LITTLE BALKANS CHRONICLES — Lucky Bucks and the clothesline pole

J.T. Knoll
The Gleason Bros. — Lucky Buck Entrepreneurs

This week’s column, the third episode from Gary Gleason’s essay “Boyhood Days in Pittsburg, Kansas,” tells of the Gleason Bros. Lucky Buck entrepreneurial prowess and provides a clear picture of what it means to "get clotheslined." Gary is now retired and living with his wife in Gainesville, Georgia. — J.T.K.

In the summer of ‘58, my brother and I were the richest kids in Pittsburg. Lucky Bucks rich.

The Recreation Counselor would give out “Lucky Bucks” (monopoly type play money) for daily attendance, winning ball games, and a myriad of other things — like park clean up and storing equipment away at the end of the day, etc.

At summer's end, all the sports equipment would be auctioned off to the highest Lucky Bucks bidder.

I learned that the best way to amass Lucky Bucks throughout the summer was to convince my buddies to throw in with my brother and me and give us their Lucky Bucks. Most kids weren’t going to use them anyway, so collecting their Lucky Bucks was pretty easy.

At the end of the day, my brother and I earned additional Lucky Bucks by collecting and carrying all the equipment to the other side of the lake where the arts and crafts storage building was located. While there, we could extort Lucky Bucks from the girls.

Mark and I had a well-organized enterprise going. By the end of the summer we had accumulated more Lucky Bucks than we ever imagined.

When auction day came, we made a killing. We bought a pumpkin ball, wiffle ball and bat, a catcher’s mitt and mask, chin guards, a scoop ball, a softball and countless other items. We were rich that summer.

Lucky Buck rich.

The Clothesline Pole

Of course there were times during my boyhood days when things didn’t go right. My encounter with the clothesline pole was one of those times.

One evening DeAnn and I were out back playing cowboys and Indians. I would sit on this little flatbed trailer in the backyard and pretend I was driving a stagecoach, then I would stand up and jump off like they did in the movies.

One day I jumped off and caught my neck on the clothesline swinging back and forth by the neck, nearly hanging myself. After a few swings I dropped to the ground bleeding and passed out. When I came to, I saw DeAnn kneeling beside me terrified. I don’t remember much about it after that; only that I couldn’t speak or hardly move my neck for several days.

Whenever I see a cowboy jump off the stagecoach on TV, I find it necessary to clear my throat.

On another occasion, I was blowing on a small plastic toy horn and, when I inhaled, the little brass whistle part of the horn came out and lodged in my throat. I started choking and couldn’t breathe. I was turning white and panicking. DeAnn was mortified; she went to get Mom and Dad. They grabbed me by each leg, turned me upside down and pounded on my back. The whistle dislodged and dropped out. I still have a little fear of toy whistles.

As I write this, it’s amazing I’m still around.

On another summer day while Mom and Dad were at the grocery store, my big sister DeAnn was in charge, which meant absolutely nothing to me. There was a wasp’s nest inside the T section of our clothesline pole. I had to take a look.

I shimmied up the pole, closed one eye, and pressed the other against the hole on the end of the pole. Sure enough there was the nest deep inside the pole and, guess what, there were wasps in there. I saw a wasp heading towards me so I closed my eye. It stung me in the eyelid. I screamed in mortal pain. The worst pain I had ever felt since the clothesline incident. I tried to blame this on my sister who was supposed to be in charge and taking care of me, but my parents didn’t buy it.

Everyone got a big laugh out of it later. My left eye was shut and swollen to gigantic proportions. It hurt for weeks and I missed two ballgames. Dad bought mom a clothes dryer the next summer.

It’s a good thing the clothes dryer was invented. Otherwise I may have never made it to adulthood.

— Gary Gleason

If you have a remembrance and/or photo to share, send it — along with your name, address and phone number — by email to jtknoll@swbell.net or by land mail to 401 W. Euclid, Pittsburg, Kansas 66762. You can phone and text photos to 620-704-1309. —  J.T. Knoll