It was July, 1960; Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins had just released ‘Summertime’ on the same day the Woolsworth counter in Greensboro, North Carolina became the site of a sit-in that sparked the civil rights movement in the USA. The Sixties were on. Meanwhile, on a quiet summer day, the Peterborough Examiner, on their dedicated Lakeshore News page, carried a human interest story about some good ole Cobourg boys.
Way back then, long before men walked on the moon, the concept of re-cycling meant getting back up on your bike after an elbow-bleeding spill. Environmentalism was an undeveloped theology. The motive was money, tax-free income. Everyone understood the rules.
So let’s do some math. The boys earned $8.80. Returning an empty pop bottle netted $0.02 each. That comes to 440 empty bottles. That works out to 110 bottles per boy. That meant 110 bottles per bike -- no indication of a wagon being pulled. Quite a feat with only paper bags. I’ll wager you’re beginning to suspect something.
I know some of you pre-pensioners are thinking to yourselves; well, what about the nickel-worth jumbo bottles? In terms of bulk these bottles would replace two of the regular size. The nickelers were less likely than regular bottles to survive the toss from a moving car. The nickelers fail to undermine the story.
How many bottles would fit in a large grocery bag? 10? 15?. Hmmmm. That would be several bags per bike. Would all those paper bags fit on a bike, even if the bike has a newspaper-sized jumbo front basket? Can’t hang paper bags from the handle bars. So how was this feat accomplished? Are you beginning to smell, as N.A.S.A. puts it, the post-nutritive disposal substance?
The reporter failed to dig deeply, and ran with the story. I was just a kid, more like The Beaver than Eddie Haskel. The story had intrinsic uplift. Four good boys use their energies to clean up drive-by trash to make money. That is a sunshine moment, and the men and women of our good community should be aware of what our lads are doing. Perhaps other boys looking for fast cash, will cover the Baltimore to Cobourg route, or the Grafton to Cobourg route. The power of suggestion and fine example.
The following day, the other three boys were telling me about their parental interrogations, mostly pertaining around the issues of “What did you do with the money?” “Why didn’t you tell us?” “I didn’t know you would do a fool thing as to go to Port Hope and back, all on a dangerous stretch of highway. You coulda got yourself killed.”
Yep, I did a lotta splainin' that day. I did quite well, I thought to myself, for my first fiction performance. So, this is my coming out. 48 years later. I dread telling this now to the local news media; mostly because of the poetential for hammy headlines: LOCAL POET FESSES TO FICTION. I recall the exhilaration when I saw my lies published in rock solid print.
The first and foremost Law of Lies is: Remember Everything! No problem, here is the newspaper clipping attesting to all the details of the incident – exhibit #123. It’s quite the peculiar power that media have, to turn fiction to fact by mere publication. Their worthy credibility fuelled the power of authentification.
And there I was, starting off my uber-career as a media liar at the very time I entered the world as a full-blown hormone under restraining orders set down by the theological totalitarianism of the day. Elvis made a public spectacle of displaying his hormones, so the trickle down theory only served to agitate an already raging storm, and the screaming response of girls was well-noted. How do you tell your parents that it’s like holding back a herd of wild stallions with harness made of dental floss?
So, just to make a turbulent situation worse, I plunge into white water rapids – I meet a girl on my Peterborough Examiner paper delivery route. I was Norman Rockwelled. I was skinny-girled. I had just turned 13; she was a whole year older. She was just as my mother described her -- "a sweet young thing".
She was the first house on my paper route, and every day she opened the door in full bloom, pollen clutter and all. It took an hour to deliver that one newspaper, delivery done when dad called her to dinner, then I went on to late-delivery everyone on my route. I only noticed that I was riding on the softest tires of silk, wondering when it would be okay to ask her over to my place to see my model car collection -- and what girl wouldn‘t want to see that?
A few weeks later I was called to carpet by the newspaper boss. Irate subscribers were complaining about late delivery. It was ‘suggested’ that I do my delivery route in reverse, and make the house of the girl the last visited. I kept to this for a few weeks.
The courtship continued. It’s difficult to be a hero when one is not qualified. So when Monday’s delivery brought me to her doorstep, she asks, “So what did you do on your weekend?” It was easy to answer that toss-away. Fiction. “Oh me and the boys biked to Port Hope and back collecting bottles and made a lot of loot. Want some licorice?”
I could see the story dazzled her. Not only was I brave for going the distance on a dangerous stretch of highway, but demonstrated the get-er-done gumption to bring his sweetheart a bouquet of licorice sticks. Of course girls know that boys lie. And I know this also. I’m a boy. I lie. Girls collaborate with enticements. Girls are the enticing on the cake.
The next day I tell my story at the Peterborough Examiner office. Yep, they responded well to it. The next day, a reporter asks me some questions about the story. I give him details, pulled $8.80 right out of a hat. And with that, fiction became fact, and the next day I brought it to my girl as substantiation of my lie.
I quickly learned that the employment opportunities for liars is quite restricted. Free lance liars seem to have unpleasant visitations once in a while. Men lie to women, but sometimes this has the unfortunate consequence of acquiring a sentence to marriage, followed with perpetual parole conditions.
But under cover of poet, I could lie through my dentures to my heart’s content. One did not need a certificate in advanced bs to be a poet. Besides, I got the goil. So lying to the news media had a lifetime effect on me. I saw that there was a future in this for me.