Tail of the Weak is a series of insights and musical memories from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin, singer/songwriter and founder of the Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival, from Waycross, Georgia.
September of 1970 to June of 1971 was my final year at Ware County High School, a year that defined me as a young adult on the verge of finding out what the real world was like.
I had made several trips to the office of Betty Simpson, our guidance counselor and still had no clue as to what I wanted to be. My acceptance to Georgia Southern, in Statesboro, was in place—I just didn't know what to do with it.
My love of music had accelerated to the point that I was now learning to play the bass guitar. I had dipped my toe in the waters of the counter-culture. My hair was longer by South Georgia standards; and, my wardrobe was beginning to reflect the times.
I had been a somewhat shy and reserved teenager throughout school—making adequate grades, mostly A's and B's with an occasional hiccup. I was first-chair snare drummer in the Golden Gator Band since my Sophomore year, and, was even chosen as an Alternate in the Governor's Honors Program during 1970.
My uncle, Royce Carter, volunteered to drive me, along with Mama and Grandma, to the tryouts for Governor's Honors, one cold, rainy Saturday morning in Atlanta. We got halfway past Macon when I realized I had left my drumsticks at home. Sound familiar, Connor? The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree, eh?
I followed in the footsteps of my older brother, Gary, who was the editor of the school newspaper, The Gator Gabb, in '67-'68. Robert L. Hurst was our journalism instructor and continued to be an excellent writer and contributor to our local Waycross newspaper.
Actually, I shared the editorship of The Gator Gabb with my dear friend, Nella Arnold, who sadly passed away several years ago. I recall my buddy, Frank Hendrix, who had a way with words, refer to her one day as a “nifty little nump-nump”. I remember her as a sweet girl with a welcome smile and a beautiful heart, who could sing like an angel.
In 1969, WCHS formed the first tennis team in the school's ten-year history, coached by Mrs. Genevieve Pope; and, there I was again. I played for three years and wound up with a letterman jacket, sporting a big gold 'W'.
I say all these things not to boast. I had plenty going for me in the right direction; but, boys will be boys. A lot of good times were had in high school; but, I had never done anything worse than skipping class until my Senior year. So, with that in mind, I set out to misbehave.
Ware County High was a brick-faced institution located on what we called Airport Road, in the sprawling countryside west of Waycross. There were three main halls and a detached gymnasium that also housed the band room and chorus room.
Outside the lunchroom was a covered walkway that led to C-hall, where the freshmen got their studies on. Between C and B-hall stood the hallowed edifice that beckoned to bad boys of every class since the school was built in 1959—the water tower.
Me and two of my closest friends, Gary Crosby and Robbin King, hatched a covert plan to redecorate the tower on a school night in the early months of '71.
I rode with Gary in his old, yellow Jeep and parked on a dirt road about a half-mile from the campus. Robbin was late. We waited for his non-arrival, then decided to carry on without him.
The two of us schlepped the paint buckets through the dark until our destination loomed in front of us. Halfway up the ladder, we saw headlights turning in off Airport Road, and froze in place. Racing past C-hall, we recognized the familiar blue Mustang belonging to Robbin King. He drove around back and parked behind the Industrial Arts building. That would come back to haunt us.
As we were doin' our best Picasso—I guess it looked more like a testosterone-fueled, graffitied railroad car than art—a second set of headlights poured onto the driveway, past C-hall, circled around to the Industrial Arts building, and promptly slid on back out. The jig was up, so we figured; but, we went ahead and finished the job.
The next morning, as I sat in class anxiously awaiting the other shoe to drop, I heard the crackle of the homeroom speaker and the voice of principal W. E. Gregory summoning Robbin King to the office. After five torturous minutes, he called Gary Crosby's name. Pretty quickly, that other shoe dropped; and, I found myself joining them in the front office.
We took our licks from assistant principal, C.D. Vinson's wooden paddle like dishonorable soldiers and were instructed to buy more paint. That afternoon was spent back up on top of the now familiar perch, whitewashing over our artwork and adding a damn fine caricature of Albert Alligator from Walt Kelly's Pogo comic strip, which just so happened to be set in the Okefenokee Swamp, about 13 miles southeast of the water tower.
“Kelly's characters are a sardonic reflection of human nature—but portrayed good-naturedly and rendered harmless by their own bumbling ineptitude and overall innocence”, someone once wrote about the Pogo strip.
I reckon that pretty much sums up those three guys high atop the water tower on that one wayward night.
My dear friend, Robbin, went on to minister young folks in church. The last I talked to Gary, he was a probation officer in Ware County. Uncle Dave is still misbehavin'.
American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns Download or Buy
Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin