My sister Terry and I had a neighbor when we were growing up named Debbie Lawhorn. Debbie was great fun and had a fantastic imagination. One day, when we were walking home from school, she swore she saw a man flash her from the front seat of his car. She started screaming and running down the alley. Yeah, that's what you want to do when a pervert has just flashed you, run down an alley. Of course, we ran right behind her screaming our heads off and we didn't even know why. We'd follow Debbie anywhere. She was a hoot.
When I was in sixth grade and Debbie and Terry were in fifth grade, mom let us bring Debbie with us to the South Texas State Fair in Beaumont. I didn't like riding the rides then and I still don't. I don't see anything appealing about being banged from side to side, thrown into the air, spun around and throwing up. There are some things in this world you can count on and me getting sick from carnival rides is one of them. Whether it's from being slung around on the Tilt-a-Whirl or from the all-consuming terror that I will, without a doubt, be thrown from my crappy seat on some dreaded rollercoaster with a shoddy seatbelt and so-called safety bar, you can be assured that my funnel cake and sausage on a stick will make an encore appearance and it ain't gonna be pretty, folks.
In spite of my fear of rides, I decided to join Terry and Debbie on one of the horrid death machines of the day. I don't remember the name of the piece of crap but I'm sure it was "Hurl-O-Rama" or "Cage of Terror" or something equally enticing. On this particular torture device, six or seven people sat on metal benches inside a cage in a circle facing one another. Keep in mind that this was 1967 when smoking wasn't dangerous, cars didn't have seatbelts and neither did carnival rides. You were, supposedly, held in place on your seat by gravity and because you were holding on to the stupid rail right in front of you. Well, guess what. That didn't work. When the "Spinning Coffin of Fun" started spinning, I fell on the floor of the ride and hit my head on the pole in the center of the ride.
Debbie and Terry started screaming for the carnival guy to stop the ride which didn't happen right away because everyone on the "Tumbling Trip to Hell" was screaming because they were having fun. I, however, was not having fun. When the ride finally stopped, we got off, I threw up and we went home.
The next day was a school day and I still had a headache so I got to stay home from school. I don't remember why, but Terry, my brother Stuart and my sister Bonnie also stayed home from school. I have a feeling that when they saw I was staying home from school they caught mom in a moment of weakness and she just said "to hell with it" and we all went back to bed.
Around 9:00 a.m. my mom got a call from the school. It was my sixth grade teacher and she was frantic. It seems that Debbie went to school and told everyone about our wonderful trip to the fair and how I fell on the ride. We don't know if Debbie got carried away with her story or if the rumor caught fire but by 9:00 a.m. the story all over the school was that I was in the hospital in a coma because I fell off a ride at the fair. The fact that none of my siblings were at school only added credence to the whole scenario. When I went back to school the next day, I was a minor celebrity. I can thank Debbie for my ten minutes of fame.
Debbie Lawhorn, wherever you are, we salute you.