Dusty Bailey's Mollyockett 'Shining Moment'
“See those trophies?” my father said his mustache bending over his goofy grin. “One day you are gonna win one of those for this case!” I looked up at the case and saw the 15 shiny little trophies which reflected my childish face.
“I can win one of those?” I said, a little kid of eight years old.
“Buddy, one day you will win’em all!” my father answered, as he rubbed his big craggy hand through my hair. As I began to leave, I remember looking back and thinking about our legacy, the early morning light making the case glow a divine bright gold.
The year was 2001, and my father had just won his 15th trophy for the Bailey family. He placed it with the rest of his achievements in the family cabinet. Though it was a mere pine frame with hinged plexiglass doors, it kept the potent pride of the Bailey paupers intact. The case was filled with our hard-earned trophies, all of them from the same contest, float creation. Our little town had an annual festival and there is a parade that goes throughout the town. The Bailey family always takes home first, second, or third. Every year my father competed, turning a truck and trailer into a real resourceful piece of art or architecture. He did it for several years like his father before him, and every year he took one of those little trophies home with a great sense of pride and humor.
Ten Years Later
“This is the year you take over buddy!” my father said, the same old mustache flexing over his aged yet silly grin. “I will not make a float this year. I’m too old and I’m too tired. This year I’m passing down the torch to you. I want you to make one. I will help you out, but, it’s all up to you, Buddy.”
“Me?” I said, thinking of all the responsibilities that I would bear upon my young shoulders. “All right Pop, I’ll try.”
“No, no! You can’t try! Either do it, or don’t do it.” The old patriarch said, before sipping down his third beer for the day.
“Fine, then I will do it! I won’t half-ass it and I’ll work on it all week.” I said standing up, showing my father how my maturity had brought my eyes to gaze down at his.
“Good deal buddy, that’s what I want to hear.” Said my father; his old, oil-stained hands rubbing together, making a sound very similar to sandpaper against rock. The day progressed and when my father and I bought the local paper we searched for the theme of the year’s fair, knowing the theme of the annual fair gives us flavor and diversity. I glanced through the rough inked pages to find the theme, after shifting through, we came across 2011’s theme. Our River Runs Through It, called out in loathsome letters. “Our river runs through it?” I said, scratching my chin. “That theme sucks.”
“Yeah it does, Buddy,” my old man said through his intoxicated chuckles. “Well, I don’t know what to do about this one. I mean, the river runs through it”? What the hell do they expect on a float? An actual river, or do they want something else? I don’t know how to help with this one, Dust.”
I sank my head to the table and heaved a heavy sigh. My first year of proving to my father that I can be an adult, and I am given a theme that lacks any potential for creativity. It had taken me the better half of the day, but after talking with my friends and complaining about the recent selections in our local theater; it hit me. The very last Pirates of the Caribbean was in theaters. That would probably mean that the pirate craze would slow to a halt within the coming year. So, I mulled it over, thinking about how I could add rivers, or things that rivers run through, on a small trailer hitched to a Ford F-150.
I had an idea, one my father would immediately agree upon. For he was, and will always be, the biggest pirate fan I will ever know. The conversation went a little like this. I picked up my phone at nine o’clock Sunday morning, “Morning Pop.”
“Morning Buddy, any thoughts on this year’s float”
“Yeah, I got one, you’re gonna love it. The river runs through it right? Well then let’s be the pirates of the river, Pop.”
A muffled “hmm,” came from the other side of line. Then all of a sudden, “Yes! Yes that would be awesome! We got all the stuff to do it, and we could be the pirates of the Androscoggin.”
“That’s what I’m saying Pop, we’ll be the pirates of the parade. We’ll steal the spotlight and get first!” I said, enthusiastic with his response.
“That sounds awesome, Buddy. So what do you have in mind for the float itself?”
“Well, I’m gonna have to get back to you on that one, Pop.”
My entire Sunday was devoted to designing the float, as I worked my shift clerking for a friend of the family’s. The old counter top made marks into my forearms as I steadily sketched out a design and a list of materials to complete our pirate themed float.
Monday morning and I was back at my father’s garage. The air was filled with paint fumes as I walked in and set down my ideas at his front desk. My old man came out of the paint room, and coughed until his white painters mask fell to his chin. I ushered him into the room and explained to him my plan; and what a plan it was. To begin, we needed a truck to be at the head of the float. We would call up a good friend who had a larger truck than my father and I. Once we had a truck we would construct a makeshift bed of wood to sit upon above the rim of metal bed below it. There on the back of the truck my father would be throwing out candy.
My father and I agreed that would be more to the first part, but we set that aside and focused on what we had right then and there. The second piece of the float would be a trailer, with an aluminum motorboat on it. After an hour of talking about the design and function my father and I agreed on its final design. The boat would be ironically filled with water, in which we would spray at the crowd. For the forecast predicted a humid, hazy, hot summer day for our annual fair. Then to complete the little ship there would be a mast of timber erected in the middle, with a pirate flag swaying in the wind.
With the designs all established and lists made, we called it a day and we both went straight to the phones calling up friends and family in which to assist our grand display for the townsfolk. In the end it was really just me calling everyone I knew, asking them to either help me get where I needed to go, or asking if they wanted to be on my float. There was an air of joyfulness, and most of the people I contacted wanted to either attend or assist my successes to come.
Tuesday came faster than I anticipated. I awoke with a call from my friend Rick. He wanted to know if he could help me that day. I welcomed his assistance and we met at my father’s garage to begin the first step. My father came out, greeted us, and walked us to the back of his garage where his friend had delivered the truck. With a little elbow grease and some sweat; my friend and I took all the debris off the trailer, hauled it over to the truck, and hitched it. After that we walked over grabbed the little boat and dragged it up a ramp and on the trailer. With the boat in place, Rick and I pulled several blue tarps out and stapled them to the composite board of the trailer. This gave the image of a boat sailing on water, an improvisational attribute that worked the imagination of the crowd.
Afterward, my friend and I parted ways. I returned home for a good meal and some good rest. The next day I awoke to the chime of my alarm clock. Glowing 8 a.m.
Wednesday, in my face. I rose out of bed and was very disappointed to hear many of my friends returning my call for help with indifferent or unavailability. The beginning of my troubles. I arrived at the father’s late, with no one to help us. We walked out back and looked at his new addition; a second trailer, making it the third piece. It was completely unstable and it was not possible to stand upon the trailer while it was in motion; but the plan had been modified so that the hoses that were supposed to spray from the boat, would instead lace the outside of the boat and connect to a pair of water sprinklers on the third piece. There taped to the second trailer would be one of the generic back and forth sprinklers, and the other would revolve and spray a circle at the crowd at the very rear of the float.
This new addition was a nice introduction to the day and it helped us feel that we had not wasted our morning. For after we had assembled the third part, my father and I tried to raise the log-mast in the middle of the ship and attach a pirate flag. This took us nearly three hours. Between making the base for it to stand erect on, and falling off the trailer while trying to reach high enough in order to attach the glorious pirate skull flag. Our patience, and our sanity, was running thin by the end of the day. We had spent all day trying to construct the greater half of the float, and we were both tired, a little sore, and irritable toward another for yelling when something went wrong. With bad tempers, we said goodnight and he brought me back home.
Thursday was a toiling day of hell for both my father and I. The plan to fill the boat with water was my father’s assignment. My assignment was to assemble candy, with my best friend Bill. Bill and I are like brothers, even now. He and I have been on my father’s floats for a good eight years; so he was excited that I was taking on the entire thing practically by myself. Since I was in charge of everything he wanted to be able to help out as much as possible; so we embarked later in the day to go for candy in a town 20 miles south of my rural village.
In that little town my friend and I visited several locations and spent over $60 purchasing bag after bag of candy. The many different flavors and textures and titles all assembled into giant five and a half pound bags, just waiting to please the little children of my hometown. With satisfaction, Bill and I drove back and witnessed my father filling the small aluminum boat up to the brim. “You boys get all the candy we need?” He said, with his grin still big and humorous.
“Yes we did sir!” Bill exclaimed, landing about 20 pounds of candy in the front seat of the F-150. My father, Bill, and I had a burger on the grill and watched as the flaming pit my father called his ‘cauldron,’ illuminate the backyard of the garage in the starry night. We all spoke of the years past and the victories we all had achieved being at my father’s side.
Acknowledging our dutiful respect, my father stood and faced the two of us as he began his speech. “You should understand, Buddy, that what really compels us to do this, is our friends. When I was your age me and my friend made the float even though no one would help us. Its friends and family is what makes our float fun!” My dear old man took another swig of beer before he stood next to the fire and looked at the semi-finished truck. “You boys should be proud. To be able to work as a team, and to win the gold is good, but what’s really shiny about our victory is how much fun we have making it. You’ll understand when you win, boys, you’ll understand when you win.” We all agreed and favored him a toast.
After such an enthralling speech, I believed everything was going well. Then it was Friday, the climax of the week, and of course the most challenging. The day started off horrible, showering on and off all for long periods of time. We had to take the pirate flag down, pull down the sails, and mend the paper streamers attached to the sides and back of the trailer. It was a mess, but it doesn’t end there. I had phone call after phone call from friends declaring their absence and excuse for not being on the float: gone for the weekend, working, helping the fair’s activities, wanting to be with family, don’t have enough time, or the worst, helping somebody else with their float! What an insult, a good friend of mine leaving me out to dry.
Above all of this confusion and agitation, my father had one more good idea for the float. We had recently ransacked the recycling center, and in our little pursuit of rarities we found a jewel of antiquity, an authentic, embroidered, fully intact treasure chest. It was a wonder. Because of its authenticity, my father wanted it to be filled with golden coins showing everyone in town we were real pirates, with a chest full of gold.
I was charged with the lonely task of painting the coins and bowls. Trying to gain my inner patience to endure the task before me, I began painting old bottle caps gold and silver. I had to flip them all on one side and spread them out individually. It was the biggest pain in the ass. It took me a good half an hour to flip them over, and it had taken almost an hour for them to dry. Since I had to fill the chest, it took me the greater part of the afternoon to do it. After the four and a half hours of painting, organizing and screwing the bowls to the floor, I called it quits and went home a very agitated, very angry, very anxious young man.
The night felt like a gloomy purgatory. I felt like I had toiled all day, all week, and there was a good chance that no one would show up and help me in the morning. Most of my friends couldn’t show up, and only two of them actually helped me make the float itself. All the pain and sweat was upon my brow, and there was no certainty of victory. I could place low, or all the judges could assess me with poor reviews. All the thoughts of failing my father and my family and not being able to succeed by myself, nearly drove me insane. The thought of never gaining that praise every boy wants to hear from his father, and that moment of love they so rarely give to their sons. I threw my pillow over my eyes and steadily fell into the soothing abyss of sleep.
Dawn, the very breaching light of Saturday morning. I rose and assembled my pirate costume, simple garb, ripped jeans, black collared shirt, bullet belt for a sash, and a bandana to cover my head in a skullcap. I drove down to my father’s garage, weary with anticipation. The mist was still over the acre of land next to my father’s garage, mysteriously spilling over and behind it. I parked the car and proceeded out back. I was not too surprised to see my father fully dressed in pirate garb with a cutlass on top of the truck waiting for me. “Come my son, we set sail at ten!” I couldn’t help but smile. Even if none of my friends showed up, my father was there waiting to play pirates up Main Street with me. “You ready to go, Buddy?”
“Aye, aye Captain!” I answered jumping up and helping tend to the final touches. We readjusted the sprinklers, straightened the flag, set up the white cloth sails, set the candy where it would benefit the throwers, and found a block of wood to hold the mouth of the treasure chest open.
Even though no one had shown up, it was fun to just work with Pop and get ready to set sail;, on asphalt none the less. As my father went inside to curl his mustache, Bill showed up dressed like a pirate and holding another flag that said Bailey & Friends. We pounded our fists together in a sign of brotherhood and he helped me sneak all the balloons under the bed of the truck, an old tradition to all the Bailey floats. There was always a release of balloons as we crossed the finish line, a great effect on the crowd, and signature of the Bailey competition.
After a little while my friend Rick appeared. After him a few girls we knew showed up and we quickly dressed them like scandalous pirates. Not long after our driver for the float appeared and we finally had an entire crew, the two girls, our driver, a mermaid with her daughter, my two companions, the Captain (my father), and I assembled on the side of the ship and readied her to set sail.
With the clock at 9:30 a.m., “Bailey & Friends” left the garage and proceeded to the parade line. By 10 a.m. the whole line began to shift and we dazzled our town with our design and pirate antics. All of the crew enjoyed the ride up the street as we threw candy and doused water among the crowds of young and old. Along the way I saw many classmates, employers, townsfolk, family members, and friends lace the streets, and we wished everyone a good day while screaming “arrgh” and all those other pirate-like sayings. We all joined in the pirate mood, and then as we came to the top of the hill, the balloons were set loose. The crowd cheered as they watched the colors drift up into the atmosphere.
Running low on candy, and the crowd still wanting more, I began throwing the fake coins into the crowds. All of the happy little children were excited to pick up a piece of treasure, even though it was pretend. After we left the parade, we circled around town and ended up back at the garage. I gave my father a big hug and he reminded me that the judges were giving the trophies out at noon. With one last goodbye, Bill, Rick and I drove out to the fairgrounds and met up with some other friends. The day slowly crept forward and the rest of my friends started to peel away and hang out with individual people. I stayed close to the gazebo where they would announce the winners.
Noon, my hands were sweaty, my expectations were high. One of my classmates and a professional Master of Ceremonies stood at the landing of the gazebo. Soon after, all of my friends and shipmates arrived to witness my victory, or my defeat. Third was called, a small association with a business in town backing. They received their award and ducked back into the crowd. Second place was awarded to the sponsors of the parade themselves, patting themselves on the back for their own work.
“And the first place trophy goes to, Bailey and Friends, with their pirate ship, and their chest full of gold.” announced the MC. I stood, calmly as possible, grinning like the happy fool I was. I walked up to the gazebo, and right behind me was my dad, his eyes all a glow with happiness. We both held onto each other, our hands held the first-place trophy, shining in the July sun. We both felt that immense jolt of pride. We stood for the pictures, and my father even pulled in my classmate to be in one of the pictures, just to include her.
After all the praise: you know, the hugs, handshakes, high-fives, fist pounds, and victory kisses, my father and I hugged one last time and held my shoulders as he said, “I knew you could do it, Dust.” He paused, wiping away one of those pesky little tears, “but don’t forget your friends, and don’t forget how much fun it was to earn that first place. I’ll see you later tonight ok?” he said, laughing, with his goofy grin bending once more.
“Of course Pop, I’ll see you later.” I said, choking on my words, feeling how honest and respectful my father’s tone was. “Alright crew,” I said turning back to my friends, “Let’s go celebrate” Today, victory is ours!” A roar of enthusiasm erupted from my group of friends and we all parted to take a well-deserved swim in the local lake.
Though my father and I parted that afternoon, it was not because we didn’t want to be in each other’s company, but it was my time to be me. It was my achievement of individuality that my father accepted, respected, and praised. It was my right of manhood, it was that one moment of pride where we both understood that we were individually men. So he let me go, to be with my fellow comrades and celebrate my own victory, or rather, our victory. To be shared with all my friends, for that’s what really made it all happen, and without them, it wouldn’t have been much fun at all.