverleaf overpass at 24 Highway. The Cloverleaf overpass is one of those Highway constructions that look good on paper, but is totally impractical for everyday Highway Usage. I could not even begin to recall how many accidents had taken place from people trying to merge on and off of the Cloverleaf. So as I headed up the ramp to head east on Highway 24 I was extra cautious in my merging.

I traveled on 24 for short-distance and then I merged onto K4 heading eastbound towards Atchison. As Black Betty ate up the miles my mind turned back to my high school days and how my mother slowly, surly, and unquestionably sunk lower and lower into her Mania.

Episode Beginning
Love Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry
Dad's Mule Story
A Long Drink From The Stream
The Family Settles In
Christened With A New Name
Big News
The Elizabeth Ring Curse
Can I Have The Ring?
Beyond Words
Self Defense
The Minister and His Wife
Recounting The Incident
Sunday Morning
The Need For A Ride
Episode End