Halloween Car - A Rural LegendbyAbdulbenthere©
Writer's note: You may have heard this story about any rural high school in America. Urban legends are always better when seasoned with local spices. If you're looking for hot sex, sorry, there's just enough skin showing here to make it interesting.
The wrecked car is a local landmark on the two-lane highway that leads to the high school. Buddy's family owned the land it sat on and the junk yard behind it, and he was always ready to tell the story of the car. The real treat was if he invited you to watch the car the night before Halloween. I had that privilege the year I met Buddy in college and he invited me to his home for the Halloween weekend.
It was some thirty-odd years ago, maybe more, when that car had belonged to the best quarterback St Louis Parish ever produced. For those not familiar with Louisiana, counties are called parishes here, so don't get confused: I'm talking about the public high school, and besides, St. Louis Parish is too small to have a Catholic high school.
Jimmy Hebert was the starting QB for the St. Louis Horsemen from his freshman year. To say he "lead" the team is an understatement: He was THE man on campus and off. When the coach decided to have a special developmental practice session for the ninth grade players Jimmy stayed late to lead the drills. When a student's home burned down Jimmy and his family put them up in their home. For three Thanksgivings Jimmy had delivered the food baskets to the poor and every Christmas he played Santa for the senior citizens at the Ponchatrain Retirement Home.
To no one's surprise, Jimmy's girlfriend was the head cheerleader, Mary Chauvin. The only time she wasn't on his arm was when he was on the field or in the shower (and some folks wondered about her being the shower with him). In truth, they had been sweethearts since they met in a kindergarten sand box and Mary was as perfect a match for Jimmy as anyone could imagine. The only question was whether or not they going to get married before they went to college.
Now, about that car: Jimmy's dad had realized very early that a star football player needed appropriate wheels and when Jimmy was 13 his dad started restoring a 1950s vintage convertible. By the time Jimmy got his learner's permit the car looked like a pretty good restoration, but the summer before his senior year he and his dad had tricked it out with state-of-the-art everything. The first day of school Jimmy arrived driving the hot rod freshly painted in the Horsemen's colors of orange and purple. Every girl in school turned green with envy when Mary hopped in for the first ride.
Jimmy had the college scouts busy at every game his senior year and the last home game of the year fell on Halloween night. As was the tradition, there was a bonfire for the whole community after the game and that's where the story of the wrecked car really begins. The cheerleaders waited patiently for their victorious boyfriends to emerge from the locker room and pile into cars heading for the bonfire. Jimmy and Mary in the two seat convertible lead the way followed by Jimmy's number one receiver and best friend Tommy in a pickup truck loaded with other players and their dates.
A mile from the field Mary announced that she was going to change into her sweat shirt and pulled off her cheerleader top. The CB radio lit up and Tommy's voice crackled through the speaker, "Hey, QB, what's goin' on up there?"
Jimmy and Mary grinned at each other as she paused to let him see her in her black sports bra. Jimmy grabbed the microphone to answer, "Nuthin' much, buddy. Mary's just changing her shirt."
"Well, keep your eyes on the road!" Tommy shot back.
"10-4" was Jimmy's last pronouncement in the world of the living.
A white sedan driven by a drunken fool careened through a stop sign and into the oncoming traffic. Jimmy saw it and turned hard to his right but the sedan matched his move and plowed head on into the convertible. Tommy slammed on his brakes and his passengers sat awe struck at the sight before them.
You can imagine the effect the deaths of Jimmy and Mary had on the community. Needless to say the team did not do well in the play-offs that year. The drunk driver walked away from the crash without a scratch but did ten years in the state penitentiary for vehicular manslaughter.
Buddy's grandfather owned the local junkyard and wrecker service that hauled the convertible in that night. He was the one who decided to turn it into a monument instead of salvaging it. He put it near the front of his property, two hundred feet in front of the junkyard fence so it would be a warning to the community of drunk driving's consequences.
The following year someone, widely believed to be a freshman football player, came to the car the night before Halloween and repainted the orange and purple school colors on the wreck. Against all expectations, the following week the football team cinched the district championship. Thus it became a tradition to repaint the car each year and the task was assigned to the freshmen.
Buddy invited me to watch the repainting the first Halloween after we met. When I arrived at the junkyard he ushered me to a gap in the stacks of wrecked cars where a hole in the wooden fence provided an unobstructed view of the death car. Grinning, he showed me a switch connected to a series of car batteries.
"When they finish painting, these guys will get a surprise!" Buddy hinted. "Now, just be quiet and wait."
About 11 PM they arrived: Four freshman football players in their white road jerseys, each carrying a can of paint and a brush. Without a word they surrounded the car and went to work, like blue ghosts under the mercury vapor street light.
"Wait for it..." Buddy said.
In a few minutes the boys stepped back to look at their work.
"Now!" Buddy whispered as he turned the switch.
Six sets of headlights in the tops of the stacked wrecked cars sprang to life and horns all over the lot began honking. Focused in the headlights, the four freshmen dropped their paint and brushes and ran, leaving four trails of urine on the ground behind them.
Buddy switched off the lights and disconnected the batteries.
"You saw it, didn't you?" he asked.
"Yeah," was all I could muster. As long as I've known Buddy, we have never spoken of what we saw that night. As far as I know he never hooked up the lights and horns again.
When the lights came on two figures had been visible on the car, sitting quietly as if enjoying each other's company. A young woman in a black sports bra and orange cheerleader's skirt sat under the right arm of a young man in blue jeans and a purple St. Louis Horsemen home football jersey. I got the feeling that they wanted to say "thank you" to the freshmen.