It was the summer of 1976. Me and my pal, Mooney, needed money to take the Archer twins, Kim and Karen, to go see the Rolling Stones in Dallas. We heard that an old guy was building a car wash in town all by himself, so we decided to go offer him our services. It was probably 103 degrees outside.
We found the old fellow digging trenches for the foundation of his new car wash. He was hardly sweating at all -- the heat didn't seem to be bothering him. He appeared to be strong as a little ox. He was one of those sinewy, wiry little guys. When we told him how much we wanted per hour he told us that he didn't need any help. We persisted, I even demonstrated how I knew how to tie steel. He finally gave in and put us to work without any agreement on pay.
He worked us almost to death, smirking and laughing at us all day long. When the day was done he went to his truck and handed us a brown paper grocery sack full of collard greens. That was our pay. We protested like hell. He simply smiled and told us that those were the best collard greens we'ed ever eat. Mooney wanted to kick his wiry, old butt. I was too dehydrated and tired to even get up a good protest. Mooney took off walking home. He refused to get in the car.
When I got home my neighbor, Lettie Ann, was standing out in her yard, watering her garden. She had planted vegetables and herbs in front of her house where the lawn and roses used to be. The neighbors where all pissed-off at her for doing it. I thought she was kinda odd too. As I got out of my car she noticed my distress, came over to see what was wrong and I told her the story and showed her the collard greens. She said that those were the prettiest collard greens she'd ever seen.
Being around her always made me kinda nervous -- the way she looked at me. I couldn't tell if she was afraid of me or disgusted by me or liked me. She was older and attractive in a funny, mousey, sexy kinda way. Frankly, I think I was afraid of her.
Anyway, she asked me if I knew how to cook collard greens. When I told her no she insisted on preparing them for me. I tried to make up lies to keep from giving her the collard greens, but she wouldn't let me.
Well, to make a long story short: those turned out to be the best damn collard greens I'd ever had, I fell pitifully in love with Lettie Ann, we made a make shift above-ground swimming pool in her back yard out of old shipping pallets, concrete block and black plastic sheeting that I'd borrowed from the car wash site, floated about ten blocks of ice in it and invited the neighbors over to swim, no one showed up except the octogenarian English professor and his much younger girlfriend, we had a blast, I continued to work for the old guy (at Lettie Ann's insistence) he paid me twice more with collard greens and then started paying me in earnest -- he said he did it because he was convinced collards were magical and wanted to see what I was made of, Mooney moved back to Houston, I never got to see the Rolling Stones, Lettie Ann cooked me dinner almost every night -- it was the best damn summer I ever had.
Kevin is an Artist, Writer, Carpenter and Gallerist in Texas.